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 Ernest John C. Jadloc, by Leo Blanken, by Kevin Jones | Sat, 07/30/2022 - 11:48pm | 0 comments
Security cooperation with partner nations is increasingly important for the success of American security policy in an era of strategic competition. After twenty years of large-scale counterinsurgency operations, during which security cooperation largely consisted of the rapid building of (often inappropriate) “mirror imaged” partner forces, new thinking is required. We provide a novel and scalable mechanism for partner force enablement efforts here: grassroots innovation among partner force personnel through the leveraging of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. More specifically, we show the potential for partner forces to create affordable, sustainable, and tailored solutions to their own capability gaps as a mechanism for better partnering.
by Artur Kalandarov | Sat, 07/30/2022 - 11:28pm | 0 comments
Recent history has shown that irregular warfare (IW) can be used as a tactic and a strategy to grind down the willingness and capacity of a larger power to pursue its objectives. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. experienced firsthand the difficulty of engaging combatants dedicated to irregular methods. Now, IW is playing a key role in Ukraine’s ability to resist Russia’s invasion. In the future, it can and likely will be a crucial aspect of small states’ resistance to revanchism. Drawing from recent and ongoing conflicts, the U.S. can harness its knowledge and experience in IW to counteract China and Russia on the global stage, while continuing to engage non-state violent extremist organizations (VEOs). This can be accomplished primarily in two ways: preparing partners and allies to engage in irregular warfare in the event of an attack, and intimidating adversaries by utilizing the prospect of IW as a deterrent.
by Daniel Rice, by Lee Van Arsdale | Sat, 07/30/2022 - 12:31pm | 1 comment
The prevailing attitude here in Kyiv is that many in the U.S. government do not yet trust the Ukrainian people. It’s a sentiment that we believe is correct and needs to be remedied immediately in the best interests of U.S. national security. We have personally traveled the battlefields with the Ukrainian Armed Forces commanders in Kyiv, Moschun, Bucha, Iripin, and the Donbas, so we have unique insights into their attitudes and values. The Ukrainian military deserves our ultimate respect and our trust. As such, the U.S. should fully arm Ukraine as if it were arming U.S. troops to fight against the entire Russian Army. Continuing to approve and send small amounts of arms and ammunition at a time could result in a catastrophic loss for Ukraine, and by extension, the United States.
by Tyler Wood | Wed, 07/27/2022 - 2:40pm | 0 comments
Recent reflections on the military strategy used by Hitler and the German Armed Forces High Command during Operation Barbarossa provide insights into similar Russian setbacks in Ukraine. Hitler’s operational blunders on his eastern front serve as a historical precedent for Putin’s ambitions and his special military operation.
by Zachariah Lee Parcels | Mon, 07/25/2022 - 8:31pm | 0 comments
Terrorists violently struggle by using or threatening to use violence against civilians to achieve political aims. Among the thousands of attacks designated as terrorism since 1970, only spec-tacularly innovative terrorist attacks take nations by surprise. Innovative terrorist tactics, strategies, and organisational arrangements exploit vulnerabilities in security apparatuses and inflict high material, psychological, social, and emotional costs. This innovation requires both cooperation and financing. This paper adopts a follow-the-money directive by qualitative-ly exploring the emergence of the crime-terror nexus, an increasingly salient terrorist financ-ing conundrum not solely explained by existing typologies. Thus, an alternative conceptualisa-tion of the Crime-Terror Nexus that incorporates terrorist innovation typologies is presented. By illuminating the learning competition between anti-terrorist forces and terrorists, the adap-tation, innovation, and imitation terrorists undertake under pressure, and decentralisation of terrorist and criminal organisations, this work elicits how these criminal-terrorist configura-tions leave terrorists with more money to execute their political aims. Therefore, amidst a re-orientation towards inter-state conflict, these criminally-enriched terrorists present a present and looming danger to international security.
by Zachary Kallenborn | Mon, 07/25/2022 - 5:44pm | 2 comments
Zachary Kallenborn makes the case for Anti-Rail Landmines in Ukraine. Coupling old school concepts with modern capabilities can vastly improve effectiveness: the Civil War did not have dedicated special operations forces to emplace landmines, open-source imagery to easily map a country’s entire rail network, network analysis techniques and tools to identify strategic chokepoints, and modern long-range fires from rocket artillery to drones and aircraft for follow-up strikes on fixed trains and military engineers. Anti-rail landmines should not only serve US operators, but could be provided to allied nations.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Sun, 07/24/2022 - 10:18pm | 0 comments
Too many analysts frame the current actions and reactions in centering on Russia and Ukraine in narrow terms, around Ukraine’s recent moves towards the West or the events of 2014. So even before the February 2022 massive escalation by Russian President Vladimir Putin of the eight-year-long war in Ukraine, there has been a chorus of voices—each and every single one myopic, ridiculous, and not worthy of serious consideration—saying that, we, the United States/NATO/the West should, to some degree or another, not help Ukraine militarily (too much) and/or not increase Ukraine’s aid (too much) because, somehow, if we do, that would be a “provocation” against Russia.
by James Rohrer | Sun, 07/24/2022 - 10:12pm | 0 comments
Wargmaing. Insurrection is possible in any nation where a portion of the population is dissatisfied due to long-standing grievances.  In the United States, we might assume that insurrection could not be successful because the US military is reputed to be the best in the world, vast sums of taxpayers’ funds having been invested to develop high-tech weaponry. On the other hand, even primitive tribesmen have been effective against modern armies.  This raises the question: could American insurgents be effective against the American army?... The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate the effectiveness of insurgents against the modern army in a particular tactical scenario.  Results are contingent on the validity of the wargaming method (the rule set).  The findings may have implications for national security.
by Sean Jacobs | Sun, 07/24/2022 - 10:04pm | 1 comment
US Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent remarks to Pacific Island leaders they have not previously “received the diplomatic attention and support you deserve” has acknowledged a key gap in US foreign policy – a consistent, comprehensive South Pacific presence. Her remarks, delivered to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), and emerging only weeks after Secretary of State Blinken’s regional visit, are certainly welcomed. It had been almost four decades since a US Secretary of State visited Suva, Fiji’s capital, and over a decade since Secretary of State Clinton visited the Cook Islands and the South Pacific’s largest nation – Papua New Guinea (PNG). Ostensibly to counter China’s re-energised economic and security support to South Pacific states, both Harris’ remarks and Blinken’s presence have served as a reminder of US intentions for “authentic engagement that speaks to the real needs of the islanders,” according to Blinken, and for the “US to include on the agenda items that Pacific countries have identified as priorities for them.”
by G. Murphy Donovan | Thu, 07/21/2022 - 8:48pm | 2 comments
We might now call the proxy war in Ukraine a tale of two Victorias; a contest between the world views of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Indiana Congresswoman Victoria Spartz. 
by Connor L. Mitchell | Thu, 07/21/2022 - 10:47am | 0 comments
February 24, 2022 marked the date in which Russian foreign affairs nullified their own prior diplomatic legitimacy on the international stage. Vladimir Putin’s “Special Military Operation,” a façade for an illegal invasion of a sovereign country, dramatically reversed Russia’s prior claims that any suggestion of a Russian military excursion into Ukraine was “Western Propaganda.”
by Donatas Palavenis | Thu, 07/21/2022 - 10:33am | 1 comment
The analysis evaluates the effectiveness of 12.7 mm and 30 mm calibre weapons, that could be installed in the turret of IFV Boxer. The case study analyses the Lithuanian situation as there is an intent to acquire 120 units of IFV Boxer. However, the analysis could be useful for other NATO /EU countries if they are looking for effective weaponry to win contemporary land battles.
by Carlos Frederico de Oliveira Pereira | Mon, 07/18/2022 - 1:51pm | 3 comments
This two-part commentary critiques ADPF 635 (an injunction for infringement of a fundamental principle) in the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) ADPF No. 635, also known as the "ADPF Favelas Case" limited police action in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
by Kevin Hammill | Sun, 07/17/2022 - 10:25pm | 3 comments
Book review of Mark Galeotti, "The Very: Russia's Super Mafia." The text provides a valuable overview of Russian organized crime and its influence on Russia's political system.
by David Brazel | Sat, 07/16/2022 - 8:46pm | 0 comments
On September 26th, 1918, the US First Army, under the command of General John Pershing, contributed to an allied assault on the remaining German defenses in France.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the American effort of this advance.  This paper will examine General Pershing’s use of the principles of mission command.  His performance demonstrated that mission command is a valuable leadership tool, yet strict adherence to its seven principles is not necessarily required for mission accomplishment.
by Alan Goodman | Thu, 07/14/2022 - 10:55am | 0 comments
Revisionist powers seek to compete with and degrade the influence of the United States within what has been dubbed the gray zone. That is to compete with non-traditional means below the threshold of armed conflict. Civil Affairs are military forces that establish, maintain, or exploit relationships between military forces and indigenous populations and institutions. Civil Affairs forces can compete below the threshold of armed conflict, focusing on achieving non-kinetic effects. However, Civil Affairs require funding specifically allocated to civil-military operations to be effective in the gray zone. This analysis argues for a dedicated Civil-Military Operations funding source that is flexible and fast enough for Civil Affairs forces to have effective impacts that are employed promptly.
by Juri Toomepuu | Tue, 07/12/2022 - 2:52pm | 3 comments
The greatest advantage our adversaries in autocratic dictatorships have over us, is their ability to man their forces with as many soldiers as needed, of the quality needed to effectively operate their technically advanced weapons systems. Our all-volunteer, more accurately, all-recruited force, established a pernicious link between the nation`s economic well-being and military recruiting. When opportunities for civilian jobs are plentiful, recruiting suffers. Because job and educational opportunities for better qualified youth are always better than for their less qualified counterparts, armed forces need more incentives, requiring more resources, to attract them into military service.
by Andreas Foerster | Tue, 07/12/2022 - 2:34pm | 0 comments
With the rise in popularity of doctrines concerning low-intensity conflicts, especially counterinsurgency (COIN) and hybrid warfare, several theorists have promoted a separation from the older generation of thinkers. Naturally, because of their significant influence upon the development of “conventional warfare”, as these newer theorists understand it, Carl von Clausewitz and Antoine-Henri de Jomini have been zeroed in for criticism. Put simply, a misunderstanding of these theorists has led to this attack on their writings. This failure to see their potential outside of conventional warfare and the historical context of their ideas’ formation, concerning these two giants of military theory, deprives researchers and officers alike of valuable tools for achieving victory. This particular paper will focus on Jomini, because his absence in modern discussion on low-intensity conflicts is far more prominent.
by Kyle Sajoyan | Tue, 07/12/2022 - 1:04pm | 0 comments
The conclusion of the Second World War brought the international community together to pursue justice following the bloodiest cataclysm in human history. The prosecution of Japanese war criminals during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East helped lay the blueprint for how crimes against humanity and other atrocities were defined and dealt with. Despite the Tokyo War Crimes Trials’ clear definitions of the permissible and illegal conduct of nations, the Netherlands perpetrated one of the most brutal and overlooked wars of the decolonization era. The Indonesian War of Independence began at the closure of the global catastrophe that raged for the past six years. The Dutch unlearned the lessons of the previous conflict, systematically trying to subjugate a people who no longer desired to live under the imperial yoke of the Netherlands. The Dutch forces in the East Indies (Indonesia) unleashed a wave of untold destruction and suffering upon their colonial subjects, typified by the “counterinsurgency” campaign of Captain Raymond Pierre Westerling in 1947. Westerling’s rampage in South Sulawesi represented the clearest and most blatant hypocrisy of the post-World War Two era as the Netherlands abandoned their promises to safeguard a humane world to retain their empire.
by Michael B. Kelley , by Greg E. Metzgar | Mon, 07/11/2022 - 12:02pm | 0 comments
Prior to 9-11, Special Operations Forces (SOF) were integrated into operations predominantly led by conventional forces. During the reestablishment period of formal SOF capability in the 1980s, the Service leadership required Congressional action to establish permanent and sustained SOF capabilities within their own formations. In 1987, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) established its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, a first for the SOF community since the disbanding of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the end of World War II. Public Law 99-661, established in 1986 directed USSOOCM in Section 167 with the requirement to “develop strategy, doctrine, and tactics.” Arguably, USSOCOM has mastered the doctrine and tactics, but military leaders, SOF practitioners, and academics are still working to define an agreeable definition of strategy and theory of SOF.
by Kevin Chapla | Sat, 07/09/2022 - 12:08pm | 1 comment
Despite its ubiquity and prevalence in modern human conflict, a commonly accepted definition of terrorism has eluded scholars and practitioners alike. This paper proposes a new definition of terrorism as a tactic of violence used by both state and nonstate actors. The decision to use terrorism as a tactic to achieve political goals in any conflict ranging from guerilla warfare to low intensity conflict to an insurgency will permanently change the character of that conflict. The definition advocated for here argues that terrorism is simply a potential (albeit extreme) tactical feature of modern human conflict. Perception of a conflict drives whether the use of lethal and violent force is deemed legitimate. Limiting terrorism’s definition to a description of a specific type of violence ensures we can accurately identify it across all types of conflicts - whether the conflict in question is open warfare between recognized states, insurgency, or low intensity conflict does not matter. The tactics-based definition of terrorism proposed here divorces terrorism from the ambiguities of legitimacy, enabling an honest assessment of whether tactics being used in any conflict are terrorist tactics – irrespective of whether the perpetrator is a state or a nonstate actor.
by Kyle Sajoyan | Sat, 07/09/2022 - 11:59am | 1 comment
The myth of the “clean Wehrmacht” among other fallacies regarding the German Army demonstrated the necessity of critically studying the most destructive theater of the Second World War. By scrutinizing both primary and secondary literature, the author decided to add to the existing scholarship around the Eastern War by focusing on the “counterinsurgency” campaign in occupied Belarus. Through the lens of anti-partisan specialists such as Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, the paper demonstrates the genocidal brutality of the guerilla war in the East and simple calculus the SS and Wehrmacht underlined in their fight: to destroy the resistance, one must indiscriminately kill every man, women, and child regardless of the threat they pose.
by Josh Green | Thu, 07/07/2022 - 10:14pm | 1 comment
Since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the United States has given Ukraine $6.3 billion in aid. The aid, most recently in the form of sophisticated loitering munitions, M777 howitzers, and multiple rocket launchers arguably has provided a lethal capability to the Ukrainians. However, this aid creates strategic risk for both the US, Ukraine’s other Western supporters, and Ukraine itself. Beyond raising the risk of escalation with Russia, these diverse aid packages could create a Ukrainian military that is increasingly reliant on a patchwork of Western materiel support. Although this current policy creates capability, it threatens the Ukrainians’ capacity to engage in a sustainable war with an adversary who has considerable war stocks and shorter supply lines.
by James Rohrer | Thu, 07/07/2022 - 12:15pm | 2 comments
Predictions and expectations about the outcome of the war in the Ukraine have been fraught with peril.  The initial invasion triggered fears of a rapid Russian victory.  Plucky and effective defense by Ukrainian forces generated euphoria and heady hopes of pushing the Russian bear all the way out of Ukraine; nothing less than complete victory would be acceptable.  When the war shifted toward the east and south, experts began expecting a prolonged conflict. After four months of war, we now have more information that could help develop assumptions about how the conflict will unfold by the end of its first year.  Developing such assumptions is a necessary step for wargaming in real-time.
by Anthony Marco | Thu, 07/07/2022 - 12:07pm | 0 comments
On the French Empire’s southern flank, the seven-year war in the Peninsula absorbed close to a quarter of a million Frenchmen in a titanic struggle against the Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese alliance. During this long and bloody conflict the city of Cadiz, at the southernmost tip of French martial glory, epitomized the wastefulness of Napoleon’s ill-advised invasion. In April of 1809, King Joseph Bonaparte remarked, “it is necessary to seize control of Cadiz,”  yet the Spanish city would elude their grasp for two and half years due to the resolve of the Anglo-Spanish defenders and the advantageous geographical disposition of Cadiz.[1] The indefatigable defense of Cadiz remained an essential component of the Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese war effort, which preserved Spain’s governing body, maintained a staging ground and supply point for Anglo-Spanish operations throughout the Peninsula, and, most importantly, occupied Marshal Claude Victor Perrin’s Corps and the French armies across Andalusia in a futile war, which enabled the operations of Wellington’s Army in Portugal during the dark hours of Marshal Massena’s Invasion of Portugal.
by Douglas A. Borer , by Shannon C. Houck | Wed, 07/06/2022 - 9:28pm | 0 comments
Irregular warfare is an approach to peer-to-peer competition that Congressional legislators and civilian policymakers must better understand. Irregular warfare is how the Taliban drove the Western Alliance out of Afghanistan, and it is how Ukraine is presently checking Russia’s invasion of its territory. As these cases show, in the year 2022, the weak have won (and can win) wars. Knowing how to fight from a position of relative weakness is the true secret to understanding irregular warfare.
by Onambele Mendouga Guy Hervé | Mon, 07/04/2022 - 1:53pm | 0 comments
Imagine a Swiss businessman in Italy, near the city of Solferino. He probably went there for an important meeting that would increase his fortune. Unfortunately, there is a colossal battle between two opponents' camps while he is there. Gunfire resonates everywhere; soldiers are shouting, crying, yelling; the blood splashes and cuts the soldiers' heads, hands, and feet at every cannonball explosion. In the evening, more than 30.000 wounded and killed in action are abandoned on the field. Some cry, and the others are simply lifeless, dead. Henri Dunant witnessed this atrocity scene on the evening of June 24, 1859, at Solferino during the Italian independence war. The war opposed two camps. On the one hand, the Austrian empire and, on the other hand, the French-Italian coalition. This conflict between many state actors was by its nature brutal and violent, inhuman, and led Henry Dunant to take actions in favor of the wounded regardless of their camp. Later, Dunant's steps would create the international red cross, the Geneva conventions, and the law of armed conflicts. Solferino represents the war as we know it. A bloody military engagement between armies of two or multiple states. This type of war has rules that all the belligerents should respect; otherwise, they commit war crimes.
by Daniel Rice | Sun, 07/03/2022 - 9:37am | 2 comments
Wars, by their nature, are incredibly complicated.  The war in Ukraine is actually much simpler than most of the wars of the past 75 years. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, Vietnam, Bosnia, and many others were very complicated, with a lot of “gray areas.”  Most of these were civil wars, with warring factions, sectarian violence, and competing internal ideologies.  The war in Ukraine is much simpler.  It is more 'black and white' than all the other wars since World War II.  It is “good vs evil”.  It is one horrible Army invading a sovereign neighbor and committed atrocities on an industrial scale against an entire civilian population.  It is the world vs. Russia. And it is why NATO was formed in 1949, to counter Russia. 
by Tom Johansmeyer | Sat, 07/02/2022 - 8:33pm | 0 comments
It’s time to give deterrence a break. We’ve made the concept carry us through the Cold War and another thirty years after that in the face of bipolar nuclear threats. After almost 80 years, we’ve seen what deterrence can do – and what it can’t. Despite the salient effort to make deterrence work for cyber, it’s clear that we’re faced with a “square peg/round hole” problem. Deterrence doesn’t fit for cyber, and no amount of forcing will change it.
by Richard M. Crowell | Sat, 07/02/2022 - 1:32pm | 0 comments
Understanding China’s twenty-first century global actions in search of wider power requires knowledge of their perspective on competition and conflict. That lens is one which sees guerilla warfare and information power used to invade social order to change the existing order in favor of China. This article highlights China’s domestic and global activities in pursuit of their desired new world order. It describes China’s ability to control access to information communication technologies (ICT) and information content, which enables control of its people and others. Three main lessons are identified. First, democratic governments and free-market societies that view power and competition through the same lens will be best suited to successfully compete. Second, nations electing to use Chinese affiliated ICT are at risk of having all aspects of their social order exposed to China’s information power. Third, should competitors not decide in favor of Beijing, China will be prepared to employ new forms of control that will take advantage of the interconnected world they have built and happen in ways that many have failed to imagine.
by Zachary Kallenborn , by Gary Ackerman, by Philipp C. Bleek | Thu, 06/30/2022 - 11:10pm | 0 comments
This brief article looks at the threat potentials related to multi-drone swarms. Multi-drone terrorism represents an emerging terrorism threat, with a range of potential consequences including, at the high end, mass casualties. Although terrorists could quite easily acquire numerous drones, they face considerable challenges in obtaining and deploying the technology to control multiple drones at once. This is especially true for drone swarms in which multiple drones are integrated into a single weapon platform with inter-drone communication. The real difficulties involved with mounting a truly massive drone attack means that policy-makers must plan for a broad range of threats, and carefully balance the costs of defense systems against risks posed to particular targets.[
by Tony Waters | Thu, 06/30/2022 - 12:33pm | 2 comments
         I started this essay as a review about two recent books, Robert Kaplan’s (2021), The Good American: The Epic Life of Bob Gersony, the U.S. Government's Greatest Humanitarian, and Scott Anderson (2020), The Quiet Americans: Four CIA spies at the dawn of the Cold War—A Tragedy in Three parts.  When I first picked the books up, I expected irony, and perhaps satire, just like two novels published in the 1950s which had roughly the same titles: The Quiet American by Graham Greene, and The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer.  Both of these earlier books anticipated the catastrophes emerging from America’s diplomatic-military complex, first in first Vietnam (1975), and later in Afghanistan (2021). Both 1950s novels are savage satires of American naivete.  The basic critique of both older books is that the flawed assumptions of American exceptionalism is doomed to fail wherever it is tried.
by Neil Bultman | Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:39am | 0 comments
The conflict in Ukraine could be a catalyst for reducing tensions between Turkey, NATO, and the EU in the Eastern Mediterranean. As Russian President Vladimir Putin displays the full range of his aggression and violence in Ukraine, Ankara may be ready to cooperate more fully with her NATO allies and EU partners as Russia becomes a more unstable actor and partner in the region. While certain economic realities may restrain the options available to Turkey, there may be no better time for NATO and the EU to convince Turkey that prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean is best made with the West, provided NATO and the EU make it worth the while for Turkey.
by Jeremiah Shenefield | Wed, 06/29/2022 - 8:08pm | 0 comments
The role of any foreign policy, regardless of political leanings, should always focus first on the preservation of the national security of the United States. The central sticking points for politicians, government bureaucrats, and planners are what topics rise to the level of national security concerns? Policymakers have claimed national security extends to international terrorism threats, climate change, or ensuring lasting global democracy in the face of authoritarianism. While all reasonable, a common policy concern/goal is the pursuit of economic prosperity and the continued status of the U.S. as the global economic leader. Economies are broad, touch every aspect of society, politics, and foreign policy, especially in Washington. The driver of global economy and commerce is energy; either solar, wind, fossils fuels, commerce, and by extension, world economies grind to a haul without it. Outside regional terrorism and proxy/sectarian wars, energy is the reason Iran is still relevant in U.S. foreign policy circles. Policy effects regarding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) must weigh risks to global shipping commerce, threats to gulf allies (themselves involved in energy exports and affairs), the proliferation of weapons and destabilizing governments, and the wider role energy plays in the newest global power struggle between the U.S. and China.
by Chuck de Caro | Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:55am | 1 comment
The current state of the Ukraine-Russian war has fallen into a see-saw struggle for small territorial gains, much like the War in Korea in 1952-53. While the Ukrainians are now beefing up their capability for offensive naval operations in the Black Sea, as recommended in these pages months ago, those actions against the vulnerable Russian littoral left flank have yet to occur. With those naval operations presumably soon at hand, the Ukrainians might be well advised to begin attacking the Russian war effort’s other great vulnerability:  Logistics.   Specifically, the Russian Rail System, and the command and control structure of the Russian Army’s Material Technical Support Brigades.
by Frederick M. Shepherd | Mon, 06/27/2022 - 4:49pm | 1 comment
Transnational drug networks have posed a fundamental challenge to the political systems of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in the 21st century. These “Northern Triangle” nations of Central America were among the most violent in the world in the early 2010s, and their governments have struggled to exert even the most basic kinds of political authority as they have been caught up in the global drug trade. This article analyzes how these conditions came about, their impact on these nations, and how vulnerable national governments have responded in recent years to the challenges posed by transnational drug networks. It does so in the context of the capacity of Northern Triangle governments to confront the power of transnational drug networks, with reference to the concept of “state infrastructural capacity.” The article employs this concept to describe the drug networks’ usurpation of basic national government functions in recent decades. And it assesses recent attempts by these national governments, often in collaboration with outside forces, to cope with and challenge the power of transnational drug networks in this same theoretical context. The larger conclusion points to shocking cases of transnational drug network power, but also significant and unexpected efforts by seemingly powerless national governments to counter it.
by James Rohrer | Wed, 06/22/2022 - 8:10pm | 1 comment
Examples of wargaming at the tactical level are scarce in the military literature and army manuals (Hodge, 2012).  Courses of action are tested at the strategic and operational level using a paradigm based on a three-legged stool for “What If” analysis: computer simulation, experimentation, and wargaming.  The legs of the stool represent different approaches to What If analysis that are useful in different situations.  Unfortunately, this paradigm might become limiting as the legs turn into silos. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that tactical wargaming is feasible by crossing the barriers between simulation, wargaming and experimentation.  Fair warning: this demonstration involves dice despite objections to their use in military wargaming.  
by Oscar L. Ware | Tue, 06/21/2022 - 3:32pm | 0 comments
The projection of American power and influence in the Middle East is fraught with peril and has proven to be expensive in American blood and capital. Since the onset of the 19th Century, America has maintained an uninspiring understanding of the Middle East, guided by an erratic and often anemic foreign policy. Today the United States and the Middle East have become emblematic of the vast geographic distance between them. These include disputes between the Palestinians and Israelis, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Syria and the Kurds, Turkey, and the Kurds, and even the Kurds versus the Kurds.1 U.S. interest in the Middle East can be traced to the early years of the American Republic; the region has been a principal focus of U.S. foreign policy since World War II. The onset of the Industrial Revolution, oil investments, unrest, and the 1948 special U.S. relationship with Israel have become the chief reasons for continued U.S. involvement in the region.
by Daniel Weisz | Mon, 06/20/2022 - 9:39pm | 0 comments
Review of Victor Asal, Brian J. Phillips and R. Karl Rethemeyer, "Insurgent Terrorism: Intergroup Relationships and the Killing of Civilians" by SWJ–El Centro Associate Daniel Weisz.  Using data from the "Big, Allied, and Dangerous II" database, the book seeks to explain why insurgent groups sometimes kill civilians.
by Lorris Beverelli | Mon, 06/20/2022 - 9:20am | 0 comments
The war in Ukraine surprised many commentors and analysts. There are notably two reasons why. The first one is the mere fact that Russia openly invaded and attacked Ukrainian territory which was not traditionally considered “pro-Russian.” The second one is the fact that the Russian military, which had been typically considered as the second most powerful military in the world, got bogged down, struggled even to make light advances, and eventually got repulsed, being forced to limit its operations to southeastern and eastern Ukraine.
by Ahmet Ajeti | Sun, 06/19/2022 - 4:40pm | 0 comments
The United States of America is a unique example in the world’s affairs when it comes to having stretched its influence to every corner of the world. The U.S. has a great number of bilateral defense and security partnerships, as well as membership in many multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, etc. In addition to these partnerships, regional or “coalitions of the willing” are another instrument in United States’ arsenal in advancing its interests worldwide. These Coalitions are generally functional - meaning they deal with a phenomenon, such as terrorism - or regional specific issues, where they tackle a threat from/to a specific country, or region.
by Daniel Rice | Sun, 06/19/2022 - 2:57pm | 0 comments
Ever since Russia invaded and occupied the Crimea and Donbas regions in 2014, Ukraine has been on a wartime footing.  Three US administrations and bipartisan Congressional support have enabled Ukraine to withstand the onslaught they now face by air, land, and sea.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Fri, 06/17/2022 - 11:10pm | 1 comment
A series of car bombings by criminal gangs in Ecuador demonstrates the challenge of criminal enterprises directly confronting the state. In a recent (29 May 2022) car bombing in front of a police station (Unidad de Vigilancia Comunitaria/Community Surveillance Unit – UVC) in La Florida, Guayaquil, a taxi exploded. The day before, police conducted a controlled removal of an explosive device left in front of a local business. Officials claim the attack was a response to the removal of gang graffiti associated with Los Tiguerones prison gang.
by Donatas Palavenis | Thu, 06/16/2022 - 10:12am | 0 comments
Recently, the new term Multi-domain operations (MDO) has popped up, which describes how battles will be conducted in the future as militaries would operate in a more concentrated manner (Figure 1), meaning, they would act in five military domains: air, ground, sea, space, and cyberspace. Military operations will be carried out in five domains under their simultaneous management or coordination from a single center. This new perception, arguably a change in warfare, is influenced by the level of current technological development, the need to improve the survivability of own troops on the battlefield, and the perception that effective military activity requires actions carried out not only through classical military environments but also in space and cyberspace. This, of course, changes the established understanding of the conduct of military operations, and now is the right time to start thinking about how small NATO countries will adapt to this change.
by Max G. Manwaring | Wed, 06/15/2022 - 1:48am | 6 comments
A new and dangerous dynamic is at work around the world today. The new dynamic involves the migration of political power (i.e., the authoritative allocation of values in a society) from the traditional nation-state to unconventional non-state actors such as transnational criminal organizations, Maoist-Leninist insurgents, militias, private armies, enforcer gangs, and other modern mercenaries. These actors promulgate their own rule-of-law and have the capability to seriously threaten the security and well-being of the global community. That hegemonic activity must inevitably result in an epochal transition from the traditional Western nation-state system and its values to something else dependent on the values—good, bad, or non-existent—to the winner.
by Federico Alistair D'Alessio | Tue, 06/14/2022 - 10:32am | 0 comments
Since the beginning of the 2014 Donbass War, Vladimir Putin has asserted that Ukraine is ruled by neo-Nazis. He has reiterated this message before initiating a full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. While it is true that some nationalist militias (such as the Azov and Aidar battalions) are fighting alongside the Ukrainian military, it is fair to say that Putin has a far bigger problem than Zelensky: as recently reported by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, there is abundant research demonstrating that Russia has been the home to several extreme right and white nationalist movements, deployed both domestically and abroad.
by Maxwell Myers | Sun, 06/12/2022 - 2:20pm | 0 comments
Studies of nationalist movements around the Middle East and North Africa are often confined to the Weberian definition of statehood: “ [a] human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” However, the nationalism literature tends to overlook areas where national identity and state boundaries do not overlap entirely, namely in the case of Kurdistan. Existing literature addresses the Kurdish nationalist and women’s rights movements, yet authors fail to approach its dynamic nature and layered complexities which this paper aims to address. When addressing topics of Arab nationalism, the state, or development of state-like institutions in the absence of a state, are critical to addressing nationalism. This paper does not attempt to project the trajectory of Arab nationalist movements. Instead, this paper aims to address how nationalists reshape social and cultural norms outside the traditional state-society boundaries. This is most prominent in the case of Kurdistan. Ernest Gellner’s Nationalism provides the bases for understanding nationalism and its role in creating a unified identity and vision for a community while political scientist Nira Yuval-Davis’ work highlights the gendered experience in nation formation. This paper utilizes the case of Kurdistan under Ocalan in the 1990s and present-day to question state institutions’ roles in developing a sense of nationhood and challenge pre-existing women’s rights to further improve gender relations.
by Tyler Bandini | Sun, 06/12/2022 - 2:09pm | 2 comments
A central concern in any insurgency is how an insurgent group’s funding methods will impact the group’s prospects. Existing literature on this topic focusses heavily on the operational or tactical impacts of insurgent funding methods. Little scholarship has been devoted to exploring how a group’s chosen funding method will impact its long-term outcomes, and scholars have certainly not reached a consensus on this question. This essay addresses this question through a comparative case study of two Colombian insurgencies: the M-19 and the FARC. This essay traces each group’s development, considers the political, social, and economic contexts in which they operated, and investigates how their funding methods impacted key inflection points in their insurgencies. This essay argues that the link between insurgent funding methods and insurgency outcomes is causal when the funding method becomes the insurgent group’s dominant source of power.
by Mikel Santiago | Fri, 06/10/2022 - 9:22am | 0 comments
Since the conclusion of the Cold War, the global climate has been characterized by a myriad of emerging threats, challenges, and widespread disorder. The preponderance of these crises is globally located in or around littorals and outlines what is widely coined as the arc of instability. This concept is defined by the USMC as volatile regions undergoing rapid change and growth which as a result, lack established economies, infrastructures, and functional governments, thus driving up competition for scarce resources, overpopulation, and socioeconomic disparities. The nature of these crises affects global stability and security and are the most likely areas of concern requiring the United States’ involvement. When it comes to global power competition, the Eastern Mediterranean (EMED) specifically presents rising security and maritime challenges for the United States and NATO due to the expanding Russian and Chinese presence in the region.
by Christina Huynh | Wed, 06/08/2022 - 8:07pm | 0 comments
The dilemma of focus is the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems in warfare. According to the Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, “lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) are a special class of weapon systems that use sensor suites and computer algorithms to independently identify a target and employ an onboard weapon system to engage and destroy the target without manual human control of the system.” Keeping in mind that robot autonomy falls on a spectrum based on how “on-the-loop” or involved humans are in control, LAWS has full autonomy and is completely independent from the human (out-of-the-loop). Thus, the introduction of LAWS will change the ethics and operational structure of warfare.