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 Dale C. Eikmeier | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 3:05am | 0 comments
Can an amorphous system characterized by low hierarchy, dispersal, and decentralization have a Center of Gravity (CoG)? I say, “Yes,” because the purpose of the system determines the CoG, not the structure. However, to many theorists the answer is a resounding no, because the system’s structure is the determinate. They claim a system must be concentrated and centralized to have a targetable CoG. Both answers have compelling arguments. Which is correct depends on one’s conceptual foundation of the CoG concept.
by Rick Martin | Fri, 05/17/2019 - 12:37pm | 0 comments
Ultimately, the most ideal way to facilitate an orderly and deliberate U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is to end the war entirely. The Trump administration’s decision last year to talk to the Taliban and engage the insurgency's leadership in negotiations was a giant step in the right direction.
by Nick Chadwick | Thu, 05/16/2019 - 12:31am | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Robert C. Jones | Tue, 05/14/2019 - 12:51am | 0 comments
Unconventional Deterrence is not Unconventional Warfare any more than Nuclear Deterrence is Nuclear Warfare. The goal of UD is not to destabilize the societies of our enemies, rather the goal of UD is to deter our enemies from destabilizing our own society, and those of our Allies and Partners. While most of my contemporaries overly fixate on the strengths of our opponents and how they match up with inherent weaknesses of our own; I am far more interested in where their inherent weaknesses play to our strengths.
by Greg Olsen | Mon, 05/13/2019 - 1:22am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019. The French military intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict in 2013 (Operation Serval) was a military success and met the criteria for success established by civilian leadership, however, it did not alter the trajectory of conflict in the region. It subsequently became conjoined to a United Nations liberal peacebuilding effort in Mali with low prospects for rapid success, resulting in a lengthy “forever war” in the Sahel.
by Marc Meeker | Mon, 05/13/2019 - 12:20am | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Daniel Phillips | Sun, 05/12/2019 - 5:06am | 0 comments
Typically, Americans are raised from a young age to mind their manners, wait their turn, share, and most of all to not fight. They are raised as members of a non-aggressive society that continues to discourage competition more and more by the year. So imagine, after a life time of learning societal norms, you enter a new profession that begins to shift everything you thought you knew.
by Cassandra Ulrich | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 7:19pm | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Michael Kidd | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 8:45am | 0 comments
Is the national security of the United States impacted by a strike in India, a bombing in France, a trade war with Russia, or an earthquake in Mexico? Is there social liability within our supply chains as the result of unscrupulous sub-vendors? In most cases the answer is, “We don’t know.” While commanders can quickly assess whether they have assets located in a specific area and may know if they have a strategic vendor at the location, there is little visibility into the location or identification of companies that provide significant products or services to the Department of Defense.
by Robert Bunker | Thu, 05/09/2019 - 4:15pm | 0 comments
The work "Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War" represents the first book (& ebook) to be published by this blog site. Borderland Beat is an informational and collaborative English language blog (drawing upon US and Mexican contributors) reporting on the Mexican narco wars.
by Robert Bunker | Wed, 05/08/2019 - 4:50pm | 0 comments
The Stephen Sloan Seminar was held 28 March 2019 at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, Oklahoma City, OK. The conference co-sponsored by The Murrah Center for Homeland Security Law and Policy at Oklahoma City University School of Law and The Center for Intelligence and National Security at the University of Oklahoma.
by David Zabecki | Wed, 05/08/2019 - 3:00pm | 0 comments
Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan, NATO’s unity-of-effort is one accomplishment that we must preserve and build upon if the alliance hopes to maintain its status as the preeminent military player in a global strategic environment that has changed significantly over the last eighteen years.
by Sam Wilkins | Wed, 05/08/2019 - 12:24am | 0 comments
Bill Burns’ 'The Backchannel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and a Case for its Renewal' provides a skillful dissection of what he calls this “era of inversion” between force and diplomacy. Burns, who The Atlantic once described as “America’s secret diplomatic weapon,” is widely lauded by Presidents and Secretaries of State from both political parties. Reading The 'Backchannel', it is easy to see why.
by Scott E. Bruck | Tue, 05/07/2019 - 1:39pm | 0 comments
Military professionals need to be cognizant of language on both a macro level (translation issues) and a micro level (within one’s native language) because it affects perception in international conflict.
by Rachel Bryson, by Bulama Bukarti | Tue, 05/07/2019 - 12:10pm | 0 comments
Just because there are imperfections with a deradicalization camp, it does not make it a failure. In fact, Nigeria is courageous in its approach and has taken strides beyond many countries in its steps towards restoring the lives of those who have left violent and extreme groups.
by Michael E. Hauben | Mon, 05/06/2019 - 2:11pm | 0 comments
In the final, 1975 onslaught, ARVN with RF lacked the capacity to react to multiple diversionary assaults by enemy local forces and to deploy the necessary concentration of force on multiple fronts to halt PAVN advances toward the capital.[v] Overstretched ARVN, further weakened by US Congressional reduction, with a vengeance, of POL, ammunition and equipment re-supply to a trickle, was simply overwhelmed.
by Norman T. Lihou, by Brett Doyle | Mon, 05/06/2019 - 1:06am | 0 comments
Improvisation on the battlefield is not new. However, the improvised threats that are faced today have increased the scope, scale, and degree of battlefield improvisation impact at all levels of warfare. With technology accelerating knowledge proliferation and the expanding access of technological diffusion, non-state actors have been able to create unprecedented risks to US forces and our partners
by Gary Anderson | Sun, 05/05/2019 - 7:55am | 0 comments
"Frustrated members of Venezuela’s opposition and their supporters saw their attempt at a military coup fall short last week as senior leaders of the security forces failed to join an attempt to force President Maduro out of office and out of the country. Despite an economy in ruins, a failed health care system, and international sanctions; the Maduro regime has survived. There are several reasons for this."
by Louis René Beres | Sat, 05/04/2019 - 4:51pm | 0 comments
"Are they normal?" It's not a usual question for commanders or strategic planners. Still, to some reasonable and ascertainable extent, this complex question could be applied to virtually any adversary in war, or at least to certain identifiable cadres of a pertinent enemy leadership.
by Stephen B. Young | Fri, 05/03/2019 - 1:39am | 0 comments
The decision to suspend territorial security reporting may indeed indicate that the process of American withdrawal from Afghanistan is picking up speed.
by Alma Keshavarz | Fri, 05/03/2019 - 12:34am | 0 comments
A former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General, Saeed Ghasemi has, as early as 2015, revealed Iran’s involvement in the Bosnian War. While not much has been written about the topic nor has Ghasemi penned articles, there are videos of him on Iranian-state news outlets discussing Iran’s involvement. In the latest interview from 2019, Ghasemi reveals details of the Guards relationship with al-Qaeda.
by Team 6031- National War College | Thu, 05/02/2019 - 11:25am | 0 comments
Team 6031 consists of Dr. Joseph Collins of the National War College faculty, the coordinating author of this article; Army COLs Charles Hornick, Justin Reese, Matthew Sheiffer; Army LTCs Chad Froehlich and Karen Radka; Marine LtCol Erick Clark; Navy Commander Lloyd Edwards; and Navy Medical Corps Captain Frank Mullens.
by Robert Hranek | Thu, 05/02/2019 - 1:13am | 0 comments
First things first: I am not a Mad Scientist - I am an Angry Engineer! I’ve been in the business of analyzing systems for decades, as active duty military, DoD systems engineer, intelligence analyst, and more. And yes, I’ve been a REMF (look it up if you don’t already know it, please refer to pages 9-11 for explanation of all the other acronyms and terms used in this report) the entire time because I enjoy not being shot at while I work. Enough of my background, my task here is to provide an End-To-End Analysis and lessons learned from the April Fools’ Day battle for Otso fought mainly between Donovia and the United States.
by John P. Sullivan, by José de Arimatéia da Cruz, by Robert Bunker | Tue, 04/30/2019 - 7:21am | 0 comments
The arrests on racketeering charges of over a dozen members and associates of the Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM), a gang with ties to Brazil, in Eastern Massachusetts highlights the potential for transnational gang networks to emerge within criminal diasporas. This note documents the first significant case of Brazilian gang emergence in the United States.
by Bradley L. Rees | Mon, 04/29/2019 - 5:40am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.
by Jack DeOliveira | Mon, 04/29/2019 - 5:03am | 0 comments
"There is no doubt that China poses one of the greatest espionage and cyber-attack threats to the United States. The Chinese government has committed to becoming the world’s cyber leader and has made no real attempt to hide that notion. When assessing Chinese cybersecurity, we look at the infrastructure the government has built to address cybersecurity. From creating some of the strictest domestic cyber laws in the world to building a cyber army larger than a standing army of most countries, proves that China is establishing a presence in cyber operations.
by David Retherford | Sun, 04/28/2019 - 1:56am | 0 comments
To what extent can the examples of individual testimony offer a sense of collective experience? The experience of war can only be understood through the commonality that is shared amongst all the participants. Perception varies greatly from one individual to the next. What one may view as surrounded, may be seen as scarce to the next. Therefore, it is vital to compile individual testimonies and find the universal commonality amongst them in order to formulate a collective experience.
by Jaylan Haley, by John Long, by Melissa Sidwell | Sat, 04/27/2019 - 6:36am | 0 comments
The USAF is well known for its precision strike capability as well as space and airborne ISR expertise. With this consideration, a resilient ISR C2 model that offers embedded expert joint controllers for leveraging ISR C2 capabilities is appropriate; in other words, a single, integrated structure that fully empowers the TACP through its ISR team to execute C2 of ISR missions. This ensures that the USAF’s expertise is leveraged and optimized through streamlined and synchronized joint operations.
by Scott Padgett | Tue, 04/23/2019 - 9:13pm | 0 comments
This article explores how state actors are using advanced software development tools and artificial intelligence (AI) to invent and perfect new deception capabilities to fool both people and machines on the virtual battlefield. It examines intelligent computer vision systems and their capabilities to support state-sponsored hybrid warfare.
by Jeff Goodson | Mon, 04/22/2019 - 5:09pm | 0 comments
In the future, more countries are likely to serve as theaters of great power competition. Conflict will arise in those countries where it didn't exist before, and will deepen in those where it already exists. In both cases, instability will grow. The use of proxies will mitigate the potential for direct great power conflict, but tensions will rise as the world becomes smaller and opportunities for conflict grow.
by David B. Parker | Mon, 04/22/2019 - 2:49am | 0 comments
Preparations for future small wars described in the JOE 2035 must account for stability operations, FHA and peace operations, and counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations. Viewing these types of small wars as distinctly separate and mutually exclusive is a flawed perspective; the world is an interconnected place and the types of small wars the joint force may encounter in the future will often occur simultaneously and as a result of one another.
by Ronald W. Sprang | Mon, 04/22/2019 - 12:07am | 0 comments
This research seeks to determine how cyberwarfare applied through the lens of operational art contributes to cross domain synergy within the context of multi-domain battle. Cyber and EW capabilities are critical to enable operational commanders the opportunity to create temporary windows of advantage, shape the deep fight, control tempo of multi-domain operations, and arrange cyber effects in time and space to achieve strategic objectives.
by Stephen B. Young | Sat, 04/20/2019 - 4:11pm | 0 comments
The study needs to start with a baseline of how to defeat terrorists and insurgents. It can’t accept at face value the hopes and aspirations of American policy makers and field commanders as they entered the War on Terror. It needs to measure their strategies and tactics against proven success.
by J. “Lumpy” Lumbaca | Thu, 04/18/2019 - 6:25am | 0 comments
The past two decades in the Indo-Pacific region have resulted in remarkable change across the terrorist landscape. Attacks and deaths are down, but jihadist ideology and threats persist. The Indo-Pacific states of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines consistently remain among the “Top 10” countries affected by terrorism according to the Global Terrorism Index report. If there was any doubt whether or not 2019 would see a continuation of the deadly trend, this year’s bombing just days before the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite, the Pulwama terrorist attack in India, the breakup of an international terrorist cell in Malaysia, and the New Zealand mosque shootings all serve to remind us that extremism remains at our front door.
by Robert Hunter Ward | Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:46am | 0 comments
To a large extent, the question of whether remote warfare waged by RPAs is ethical depends on if one believes riskless war is dangerous, destructive, and overly easy. The ethical issues of asymmetric risk, moral hazard, and destructive behavior are difficult considerations to face, but necessary to reconcile. Ultimately, despite these concerns, the RPA is an ethical instrument of air warfare which leaders should certainly take advantage of, if they do so judiciously as they should with any weapon.
by SWJ Editors | Mon, 04/15/2019 - 10:11pm | 0 comments
U.S. Department of the Treasury Report: "Action Targets ISIS Financial Facilitators and Money Transfer Company"
by Bruce McClintock | Mon, 04/15/2019 - 6:01pm | 0 comments
Imagine this: As you drive down the highway at the speed limit in the right lane, another car races past you on the left then veers into your lane without warning. The other car then slows down until it is just feet in front of you, forcing you to make a quick decision to slow down, change lanes or even swerve off the road to the right to avoid a collision. Now imagine the same scenario involving two satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above the earth and traveling at 6,800 miles per hour.
by Barnett S. Koven | Mon, 04/15/2019 - 9:16am | 0 comments
This article is informed by the author’s experience adapting his previous fieldwork studying counterinsurgency in Colombia into lecture content for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School’s Contemporary Irregular Warfare Course.
by SWJ Editors | Sun, 04/14/2019 - 4:57pm | 0 comments
The 279 page edited work Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán: Imagery, Symbolism, and Narratives is divided into a preface, introduction, twelve chapters, postscript, imagery data set, four appendices, selected references, and further readings. This Small Wars Journal-El Centro eBook is edited by Robert J. Bunker and Alma Keshavarz.
by Aleksandra Nesic, by Arnel David | Sun, 04/14/2019 - 7:31am | 0 comments
Special Operations Forces (SOF) must continue to build capability and capacity to scientifically understand, accurately interpret and effectively influence human behavior. It is the SOF operator who will be on the ground early, working with an indigenous populace, learning to understand a given situation in order to provide critical context to both civilian and military leadership. SOF must be able to navigate complex social systems and operate at a speed that creates critical decision space while ensuring their actions don’t make matters worse.
by Bradley Fultz | Sat, 04/13/2019 - 8:18am | 0 comments
The Republic of Georgia is a loyal U.S. ally and the largest non-NATO contributing nation to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Georgia’s geographic location combined with firmly entrenched western values amongst its engaged populace make Tbilisi an ideal partner for both today and the foreseeable future in the contest against regional near-peer enemies. This article provides needed context and background regarding this important U.S. military partner.
by Patrick Burke | Fri, 04/12/2019 - 4:12am | 0 comments
“Jim Roussell and the Marines he works with broke the Abu Ali cell of the Iraqi insurgency in much the same way he caught gang leaders on Chicago's West Side,” according to a 2007 article from the Chicago Tribune. Sgt. Russel’s success illustrates that counterinsurgents can learn from U.S. law enforcement, and vice-versa.
by John Turner | Thu, 04/11/2019 - 11:25am | 0 comments
The dramatic increase of Venezuelan refugees entering the country, record-level coca cultivation and cocaine production levels, and the power vacuum created by the disarmament, and demobilization of the country’s oldest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in key cultivation and smuggling areas are just a few things for U.S. policy makers, defense officials, and legislators to take into consideration as they evaluate bilateral security assistance to Colombia.
by Scott Padgett, by Steve Banach | Tue, 04/09/2019 - 10:00am | 0 comments
The goal of this paper is to present learning concepts, and virtual maneuver schemata that can help the US Army win the real war that it is confronted with, vice the ideal war that it is currently designed to fight. Winning the real war will guarantee freedom and the preservation of our way of life for the foreseeable future.
by Mike Sweeney | Mon, 04/08/2019 - 5:58pm | 0 comments
There is by necessity a detached coldness to the sort of analysis contained in this paper. For the citizens of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Taiwan, it is not a simple intellectual exercise. The conflicts explored here could have real impacts on their existing way of life, to say nothing of bringing death and destruction to their doorstep. I don’t mean to discount this or suggest that a Chinese or Russian invasion should simply be shrugged off. But there is the question of the bigger picture.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Mon, 04/08/2019 - 7:43am | 0 comments
The purpose of this paper is to describe behavior differences between managing like a boss and managing like a leader. The terms boss and leader can be used interchangeably, but if you analyze what makes a boss and a leader, you will start noticing important differences. In today’s world, being a leader rather than a boss is more effective, and if understood and implemented will improve individual performance, build effective teams, and promote success for the organization.
by Nick Rife, by Josh Brown | Sun, 04/07/2019 - 2:37pm | 0 comments
Few things in life induce a greater sense of accomplishment than implementing a digital strategy that produces tangible results while serving as an intelligence Soldier at a US Army tactical echelon. A rarely replicated degree of hubris consumes the self because ingesting data and extracting the right insights at the right time as a component of the Army mission command intelligence enterprise is indeed a strategic vision quest of herculean magnitude.
by Peter A. Newell | Sat, 04/06/2019 - 9:22pm | 0 comments
We are about to kick off the 4th year of our nation’s premier program for teaching Mission Driven Entrepreneurship — Stanford’s Hacking for Defense course. This year’s course, like each of the previous three, will challenge us, our students and an entire ecosystem of interested partners to once again help bring solutions to some of our country’s hardest problems.
by Michael Gladius | Fri, 04/05/2019 - 7:10am | 0 comments
In part 1 two new weapons platforms were suggested as a way to incorporate drones into traditional weapons platforms. In this article, I look at four platforms which can be developed using existing technology in order to prepare America’s Army for urban combat.