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 John P. Sullivan | Sat, 02/04/2023 - 4:51pm | 0 comments
Review of "Enemies Near and Far: How Jihadist Groups Strategize, Plot, and Learn" by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Thomas Joscelyn.
by W.R. (Bob) Baker | Wed, 02/01/2023 - 7:53pm | 5 comments
As the Easter Offensive of 1972 was the precursor to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, there were two occasions where the United States could and should have moved against North Vietnam earlier but didn’t.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Wed, 02/01/2023 - 7:42pm | 0 comments
It has been some time since I have put out a major overall analysis here on the Ukraine-Russia war because there is not a whole lot of new stuff to chew on: yes, Winter Is Here (and I did put together shorter analysis noting winter will hurt the Russian military far more than the Ukrainian military, giving Ukraine another distinct advantage in the winter months), but overall, we are seeing two main phases being repeated, exhibiting dynamics that I have discussed in great detail before and that are overlapping at times to various degrees.
by 4Sight | Tue, 01/31/2023 - 8:02pm | 3 comments
This initiates a series addressing Unrestricted Warfare, or in the parlance of Harry Potter, that which cannot be named.  How far we will take this series is yet to be determined.  However, it will likely form the basis of a 4Sight seminar or roundtable. 
by James Rohrer | Sun, 01/29/2023 - 7:14pm | 0 comments
Wargaming requires constructing a microcosm of a battle.  Making a microcosm, which we can call modeling, simplifies reality to bring into play the essential factors affecting the outcome.  Simplification in this fashion is based on assumptions regarding which aspects of the battle are essential and which can be eliminated.  Faulty assumptions will result in misleading results.  Therefore, validating those assumptions would be helpful.  This essay addresses how the microcosm might be validated in classroom exercises.
by Justin K. Steinhoff | Sun, 01/29/2023 - 5:51pm | 0 comments
Over the past decade, technological transformations have changed the world we live in, from advances in voice assistant technologies, facial recognition software, cryptocurrency markets, fully autonomous self-driving vehicles, and neural network sensing technologies. Today, voice assistance devices using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, are a part of more than half of all United States (US) adults' daily lives. The advancement of AI is leading a global revolution that is changing how we interact. Equally, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has already invested in transformative technology advancement and AI/ML adoption.
by Aldon Thomas Stiles | Fri, 01/27/2023 - 9:02pm | 0 comments
Review of "Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation is Arming Tomorrow’s Terrorists" by Audrey Kurth Cronin
by Sandra Huber & Michael Kidd | Wed, 01/25/2023 - 9:29am | 1 comment
In today’s dynamic military logistics environment, the need for a Joint Logistics Support Group as a tactical headquarter is critical to support allied forces as effectively and efficiently as possible. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted exercise plans around the world, NATO’s Joint Logistics Support Group, Naples responded to ensure that they, and subordinate commands conducted the high-end training required to prepare them to operate effectively as logistics enablers to NATO’s Response Force.
by Travis L. Eddleman | Wed, 01/25/2023 - 9:19am | 2 comments
With increased usage of National Guard Troops to address civil disturbances and other threats or concerns to homeland security, scholars and policy makers have begun to reexamine the use of the military within the scope of the Posse Comitatus Act and the inherent loopholes present in the Insurrection Act. Fear of military politicization and a worry that military activities are encroaching into the realm of local law enforcement have caused legal watchdogs to raise concerns regarding violations of state sovereignty and have pushed the U.S. Congress to take legislative actions to close those loopholes. How has the Posse Comitatus Act impacted Presidential authority, and how have recent events influenced public and political perspectives of the act along with the loopholes that provide broad Presidential authority to deploy and utilize the military on American soil?
by Rodani Tan | Wed, 01/25/2023 - 9:11am | 0 comments
Historically, commanders (CDRs) and staff manage complex situations within an operational environment (OE) that continuously changes. Army design methodology (ADM) provides an approach to dealing with unfamiliar and complex problems. “ADM is a methodology for applying critical and creative thinking to understand, visualize, and describe problems and approaches to solving them” (Department of the Army [DA], 2019, p. 2-16). An example of a complex situation that needs a solution is Ellyatt’s (2022) report on Russian forces invading Ukraine to demilitarize the country. To make matters worse, this was not Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine. The situation is extraordinarily complex and requires unique solutions to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian citizens and help keep their sovereignty. The success of a military solution to a problem depends on the abilities of the CDR and their staff to frame solutions through the application of key concepts and activities to produce an operational approach that allows detailed planning and the sergeant major’s (SGM) ability to facilitate ADM activities in an organization.
by Tom Ordeman, Jr. | Wed, 01/25/2023 - 9:02am | 1 comment
Author’s Note: This essay was originally prepared for submission in mid-August of 2021, during the projected withdrawal of coalition troops from Afghanistan. However, submission was ultimately pre-empted by the abrupt collapse of the Afghan government and security forces. As the international community continues to engage in an after-action review following twenty years of operations that ultimately ended in failure, this case for a partition of Afghanistan is presented with minimal edits. This essay is presented as a contribution to the ongoing discussion of how the international community could have avoided the eventual outcome, and created a state of lasting stability that continues to elude both the Afghans and their former coalition partners.
by Dave Maxwell | Sun, 01/22/2023 - 11:07am | 0 comments
Scholars, practitioners, and policymakers continue to contemplate the definition of irregular warfare (IW) and what it means for U.S. national security and defense strategy.  Many electrons are flowing through cyberspace with debates and arguments about what constitutes irregular warfare, why it is or is not important, who should conduct it (e.g., specific forces or all forces) and how it should be taught in professional military education.
by Ethan Thayer | Thu, 01/19/2023 - 10:08pm | 1 comment
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing threatens the United States’ influence in the Western Pacific. The region is host to significant American military installations and partner nations. States such as the Marshall Islands support bases or can serve as platforms for future operations. These nations rely on fishing as a source of economic development. IUU fishing harms regional partner nations’ economic development and self-sufficiency, leaving them vulnerable to the United States’ threats. Regional threats such as China can undermine and supplant the United States’ regional alliances and strategic lines of communication through economic incentives to partner nations. IUU fishing will harm the United States’ ability to project power in the Western Pacific as regional threats exploit partner nations’ economic dependence on fishing.
by Tomás Andres Michael Carvallo | Thu, 01/19/2023 - 5:17pm | 1 comment
This article analyzes an under-examined facet of the CSRL–CJNG conflict in Guanajuato: the use of tire repair shops as fronts for criminal activity. Over the last ten years, at least 138 tire repair shops have been violently attacked in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, leaving over 200 dead. An analysis of crime data, news reports, and local security experts suggests that these attacks are related to the fight between organized crime groups.
by Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed | Wed, 01/18/2023 - 6:24pm | 0 comments
In November, Christiane Amanpour, a CNN chief international anchor, interviewed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska. By the end of the conversation, Christiane Amanpour says she knows that the Ukrainians are not afraid of “poking the bear” while others are afraid of Russia and of what Russia might do. In his response, President Zelensky points out that Russia feeds off these fears and this is a mistake that has not been corrected for decades. Olena Zelenska adds that Ukraine has been under Russia’s pressure for so long: the centuries of the Russian Empire and then the decades of the Soviet Union—it has ceased to be scary.
by Mark Lavin II | Tue, 01/17/2023 - 11:57pm | 1 comment
As the United States Army simultaneously amalgamates new national and defense security strategies, learns relevant lessons from Russia’s War in Ukraine, and accelerates the fielding of the next generation of weapons systems, we must also prioritize our greatest competitive advantage, our people. The Army’s intellectual institutions are struggling to find clarity in a future of competition with peer nations and capable militaries. As pundits hail the successful predictions of Russia’s tactical actions in Eastern Europe, the Army’s intellectual institutions may overlook continued strategic blunders such as understanding how the intelligence community could be so wrong about the capabilities of the Russian military or how 20 years of blood and treasure achieved so little in Afghanistan. The Army’s intellectual initiatives and learning are further diluted by the allure of academic status and accolades. Choosing an identity for Army intellectual institutions at echelon (why) and then aligning core competencies (how and what) will eliminate superfluous efforts and achieve a universal purpose of winning the Nation’s wars and sustaining the Army’s greatest military advantage…adaptive leaders.
by Daniel L. Dodds | Tue, 01/17/2023 - 11:31pm | 0 comments
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) invaded the Republic of Korea (South Korea) with the goal of unifying the two nations as a single communist country. The war lasted slightly longer than three years, until 27 July 1953 when both countries signed a ceasefire known as the Korean Armistice Agreement, resulting in the establishment of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. During this war, the United States and 21 nations under the umbrella of the United Nations Command supported South Korea. Conversely, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) and the People’s Republic of China (China) supported the DPRK. There were several campaigns during the Korean War, all of which required the use of joint planning through operational art and design, to accomplish strategic, operational, and tactical objectives. One such battle, the Battle of Inchon, occurred from 15 September to 18 September 1950 after the Inchon landing, using the moniker Operation Chromite (Gammons, 2000). The purpose of this paper is to analyze the Battle of Inchon, specifically the Inchon landing, using the lens of operational art and operational design to describe the ends, ways, means, and the arranging of operations, which led to the halting of the North Korean People’s Army offensive.
by Daniel Weisz , by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Tue, 01/17/2023 - 9:08pm | 1 comment
On Thursday, 5 January 2023, Mexican security forces arrested Ovidio Guzmán López, a key member of the Los Chapitos faction of the Cártel del Pacífico (commonly known as the Cártel de Sinaloa (Sinaloa Cartel or CDS), in the Jesús María district of Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is also known by the moniker “El Raton” (The Mouse) and has a heavily armed bodyguard unit protecting him called Las Fuerzas Especiales Ratón (Mouse’s Special Forces). Guzmán’s arrest triggered a cartel counterattack and widespread violence throughout Culiacán and throughout parts of Sinaloa and neighboring Sonora where the cartel has a presence. Guzmán was transported to Altiplano prison (Centro Federal de Readaptación Social Número 1) in Mexico City pending prosecution.
by Yurij Holowinsky | Mon, 01/16/2023 - 12:23pm | 1 comment
On Saturday, January 14, 2023, Russia destroyed an apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine with a KH-22 missile launched from a strategic bomber.  The strike killed 36, injured 75, and hope of finding additional survivors among the wreckage is fading. This latest atrocity, evil, insanity, war-crime, comes after nearly a year-long war initiated by Russia on February 24, 2022, with an unprovoked attack against Ukraine.  Why?  What did Russia intend to achieve?  I would argue that the goal, as a first step, was total domination of Ukraine and her submission to the will of one man in Moscow.  Then, the next move would have been a push into Europe to bring the former vassal states of the Warsaw Pact back under Russian control.  After that, who knows.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Mon, 01/16/2023 - 5:56am | 0 comments
Some fools have opined that the U.S. and Europe are “fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.”  In reality, Ukraine is fighting Russia to the last Russian with U.S. and European help.  No matter how you look at it, things are going to just keep getting worse for Russia and it will continue to sustain massive casualties and equipment losses while gaining nothing Ukraine won’t be able to take back relatively quickly with improving forces and equipment.
by Dimas A. Fonseca Jr | Sat, 01/14/2023 - 10:00pm | 0 comments
  Leaders serving in the highest echelons of the United States Army solve complex problems consistently. The Army design methodology (ADM) process enables commanders and staff members to frame an operational environment (OE), recognize problems, and create solutions. The ADM process also promotes continuous assessment of the OE and reframes problems and solutions, ensuring leaders think critically and creatively. Through the ADM process, commanders and staff members can understand, visualize, and describe operations. To solve ill-structured problems, Army leaders use ADM. To properly facilitate framing a problem in organizations, leaders must understand the problem framing activity, key ADM concepts, and tools and techniques.
by Nathaniel Martins | Sat, 01/14/2023 - 3:49pm | 0 comments
Despite remaining essentially leaderless, social unrest precipitated by death of Mahsa Amini in September continues at a scale and intensity in Iran unseen since the Revolution of 1979. As the popular slogan “Death to the Dictator” indicates, many Iranians believe moderate reforms such as making the hijab optional will be impossible under the current theocratic regime. The futility of reform efforts is further demonstrated by the litany of ineffective protests over the last 20 years.Yet the overthrow of a regime that possesses a daunting security apparatus is easier said than done. Statistical and case study analysis by non-violent revolution experts Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan indicate that mass participation will be critical to success. Accordingly, comparison of today’s protests to those led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 reveal a valuable commodity leadership might provide current protests—the ability to maintain the broad yet inherently precarious coalition necessary to defeat the state’s security apparatus.
by Jason L. Glenn | Sat, 01/14/2023 - 11:13am | 0 comments
The battle at the landing zone X-RAY (LZ X-RAY) in the Ia Drang River Valley occurred from 14 November to 16 November 1965. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Harold Moore led the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, against numerically superior elements of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) led by General Chu Huy Man (Builder et al., 1999). This operation responded to the NVA attack on an American compound that left eight Americans dead and many wounded. General Westmoreland, commander of the American forces within South Vietnam, escalated the troop presence and revised the mission from defense to search and destroy. General Westmoreland directed Major General (MG) Harry Kinnard, the 1st Cavalry Division commander, to find and destroy the fleeing elements of the NVA. With little guidance, Colonel (COL) Brown, the commander of the 3rd Brigade, ordered LTC Moore and his battalion to air assault into the Ia Drang River valley to find and destroy the fleeing enemy. Poor situational awareness by the 1st Cavalry Division commander and staff, the 3rd Brigade commander, and LTC Moore led to inadequate overall mission command, even though the U.S. air assault successfully prevailed. Synthesizing modern mission command principles, elements of command and control (C2), and the C2 warfighting function into the Ia Drang case study will highlight precisely how vague guidance and intent from successive commanders can impede mission progress and increase the risk.
by Rami Alkhafaji, by Mahmut Cengiz | Sat, 01/14/2023 - 11:02am | 0 comments
       Amongst the sand dunes in central Arabia, a child was born who changed the course of history in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic world. Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab was born in 1703 in ‘Uyayna, Arabia, in the Nejd region of the central part of Arabia. Contrary to the western part of Arabia, which enjoyed an influx of cultures, ideas, and practices due to the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, and the eastern part of the country, al-Hasa, along the Persian Gulf coast which was also a bustling region exchanging ideas and cultures along with goods by trading with Persia, India, and beyond, the Nejd region was sparsely inhabited and experienced less exposure to other cultures and clung to the harsh realities of the desert. Abdul Wahab had a crisis of faith and traveled outside of Nejd to cities in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, but instead of softening his austere interpretation of the religion, he founded a dangerous cult that plagued the region to this day, a cult that sanctioned violence against the other, the other defined by Wahabism as any individual or group that disagreed with any of Abdul Wahab’s extreme views.
by Abubakar Sadiq Nura | Thu, 01/12/2023 - 8:11pm | 1 comment
The United States (U.S.) of America and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) arguably remain the topmost big nations competing to shape key global sectors, including the political, security, technological infrastructure, as well as economic structures. The resultant friction continues to manifest in other countries and regions. For one, Nigeria is a key commercial hub in the West African subregion that has significant economic relations with both the U.S. and PRC. Nigeria’s rising population, comprising a vibrant and innovative active labor force, coupled with vast natural resources makes it even more attractive for perpetual foreign direct investment. Nigeria now serves as an “economic battlefield” for the U.S. and PRC in their quests for economic growth and influence. The two big nations are applying several ways and means to influence Nigeria’s commercial sector, which in turn present the country with certain gains as well as other costs. It is therefore in the best interest of Nigeria to leverage its current policy of non-alignment, to optimally benefit from its economic relations with both great powers.
by Donatas Palavenis | Thu, 01/12/2023 - 12:08pm | 0 comments
The review presents the most relevant information about the formation of the reserve of the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian Armed Forces, and the differences in conscript service. Regardless of the fact that all three small countries identify the same potential aggressor, and are geographically close, they still apply different principles of forming reserves for their armed forces and inviting young people to perform conscript service in diverse ways.
by Daniel L. Dodds | Wed, 01/11/2023 - 4:59pm | 0 comments
  “Every problem has a solution, although it may not be the outcome that was originally hoped for or expected” (Hoffman, 2003, p. 162). According to the Department of the Army (DA) (2015), the Army design methodology (ADM) is a method for applying critical and creative thinking to understand, visualize, and describe unfamiliar problems and develop approaches for solving them. Beyond just solving problems, ADM solves the right problem by focusing on the root cause rather than tending to minor symptoms. Commanders and staff apply systems thinking and operational variables to visualize and describe the operational environment (OE) (DA, 2015). As such, the staff supports the commander by framing the OE through examining the relations, actors, functions, and tensions that describe current conditions which shape the reality on the ground. During this process, the staff become aware of the current state, project how the OE trends, describe the future state, and envision and end state (DA, 2015). The purpose of this paper is to explain the ADM activity of framing the OE by describing the importance of key concepts, tools, techniques, and how a Sergeant Major (SGM) can facilitate this activity in future organizations.
by Cole Black | Wed, 01/11/2023 - 1:39pm | 1 comment
David Philipps gives us the clearest picture yet of the national controversy surrounding Edward Gallagher, decorated Navy SEAL chief accused of war crimes, in his 2021 book ALPHA: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy SEALs. The cover of the book reads ALPHA in large white letters. Its subtitle mentions Eddie Gallagher in a more subdued blue text almost camouflaged into the shadowy, sunglass-wearing face of the man who sparked such a polarizing cultural debate. Gallagher wears his white dress uniform with its SEAL trident prominently displayed beneath the author’s name. Conspicuously cut out of frame are the ribbons, medals, and other awards earned during his 20-year military career pinned to his chest below the SEAL’s iconic warfare insignia. As Philipps emphasizes in his book, the struggle to define, preserve, and purify the true ethos embodied by the SEAL trident overshadows personal glory and reputation.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Tue, 01/10/2023 - 6:43am | 0 comments
Russia’s long-range air attacks—one of its last remaining advantages over Ukraine—are increasingly becoming neutralized and ineffective, leaving the Kremlin few remaining cards to play as it continues to lose its war against Ukraine
by Ian Edgerly | Mon, 01/09/2023 - 8:44pm | 2 comments
As all facets of the United States national security apparatus slowly come to terms with the implications and meaning of a policy shift towards strategic competition, albeit one that began during the Obama administration, several larger questions have become glaringly apparent. Of those larger policy level inquiries, such as a deeper identification of what “integrated deterrence” really consists of, and whether or not the geostrategic context actually resembles a Cold War environment, the one that concerns this article’s inquiry is what exactly comprises United States foreign policy as it relates to military affairs. Although this is an extremely deep question that has been pondered upon by some of the great minds in history, this article will specifically make the case that within the United States Army special operations community, education can in fact take the form of and directly impact foreign policy aims and goals. Arguably a “blip” on the radar of most organizations within the Department of Defense, regional expertise and culture education that is provided within operational and deployable Army special operations forces has the capability to directly impact the enactment of foreign policy goals for several factors that are discussed within this article. Indeed, making this type of education more robust can help to ensure the overall success within a strategic competition environment.
by Bol Ring | Sun, 01/08/2023 - 8:08pm | 0 comments
The Army has recognized the need to adapt to environmental changes, prompting senior leaders to develop a comprehensive strategy to implement an Army-wide organizational change focusing on taking care of the Soldiers.  "We win through our people, and people will drive success in our Readiness, Modernization, and Reform priorities.  We must take care of our people" (Gen. McConville, Army People Strategy, 2019. p. 2).  With Army People Strategy directives, the Army senior leaders direct the force to execute a total organizational change focusing on prioritizing taking care of the People.  However, operationalizing the commander's intent will require examining the current work environment.  The most important element in the work environment is the People.
by Daniel H. McCauley | Sun, 01/08/2023 - 7:59pm | 0 comments
Over the past few decades, the conduct of war has changed significantly. Non-military means are now far more effective than traditional military means in achieving enduring national security objectives. The increased use of information, social, humanitarian, political, economic and other non-military means have dramatically accelerated the real and potential change resident in today’s security environment. As a result, most strategic civilian and military leaders have not yet adjusted their thinking to enable their nation or organization to adjust to this rapidly evolving global security reality. In short, they are failing to think and act strategically in pursuit of their preferred future.
by Peter Roberto , by Erik Kacprzyk | Sun, 01/08/2023 - 7:49pm | 0 comments
The wake of Russia’s once unimaginable invasion of Ukraine has put Europe at war for the first time in nearly a century. All signs point towards a resurgence of Cold War tensions as Finland and Sweden finalize discussions to join NATO, NATO bolsters its rapid reaction force to include 300,000 soldiers from its previous 40,000, and the U.S. plans to add a new headquarters in Poland. However, this movement to secure NATO members on the border with Russia may be futile if NATO and the U.S. do not address Russia’s exploitation of private military companies and the legal cover they provide. As a result, Europe and NATO now find themselves once unimaginable times and must anticipate unimaginable threats to their sovereignty. However, the ever-expanding sanctions imposed from a wide range of states, such as the U.S., the European Union, and even the traditionally neutral Switzerland, can be further enhanced by utilizing tools often used for counterterrorism.
by William Tynan | Sun, 01/08/2023 - 5:40pm | 0 comments
In early October of 2022, the U.S. Army published its newest doctrine on multidomain operations. This timing, while likely unintentional, coincided with the release of the National Defense Strategy and leaders across the U.S. government will need to align their efforts based on new requirements. As shown in Ukraine, leadership must continue to address asymmetric warfare to enact policy and protect our interests.
by Zachariah Lee Parcels | Sun, 01/08/2023 - 5:03pm | 0 comments
This paper analyses cooperation between the Nihon Sekigun (Japanese Red Army; JRA), or Araba Sekigun (Arab Red Army), and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s (PFLP) Special Operations Group (SOG) that was autonomous under the PFLP until being expelled in 1972. Using Moghadam’s (2017) terrorist cooperation typology as a theoretical framework, this paper examines PFLP-SOG-JRA cooperative activities between a terrorist entrepreneur, informal networks, and a terrorist organisation. PFLP-SOG-JRA activity denotes networked cooperation, or collaborations between a terrorist organisation and informal terrorist actors (i.e., informal networks or terrorist entrepreneurs; Moghadam, 2017, p. 97). This networked cooperation manifested mainly into variations of Moghadam’s (2017) second, third, and fourth variants (p. 103; see APPENDIX II). Terrorism cooperation hereafter describes “formal or informal collaborative arrangements between two or more actors who employ terrorist tactics in the pursuit of joint interests” (Moghadam, 2017, p. 8). Terrorism, albeit no definitional consensus existing, might be defined as “the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change” by a “subnational group or nonstate entity” (Hoffman, 2006, p. 40; see also Ganor, 2002). This paper posits that pre-1974 JRA is a merger of informal networks while PFLP-SOG is its patron and a “network of networks” characteristically akin to post-9/11 al Qaeda.
by Tom Ordeman, Jr. | Fri, 01/06/2023 - 9:16pm | 10 comments
In recent weeks, the topic of the DoD's mastery of Irregular Warfare (IW) - one flavor of this being counterinsurgency (COIN) - has received some long overdue discussion, initially in an article in The Hill penned by a team of authors including LTG Charles T. Cleveland (Ret.), former commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command; and COL David Maxwell (Ret.), a distinguished former Army Special Forces officer and Editor-in-Chief of the Small Wars Journal. Discussion continues in several contributions to the latter publication.
by Sean W Dummitt | Thu, 01/05/2023 - 6:47pm | 1 comment
A principal-agent problem occurs “when the desires or goals of the principal and agent conflict and it is difficult or expensive for the principal to verify what the agent is doing.”U.S. policymakers and members of the Special Operations community often present this problem when evaluating the relationship between the U.S. and its Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) partners in Syria. The principal–U.S. Special Operations Forces–and the agent–Syrian Democratic Forces– were once aligned in their objectives during large-scale combat operations to defeat the Da'esh physical caliphate until the group's collapse in 2019. Today, however, the landscape of the battlefield is starkly different, necessitating renewed deliberation. This article argues that a principal-agent problem still does not exist between the U.S. and the SDF in Syria. It will demonstrate that the SDF remain a dependable partner in ensuring the enduring defeat of Da'esh, countering the Iranian Threat Network, and avoiding escalation with Turkey. This assertion will be examined through three fundamental transformations in the military environment since the introduction of Special Operations advisors in 2015: the transition from combat operations to regional security, facing the Iranian Threat Network, and restraining from escalating with a NATO ally.
by Ernest Bosompem Darkwah | Thu, 01/05/2023 - 6:25pm | 1 comment
Contemporary unconventional wars require interventions by the international community to prevent genocides and also protect civilians from the scourge of war. The characteristics of Special Operations Forces make them suitable for such wars. Even though the United Nations have deployed Special Operations Forces in some mission areas, they are not being utilized to its full capacity. Additionally, not all United Nations missions deploy with Special Operation Forces. Limitations of regular forces deployed in United Nations missions restrict them in the conduct of their duties. Traditional peacekeepers deploy in cities and towns where they can have access to air or sea ports for resupply. Resources available to force headquarters in peace operations do not also allow wide deployment of units.
by Jason L. Glenn | Wed, 01/04/2023 - 8:39pm | 0 comments
According to the Department of the Army (2019), Army design methodology (ADM) is a system of creative thinking and critical reasoning that assists the commander and staff in visualizing and understanding problems within an operational environment (OE). Additionally, ADM is a tool used in the conceptual planning process that fuels the military decision-making process (MDMP) with a problem set for further analysis and development of a course of action. The activities associated with ADM include framing the OE, framing problems, framing solutions, and reframing as necessary while utilizing specific tools, techniques, and key concepts (Department of the Army, 2015). The synthesis of framing activities, key concepts, tools, techniques, the role of the senior enlisted leader, and the Ia Drang battle in Vietnam will highlight the importance of the ADM framing activity within a genuine OE.
by Charlie Black | Tue, 01/03/2023 - 9:31pm | 1 comment
Let’s begin with stating that this forum is great for candid debate. I applaud James Armstrong who came out swinging in his recent rebuttal to an article authored by LTG Cleveland et al. Unfortunately, his article mischaracterizes the many causal factors of a two-decade long war and misplaces blame for associated military failures that are shared by many, elected and appointed.
by Juan Quiroz | Tue, 01/03/2023 - 7:41pm | 0 comments
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a wakeup call to U.S policymakers and defense leaders that our approach to Irregular Warfare (IW) requires reevaluation because the conflict has also impacted the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) strategic calculus for annexing Taiwan. If like Russia the PRC resorts to military action to satisfy its territorial ambitions the world would be plunged into economic chaos, and millions of civilians would be caught in the crossfire, to say nothing of the cost to our armed forces. To head off this disastrous scenario, our leaders need a new IW approach that multiplies all aspects of national power (diplomacy, information, military, economic, financial, intelligence, law enforcement – DIME-FIL). Instead of focusing hardening partners’ defensive posture to survive large scale conflict, our new approach should proactively disrupt and degrade Chinese influence, depriving the PRC of the diplomatic, informational, and economic tools that set conditions for military action. Because of their training and institutional experience dealing with these non-military domains, U.S. Army Civil Affairs (CA) forces need to transition from their current role as a supporting effort to maneuver and special operations forces to become the main DoD action arm for future IW campaigns focused on strategic competition.
by Gustavo A. Arguello | Tue, 01/03/2023 - 5:39pm | 2 comments
On 3 October 1993, during operation codename Gothic-Serpent, United States special operators in Mogadishu, Somalia, had the task of capturing high-ranking members of Aidid’s militia. The operators executed Gothic-Serpent as part of Task Force Ranger, under the overall command-and-control of General Garrison, the commanding officer who directed the capture of the high-ranking militia lieutenants. Participants expected the mission to last 30 minutes, but the battle extended overnight and eventually became the bloodiest battle since the Vietnam war. According to the case study “The successes and failures of the battle of Mogadishu and its effects on U.S. foreign policy”, the Gothic-Serpent met its operational goal despite the number of casualties in the 15-hour battle (Dotson, 2016).
by James Armstrong | Tue, 01/03/2023 - 8:39am | 6 comments
This opinion piece is written directly in response to the words of LTG(R) Cleveland, himself a former commander of US Army Special Operations Command, Special Operations Command Central, Special Operations Command South, and 10th Special Forces Group.  I will point out the first great big elephant in the room, “Irregular Warfare” is largely the responsibility of the US Army as the primary land force for the DOD. The US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps do have a role to play, but by large the personnel and resources for waging any warfare where “the human dimension” is the critical factor reside within the US Army’s “campaign quality.” People mostly live in the land domain, and that’s why the US Army must master irregular warfare. Any push at professionalizing the Department of Defense on irregular warfare, we must first professionalize the entire US Army on irregular warfare.
by Chris Telley | Mon, 01/02/2023 - 12:11pm | 2 comments
When discussing the potential for a war over Taiwan, it is difficult for many pundits to escape the metaphorical traps of Graham Allison’s book Destined for War. However, Allison’s 1914 case study of the escalation toward the First World War, and most of anyone else’s discussion of the outbreak of that conflict, misses a fairly large risk that should move Beijing’s contemporary partners to push for calm. The economic crisis of July 1914 offers a parable, even for those far removed from the familiar flashpoints, through which to examine various market consequences that might be expected after a People’s Republic of China (PRC) escalation in the Straits of Taiwan. Those risks should be on the mind of every corporate or government leader as they decide on what to say, or not say, to Beijing about its so-called “internal matter.”
by Ella Busch | Mon, 01/02/2023 - 11:59am | 0 comments
“The bird is freed.” With these words, @elonmusk announced his official takeover of the Twitter platform on October 27, 2022 at 11:49pm.[1] Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla -and now Twitter- bought the company for $44 billion this fall. His implementation of a “Twitter 2.0” has been nothing short of problematic, with his self-proclaimed “extremely hard-core” workplace strategy[2] resulting in the resignations of half of the company’s previous 7,500 employees. As the company’s sole board member, Musk has used this authority to apply his personal ideology of unmoderated speech, or “free speech absolutism” to Twitter. The company has already stopped enforcing its previous Covid-19 misinformation policy, reinstated formerly-banned accounts (including that of former President Donald Trump), and has scaled back its moderation efforts.[3] This lack of moderation risks more than the circulation of false or hurtful communications: it is likely to cause extremists to flock to the platform in order to take advantage of unregulated speech, disseminate propaganda, and radicalize potential recruits to terrorist groups. Twitter’s new ownership and content moderation standards will worsen far right extremism in the US because they allow for the creation and spread of far-right extremist (FRE) propaganda as well as the reemergence of figures that inspire and unify the far-right. To mitigate this risk across all social media platforms, the United States must amend its current legislation relating to corporate responsibility in moderating hate speech online.
by Andrew Loftesnes | Sun, 01/01/2023 - 11:47pm | 0 comments
The unprovoked Russian war of aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine is the most stark case of good and evil since the Second World War. The Russian state is waging a genocidal campaign in order to manifest the imperial ambitions of a single evil man. Vladimir Putin undoubtedly has been emboldened after years of indiscriminate and consequence-free slaughter of the Syrian people, and by the unopposed annexation of Crimea in 2014. Any policy which aims to achieve anything short of an unquestionably defeated Russia is against the national security interests of the United States, and a moral calamity. But there are other times and places to talk about policy. I want to talk to you about the Ukrainian people.
by Julio Garzon | Sun, 01/01/2023 - 11:34pm | 1 comment
One of the most spirited and lasting discussions among historians pits practitioners against their methods over the utility of the discipline in explaining human behavior. Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May make a compelling contribution to the above the debate. This review evaluates Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers by concentrating on the following areas: a primer on the authors’ background and their intended audience; the book’s general content; a brief overview of two previous reviews of the work that comment on its contributions and limitations; the main strengths of their arguments; and a set of concluding observations on the book’s general quality.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Sun, 01/01/2023 - 11:08pm | 0 comments
There is much Conventional Wisdom out there that the coming winter will mean major combat operations will halt in Ukraine and a general pause in the war, that winter means windows and opportunities will close for Ukraine or that Ukraine is somehow at a disadvantage once winter sets in.  Before Ukraine retook Kherson City, you could easily find commentary that Ukraine needed to rack up victories before the winter sets it, that, somehow, winter would force Ukraine or both sides to dig in and regroup and await a thaw for a return to bigger battles.
by Otto C. Fiala | Sat, 12/31/2022 - 10:12pm | 0 comments
In 2014, immediately prior to the Russian invasion of Crimean, US Special Operations Command – Europe (SOCEUR) began an effort to examine the concept of resistance, based on the vulnerable exposure of the three Baltic NATO allies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This vulnerability centered on the lack of NATO conventional forces in that northeast corner of NATO to offer ground-based deterrence to a possible Russian incursion. The question became; what was available, besides the unlikely use of nuclear weapons, to deter and if necessary to defend those nations in case of Russian invasion? The short answer, soon to be further developed, was resistance. Then, within several months, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. The resistance effort quickly moved from an academic thought exercise to resurrecting a form of irregular warfare, resulting in a written Resistance Operating Concept (ROC). Though with northern European roots, it has geographically broader application as a form of irregular warfare. This article will examine resilience and resistance in Ukraine primarily from a ROC based perspective and also identify new developments based on events in Ukraine and how they fit into the concept of resistance.
by Douglas A. Borer , by Shannon C. Houck | Sat, 12/31/2022 - 9:55pm | 0 comments
Since the mid-1970s, defending the Asia-Pacific Area of Responsibility has fallen primarily to the US Navy. Having no war to fight in theater since Korea and Vietnam, the conventional US Army and Marine Corp assumed a supporting role for intermittent troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, during the last twenty years, the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have been highly active in the counter-terrorism fight throughout Asia while simultaneously building foreign partnership capacity across the region. Today, in late 2022, with the rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a Naval power, the conventional US Army, Marine Corps, and SOF must all show their relevance to the Navy-lead Joint Force as it prepares for a peer-to-peer fight with a PRC that now has more ships than the U.S. Distributed and networked land-based forces, mostly consisting of very small units, should be seen as platforms of integrated deterrence in the same manner that surface ships, submarines, and aircraft are viewed today.