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 Mona Yacoubian | Sun, 03/22/2020 - 9:59am | 0 comments
As the world grapples with the dangerous and evolving coronavirus pandemic, the impact on the most vulnerable populations—the homeless, prison populations, and the impoverished—cannot be overestimated. In the Middle East, a region already ravaged by conflict and suffering from inadequate services and poor governance, the novel coronavirus could have untold consequences.
by Fouad Pervez | Sat, 03/21/2020 - 1:02am | 0 comments
With COVID-19 officially labelled a global pandemic, the focus for many countries has turned toward protecting their most vulnerable populations. But what about camps for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)? Many camps lack the resources to maintain their already poor infrastructure, and the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak puts millions of displaced persons in a dangerous position.
by Irina Tsukerman | Fri, 03/20/2020 - 12:28pm | 0 comments
The political bloc of Oman, Qatar, and Iran is working together to legitimize Houthis politically and to facilitate Houthi leadership travel to Iran, as well as training for the fighters. All of that serves to benefit Iran's agenda in the region and undermines the GCC even as GCC was created to counter jointly Iran's security threats to the Gulf Arab states in the 1980s.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Fri, 03/20/2020 - 11:42am | 0 comments
What are the current implications for US national security? The first implication is our open market view of cyberspace and the sale of data by private social network companies like Facebook. Our national security is encumbered when private companies can use the data of citizens to sell to any entity who can pay, like the Cambridge Analytica case.
by Max G. Manwaring | Wed, 03/18/2020 - 3:36pm | 0 comments
A multi-polar world in which one or a hundred non-state and state actors are exerting differing types and levels of power, within a set of cross-cutting types and levels of power, is extremely volatile and dangerous. The security and stability of the global community is threatened, and the benefits of globalism could be denied to all.
by Brandon C. Patrick | Tue, 03/17/2020 - 4:22pm | 0 comments
Putin’s effort to divide NATO through the recruitment of Erdogan has run aground in Syria, where the Russian-backed forces of Bashar al-Assad were recently battered by superior Turkish aircraft and weaponry. After Syrian and Russian aircraft attacked a Turkish column and killed 33 (some report as many as 100) Turkish troops, Erdogan’s forces downed Syrian fighter planes, destroyed Syrian tanks and artillery pieces and killed Syrian soldiers.
by Harry Verhoeven | Mon, 03/16/2020 - 5:58am | 0 comments
When Eritrea’s president last month hosted the leaders of Ethiopia and Somalia to discuss “regional cooperation,” that initiative drew few global headlines. Still, Eritrea’s move should be noted by policymakers and others working for stability in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region.
by Elie Abouaoun, by Alberto Fernandez | Sun, 03/15/2020 - 8:13pm | 2 comments
Without question, the role of the media in peace and conflict is becoming ever more important. While terror groups like IS have been proven effective in their use of media for their sinister agendas, has the rest of the world caught up?
by Mona Yacoubian | Fri, 03/13/2020 - 8:22am | 0 comments
The engagement of external actors has protracted the conflict and Syrians civilians continue to bear the brunt. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian discusses the dreadful toll on the Syrian population and what the battle for Idlib means for the trajectory of the conflict.
by Colin Cookman | Thu, 03/12/2020 - 11:21am | 1 comment
Approximately five and a half months after Afghanistan held nationwide presidential elections in September 2019, incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and runner-up Abdullah Abdullah have held parallel inauguration ceremonies this week, with each side claiming the authority to form the next government. The current political crisis complicates efforts to open up broader power-sharing talks with the Taliban called for under an agreement signed in Doha at the end of February, as President Ghani seeks to consolidate his authority, and Abdullah and his supporters seek to claim a seat at the negotiating table.
by Kevin Gentzler, by Ken Turner | Thu, 03/12/2020 - 3:16am | 0 comments
Command is different from any other leadership challenge an officer may face. Command is more demanding than simply accepting the organizational colors. Command is different because of the level of authority, responsibility, and accountability inherent in command, the expectations placed on the commander, and the changes required in a how a commander must think to solve the problems faced by the organization. Successful commanders understand the role of commandership.
by Justin Baumann | Wed, 03/11/2020 - 12:36pm | 1 comment
This article attempts to produce a framework that can help public health officials and military leaders develop strategies and operations to counter and eradicate Covid-19 type viral pandemics or other future bioweapon threats we might face on the hybrid-warfare battlefield.
by Emilio Iasiello | Wed, 03/11/2020 - 8:18am | 0 comments
The question of attribution has always remained a murky effort, largely because of the difficulty in proving direct links between the activity and a specific state, but it appears that over the past few years the threshold for that rigor has significantly decreased.
by Nancy Lindborg | Sun, 03/08/2020 - 9:42pm | 0 comments
On International Women’s Day, reflecting on the long road ahead to equality—and how far we’ve come.
by Joseph J. Collins | Sat, 03/07/2020 - 5:45am | 0 comments
SWJ Book Review of Jason Bohm’s "From the Cold War to ISIL: One Marine’s Journey".
by Mark Knight | Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:28pm | 1 comment
A dilemma is now facing western militaries, in-so-far as, the contextual terrain has shifted to such an extent that their enemies refuse to engage them in a manner that would ensure their own destruction. Focus on this modern Sphacterian-dilemma has led to discussions and debates that are encapsulated within the ‘War amongst the people’ arena.
by Lee Taylor | Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:42am | 0 comments
An understanding of this particular case offers not only relevant lessons for the U.S. in our continuing small wars operations, but also on national interests in Colombia—including economic considerations and counter-narcotics efforts—could become threatened by FARC’s dissident groups.
by Morgan Smiley | Wed, 03/04/2020 - 10:40am | 0 comments
The “thousand-yard stare” from an infantry officer talking about his time in Iraq; routine bursts of anger from a former soldier who watch his friend step on an IED; a seasoned NCO who exited his track only to turn around and desperately scream to get back inside. Despite the myriad of training maneuvers, large-scale training center rotations, life-fire exercises, shoot-house drills, etc... nothing in training really prepares one for the visceral ugliness of combat.
by Robert S. Ehlers, Jr, by Patrick Blannin | Tue, 03/03/2020 - 11:01am | 0 comments
While the IE appears new as a reality and a concept, it is not. In fact, it is merely the latest defi-nitional means for making sense of how human beings use information to influence the direc-tion and outcome of competition and conflict.
by Andrew J. Bibb | Mon, 03/02/2020 - 9:47am | 0 comments
"The U.S. Army lacks sufficient doctrine and training on how conventional forces should productively engage with, or talk to, local populations across the range of military operations...The result is units that are unable to effectively interact in the human domain and unable to understand and influence their area of operations."
by Vikram J. Singh | Sun, 03/01/2020 - 8:11am | 0 comments
President Trump’s recent trip to India yielded no progress on a bilateral trade agreement, one of the main issues both leaders hoped to address. Despite the trade impasse, both President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi used the two-day trip to reinforce the positive relationship between the U.S. and India, as official discussions finalized several defense and energy deals. USIP’s Vikram Singh looks at the state of trade talks, the possibility of U.S. mediation in Kashmir, India’s regional stance on the Afghan peace process, and how China’s growing global influence impacts U.S.-India relations.
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 03/01/2020 - 6:30am | 1 comment
Many people achieve positions of responsibility and manage their position but they don’t lead. Others may be superb leaders and be responsible for very little but significantly influential. It all depends on how the personality impacts the people within the sphere of influence and exposure.
by Mona Yacoubian | Sat, 02/29/2020 - 4:53am | 0 comments
Coinciding with Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades, popular protests in the country have been ongoing for more than four months. The protests were initially sparked by a government tax on the popular WhatsApp messaging service. They quickly evolved into Lebanon’s largest, sustained peaceful protest movement. The demonstrations were notable for being geographically diverse and starkly anti-sectarian.
by Hesham Youssef | Fri, 02/28/2020 - 5:05pm | 0 comments
The Trump administration’s vision for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has provoked diverse reactions from the parties and the international community, leaving opponents and supporters continuing to analyze the initiative and chart their next immediate moves. But taking the long view, some implications of the plan can be glimpsed on the horizon.
by Scott Harr | Thu, 02/27/2020 - 12:42pm | 1 comment
Iran, since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, has prioritized and dedicated significant resources to protecting the ruling regime from UW threats from within while (leveraging its empirically won UW principles) projecting highly capable UW forces abroad.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Wed, 02/26/2020 - 9:15am | 0 comments
A cultural “firebreak” between what is broadly branded as political, and what is narrowly construed as military, is undermining effective strategy and values. The firebreak is—military leaders avoiding political issues—being non-political. Military operations occur in deeply political contexts and narratives with long-term causes and effects, but senior military leaders generally don’t go there. The causes of this avoidance appear to be cultural, and cultural transformation tends to lag technology and threats. The firebreak shows up in policy, strategy, and doctrine — which leadership can change.
by Sean Parrott | Wed, 02/26/2020 - 5:59am | 2 comments
The United States Army is training to fight the wrong war. At the tactical level, units are preparing to meet near-peer threats in open terrain. A typical field exercise sees soldiers patrolling the woods or fighting pitched tank battles in the open desert. What you will not see is a rifle squad clearing a city block or practicing urban breaching techniques.
by Chris Bosley | Tue, 02/25/2020 - 1:05am | 0 comments
Governments and communities worldwide are facing the increasingly daunting challenge of what to do when citizens who participated in violent extremist conflicts return home. With ISIS’s territorial caliphate extinguished, more than 100 countries could face the task of not only having to reintegrate their citizens, but also preparing their communities for a future with them living next door. This is a society-wide challenge that will engage a cross-cutting spectrum of stakeholders deploying a range of peacebuilding and other tools to build communities and individuals who are more resilient to violent extremism.
by Robert S. Ehlers, Jr, by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 02/24/2020 - 12:17am | 0 comments
There is still disagreement and outright confusion about what the IE is, why it matters, how to operate within it, and how to develop a terms and definitions relating to it. While terms and definitions comprise the primary focus of this article, it is most useful to discuss them in the context of interactions between information, competition, and strategy.
by Larry Kay | Sun, 02/23/2020 - 5:33am | 0 comments
Why are conspiracies so prevalent? Why are facts and truth so elusive to so many today? Why are people so susceptible to disinformation? Why is the current political climate so peculiar, turbulent, and divided? It is clear that there is a relationship between the disinformation that people ingest and the vitriol that some seem to spit out. These puzzling circumstances may be the result of a growing trend of postmodern thought in the United States and the world.
by John S. Turner | Sat, 02/22/2020 - 8:16am | 0 comments
Last Wednesday, the Pentagon announced the Army’s 1st SFAB (SFAB—Security Force Assistance Brigade) would deploy within the coming weeks to conduct train, advise, and assist missions in select African countries. This is a good move as it sustains U.S. military presence, and reinforces U.S. commitment to regional security partners as they work to beat back violent extremist and strategic competitor gains for influence.
by Adam Gallagher | Fri, 02/21/2020 - 8:51am | 0 comments
After a year and a half of negotiations, the U.S. and Taliban have reached an interim agreement to reduce violence for a period of seven days. If that agreement holds, the two sides will formalize a pact that would lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a phased U.S. troop withdrawal. Although the reduction in violence is an important achievement, it is but one step on a long, rocky road to peace, noted current and former senior U.S. officials on February 18 at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
by Cooper Strand | Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:38am | 0 comments
While the termination of the VFA does not necessarily mean a complete end to cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, it does set a precedent that makes continued cooperation more doubtful. Certainly, the Philippines has the right to self-determination. But withdrawing from the VFA could have overwhelmingly negative consequences for the country itself as it grapples with insurgent forces. Additionally, these repercussions could be felt in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole by emboldening Chinese military activity in the region.
by Scott Smith | Thu, 02/20/2020 - 12:51pm | 0 comments
The agreement offers an opportunity to start a process to end the war—but there is much to be done to get there. USIP’s Scott Smith examines the U.S.-Taliban deal and what comes next.
by Franklin C. Annis | Thu, 02/20/2020 - 8:52am | 0 comments
The technological advancements that has allowed for the use of drones, has largely sharpened the existing ethical concerns of military conflicts. As the longer loiter times of drones have allowed for more positive identification of targets, so has the demand to ensure targets are appropriately identified. As drones have allowed for minimizing collateral damage, so has the demand for less collateral damaged has increased. In this way, many of the legal and ethical concerns surrounding drones are simply a re-examination of the classical ethical concerns of armed conflict heightened by advanced technology.
by Robert Bunker, by John P. Sullivan | Thu, 02/20/2020 - 12:43am | 0 comments
On Wednesday, 12 February 2020, elements of SEDENA, the Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional), assigned to the Eighth Military Zone (Octava Zona Militar), in Colonia Vista Hermosa near Reynosa, Tamaulipas discovered an underground bunker used as a cartel support facility. It is suspected that the underground warren has been operated by ‘Los Escorpiones’ (The Scorpions) a Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo – CDG) enforcer cell.
by Daniel J. O’Connor | Wed, 02/19/2020 - 10:58am | 0 comments
Several major actions taken by the United States and coalition in the last 18 years share much in common with the efforts of the Soviet Union during its combat operations in the country (1979-1989). It is therefore incumbent upon any student of the current conflict to firmly understand the Soviet conflict, its doctrine, execution, and most importantly, the Soviet methods of counterinsurgency.
by Tom McCarthy | Wed, 02/19/2020 - 1:11am | 0 comments
Newfound breathing room has emboldened ISIS to release the name of its new leader and increase the pace and audacity of insurgent attacks against Kurdish, Syrian government, and Iraqi targets, pointing to the conclusion that this aspect of the Syrian Civil War has merely transformed into a new phase.
by Jonathan Bradley | Tue, 02/18/2020 - 9:45am | 0 comments
Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Doctrine was initially developed in the midst of the Iraq War as the military struggled to accept the situation it found itself in and struggled to create a strategy to address it. Initially published in 2004 as an interim doctrine, and then in 2006 as a completed publication, the Army and Marine Corps’ primary counterinsurgency doctrine has only been updated once since then.
by Michael A. Marra, by Douglas W. Bennett | Tue, 02/18/2020 - 8:02am | 1 comment
The United States has intervened repeatedly in the southern hemisphere for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to address growing problems metastasizing at the “Southern strategic approaches” to American territory. While today’s problem of 2015-2020 is one of human mass migration, the previous crisis of 2000 to 2010 stemmed from of an epidemic of illicit drugs. This threat was so pernicious at that period, the United States felt compelled to act with our partner nation of Colombia. With a combination of all instruments of national power, a holistic strategy with a small but powerful military theme emerged.
by Phil W. Reynolds | Mon, 02/17/2020 - 9:33am | 1 comment
Long before his famous Trinity Clausewitz had discovered the Singularity. No, no, YOU get out! It’s true! It’s not really a secret- it’s just that people who built their careers as Strategists (gasp!) get paid a lot of money to lecturing practitioners would prefer you to believe in the mystery of Clausewitz, a mystery that only Strategists (gasp!) can unravel.
by Carter F. Smith | Sat, 02/15/2020 - 1:43pm | 0 comments
This research note reviews the state of military-trained gang members (MTGMs) in the Eastern United States. In each wartime era since the Revolutionary War, there have been MTGMs who engaged in criminal activities in civilian communities. The earliest MTGMs in the United States received their training in the colonial militia. One group started as a New York City street gang, received military training and experience in Mexico during the Mexican-American War, and were released from active duty in San Francisco, just before the Gold Rush of 1848. An individual MTGM started as a well-known crime boss in New York and joined the military to fight in World War I. Contemporary MTGMs challenge military discipline and threaten community security.
by Garrett Nada | Fri, 02/14/2020 - 9:06am | 0 comments
Iranians head to the polls on February 21 to elect their next parliament. Following the violent suppression of protests in November and the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January, many are deeply disillusioned with Iran’s political system.
by Matthew A. Hughes | Fri, 02/14/2020 - 12:36am | 0 comments
Power is a relative term, especially when referring to the amount of control and influence a nation wields in the global community. In analyzing nations’ sources of power, American political scientist Joseph Nye popularized the concepts of hard power, or “the ability to use carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will,” and soft power, an influence which “co-opts [nations] rather than coerces them.”
by Alexander Boroff, by Austen Boroff | Thu, 02/13/2020 - 11:29am | 0 comments
Leaders need to examine an array of options when confronted with a problem or an opportunity. Such behavior will increase the likelihood of landing on the best course of action going forward. In turn, what is proposed here is that in a fictional or ambiguous setting leaders may be more apt to brainstorm and free-wheel ideas. If the intent is to force leaders to think outside of their comfort zones and express viewpoints that differ from mainstream conventional responses, place leaders in a military setting removed from modern military practices.
by Michael Gladius | Thu, 02/13/2020 - 8:52am | 9 comments
For a Pioneer nation like America, built on exploration and a seemingly endless frontier, the romance of expeditions is part of our national psyche. The term “Expeditionary Force” sounds cool, as it evokes feelings of adventure and risk-taking in far-away places. Expeditionary forces are comprised of tough, competent men who travel light in remote areas, and rely on their wits to survive and win in unfamiliar environments. Thus, it’s only natural we want to call everything our military does abroad an “Expeditionary Force.”
by Thomas A. Drohan | Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:55am | 0 comments
The case method of teaching and learning is used in business schools and law schools because they engage participants in active thinking about complex problems. Since the publication of Teaching and the Case Method by Christensen, Hansen and Moore in 1987, case method teaching has grown in popularity. The approach lends itself to meaningful assessment for businesses and government agencies seeking to improve effectiveness. In an uncertain, information-rich dynamic environment, open-ended learning guided by key questions can produce competitive solutions.
by John P. Sullivan | Tue, 02/11/2020 - 1:59am | 0 comments
The challenges to governance and states posed by gangs are increasingly recognized as a global concern. No longer just local, turf-oriented groups of local youths, seeking protection and forging a common identity, gangs are involved in the drug trade and other illicit economic interests. These ‘third generation gangs’ protect their markets and align with a range of transnational criminal organizations.
by Michael V. Phelan, by Barmak Pazhwak, by Belquis Ahmadi | Mon, 02/10/2020 - 12:28pm | 0 comments
Rising tensions between the United States and Iran—illustrated and exacerbated by the January 3 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani—are rippling out beyond the Middle East. Now, American officials are voicing growing concern about Iranian activities in Afghanistan.
by Haseeb Humayoon, by Mustafa Basij-Rasikh | Mon, 02/10/2020 - 1:07am | 0 comments
Recent efforts at settling the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan have featured an increasingly vibrant and visible display of women’s activism. Even with the support of the government and its international partners, Afghan women still face tremendous challenges to realizing their aspirations for a role in peacemaking. Based on extensive interviews throughout Afghanistan, this report attempts to better understand the changing public role of Afghan women today and their contributions to peacebuilding and ending violence.