Small Wars Journal

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 J. David Thompson | Sun, 06/09/2019 - 10:45am | 0 comments
This series of papers seeks to accomplish four major objectives. First, it establishes an understanding of what administrative detention is and reviews the legal justification under Israeli law. Second, it aims to paint a picture of what actually happens to administrative detainees by looking at conditions of their imprisonment. Third, it reviews the relevant international laws, shows where gaps exist, and considers how the international community responds to the Government of Israel regarding the use of administrative detention. Fourth, the series provides alternative ways of thinking about perpetrators of administrative detention and counter-normative means to enhance international influence.
by George Schwartz | Sat, 06/08/2019 - 11:36am | 8 comments
The Green Berets are in danger of self-inflicted irrelevancy because of shortcomings in their training. Most current Unconventional Warfare (UW) training events take the Unconventional Warfare template from Robin Sage and simply impose it on other environments and threat situations. This trend has persisted despite the lack of modern UW examples that resemble Robin Sage. Green Berets should be considering other models of UW that may be more relevant today.
by Jennifer Wilson | Sat, 06/08/2019 - 2:23am | 0 comments
Future military success hinges on the American military’s ability to understand the underpinnings of casualty aversion as a component of the American way of war and be able to accept more risk with health care assets on the battlefield. This essay describes the American way of war, the development of casualty aversion, and its implications for LSCO.
by Joseph Miller, by Monte Erfourth | Fri, 06/07/2019 - 8:39am | 4 comments
With a clearer understanding of competition and the role of SOF within that context, USSOCOM can begin to shape its approach to the strategic environment. To support the advancement of U.S. interests, USSOCOM should guide SOF to capitalize on opportunities that provide an advantage, promote favorable foreign relations positions to create influence, enable global defense posture, support diplomatic and intelligence actions globally, and help manage escalation. Bringing this case into practice requires changing how SOF thinks strategically about the complex global environment, focusing on interests rather than threats. USSOCOM must educate Joint Force, interagency, and multinational partners on SOF capabilities and collaborate on shared interests to more effectively unified common efforts.
by César Niño | Fri, 06/07/2019 - 7:45am | 0 comments
Do terrorism and rebel groups have rules of the game? Why do terrorist groups act in particular ways despite the obvious militarized reaction of states? Why do some attack large centers of power such as New York, Paris or London, and others prefer to exploit small shops in Mogadishu, run passers-by on the Ramblas in Barcelona or blow up a cooking pot in the Boston Marathon? These are questions that manage to generate new insights and methodological analyzes about the rationality of rebel actors and terrorist groups.
by David Pickering | Fri, 06/07/2019 - 12:10am | 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 Alex MacCalman, by Jeff Grubb, by Joe Register, by Mike McGuire | Thu, 06/06/2019 - 9:56am | 1 comment
Recent technological, socio-economic, and geopolitical trends, coupled with the reemergence of great power competition, complicate the future environment in which U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) must operate. SOF professionals will need to operate not only across traditional physical domains such as land, air, and sea but also in the virtual and cognitive domains. In particular, achieving cognitive dominance over adversaries will be essential to the success of future SOF missions.
by Todd Johnson | Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:20am | 3 comments
The lesson of Montenegro is one that goes beyond the particularities of Balkan high politics or the US president’s clear discomfort with treaty obligations that he perceives as unduly tying America to Europe. What it highlights is an often overlooked but hard to dispute axiom of foreign affairs: small states matter.
by Franklin C. Annis | Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:35pm | 0 comments
Several months ago, I began researching how the military uses the term “innovation” only to find while we are using common words, we are not using a shared language. Not only does the various Department of Defense branches use the term “innovation” differently, the different definitions utilized in other allied nations and in civilian industry only adds further confusion in the use of this term.
by Dusan Gregor | Tue, 06/04/2019 - 8:03am | 0 comments
Christopher Andrew, the author of the book, "The Sword and The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and The Secret History of the KGB", provides a fascinating account of the history of the Soviet secret service. The book is based on classified information from the archive of the KGB´s First Chief Directorate that was responsible for its foreign operations and intelligence activities.
by Peter Layton | Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:38am | 1 comment
Great power competition is today’s defining strategic issue. Crucially this competition is seen as remaining below the level of great power armed conflict, instead ranging across diverse areas including economic, diplomatic, cyber, information campaigns and proxy wars.
by Rob Hodges Jr. | Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:25am | 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 Keith Nightingale | Sun, 06/02/2019 - 7:59am | 0 comments
This Thursday, 75 years ago, most of the troops earmarked for the invasion of Normandy made their final pre-deployment movement into the “Sausages.” They would reside within them until called to mount their transport aircraft or board their ships for what would be the largest single purpose operation of our civilization. Here, they would mentally prepare themselves for what lay ahead. It was not particularly pretty, but the program was singularly effective.
by Anthony Orbanic | Sun, 06/02/2019 - 7:04am | 1 comment
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 Franklin C. Annis | Sat, 06/01/2019 - 1:32pm | 0 comments
If the Army seeks to provide a Medical Ready force now and in the future, we must account for time. Adding an availability assessment to Medical Readiness will allow us to better determine gaps in medical oversight and seek creative solutions. An availability assessment would greatly aid in determining the impact of initiatives and aid in accurate determination of the cost/benefit of our actions.
by Kane S. VanVuren | Sat, 06/01/2019 - 3:23am | 4 comments
Counterintelligence has to harden its defenses against communist infiltration of US interests, and all others for that matter. While those who use a free society against counter-subversion efforts; and this may hamstring some efforts, CI can reinforce and redouble investigations and defensive precautions. Media has some control on the population, but until people once again learn to conduct their research and make decisions absent those made for them by so-called news outlets, Counterintelligence is limited to defending the national security enterprise by the traditional means it has always done.
by Chris Elles | Sat, 06/01/2019 - 2:46am | 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 T. Nelson Collier | Thu, 05/30/2019 - 1:52pm | 0 comments
Marines know well the significance of Nasiriyah. The bloody battle there between Task Force Tarawa and the Iraqi Fedayeen disrupted the invasion of Iraq. But Nasiriyah is notable also as a case study for the law of war. The story and background of Marines in Nasiriyah make known some lessons learned on law of war.
by Matthew Ader | Thu, 05/30/2019 - 11:43am | 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 William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence | Wed, 05/29/2019 - 11:58am | 0 comments
The Second Annual National Security Conference, “National Security Today Through 2028: Women Leading the Next Decade,” was held on Thursday, April 4, 2019 to discuss the future national security environment with some of the nation’s top leaders. Continue on for a conference report.
by Joe D. Scobey | Wed, 05/29/2019 - 12:48am | 0 comments
'Operation Thursday' is not as well-known as other operations in World War II, but it should be. R.D Van Wagner, the author of, 'Any Place, Any Time, Any Where' wanted to ensure that the 1st Air Commando Group receives the historical attention and credit the unit deserves as the foundation of today’s Air Commandos.
by Aaron P. Jackson | Tue, 05/28/2019 - 1:37pm | 0 comments
Over the years I have heard time and again the argument made that “the only problem with the operations planning process is that we don’t use it!” Often this argument is made at a staff college by some “greybeard” or other, although I have also heard it made by other less venerable staff and on occasion even by students of such institutions. It is usually offered as a reason why no reform, change, or update is required to whichever operations planning process is under discussion.
by Paul Amoroso, by Michael Solis | Tue, 05/28/2019 - 12:57am | 0 comments
Language can be counter-productive when used carelessly. Word usage is paramount in framing how we think about and solve operational problems; the haphazard use of language can be counterproductive and hinder mission accomplishment. The problems associated with the use of IEDs and the approaches taken to prevent and counter their use are complex and transcend traditional tactical reactions but the associated language is not commensurate with the problem and suggested solutions.
by Scott Padgett | Mon, 05/27/2019 - 8:03pm | 0 comments
This article introduces advanced artificial intelligence concepts as force multipliers to transform lethality of the individual warfighter and small close-combat units. Specifically, we present a theory called the "Virtual Sixth Sense" whereby intelligent machines extend the human warfighter's senses and knowledge and fuse these capabilities with Augmented Reality to achieve and maintain tactical overmatch.
by Tony Stark | Mon, 05/27/2019 - 9:34am | 0 comments
I call on leaders across the armed services, from commanding generals to squad leaders, to have a conversation this Memorial Day weekend about morality and warfare, about our roles and obligations as representatives of America, of how to find and maintain conscience in the chaos of war.
by Keith Nightingale | Mon, 05/27/2019 - 8:55am | 0 comments
The beach today is broad, clean and filled with the life that Liberty bestowed 75 years ago. As I walk, I reflect on what I read and what I heard from those that were here on that day of days.
by Louis René Beres | Mon, 05/20/2019 - 2:57am | 3 comments
To some extent, there is nothing new under the sun. Fabrication and folly are hardly unknown to US presidential policies on war and peace. Before President Donald Trump commits further to any new or expanding military operations against Iran, therefore, it would be prudent to look back at some of this country's previous war policy manipulations and errors.
by Mike Karlson | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 3:39pm | 1 comment
A fundamental aspect to understanding human geography, insofar as it relates to the entirety of the academic field of geography, is gaining a grasp on the sheer breadth of it. The subdisciplines of geography can be bifurcated between the physical and the social sciences. “When geography concentrates on the distribution of physical features, such as climate, soil, and vegetation, it is a physical science. When it studies cultural features, such as language, industries, and cities, geography is a social science”.
by Dale C. Eikmeier | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 3:05am | 2 comments
Can an amorphous system characterized by low hierarchy, dispersal, and decentralization have a Center of Gravity (CoG)? I say, “Yes,” because the purpose of the system determines the CoG, not the structure. However, to many theorists the answer is a resounding no, because the system’s structure is the determinate. They claim a system must be concentrated and centralized to have a targetable CoG. Both answers have compelling arguments. Which is correct depends on one’s conceptual foundation of the CoG concept.
by Rick Martin | Fri, 05/17/2019 - 12:37pm | 0 comments
Ultimately, the most ideal way to facilitate an orderly and deliberate U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is to end the war entirely. The Trump administration’s decision last year to talk to the Taliban and engage the insurgency's leadership in negotiations was a giant step in the right direction.
by Nick Chadwick | Thu, 05/16/2019 - 12:31am | 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 Robert C. Jones | Tue, 05/14/2019 - 12:51am | 6 comments
Unconventional Deterrence is not Unconventional Warfare any more than Nuclear Deterrence is Nuclear Warfare. The goal of UD is not to destabilize the societies of our enemies, rather the goal of UD is to deter our enemies from destabilizing our own society, and those of our Allies and Partners. While most of my contemporaries overly fixate on the strengths of our opponents and how they match up with inherent weaknesses of our own; I am far more interested in where their inherent weaknesses play to our strengths.
by Greg Olsen | Mon, 05/13/2019 - 1:22am | 1 comment
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019. The French military intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict in 2013 (Operation Serval) was a military success and met the criteria for success established by civilian leadership, however, it did not alter the trajectory of conflict in the region. It subsequently became conjoined to a United Nations liberal peacebuilding effort in Mali with low prospects for rapid success, resulting in a lengthy “forever war” in the Sahel.
by Marc Meeker | Mon, 05/13/2019 - 12:20am | 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 Daniel Phillips | Sun, 05/12/2019 - 5:06am | 1 comment
Typically, Americans are raised from a young age to mind their manners, wait their turn, share, and most of all to not fight. They are raised as members of a non-aggressive society that continues to discourage competition more and more by the year. So imagine, after a life time of learning societal norms, you enter a new profession that begins to shift everything you thought you knew.
by Cassandra Ulrich | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 7:19pm | 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 Michael Kidd | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 8:45am | 0 comments
Is the national security of the United States impacted by a strike in India, a bombing in France, a trade war with Russia, or an earthquake in Mexico? Is there social liability within our supply chains as the result of unscrupulous sub-vendors? In most cases the answer is, “We don’t know.” While commanders can quickly assess whether they have assets located in a specific area and may know if they have a strategic vendor at the location, there is little visibility into the location or identification of companies that provide significant products or services to the Department of Defense.
by Robert Bunker | Thu, 05/09/2019 - 4:15pm | 0 comments
The work "Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War" represents the first book (& ebook) to be published by this blog site. Borderland Beat is an informational and collaborative English language blog (drawing upon US and Mexican contributors) reporting on the Mexican narco wars.
by Robert Bunker | Wed, 05/08/2019 - 4:50pm | 2 comments
The Stephen Sloan Seminar was held 28 March 2019 at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, Oklahoma City, OK. The conference co-sponsored by The Murrah Center for Homeland Security Law and Policy at Oklahoma City University School of Law and The Center for Intelligence and National Security at the University of Oklahoma.
by David Zabecki | Wed, 05/08/2019 - 3:00pm | 0 comments
Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan, NATO’s unity-of-effort is one accomplishment that we must preserve and build upon if the alliance hopes to maintain its status as the preeminent military player in a global strategic environment that has changed significantly over the last eighteen years.
by Sam Wilkins | Wed, 05/08/2019 - 12:24am | 1 comment
Bill Burns’ 'The Backchannel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and a Case for its Renewal' provides a skillful dissection of what he calls this “era of inversion” between force and diplomacy. Burns, who The Atlantic once described as “America’s secret diplomatic weapon,” is widely lauded by Presidents and Secretaries of State from both political parties. Reading The 'Backchannel', it is easy to see why.
by Scott E. Bruck | Tue, 05/07/2019 - 1:39pm | 0 comments
Military professionals need to be cognizant of language on both a macro level (translation issues) and a micro level (within one’s native language) because it affects perception in international conflict.
by Rachel Bryson, by Bulama Bukarti | Tue, 05/07/2019 - 12:10pm | 0 comments
Just because there are imperfections with a deradicalization camp, it does not make it a failure. In fact, Nigeria is courageous in its approach and has taken strides beyond many countries in its steps towards restoring the lives of those who have left violent and extreme groups.
by Michael E. Hauben | Mon, 05/06/2019 - 2:11pm | 0 comments
In the final, 1975 onslaught, ARVN with RF lacked the capacity to react to multiple diversionary assaults by enemy local forces and to deploy the necessary concentration of force on multiple fronts to halt PAVN advances toward the capital.[v] Overstretched ARVN, further weakened by US Congressional reduction, with a vengeance, of POL, ammunition and equipment re-supply to a trickle, was simply overwhelmed.
by Norman T. Lihou, by Brett Doyle | Mon, 05/06/2019 - 1:06am | 0 comments
Improvisation on the battlefield is not new. However, the improvised threats that are faced today have increased the scope, scale, and degree of battlefield improvisation impact at all levels of warfare. With technology accelerating knowledge proliferation and the expanding access of technological diffusion, non-state actors have been able to create unprecedented risks to US forces and our partners
by Gary Anderson | Sun, 05/05/2019 - 7:55am | 3 comments
"Frustrated members of Venezuela’s opposition and their supporters saw their attempt at a military coup fall short last week as senior leaders of the security forces failed to join an attempt to force President Maduro out of office and out of the country. Despite an economy in ruins, a failed health care system, and international sanctions; the Maduro regime has survived. There are several reasons for this."
by Louis René Beres | Sat, 05/04/2019 - 4:51pm | 1 comment
"Are they normal?" It's not a usual question for commanders or strategic planners. Still, to some reasonable and ascertainable extent, this complex question could be applied to virtually any adversary in war, or at least to certain identifiable cadres of a pertinent enemy leadership.
by Stephen B. Young | Fri, 05/03/2019 - 1:39am | 0 comments
The decision to suspend territorial security reporting may indeed indicate that the process of American withdrawal from Afghanistan is picking up speed.
by Alma Keshavarz | Fri, 05/03/2019 - 12:34am | 0 comments
A former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General, Saeed Ghasemi has, as early as 2015, revealed Iran’s involvement in the Bosnian War. While not much has been written about the topic nor has Ghasemi penned articles, there are videos of him on Iranian-state news outlets discussing Iran’s involvement. In the latest interview from 2019, Ghasemi reveals details of the Guards relationship with al-Qaeda.