Small Wars Journal


Journal Articles are typically longer works with more more analysis than the news and short commentary in the SWJ Blog.

We accept contributed content from serious voices across the small wars community, then publish it here as quickly as we can, per our Editorial Policy, to help fuel timely, thoughtful, and unvarnished discussion of the diverse and complex issues inherent in small wars.

by Katherine Voyles | Wed, 09/11/2019 - 9:14am | 0 comments
What follows here sketches some of the currents, undercurrents and crosscurrents of Mattis’s re-emergence before zeroing in on the themes, issues and concerns that dominate his writing. Hearing from people talking about Mattis is an important prelude to hearing from him on his own terms, and the current runs in the other direction too, hearing from Mattis himself is an important rejoinder to hearing other people talk about him. The Mattis that emerges in his own writing is a different Mattis than the one argued over.
by Michael Gladius | Wed, 09/11/2019 - 12:08am | 0 comments
In order to see how the Artillery Army fits into Multidomain Operations, we must look at its doctrinal and organizational logic. Firstly, the doctrinal: Western culture and mindset is based on trinities, and doctrine contains three components. The first component involves the differences between firepower warfare, guerrilla/ranger warfare, and mobile warfare (a trinity within a trinity, no less!).
by Riley Murray | Mon, 09/09/2019 - 5:10am | 0 comments
Andrew Krepinevich’s “Army Concept” provides a useful model for understanding the mindset military organizations take towards advising operations, which subsequently shapes outcomes, including the U.S. Air Force’s advising efforts in small wars. Efforts to advise the South Vietnamese Air Force and Afghan Air Force demonstrate that U.S. Air Force advising concepts have been poorly suited towards irregular conflicts, creating counterproductive effects.
by Pedro Cardoso | Fri, 09/06/2019 - 1:39am | 0 comments
Corruption, money laundering and alliances with national and Brazilians’ drug dealers and with the Russian mafia. Mexico’s “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is in Portugal and has set up a cocaine transhipment base for central and northern Europe. The Mexican drug dealer sons control the cocaine shipment to Portugal. This article was originally published as “A cor do cartel” at the Portuguese magazine Expresso (Lisbon) on 17 August 2019.
by David S. Maxwell | Thu, 09/05/2019 - 5:42pm | 0 comments
Continue on for a short review of the new book on leadership by Jim Mattis and Bing West.
by Mathew Daniels | Thu, 09/05/2019 - 12:27am | 0 comments
As the Global War on Terror continues to expand, the U.S. believes it is important to maintain sound strategy and policy in order to bring about success and avoid costly foreign policy and militaristic commitments. This is especially true in Somalia, where the U.S. is engaged in a small war which currently has a light footprint approach, but risks of increased involvement are possible.
by Alex Wilson | Wed, 09/04/2019 - 1:11pm | 0 comments
What if you never had to go to war because your strategy in peace was so effective that the carnage of a future war could be avoided? In other words, are we in the UK, right now, maximising our strategy in peacetime? Much of this rests on our understanding of Soft Power, but Soft Power seems to be treading so softly in any of the current defence and security debates that it is virtually absent.
by William M. Darley | Wed, 09/04/2019 - 12:41am | 0 comments
This brief survey of the observations of four different historical figures with demonstrated skill in manipulating public opinion highlighted here is intended in part to encourage interest in modern propaganda and stimulate critical analysis of the propaganda methods employed today in the modern global information environment to ascertain whether the assertions of each historical propagandist are, in fact, salient or relevant.
by Carsten Schmiedl | Tue, 09/03/2019 - 8:21am | 0 comments
What are the limits of a security strategy predicated on relative advantage, and what can be done to mitigate them? Great powers rely on strengths and actively seek to bolster them, particularly vis-à-vis potential adversaries—hence ‘relative advantage’—when considering how to secure themselves. This is seen in the most recent versions of the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Defense Strategy (NDS). But relative advantage alone does not guarantee strategic success.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Mon, 09/02/2019 - 1:07am | 0 comments
The CIA’s primacy in matters of paramilitary activities is well-established through existing Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. However, today the United States faces serious threats from near-peer state adversaries, terrorist groups, and other sub-state actors that should lead its leaders to rethink its organizational and operational approaches to paramilitary activities to optimize both its capabilities and capacity to meet these threats.
by Irina Tsukerman | Sun, 09/01/2019 - 11:27am | 0 comments
Two major recent developments illustrate ongoing challenges and potential new obstacles in the war in Yemen, the major objective of which, the put down of the rebellion by the Iran-backed Houthi separatists appears to be sidelined by other considerations and misunderstandings.
by Robert Alan Murphy | Thu, 08/29/2019 - 1:05pm | 0 comments
In December of 1860, William Tecumseh Sherman delivered a speech to Louisianans on the subject of secession and articulated the kind of timeless logic Americans ought to apply before deciding to go to war.
by Evan Matos | Thu, 08/29/2019 - 8:45am | 0 comments
The Federal Government of Somalia and the Somali National Army have maintained great momentum in their military operations this year. They have conducted operations in areas that have historically been long held by Al-Shabaab, liberating villages throughout the Lower Shabelle Region, thus freeing civilians from oppression in the areas surrounding Mogadishu. Even with those large governmental gains, Al-Shabaab continues to be a formidable foe within the information environment with a well-developed Information Operations strategy.
by Michael Kelvington | Wed, 08/28/2019 - 12:52am | 0 comments
In order to advise our way to a more sustainable partner, we must continue to address one of the main issues plaguing our Afghan partners in their fight against the Taliban. It is frustrating to watch the ongoing adult version of “capture the flag” play out on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
by Pamela Ligouri Bunker, by Robert Bunker | Wed, 08/28/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
Rising levels of inequality, both internationally and domestically, represent a societal as well as, increasingly, a national security concern. A strong and robust middle class has long been considered an integral part of American society, required for both the functioning of its industrialized economy and armor and mechanized-infantry based armies as well as the stability of its liberal-democratic governmental system. This reality now seems imperiled.
by N. V. Subramanian | Tue, 08/27/2019 - 9:28am | 0 comments
Having failed in the gamble of speedily containing the fallouts of stripping Muslim-majority Kashmir of its autonomy and statehood, the religious right government of Narendra Modi has taken the country to the brink almost reminiscent of India’s vulnerabilities at the end of the Cold War.
by Heather Venable | Mon, 08/26/2019 - 12:13am | 0 comments
Small wars remain highly likely even as the U.S. stresses the return to great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will exhibit tension between strategic and tactical thinking. This tendency can be seen in the following discussion of Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who had a problematic vision of targeting the Chinese mainland during the Korean War that exemplifies tactical thinking at the expense of considering strategic ends.
by Mangesh Sawant | Sun, 08/25/2019 - 2:59pm | 0 comments
The February Indian air strikes in Pakistan has completely changed the dynamics of Pakistan’s strategy of supporting and sponsoring terrorism against India as unconventional warfare and being protected by the threat of first use nuclear attack doctrine. It has also transformed India’s defensive and cautious strategy of strategic restraint. Nuclear deterrence is no longer an impediment in South Asia.
by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Sat, 08/24/2019 - 3:52pm | 0 comments
What is now categorized as the “cognitive domain” includes areas of influence in all sectors of society. Cognitive domain(s) should not be restricted to influence and information operations, social engineering and ‘winning hearts and minds’ approaches, but expanded to include all areas where ideological attacks are possible.
by Benjamin J. Anderson | Fri, 08/23/2019 - 4:29pm | 0 comments
The rise of ransomware as an attack vector has continued to thrive and appears focused on those municipalities and law enforcement agencies with limited resources and unchecked system vulnerabilities. Of major concern are the evidentiary losses and reduction in consumer confidence within these governmental organizations requiring a new focus and financial expenditures to mitigate these attacks from occurring in the future.
by Heather Venable | Fri, 08/23/2019 - 6:04am | 0 comments
Every discussion of a military organization’s future must begin with this question: what capabilities does it require to meet possible strategic objectives in a variety of conflicts? Unfortunately, a recent article suggesting that the Air Force downsize significantly to focus solely on air superiority within the organizational construct of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) fails to begin this way.
by Stephen B. Young | Wed, 08/21/2019 - 6:09am | 0 comments
Unlike conventional wars, which in Vietnam we called the “War of the Big Battalions”, small wars, or what back then we called “the other war”, integrate the military with the cultural and the political. Thus, small wars are hard to win with kinetic engagements and firepower alone. The complex reality of small wars also implies that they can be lost for cultural or political reasons even if single military engagements are won handily again and again.
by Michael Gladius | Tue, 08/20/2019 - 4:28pm | 0 comments
In the aftermath of WWI, the question of Air Power’s role in the military as an institution arose. Two competing theories arose: The first treated air power as another branch of the Army and Navy, while the second treated Air power as a separate form of war that would be super-dominant. America’s Military has tried both forms, using the former during WWII and the latter post-1947. In recent decades, many critics of an independent Air Force have called for its abolition and a return to the first model.
by H. K. Roy | Tue, 08/20/2019 - 4:33am | 0 comments
Over the years, on the many flights I’ve taken, I’ve had several “celebrity sightings” and even had the opportunity to meet one or two of them in the process. I sat in front of a beret-wearing Samuel L. Jackson on a night flight to London, and across the aisle from late, great US Marine and Full Metal Jacket actor R. Lee Ermey on a flight to DC.
by H. K. Roy | Mon, 08/19/2019 - 12:40am | 0 comments
This story could have been included in the previous chapter [“Ignore My Intelligence at Your Peril (I Am Not As Stupid As I Look)”], but as you will read, this premeditated intelligence failure in Iraq is so mind-boggling in nature that it deserves a chapter all its own. Technically it was not an intelligence failure; it was a spectacular tactical intelligence success story, followed by an unconscionable bureaucratic failure to properly manage an invaluable ongoing counterterrorism intelligence operation.
by Ray K. Ragan | Mon, 08/19/2019 - 12:14am | 0 comments
Currently Civil Information Management (CIM) systems employed by the U.S. Military are not keeping pace with the current revolution seen in civilian next-generation knowledge management systems (KMS). These KMS are possible through the convergence of modern computing, predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML). This CIM limitation is unnecessary and self-imposed as a KMS offers persistent and progressing inputs to the common operating picture. This assessment explores how civilian business harnessed this revolution and how to apply it to CIM.
by Thomas Doherty | Fri, 08/16/2019 - 1:13pm | 0 comments
In the era of great power competition, the United States can ill afford to ignore nonviolent resistance as an offensive strategy employable by ourselves, our allies, and also our enemies. The ability to achieve UW end states using strategic nonviolence will increase the options and capabilities available to policymakers and allow us to understand it when utilized against U.S. interests.
by Robert Bunker, by Pamela Ligouri Bunker | Thu, 08/15/2019 - 4:20pm | 0 comments
New eBook out by Robert J. Bunker and Pamela Ligouri Bunker, "The Islamic State English-Language Online Magazine Rumiyah (Rome): Research Guide, Narrative & Threat Analysis and U.S. Policy Response". Reston, VA: Terrorism Research Center, August 2019, 130 pp.
by Mark D. Robinson, by Cori E. Dauber | Thu, 08/15/2019 - 3:30pm | 0 comments
Despite the fact that there is a robust conversation regarding “terrorism and technology,” that discussion is – as near as we can tell – uniformly about the back end, that is to say exclusively addressing the dissemination of what terrorists have already produced. We have found virtually nothing in the popular press and nothing at all in the academic literature about the technology involved in the production of the materials that are being distributed.
by Benjamin Runkle | Wed, 08/14/2019 - 12:41am | 0 comments
Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower justifiably have become legends for their accomplishments while commander World War II’s Pacific and Northern European campaigns. Yet even with renewed focus on great power conflicts, future commanders are more likely to face missions similar to what these officers faced in the Philippines prior to the war than the continent-wide conventional campaigns they are better known far.
by Michael Keen | Wed, 08/14/2019 - 12:20am | 0 comments
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to the situation in northern Mali. The Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation still provides a blueprint for a more just, inclusive, and peaceful social contract to regulate relations between the government and the people and between different communities in the area.
by Megan O'Dwyer | Tue, 08/13/2019 - 9:38am | 0 comments
Despite complete territory loss in recent months, ISIS still has plenty of life left, and its predecessors have recovered from far more difficult situations in the past. ISIS has more manpower, money, and reliable networks than it ever had before it began controlling territory.
by Gary Anderson | Tue, 08/13/2019 - 8:37am | 0 comments
China is waging a small war for control of the South China Sea (SCS) under the guise of protecting a ridiculous definition of its territorial waters in a manner designed to turn the SCS into a Chinese lake. She has militarized the area by using her Coast Guard to harass ships exercising the right of innocent passage and has built artificial islands in areas of disputed ownership. Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Republic of the Philippines have had vessels destroyed, detained, and otherwise intimidated.
by Philip W. Reynolds | Mon, 08/12/2019 - 9:08am | 0 comments
A multipolar view of the world inclines far more towards justice than one in which the U.S. jealousy protects her position. The British and French are firmly in the U.S. and NATO camps, and are defending their democracies, not docile parroting of the U.S. position. In Asia, Liberalism is anchored by Korea, Japan and Australia in a grand arc. This is not the work of Trump, but the sum of endless work over decades to make the U.S. safer. Recent events are vindication of this ‘offshoring’ strategy.
by Paul F. Messina | Mon, 08/12/2019 - 7:33am | 0 comments
The great strategic dilemma for both Athens and Sparta during the Second Peloponnesian War was how to bring their strength to bear against each other. While both sides made numerous mistakes in the prosecution of the war, the Spartans were able to bring their strengths, or the strengths of their allies, to bear more effectively against the Athenians, which resulted in Sparta’s ultimate victory. Although set in the ancient world, the policy/strategy mismatch between land and sea warfare capability resulted in phenomena that still have relevance for the 21st century.
by Hannah Richards | Mon, 08/12/2019 - 7:01am | 0 comments
Despite the initial success of Operation Serval in 2013, French intervention in the Sahel region has now reached impasse. The already intricate situation is further complicated by France’s status as a former colonizer operating in the region. Understanding how France’s former colonial status translates into relationships between local communities, French troops, and armed terrorist groups will influence long term engagement.
by Aaron Farley | Sun, 08/11/2019 - 12:36am | 0 comments
The North Korean conflict has been one of the most intractable – and opaque – issues on the international stage for decades. Analysts attempt to read into every new development like a haruspex interpreting so many chicken entrails. The internal politics of the regime are only dimly grasped, and the occasional glimpses the world receive into its inner workings often raise as many questions as they answer. North Korea can – and does – exploit its reputation for unpredictability. Renewed armed conflict with “the hermit kingdom” is a daunting prospect, and policymakers often go to great lengths to minimize this risk.
by Yousuf Abdelfatah, by David Thaler | Sat, 08/10/2019 - 1:27pm | 0 comments
Countering this insurgency has been at the forefront of Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s agenda since he assumed office in 2013. Roughly 1,000 security personnel have been killed in the region during this period. However, despite brutal methods and substantial military effort, the Egyptian government has little to show from the past five-plus years of counterinsurgency operations in the Sinai aside from hundreds of military and civilian casualties and an undeterred adversary.
by Dave Pinion | Sat, 08/10/2019 - 9:41am | 0 comments
On February 8th 2040, Congress passed a law that abolished and dissolved the United States Marine Corps and merged its personnel and assets into the Army, Navy and Air Force. It should not have come as a surprise to anyone. After a bruising two-month war with China in which the U.S. never landed a meaningful punch, there was bound to be a reckoning across the entire Department of Defense.
by Edwin Tran | Fri, 08/09/2019 - 11:51am | 0 comments
The United States’ intervention in the Lebanese Civil War was a peacekeeping operation defined by long term strategic goals centered around increasing American hegemony in the region. The United States sought to leverage its position as a peacekeeper against Israeli and Syrian advances. However, significant overreach and unplanned events would play a substantial role in limiting the extent of American success in Lebanon.
by Richard M. Crowell | Fri, 08/09/2019 - 12:25am | 0 comments
The United States and its Allies have historically been successful at fighting conventional wars. America must both build on its understanding of past state-on-state conflicts and learn from the small wars of this young century to be able to fight and win future wars.
by George Fust | Thu, 08/08/2019 - 11:15am | 0 comments
The purpose of this article is to consider the possibility that we are moving toward a world of "garrison states"-a world in which the specialists on violence are the most powerful group in society.
by Julian Koeck | Thu, 08/08/2019 - 1:56am | 0 comments
Cultural knowledge and cultural change are – on various levels – of significant importance for modern Western warfare. What does this mean for strategy?
by Francis X. Tailor | Wed, 08/07/2019 - 9:06pm | 0 comments
While it’s difficult to know everything that is going on around the negotiating table or how close the parties are to a final accord, what we can say with reasonable certainty is that any deal at the end of the day will need to be verifiable.
by Jesse Humpal | Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:09am | 0 comments
Why has the United States focused their grand strategy on influencing states and central governments rather than the ungoverned areas within them? Pursuing reluctant authoritarians rather than the accepted rulers who control the land outside the states control has been a failed and misguided strategy.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Tue, 08/06/2019 - 11:04am | 0 comments
Cyber-realpolitik or cyber-realism is an anarchic international system that is fragmented beyond the multiplicity of a multipolar distribution of state power. Nation-states are increasingly finding governance difficult as technology is propagated into the internet of things (IoT), and innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology. The power to disrupt and appeal to public impulses are redistributed to tech companies and their executives, developers, coders, technicians, and computer engineers.
by Robert Bunker, by José de Arimatéia da Cruz, by John P. Sullivan | Tue, 08/06/2019 - 8:24am | 0 comments
An assault took place at Altamira prison in which a local gang—Comando Classe A (CCA); Class A Command—controlling one wing of the prison stormed another wing controlled by an opposing gang—Comando Vermelho (CV) or the Red Command. The Comando Vermelho wing of the prison was set on fire, resulting in multiple asphyxiation deaths along with sixteen pre-mortem decapitations as a component of the initial inter-gang warfare action.
by Robert Bunker | Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:07am | 0 comments
The concluding workshop of the EU funded MESMERISE project was conducted at the Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain on 11-12 July 2019. The three year MESMERISE project began on 1 May 2016 and will conclude on 31 July 2019. Earlier meetings for this project took place in May and December of 2016 and in November 2017 at various venues.
by Benjamin J. Anderson | Mon, 08/05/2019 - 11:53am | 0 comments
With Iran’s insatiable appetite for nuclear independence and cyber warfare retaliatory strikes against the West, the imposed sanctions have resulted in increased socio-economic unrest at a time where greater individual access to technology and communication devices by individuals may result in further regional destabilization.
by George Fust | Mon, 08/05/2019 - 8:49am | 0 comments
The most recent National Defense Authorization Act includes a section directing the Secretary of Defense to assess if this five-year service obligation should be extended. Congress is now questioning if the increase in the cost of educating and training should equate to an increase in time served for graduates. In short, is the nation getting “an adequate return on investment for a service academy graduate?”