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 Michael Hauben | Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:58am | 0 comments
Flatly erroneous to the point of calumny is the currently widely held belief, even among the allegedly well-informed, that the VN conflict was lost because the US military insisted on pursuing an enemy-centric strategy, the centerpiece of which was pursuit of enemy main force units. In fact, this attrition-based strategy was responsible for the 1970-71 low point in enemy activity that some (Sorely, inter alia) have labelled the point at which the US and its allies won the war.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Wed, 03/20/2019 - 3:09pm | 0 comments
The purpose of this article is to describe the importance of empowering subordinates. It was my experience as a senior leader in the military, that success in an organization is dependent on empowerment of subordinates. The more you invest in your people the more effective you were as a leader. Unfortunately, I also observed that empowerment of subordinates is not followed consistently in military organizations. The mistake leaders make is that they talk about empowerment, but then attach a bunch of restrictions rendering it ineffective.
by Franklin C. Annis | Tue, 03/19/2019 - 8:07am | 0 comments
I was blessed to be introduced to Stoic philosophy during high school. While I struggled to fully understand Stoicism as a teenager, I realized its deep value. Stoicism is a philosophy uniquely suited to Soldiers and military leaders. When I deployed to Iraq in 2009, I took a single book with me from home. The "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius was not only useful to myself but was passed around my platoon and inspired many of my Soldiers. It shouldn’t be a surprise as this text has been used by countless military leaders for millennia. If my sons ever march off to war, I will hand them the copy of the "Meditations" along with another book that might prove to be an even more powerful introduction to Stoicism. Donald Robertson recently composed a book called "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor". It is a unique book that I wish would be given to every junior leader in our ranks.
by David E. Williams, Jr. | Mon, 03/18/2019 - 6:07am | 1 comment
The Islamist worldview is in direct opposition to contemporary Western ideas about government, society, and the role of religion in everyday life. Despite this opposition, or possibly because of it, the Islamist movement is gaining popularity around the globe. The apparent failure of Western ideologies, unequal distribution of wealth for natural resources exacerbated by globalization, and on-going conflict between Israelis and Palestinians have contributed to Muslim masses to seeking solutions from more traditionally-minded leaders who promise a return to Islamic Golden Ages via rejection of secularism in favor of Islamic fundamentalist ideologies. This, however, sets many on a path of conflict with the West.
by Jay Liddick, by Thurman “Scott” Dickerson, by Linda K. Chung | Mon, 03/18/2019 - 5:07am | 4 comments
To remain relevant in the future operational environment, CA must counter enemy hybrid warfare in the expanded battlefield, specifically in operational and tactical support areas, as part of an integrated security team through civil reconnaissance, civil network analysis, and civil network development.
by Assad A. Raza | Sun, 03/17/2019 - 1:06am | 5 comments
The 2018 National Defense Strategy states that China is a strategic competitor and the United States must restore its competitive advantage in the international arena. However, power competition is more complicated now compared to the Cold War Era. Today, states are hyper-connected through technology and economic cooperation which increases complexity for projecting power. A good example is China’s use of economic power through its Belt and Road Initiative to expand its regional influence all over Euro-Asia.
by Michael Gladius | Sat, 03/16/2019 - 11:19am | 0 comments
As America’s Army prepares for a conventional war and develops multidomain doctrine, new technologies will be developed. However, there are several places where existing technology can be used to fill gaps that have appeared as the Army transitions. This is especially true for urban combat and drone warfare. Here, I propose 2 new platforms that can be adapted from existing technology to answer the changes brought about by the mass introduction of drones onto the modern battlefield. In Part 2, I will address urban combat separately.
by J. David Thompson | Sat, 03/16/2019 - 12:44am | 0 comments
This series of papers covered some serious and depressing topics: climate change, refugees and human displacement, and the politicking of national security. Hopefully, it found a glimmer of hope in such dire and serious topics. I chose these topics because they are near and dear to me. The positivity of the people impacted by such grave circumstances hits and sticks with me the hardest. This is where I found hope in the past, and I hope that through this paper the reader caught a glimmer of that hope.
by Jeremy D. Lawhorn | Fri, 03/15/2019 - 12:08pm | 3 comments
Exploiting America’s openness and diversity, various state and non-state actors have encouraged large segments of the population to mobilize against one another and the government to address a wide range of social and political grievances. These efforts have increased civil unrest and created extensive polarization that now defines the American social and political landscape. Not only have they effectively chipped away at any semblance of national unity, they have created conditions that make it socially and politically unacceptable to cooperate or engage in meaningful dialogue with people who hold opposing views.
by J. David Thompson | Fri, 03/15/2019 - 7:02am | 2 comments
The United States continues to be the largest single donor to the United Nations Refugee Agency. These statements hold true through both Republican and Democratic administrations. The U.S. is currently eighth in per capita contributions to UNHCR. The chart below shows voluntary contributions from the U.S. Government to UNHCR from 2012 to 2018.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Thu, 03/14/2019 - 5:56am | 0 comments
A narcomanta (narco-banner) threatening Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador if Federal security forces are not removed from Guantajuato state was posted in Salamanca, Guanajuato (Gto), Mexico on the morning of 31 January 2019. Shortly after the narcomanta was found, a pickup truck containing explosives was discovered parked in front of a nearby oil refinery.
by J. David Thompson | Thu, 03/14/2019 - 4:42am | 2 comments
When States agreed to the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Additional Protocol, few people knew about the effects of climate change. Now that people recognize climate change, some people wonder what term should be used for those displaced by climate change. Some people argue that the term “refugee” should be broadened to all those forcibly displaced—whether from conflict, climate, or some other cause. Others argue that the word “refugee” already has a legal definition, and there are already challenges assisting this community.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Wed, 03/13/2019 - 10:48am | 0 comments
The purpose of this article is to discuss effective leadership, present the importance of truth telling, and to contend that moral courage is the most critical trait for a leader. In this article I will offer a model and demonstrate that to be an effective leader, a leader must be a difference-maker. Being a difference-maker means doing the right thing and having the courage to say hard things to people that do not want to hear them.
by J. David Thompson | Wed, 03/13/2019 - 12:41am | 0 comments
This is the second paper in a five-part series. Part II provides six case studies. There are currently twenty-three active situations for refugees and stateless people.
by Jenny Pearce | Tue, 03/12/2019 - 12:37am | 2 comments
Every discussion of violence in Latin America will begin with the shocking statistics. It is well-known that Latin America is responsible for 33 per cent of homicides in the world despite only having 9 per cent of its population. Even more starkly, a study of youth violence in the region also found that young males living in low-income settings have a one in 50 chance of being killed before they reach the age of 31.
by J. David Thompson | Tue, 03/12/2019 - 12:27am | 0 comments
This is the first paper in a multipart series. SWJ will release a new part everyday for the next five days, titled “Refugees and Climate Change: A Cause for Hope?”
by John F. Sullivan | Mon, 03/11/2019 - 6:43am | 4 comments
Thus it is with the latest assault on Clausewitz’s preeminence within the curriculum of the nation’s war colleges. On the website Task & Purpose, Major Jamie Schwandt recently posted an article with a title primed for maximum indignation: “Why we should stop teaching Clausewitz.” Schwandt’s argument is that since Clausewitz’s ideas were forged in an era temporally removed from our own, the knowledge we glean from his text is outdated and ineffective. Who, then, should students of strategy depend on to shape their strategic thinking? Sun Tzu, of course.
by Dan Bartlett, by Gary D. Jones, by Steven L. Foster | Mon, 03/11/2019 - 6:11am | 1 comment
The United States’ ability to project and sustain power around the world is one of the nation’s key strategic advantages over her competitors. Maintaining rapid mobility assets, forward presence, and global partnerships, the Department of Defense deters would-be adversaries and continually assures allies and partners. Protecting this advantage is not an accident, but rather the product of careful, deliberate planning and extensive logistical analysis. As the Army organization responsible for operational sustainment for United States Army Central in support of the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility, the 1st Theater Sustainment Command is responsible for supporting the advancement of US interests in the region by planning, advocating for, and resourcing current and future sustainment footprints.
by James McLeroy | Sat, 03/09/2019 - 7:56am | 2 comments
The dispute between orthodox and revisionist historians of the Second Indochina War is not about debating points, but about permanent differences of basic value systems and perceptions of historical reality. The epistemological dispute between their opposing concepts of historical truth -- objective truth versus subjective "truthiness" -- may be endlessly analyzed, but probably never fully resolved.
by Matthew R. Doherty | Sat, 03/09/2019 - 4:54am | 0 comments
The British government was aware of Farran’s heavy-handed approach, yet decided to take a risk on employing him (and men like him) in Palestine. Even in 1946, the War Office understood that, “…there is an inevitable tendency for special units to become ‘Private Armies’ and so drift away from the normal channels of command.”
by Craig Sicola, by Mark Garrigus, by David Williams, by Bill Mamourieh | Thu, 03/07/2019 - 2:56pm | 0 comments
Understanding border security and immigration as a systemic problem necessitates approaching the issue from a wholistic, non-partisan point of view to determine how the U.S. government can resolve immigration crises. Essential to considering a whole-of-government approach, the U.S. solution should include good and effective governance, socio-economic benefits, and security of the homeland.
by Melanie Lowry | Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:47am | 0 comments
As ISIS members are displaced through battlefield losses, reintegration of former ISIS members remains a key challenge globally. ISIS has frequently used children as a part of its military operations, and hundreds of these children have been indoctrinated into ISIS ideology. The international community now faces a critical issue with the rehabilitation of ISIS children. This population was raised in a hyper-violent environment and has largely never been exposed or integrated into conventional society. As these children and their families flee to non-ISIS controlled areas or home countries, they pose a lifelong terrorism threat to the international community.
by Euan Findlater | Wed, 03/06/2019 - 12:35am | 3 comments
This uses different theories to analyze why great powers were unsuccessful in the ‘hot wars’ of the Cold War, using the Soviet-Afghan War and Vietnam War as primary case studies. In both instances, the great powers were unable to overcome the paradoxes of asymmetric warfare.
by Robert Bunker, by Alma Keshavarz, by John P. Sullivan | Tue, 03/05/2019 - 11:38am | 0 comments
While this is presently a one-off (I&W) type incident, more such Mexican cartel FPS type videos posted to social media are now inevitable although the rate at which they will proliferate is unknown. Further, futures projections suggest that an eventual follow on cartel social media TTP to this CSRL GoPro taped tactical action will be the live streaming of such FPS immersive experiences—rather than their posting to social media after the fact.
by Gary Anderson | Mon, 03/04/2019 - 12:35pm | 0 comments
Venezuela is on the brink of an insurgency. The insurgents are not currently violent, but that could change immediately if the Maduro regime attempts to use force to suppress the opposition. To date, the United States has supported the opposition led by Juan Guaido with diplomacy, sanctions, and humanitarian aid. The question now is what we should do if the insurgency turns violent.
by SWJ Editors | Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:29am | 0 comments
Continue on for all the great details - SWJ is very proud to be part of this joint effort with Divergent Options!
by Robert M. Cassidy | Thu, 02/28/2019 - 12:53am | 1 comment
The long war in Afghanistan has entered its the fifth month of its eighteenth year this month. For war to end in success and a better peace, ends must drive means, not the other way around. The value of the political objective, or the worth of the ends sought, determines how long and what costs the U.S. should be willing to pay. The value of what the U.S. sought in Afghanistan related directly to America’s willingness to pay the costs in time and magnitude to prevail in war and bring about a successful outcome.
by Mollie Saltskog, by Paul Wasserman | Tue, 02/26/2019 - 4:52am | 0 comments
"When it comes to China and Russia’s foreign policy, a Beijing-Moscow axis in practice is a much more complex reality, marred with competition in each state’s traditional spheres of influence. Central Asia exemplifies the intricate Sino-Russian relationship and illustrates that while there are significant short-term opportunities for cooperation and shared goals in attacking an American-led world order, a long-term alignment is hindered by fundamentally different strategic objectives. In short, on the ground, the explanation cannot be simplified as Russia and China in complete lockstep against the United States."
by Brandon Quintin | Mon, 02/25/2019 - 7:54am | 0 comments
There are certain events in military history that rise above the rest. They are not merely battles, campaigns, or wars. They teach more than the specifics of military science. There are certain events that teach an art and address moral and philosophical topics of a timeless nature. It is very well to know how to turn the flank of an advancing army. It is something altogether different to understand and balance the competing interests of victory and mercy, efficiency and morality.
by Jason Rivera, by Wanda Archy | Thu, 02/21/2019 - 5:02pm | 0 comments
Warfare has always and will always continue to evolve. A recent evolution that this paper will focus on is the “Dark Web”, to include how this aspect of the Internet has affected national security over the last decade as well as how it may affect national security in the years to come. We use quotations in our initial introduction of Dark Web because it is known by many names and is often conflated with similar terms that characterize other related concepts (such as the Deep Web). Accordingly, this paper will seek to establish a conceptual framework of the Dark Web as a sort of landscape characterized by a series of threat issues and threat actors that national security professionals should be aware of. We will then build upon this framework of viewing the Dark Web as a landscape so that we may illustrate its applications to both the kinetic and digital aspects of human warfare.
by Nilofar Sakhi | Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:32am | 1 comment
Although the process toward peace in Afghanistan has been punctuated by several key junctures beginning in 2010 that continue today, much of the peace-oriented discussions have remained the same with little to no real movement on tangible issues at the negotiating table. Nevertheless, it is possible to point to some of the positive and, of course, negative aspects of the ongoing negotiation process, which must be addressed to avoid repeating past mistakes and fill existing gaps.
by W. R. Baker | Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:22am | 0 comments
Franklin C. Annis’ recent article (SWJ, February 16, 2019) “Who is to be Trusted with Military History?” is a good start, but it fails to address a number of items and takes a slap (intended or not) at Vietnam veterans.
by Gary Anderson | Wed, 02/20/2019 - 12:13am | 4 comments
It is time to reconsider the use of NLW, not as stand-alone tools to wage “kinder and gentler” conflict, but as tools in the combined arms kit. We should reinvigorate advanced NLW development and place advanced NLW in the tables of organization of our ground and air combat units.
by Tamim Asey | Tue, 02/19/2019 - 8:49am | 0 comments
With each passing day attaining a sustainable, inclusive and broad-based peace seems distant and farther away in Afghanistan primarily because of a divided political elite in Kabul, a deceptive Pakistan, an emboldened Taliban playing the long game and an impatient America in a hurry to declare victory and bring US service members back home. Nobody underestimated that the Afghan peace process will be a straight line and if history is any guide it shows that almost all of the Afghan peace negotiations have failed in the process whether it was the Geneva accords in the 1980s or the Jeddah peace deal between the warring mujahidin factions during the civil war in the 1990s.
by Kyle T. Gaines | Tue, 02/19/2019 - 7:36am | 9 comments
The defense contracting industry undeniably plays a critical role in the nation’s defense. From research and development, acquisitions, consulting, intelligence, cyber, logistics, and information technology, there are myriad ways the private sector makes valuable contributions that advance U.S. national security policy goals and keep Americans safe. But there are also many problems with how these operational support contracts are executed on the ground, which various U.S. government agencies have acknowledged for years. Unfortunately, the model the U.S.-led coalition is relying on for employing contractors in Afghanistan remains rife with poor accountability, ineffectiveness, and fundamental strategic communications issues.
by Max G. Manwaring | Tue, 02/19/2019 - 12:04am | 0 comments
Venezuela is basically what it always has been—only worse under Nicolas Maduro. As a consequence, Venezuela has moved into a downward spiral from an aspiring New Socialist state to failing state status.
by Said Sabir Ibrahimi | Mon, 02/18/2019 - 2:02pm | 0 comments
Pundits who urge the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan argue national security interests and point out to threats emanating from Afghanistan. Indeed, 17 years ago, it was national security that took the U.S. military to Afghanistan. To date, the presence of more than 20 transnational terrorist groups in the region continue to justify the American military involvement in the country. However, a broader question that is rarely asked is whether counterterrorism is the only issue that brings the two nations together?
by Patricia H. M. Morrissey | Mon, 02/18/2019 - 4:52am | 4 comments
In order to make a clear case that the aggregate efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS (or Daesh as they are called in some countries) are showing progress towards “defeating” ISIS, we must understand the nature of this movement as a competition between its local jihadist groups and existing government leaders and institutions, at all levels, for the allegiance or submission of the population. In other words, we must address it for what it is: a networked global insurgency.
by Lydia Kostopoulos | Sun, 02/17/2019 - 1:21am | 0 comments
Technologically, the world in 2051 was even more interconnected, operating on 5G and leveraging the spatial web where augmented and virtual realities served as mediators between the real ‘touch and feel’ world and the digital world. All the while, artificial intelligence was approaching ‘general’ intelligence and scientists around the world cautioned that it was imminent and that the existing global infrastructure was not going to be able to respond to the potential risks that have been hypothesized to arise.
by Franklin C. Annis | Sat, 02/16/2019 - 2:26am | 0 comments
Georges Clemenceau once asserted that “War .. [is] much too serious a thing to be left to the military”. U.S. Service Members would recognize this assertion to be true as applied to modern warfare. Clemenceau’s assertion presents an interesting follow on question. If war exceeds the limits of the military, should the recording of military history also be perceived as a task exceeding the abilities of Department of Defense historians? In this paper, we will examine Clemenceau’s original assertion and if demonstrated to be true will examine the question of who should be responsible for the recording and the examination of military history.
by Pamela Ligouri Bunker, by Robert Bunker | Sat, 02/16/2019 - 1:18am | 6 comments
On the surface, while such low levels of unemployment may appear to represent the triumph of unfettered capitalism and the belief in the benefits of a globalized—and supranational—liberal economic order, something far more ominous for the Western middle classes is taking place. Full-time jobs with benefits and secure retirement packages are increasingly being replaced with low-paid and part-time “gig economy” positions as a new involuntary labor model. This labor model not only benefits predatory (i.e. hyper efficient extractive) capitalism but may also be considered a component of the larger transition to human worker replacement by robotic automation and artificial intelligence (AI) systems and the continued hollowing out of the Western welfare state by the plutocratic class.
by Michael van Ginkel | Fri, 02/15/2019 - 5:15am | 2 comments
The long-term deployment and regenerative capabilities of SFABs creates an opportunity to capitalize on situations short of conflict. According to USAID, premature attempts at democratization resulted mainly from failures to “develop the political and social infrastructure to a level that could absorb (manage, resolve or transform) the conflicts that arose” prior to hosting elections.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:09am | 1 comment
This incident highlights the traditional rivalry between the two LA-born gangs and demonstrates that this rivalry and violent competition continues among their NYC affiliates. Gang graffiti related to both gangs has been reported in neighborhoods near the subway shooting incident. Such graffiti has been targeted by the local NYPD precincts (110th PCT and 115th PCT) in neighborhood graffiti removal project.
by Samuel Casey | Thu, 02/14/2019 - 1:03am | 1 comment
The ACFT is a bold step in the right direction but doesn’t go far enough in the areas of pragmatism and its use as a cultural node for the US Army. This event ties each of us in uniform together and serves to showcase that each of us deserve to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest. It is important that we use the lessons learned in the last decade plus of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq to better prepare ourselves for the next war. If we do not, then we risk being in the same position as the Army was in when we entered the war in Korea with Task Force Smith.
by Gary Anderson | Wed, 02/13/2019 - 1:36am | 0 comments
It is too early to draw conclusions about an agreement that has not yet been reached, but it is not too early to think about how to wage war by other means against the Taliban once some kind of peace agreement has been reached. Helping the Afghan government win the peace should be our next role in that troubled nation.
by Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam | Wed, 02/13/2019 - 1:02am | 0 comments
Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. and its allies have overthrown the totalitarian regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan and replaced it with a democratic government. Al-Qaida leader, Osama Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan. Overall, Afghanistan is more prosperous than ever and there has not been a major terrorist attack in the U.S. So, does that mean the mission in Afghanistan is accomplished?
by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. | Mon, 02/11/2019 - 9:31am | 1 comment
Despite the dangers of the current dynamic, observers say, retired officers should be free to express their views and policy ideas in a way that is respectful of the commander in chief. "Americans want and, really, need to be able to consider the views of those who served, along with others with expertise," Mr. Dunlap said. "It should be the brightness of their ideas, not that of the stars they previously wore, that should carry the day."
by W. A. Rivera, by Arnel P. David | Mon, 02/11/2019 - 5:41am | 5 comments
This article argues that a more comprehensive understanding of lethality is necessary to improve US strategic performance in present and future wars. We argue that central to lethality at the strategic level is influence. LtGen (ret) James Dubik emphasized foreign influence operations as the #1 strategic-level preparation civilian and military leaders must make for the next war. To view lethality only through a physical lens limits its full potential. Take the example of the Vietnam War.
by Tamim Asey | Sun, 02/10/2019 - 1:37pm | 1 comment
The United States is actively exploring options to end its engagement in Afghanistan and withdraw its troops from the country and at best keep a residual counter terrorism force. To this end, it has engaged with its seventeen-year adversary, the Taliban movement, to explore a peace deal - often termed by historians and experts as a troop withdrawal plan – in the absence of its partner and ally, the Afghan Government, undermining its legitimacy and further polarizing the Afghan polity.
by Barry Scott, by Naluahi Kaahaaina, by Christopher Stock | Sun, 02/10/2019 - 11:38am | 0 comments
Four concepts about innovation in the military are introduced in this paper. The first is called the Military Innovation Framework. It is used to determine what kind of innovation is desired, and why. The second tool is called the Military Innovation Engine, which describes who needs to participate for innovation to catch fire. The third concept is the Military Innovation Pathway. It is one way—not the only way—to let innovation happen organically in the military unit. Finally, the fourth concept describes special considerations needed for disruptive innovation to survive in the military environment.