Small Wars Journal

Small Wars Journal / Military Writers Guild Writing Contest Results

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 8:51am

Small Wars Journal / Military Writers Guild Writing Contest

Congratulations to the authors listed below whose articles have been selected as the top essays submitted in our latest writing contest. Sixty seven articles were submitted and the following twenty three made the cut. Due to the diverse nature of the subject matter submitted and the authors’ backgrounds SWJ has reorganized the contest from three distinct categories into one broad category. Twenty of the authors will receive a $150 prize. The top three submissions will be announced at the conclusion of the publication of all the articles at Small Wars Journal. The top paper’s author will receive $500, second place $300 and third $200. Each author will also receive a certificate acknowledging their accomplishment.

Publication of the articles will begin Wednesday, 12 April, with one or two papers being published each day over a three week period. The list below and the order of publication are purely random.

Kudos to all the authors for an outstanding effort and your contributions to our community of interest and practice are sincerely appreciated.

1. Clemency and the Sword: Using Amnesty as a Weapon to Fracture and Defeat ISIL by Matthew Mullarky

While some analysts predict that ISIL will slowly but gradually decline throughout 2017, the organization has proven to be both resilient and dangerous in defeat. The United States is unable to devote its full resources and attention to combating ISIL, as it must maintain its commitments with its partners in the Pacific and with NATO.

2. Are Small Wars Just Big Wars That Are Smaller?: Why Our Conventional Wisdom About Small Wars Leaves Us Learning Little by Grant M. Martin

Instead of taking our usual big war conceptual construct of “tactical, operational, and strategic” levels of war, I propose instead that during small wars military personnel are involved in three activities: tactical actions, theoretical attempts to make the tactical actions meaningful, and policy prioritization.

3. Advising in Small Wars by Zachary Griffiths

This paper explores how my Special Forces detachment restored the Nangarhar Provincial Response Company, a special operations element of the Afghan police, by fusing General Zinni’s considerations and Dr. Kilcullen’s fundamentals of small wars.

4. Precision-Guided Diminishing Returns: Why Airpower Alone Can’t Win America’s Small Wars by Michael T. Lippert

The coalition has already liquidated ISIL’s fighting strength approximately twice over.  The Islamic State’s ability to recruit and import new fighters has been able to effectively keep up with their rate of attrition on the battlefield.

5. U.S. Counter-Ideological Campaign by Ryan Basford

A majority of these mass movements initially operate within non-kinetic means. It is for this reason that we must interject in the same manner. And thus, the world is in dire need of a transcendental ideal that encompasses both naturalistic and contemporary scientific principles.

6. Dealing with the Arab Spring from the Combined Air Operations Center by Jahara W. Matisek

All too often, social movements have trouble garnering support, because the cost of participation in anti-government movements carries a larger risk/cost than payoff/benefit; hence, most will “free-ride” by not participating, or by waiting until enough people are involved making the perception of risk/danger close to zero. This is exactly why the “Rebel’s Dilemma” exists; typically, only about 5% of the population will ever actively participate in a rebellion against their government.

7. The Enduring Pillars of Successful Counterinsurgency by Christopher J. Heatherly and Casey McNicholas

A frequent criticism of the United States military is it spends too little time contemplating the future of warfare, choosing instead to refight the last war. A related criticism is the military is far too often ignorant of its own history, particularly when exploring lessons learned during operational deployments.

8. Psyched Out: Using Narrative Power to Exploit Cognitive Flaws by Jon Herrmann

This article offers a possible structure that adversaries could use to exploit cognitive flaws and American cultural effects on decision-making. It is intended to offer a lens through which to view information, with an eye to better understanding potential effects of information and information operations in traditional conflict, unconventional warfare, and civil-military operations.

9. Counterinsurgency Strategy in the Dhofar Rebellion by Alexander Schade

Counterinsurgency efforts waged in the post-colonial period generally lagged in efficiency due to the counterinsurgents’ inability to quell rebellions with large military footprints and without the use of tactics such as population relocation, torture, and brutality. Counterinsurgency campaigns in Algeria, Malaya, Kenya, Vietnam, and Cambodia demonstrated the inability of large conventional forces to quell an insurgency without resorting to extreme measures.

10. From Cultural Intelligence to Cultural Understanding: A Modest Proposal by Lawrence E. Cline

Virtually every report that has analyzed problems in Iraq and Afghanistan has noted a lack of cultural understanding, leading to difficulties in conducting operations.  In particular, the report from Major General Michael Flynn et al. described a series of weaknesses in understanding the Afghan people and culture. The Flynn report in many ways argued that the U.S. military was not really living up to its doctrine of a more population-centric approach, and considerably greater attention needed to be paid to this aspect of COIN.

11. Iraq’s Path to State Failure by Buddhika B. Jayamaha, Kevin Petit, and Will Reno

The defeat of Islamic State on Iraq’s territory will only bring into clearer focus the stark reality that Iraq is sliding toward state failure. As in other failed states such as Libya, Yemen and Somalia, this proliferations and increasing fragmentation of armed political networks and dissolution of central state authority threatens to lead to open-ended conflict.

12. Filling the Gap Between War and Peace: Creating a Stability Command by Hardy P. Merrill

In The Pentagon’s New Map, Dr. Thomas Barnett provided a rough road map for establishing a transition force in 2004. To be successful, the force must transcend the conventional structure of line wire diagrams at the tactical level. To accomplish this, we need to address organizational structure, military culture and design. Addressing these factors will provide us with the Comprehensive Approach that Joint Publication 3-07 preaches to achieve peace in the 21st Century. This paper proposes a Joint Force Command centered on stability operations.

13. Telling the Brigade Story: A Case Study of U.S. Army Public Affairs as an Engine of Operational Effects, Organizational History, and Strategic Narrative by Randy Brown

At the height of the “Afghan Surge” in 2010-2011, more than 100,000 U.S. and coalition troops were committed to a counterinsurgency (COIN) mission of “clear, hold, and build” on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA): Clear the countryside of insurgent fighters. Hold the terrain, alongside Afghan security forces. Build infrastructure, commerce, and rule-of-law.

14. HUMINT – A Continuing Crisis? By W.R. Baker

Before Vietnam completely fades from memory and its Lessons Learned gather even more dust then they already have, it might be worth exploring a few issues that seem to have remained since and will likely resurface again.

15. Correlations Between U.S. Military Basing Operations and Conflict Termination by James G. Lake G. Lake

Ongoing basing requirements during a conflict, coupled with base closure/transfer protocols are long and laborious endeavors.  Although mission and objective also have some impact, one needs to look no further than the Long War in Iraq and Afghanistan to see a symbiotic relationship between basing footprints and protracted conflict.

16. Lessons Learned from Countering Violent Extremism Development Interventions by Steph Schmitt

This essay identifies parallels between three lessons posited in Kilcullen’s “28 Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency” and key principles that have been validated through trial and error in the Countering Violent Extremism development community.

17. U.S. Foreign Advisory Missions: Rich History - Mixed Results by Russell Worth Parker

United States military history is rich in foreign advisory missions that should have ensured post 9/11 advisory missions were the best informed, most comprehensively resourced, executed, and assessed advisory efforts to date. However, though arguably the most critical aspects of efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. advisory results have been mixed.

18. A Beginner’s Guide to the Musical Scales of Cyberwar by Jessica Malekos Smith

This article is a beginner’s guide to understanding the ‘musical scales’ of cyberwar. As such, it addresses what constitutes a use of force in cyberspace and how states may lawfully respond. Understanding the legal confines of offensive and defensive cyber operations is a burgeoning area of study. In fact, as the former legal advisor to the U.S. State Department, Harold Koh, famously remarked at U.S. Cyber Command in 2012: “How do we apply old laws of war to new cyber-circumstances, staying faithful to enduring principles, while accounting for changing times and technologies?”

19. Complex Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in Ukrainian Antiterrorism Operations by Victor R. Morris

IPB doctrine states that all four mission variables—including civil considerations—and their interactions must be analyzed if the process is to be effective. Staffs must “determine how the interactions of friendly forces, enemy forces, and indigenous populations affect each other.” However, in practice, the process tends to emphasize the enemy and not holistically account for the civil considerations.

20. Russian “New Generation” Warfare: Theory, Practice, and Lessons for U.S. Strategists by Nicholas Fedyk

Russian unconventional warfare—dubbed by analysts as “new generation” warfare—elevates the psychological and popular aspects of conflict more so than any of its geopolitical partners and rivals. In an era of expanding popular engagement and attention to foreign conflicts, a strategic appreciation of these people-centric dimensions is more important now than ever.

21. Tactical Surprise in Small Wars: Lessons from French Wars in Afghanistan and Mali by Rémy Hémez

In small wars, it seems that resorting to tactical surprise rarely benefits the strongest actor. Studying past ambushes illustrates this idea. Indeed, history shows the extent to which Western armies have proven incapable of surprising their adversaries and how, they have often been surprised in turn.

22. The Roots of Violent Extremism by Troy E. Mitchell

The recent waves of mass opposition demonstrations and upheavals in countries historically viewed as politically stable are difficult for intelligence analysts to anticipate. An inability to perform predictive analysis derives from preconceived notions of political stability, reliable allies, and viable markets for foreign investments among intertwined growing economies.

23. New Rules for Advisers: Lessons From a Year with the Iraqi Army by James King

The Army has a little known core competency, one that very few want to talk about or admit.  That competency is advising host nation forces.  From Generals Collin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf slogging through the jungles with the Republic of Vietnam Army to the Military Transition Teams and Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has spent a significant amount of time advising foreign troops over the last 50 years but almost no time preparing for the mission.

About the Author(s)



Mon, 04/10/2017 - 1:58pm

Special thanks to SWJ for the opportunity and recognition.

19. Complex Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in Ukrainian Anti-terrorism Operation is dedicated to Major Andrei Alexandrovich Kyzylo "Eagle". Andrei was recognized as the best student leader in the course and contributor to detailed adversary evaluation. Major Kyzylo was killed in action on 29 January 2017 in Avdiika, Donetsk Oblast. Posthumously promoted and awarded the “Golden Star”, Andrei was inducted into the national order as a “Hero of Ukraine”.

Memorial site link:


Mon, 04/10/2017 - 11:39pm

In reply to by SWJED

Duh....that's what I get for skimming vs. reading. Looking forward to them.


Mon, 04/10/2017 - 12:52pm

In reply to by Morgan

Publication of all the articles begins Wednesday here at SWJ. As stated above.

I hope we get a chance to read some of these. Congratulations to the authors.