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 Naiomi Gonzalez | Mon, 08/05/2019 - 12:49am | 0 comments
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required the support of the private military industry. However, the United States government’s increased reliance and dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy. In fact, the lack of accountability that has allowed certain sectors of the private military industry to act with impunity have arguably complicated the U.S. military’s already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
by Franklin C. Annis | Sun, 08/04/2019 - 7:30pm | 0 comments
I can only describe this book as “honestly” written by a man that had nothing to prove as he spent his life demonstrating his ability to stand among the most elite warriors. Sparks’ use of colorful language and a total disregard for political correctness demonstrates his integrity to his worldview.
by Tony Stark | Sun, 08/04/2019 - 12:16pm | 0 comments
Dreams never come reality when preached from the mouths of tyrants. They become nightmares, twisted by humanity’s flaws and the fallibility of systems that belong on the ash heap of history.
by Malcolm Beith | Sun, 08/04/2019 - 11:33am | 0 comments
Better intelligence sharing between Mexican and U.S. counter-drug officials might have prevented the rape of children. Following the revelation that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his cohorts allegedly had minors delivered to them for sexual purposes—made public by Judge Brian Cogan prior to jury deliberations in Guzman’s Brooklyn trial—several former U.S. officials say better relations between Mexico and the U.S. could have prevented these alleged atrocities.
by Scott Martin | Tue, 07/30/2019 - 8:16am | 0 comments
The U.S. could have countered the genocide the April 1994 genocide in Rwanda. While it is very difficult to envision a scenario whereby the U.S. conducted unilateral military actions once the genocide started, the various indicators prior to that date offered the U.S. the opportunity, working through the United Nations (UN), to act to prevent the genocide before it started.
by Samuel T. Lair | Mon, 07/29/2019 - 2:40am | 0 comments
The First Barbary War of 1801 was the first significant American engagement outside of the Western Hemisphere and the second significant engagement against a foreign state without a formal declaration of war. Furthermore, this war’s multilateral strategy of using a coalition and diplomatic pressure provides valuable insight into the elements of a successful limited military operation.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Tue, 07/23/2019 - 12:19pm | 0 comments
Law enforcement officials said the two-year spasm of violence was carried out largely by Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants hoping to return MS-13 to its bloody roots. Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said the bloodshed was motivated in part by the group’s desire to make MS-13 less deferential to the Mexican Mafia, which wields influence over most Hispanic and Latino street gangs in the Los Angeles area.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Tue, 07/23/2019 - 9:25am | 0 comments
Sometimes brutal honesty is the best form of diplomacy, and if there is a conflict that is in immediate need for some kind of resolution, it is the conflict over the region of Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
by Tom Ordeman, Jr. | Mon, 07/22/2019 - 4:34pm | 0 comments
The situation in Yemen mirrors familiar challenges faced by international troops in Afghanistan. Just as Afghans elect to grow opium and cannabis in lieu of food crops like wheat or pomegranates, Yemeni farmers dedicate scarce arable land and irrigation resources to khat.
by Jelle Hooiveld | Mon, 07/22/2019 - 12:10am | 0 comments
The USASOC History Office caused quite a stir in the US Special Forces and Intelligence community with its eyebrow-raising article about OSS influence on Special Forces, published in Veritas in 2018. Troy Sacquety, author of this article, concluded that “a grossly disproportionate share of the pioneering influence” was incorrectly attributed to the OSS veterans who joined early Special Forces.
by Charles S. (Sam) Faddis | Sun, 07/21/2019 - 7:32pm | 0 comments
Iran, via the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah, retains the capacity to stage terrorist attacks worldwide. That includes inside the United States. Planning for such attacks is ongoing and detailed as illustrated by the cases of Ali Kourani and Samer el-Debek, two Hezbollah operatives tasked with collecting information on U.S. targets in preparation for terrorist attacks and arrested by U.S. authorities in 2017.
by Thomas M. Williams | Sun, 07/21/2019 - 11:02am | 0 comments
This is a practical guide for unit cultural change - a simple yet powerful tool for command teams to create shared understanding around “what is,” what we would prefer, but most importantly, how to discuss what change means on a day-to-day basis.
by Sean Parrott | Tue, 07/16/2019 - 2:57am | 0 comments
A culture change, emphasizing the dismounted scout as the primary collection platform would be the bedrock of the new-look IBCT cavalry squadron.
by Christophe Bellens | Mon, 07/15/2019 - 11:58am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019. It considers from the perspective of the United States government what options are on the table in the use private military forces.
by Billy Carter | Mon, 07/15/2019 - 1:23am | 0 comments
This essay is meant to demonstrate that a unified influence activity achieves the greatest efficiency necessary to challenge the persistent efforts of our traditional adversaries, to seize initiate in the information domain, to exploit opportunities with emerging methods and technologies. Political Warfare by our adversaries are present in common rhetoric: “Russian Election Meddling, Islamiphobic, Chinese Hacking”. This language can be found in any newspaper and blog on a daily basis across the US, across political boundaries.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Sun, 07/14/2019 - 12:17am | 0 comments
When cyberwarfare is the top defensive policy for the Pentagon, including the protection of critical infrastructure from a catastrophic cyber-attack, the Commander-in-Chief should strategically avoid social media if at all possible.
by W. R. Baker | Sun, 07/14/2019 - 12:09am | 0 comments
When senior officers don’t listen to intelligence, they are responsible for the consequences - though they usually aren’t held to the same standards as their subordinates. When this occurs in combat, the most you might see is a senior officer fired after the fact, though many may have died as a result of their action or lack of action.
by Kylie Bielby | Sat, 07/13/2019 - 8:50pm | 0 comments
A court case in the United Kingdom has revealed that terrorists are considering the use of driverless cars and drones to avoid their own deaths. Farhad Salah, (born 20/03/95) of Sheffield, was found guilty of preparing to commit an act of terrorism, following an investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing in the U.K.
by George Fust | Sat, 07/13/2019 - 8:33am | 0 comments
A Pew Research Center report published on July 10 suggests that most veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan believe these wars are “not worth fighting.” What are the implications of these findings? What can they reveal about the health of U.S. civil-military relations? Is it dangerous for the guardians to be opposed to the mission they are directed to accomplish? At first glance, the data is troubling.
by Matthew R. Doherty | Fri, 07/12/2019 - 7:13am | 0 comments
There are many reasons (political/diplomatic/financial) why Laos was taken over by the Pathet Lao in 1975. Perhaps the overriding reason was the state of its military. The Royal Lao Army was one of the most ineffective forces of modern times. Despite being funded by a near inexhaustible American bankroll, it was a very poor shadow of its model, the ARVN.
by Ekene Lionel | Fri, 07/12/2019 - 6:29am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.
by Andrew Narloch | Thu, 07/11/2019 - 3:00pm | 0 comments
What makes MANPADS the most effective tool for insurgents and freedom fighters alike is the versatility of the weapon to help fulfill several basic requirements for a successful guerrilla campaign.
by Michael L. Burgoyne | Wed, 07/10/2019 - 1:07am | 0 comments
The following is a summary of a study entitled Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle published by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. The full study is available here.
by Michael L. Burgoyne | Wed, 07/10/2019 - 1:02am | 0 comments
El siguiente trabajo es un resumen del estudio titulado Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle, publicado por el Instituto México del Centro Woodrow Wilson. El estudio completo se encuentra disponible aquí.
by Phillip William Etches | Tue, 07/09/2019 - 1:36am | 0 comments
Despite al-Suri’s reputation, however, questions exist about the relevance of his work, and jihadi strategic thought as a whole. Broadly, the relevance of jihadi strategic thought is unclear. Some note its potential to enable clearer understandings of jihadi behaviour.
by Jeremiah Goodpaster | Mon, 07/08/2019 - 8:39pm | 0 comments
With growing tension on the European continent, the risk of escalation between Russia and NATO or the EU is becoming more prominent. The use of a non-traditional means to achieve warlike objectives will force NATO and others to address their current definitions and plans for security.
by Bryan Baker | Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:31am | 0 comments
The US should embrace the fact that it is in part responsible for this crisis. America should do everything it can to help Central American migrants. This injustice must be corrected if the United States is to live up to its great legacy as the city upon a hill.
by Thomas Hader, by Peter Kent Forster, by Chris Kong | Sat, 07/06/2019 - 5:12pm | 0 comments
This study determines what trends, if any, may be associated with the announcements of US troop withdrawals in both Syria and Afghanistan on December 19 and 20, respectively. It examines the extent to which linkages exist between the unintended consequences and the announcement of the US military’s withdrawal by examining activities and commentary associated with the Taliban, the SDF, and the Daesh.
by Halia Czosnek | Fri, 07/05/2019 - 11:25am | 0 comments
Though some security studies practitioners question securitizing unconventional security issues, the impact of fossil fuels on climate change and health must be securitized.
by Robert Muggah | Thu, 07/04/2019 - 7:15am | 0 comments
Terrorist threats are changing. Over the past decade Jihadist groups have moved away from monolithic ‘mafia-like’ operations and franchised their activities. As was evident in attacks from Mumbai (2008) to Nairobi (2019), they are extremely adept at deploying digital platforms to encourage recruitment, radicalization, and manage operations in real-time. It is not just Jihadist networks such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, or al-Shabaab that have expanded their digital skill-sets.
by George Fust | Wed, 07/03/2019 - 1:54am | 0 comments
How does one define “healthy” civil-military relations? The simplest definition would suggest a nation’s military is subordinate to its ruling body. In other words, the guys with all the guns listens to those without any. So how then would we evaluate this relationship in a country like Venezuela? The military has remained loyal and subordinate to the ruling body, so does it meet the criteria?
by Mahmut Cengiz | Wed, 07/03/2019 - 1:32am | 0 comments
The July 15 military uprising of 2016 has continuously served as a pretext for the Turkish government to crackdown its opponents. The government has made up a flimsy story of an attempted coup, including blame for the Americans behind it, and expects its people to believe the story without question. However, many details of the uprising are full of contradictions and dark points.
by Timothy P. Lewin | Tue, 07/02/2019 - 11:54am | 0 comments
A new process adopting Dr. Joseph Strange’s center of gravity approach will provide a way to defeat enemy combat power and provide freedom of action across and throughout the domains. The U.S. Army should adopt Dr. Strange’s center of gravity method and adjust doctrine to update the targeting methodology in the Military Decision-Making Process.
by Harrison Manlove | Tue, 07/02/2019 - 9:17am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.
by Robert Bunker, by Pamela Ligouri Bunker | Tue, 07/02/2019 - 12:30am | 0 comments
The 2019 Terrorism and Social Media (TASM) conference took place on 25 and 26 June 2019 at Swansea University Bay Campus, Wales, United Kingdom. The conference was organized by Swansea University’s Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law and its Cyber Threats Research Centre (CYTREC), with the support of the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence.
by Michael Gladius | Mon, 07/01/2019 - 2:37pm | 0 comments
In this article, we will examine each of the 4 generations from a cultural standpoint. Focusing purely on warfare only scratches the surface but understanding culture as the basis of the 4 generations explains why America seems to be incapable of waging 3rd- or 4th-Generation warfare. Any system can use the same tactics, so the actual difference between generations is found the soul of the nation. Knowing the soul of each generation illustrates the real risks of imitating these systems, and why we may inevitably become the monster we wish to destroy.
by Ed Nash | Mon, 07/01/2019 - 3:11am | 0 comments
Between June 2015 and August 2016, I fought as a volunteer with the Kurdish YPG against the Islamic State in Syria. That timespan saw the creation of what became the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a disparate conglomeration of different groups of multiple ethnicities, that all had the common goal of destroying ISIS, a goal that has territorially been achieved but is in actuality far from complete.
by George Fust | Sun, 06/30/2019 - 5:17pm | 0 comments
Critics will argue that furniture instructions are a poor analogy for doctrine. And yes, they are correct. Doctrine is not meant to be a step-by-step guide. It is meant to allow flexibility and adaptability as conditions change. Doctrine, however, should not be shunned. It should not sit idle on a shelf or the Army Publishing Directorate website.
by Nick Bono, by Tyler Horan, by Brett Reichert, by Garrett Carr | Fri, 06/28/2019 - 6:30am | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Alfred Negron | Fri, 06/28/2019 - 6:02am | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Cristina Martin Ristori | Thu, 06/27/2019 - 1:07am | 0 comments
Chemical weapons attacks remain an uncommon choice for militant and terrorist organizations targeting Western countries. Their rarity makes them an attractive option, as the shock factor associated chemical weapons attacks plays into the main goal of any terrorist attack: to instill fear and insecurity in the population.
by Kiril Avramov, by Ellery Cushman | Wed, 06/26/2019 - 1:01am | 0 comments
The deployment of these “cognitive munitions” in the current “hot” stage of political warfare confrontation between Russia and the West should serve as a stark reminder that multiple “defusing” initiatives should be actively developed and implemented, aiming at raising the cognitive protection levels at military and civilian institutions alike.
by Daniel Koehler, by Peter Popella | Tue, 06/25/2019 - 11:33am | 0 comments
One essential aspect affecting individual risk is mental health, such as for example the role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that has been found to significantly increase the threat posed by returning foreign fighters. Furthermore, as it happened throughout history when fighting forces were facing superior opponents and ultimate defeat on the battlefield during “final stands”, the use of drugs to enhance fanaticism, physical strength and to prevent fatigue, hunger, thirst and exhaustion was also reportedly present among IS’s fighters. The substance of choice for IS, Captagon or fenethylline, was so famous among the group’s fighters, that it was used even during terror attacks, for example in the November 2015 Paris attacks.
by Brandon Quintin | Mon, 06/24/2019 - 9:58am | 0 comments
After the Massacre at the Wabash in 1791, George Washington and Henry Knox reformed the U.S. Army as the Legion of the United States. The Legion was a self-contained modular army composed of four identical combined-arms units. During the Fallen Timbers campaign, the Legion proved itself the ideal force structure for use in small wars. The Brigade Combat Team is the closest the U.S. Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure.
by Nicholas J. Lorusso | Mon, 06/24/2019 - 7:25am | 0 comments
Author’s Note - This paper is a modified version of a submission to the Joint and Combined Warfighting School - Hybrid faculty in partial satisfaction of the requirements for Joint Professional Military Education Phase II. The contents of this submission reflect my original views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Joint Forces Staff College or the Department of Defense.
by Franklin C. Annis | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 8:14pm | 0 comments
Flipping through the pages of this little book, I quickly realized that there was likely little there. Inside this 5”x8” book you will find 1”+ margins with the text more than single spaced. With maybe 100 words per page, the content of this entire book is probably a ~10 page “academic” article.
by Celia Belt | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 1:15am | 0 comments
I’d been walking the floors of the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center since 1998. At the onset of the war, things truly heated up. I no longer had the time to visit with each patient and their families; there were far too many. I was the only volunteer actively visiting patients and I was also heading up a nonprofit for burn survivors, the Moonlight Fund, that consumed much of my time. With so many new burn survivors entering the fold due to the war, I was frantically working to raise the funds to meet the mounting needs of so many wounded military members and also continue to care for civilians who had suffered burn injuries.
by Andrew Fox | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 12:46pm | 0 comments
This essay is a fictional memo set in the year 2060 written by a future U.S. national security advisor to a future president that recounts the preceding four decades of U.S. military involvement. The memo follows the post-mortem assessment used by LTC Matt Cavanaugh, itself an homage to retired Major General Dunlap’s essay. Unlike those pieces, however, this essay presents a more optimistic view based on a defense & intelligence community that made hard decisions and difficult investments in the 2020s which allowed the U.S. armed forces to prevail in contested conflicts throughout the rest of the century.
by Mario Hoffmann | Fri, 06/21/2019 - 9:33am | 0 comments
Strategic competitors like Russia and China are using old technologies in new ways while also employing new advanced technology to fight their enemies in all domains (space, cyber, air, sea, and land). This required the U.S. Army to evolve and adapt the way it wants to fight by publishing “Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) 2028” as the cornerstone for the Joint force to militarily compete, penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit future adversaries. While air, land, and sea domains have been prevalent since World War II, the relative new-comers of Cyber and Space are still establishing their doctrinal foundation in modern warfare.
by John Turner | Thu, 06/20/2019 - 12:54am | 0 comments
If Washington is serious about dismantling TCOs and disrupting cocaine trafficking into the United States it must prioritize more assets to support Admiral Faller’s efforts so that his command is better resourced to interdict and reduce the flow of dangerous, illicit drugs from entering the United States. If not, Washington should lower its expectations and rethink its regional objectives.