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 Assad A. Raza | Mon, 10/07/2019 - 12:31am | 0 comments
The Army published its Army Total Force Policy in 2012 to define steps and guidance to integrate all components to meet DoD’s goal for a total force. U.S. Army Civil Affairs should take the NCFA recommendations and the lessons learned by other services and from those Army units participating in the AUPP to develop a Civil Affairs Total Force Policy.
by Justin Magula | Sun, 10/06/2019 - 3:48am | 0 comments
North Korea has always relied on provocation to preserve regime stability. The Kim regime refuses to recognize the 1953 armistice as an end of the Korean War and desires to reunite the peninsula under North Korean control. Even in the face of international pressure, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons to combat threats to the regime and maintain Kim’s survival.
by Mahmut Cengiz | Sun, 10/06/2019 - 1:21am | 0 comments
Small Wars Journal on July 7, 2019 published this author’s article[1] “Who Was Behind the July 15, 2016 Military Uprising in Turkey?” and then retweeted it on July 15, 2019 the third anniversary of the coup attempt. In the meantime, a reader of Small Wars Journal, who is referred to hereafter as respondent X, who is from the United Kingdom (UK), reached out to article’s author to speak about the coup attempt and article.
by Joe Buccino | Sat, 10/05/2019 - 11:31am | 0 comments
Rick Atkinson's thorough research reveals a Continental Army that was often hapless, frightened, and under-resourced. It’s often terrified soldiers are led by the ineffectual, the self-interested, and the deceitful.
by Joe Cheravitch | Fri, 10/04/2019 - 5:06am | 0 comments
Moscow’s form of information warfare targeting the West has attracted significant international attention since 2014, especially through its reinvigorated military intelligence branch. Nonetheless, little research has focused on these campaigns’ apparent shortcomings.
by Andrew J. Bibb | Thu, 10/03/2019 - 12:32am | 0 comments
The unfortunate truth is that supported commands are not nearly as aware or informed of what Civil Affairs offers as other branches. Every commander knows that the role of the Infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy. Not every commander knows that Civil Affairs Soldiers and Marines are his or her sensors on the battlefield.
by Jaron Wharton, by Sean Parrott | Wed, 10/02/2019 - 11:39am | 0 comments
Are Regionally Aligned Force missions readiness-building or readiness-consuming for U.S. forces? Having deployed recently in support of exercise Shared Accord 19 in Rwanda, we argue that an answer to this question requires nuance that is often glossed over.
by Scott Crino, by Andy Dreby | Wed, 10/02/2019 - 8:18am | 0 comments
The recent drone attacks targeting critical components of Saudi Arabia’s energy sector, highlighted by the September fourteenth attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Khurais oilfield and Abqaiq refinery, demonstrate the strategic effect small drones can make in conflict zones.
by Alia Awadallah | Tue, 10/01/2019 - 2:55am | 0 comments
The military defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria gave rise to a flurry of speculation regarding the possible threats posed by fighters returning to their countries of origin. Journalists and academics have since uncovered considerable information on the backgrounds of these ISIS fighters and speculated on the ways they could wreak havoc within their home countries. Yet one question remains largely unanswered: What exactly are Arab states doing with fighters who return home?
by W. R. Baker | Mon, 09/30/2019 - 2:26pm | 0 comments
On March 30, 1972, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) invaded South Vietnam and the Easter Offensive of 1972 in I Corps/First Regional Assistance Command (FRAC) area began, flouting their 1968 promise to “respect the DMZ.” Though seldom acknowledged or known by many, the priority objective of North Vietnam’s invasion was northern South Vietnam. Eventually, six NVA divisions, two tank regiments, and three-four independent infantry regiments would strike through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Laos catching United States and South Vietnamese command elements completely dumbfounded and slow to respond.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 09/30/2019 - 9:48am | 0 comments
Our need to scrutinize information becomes more acute as automation outstrips human understanding. If machine-learnt becomes machine-taught, we may lose the power to make responsible decisions. At the same time, our drive for technological advantage creates dependence on complex networks such as the “collaborative sensing grid.” Uncertainty persists.
by Samuel Canter | Mon, 09/30/2019 - 6:30am | 0 comments
The exodus of Junior Military Officers (JMO) from the service, colloquially known as the “brain drain,” represents one of the more slow-burning problems facing the United States Army. Beyond the immediate results on planned force structure and end-strength, the subtler effects of these departures will take decades to manifest.
by N. V. Subramanian | Sun, 09/29/2019 - 9:31am | 0 comments
Having angered China by stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and calling to question its claims on Ladakh, India may attempt to placate its powerful northern neighbour and adversary at an informal Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summit slated for next month.
by Michael Kelvington | Sun, 09/29/2019 - 12:10am | 0 comments
Killing terrorists is not all about kinetic strikes, area clearances, and pinpoint raids. Terrorist organizations must be pressured in every aspect of their organization’s lifeblood. Attacking their coffers, often referred to as “counter-threat financing,” or CTF, is a key aspect of hurting terrorists from growing future capabilities and preventing future high-profile attacks.
by Sammie Wicks | Sat, 09/28/2019 - 8:22am | 0 comments
This memo describes how Nigerian Organized Crime affects both host nations and Nigerian diaspora communities as it specifically relates to Italy. Further, this memo argues that Nigerian organized crime has entrenched itself in Italy and persists as a significant threat to Nigerian diaspora communities in Italy.
by Donald "Tony" Vacha | Fri, 09/27/2019 - 1:35am | 0 comments
Army Civil Affairs (CA) faces an existential conundrum. The Army’s renewed focus on peer competition and lethality in Large Scale Combat Operations challenges how the branch defines itself and how the Army perceives its role. The inability of CA to define itself in relation to the Army’s operating concepts and doctrine is an enduring problem.
by Benjamin Ordiway | Fri, 09/27/2019 - 1:14am | 0 comments
When Special Forces train foreign partners, I can know how many bullets exited a rifle and how many foreign partners eventually qualified on the weapons range. I’m just not sure I can see what your Civil Affairs Teams accomplished during their deployment. What can you show me?
by Adam Wilson | Thu, 09/26/2019 - 10:34am | 0 comments
The 2020 presidential candidates Afghan policy stance will surely be focused on short term political gains over the long-term prosperity of Afghanistan. Ultimately, Afghanistan has run its course politically and many would argue there exists no US policy that can “win” in Afghanistan and “win” politically at home in the US. The question each candidate should be asked next is what does your withdrawal look like?
by Robert Alan Murphy | Thu, 09/26/2019 - 8:32am | 0 comments
If American policymakers were to simplify the objectives of its military adventures it would not only limit the costs in blood in treasure, it would render the military more able and ready to address the existential threats to American national security, relieve the American people’s exhaustion with persistent war, and improve the prospects for decisive victory in theaters where it has proven so elusive.
by David Retherford | Wed, 09/25/2019 - 5:56pm | 0 comments
Historian and author, Stephen L. Harris, has written the definitive history of shared combat experience of the 3rd Infantry Division and the soldiers who fought in the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918. The American involvement in the First World War was minor compared to the French and British commitment. Yet, the American combat experience was equally demanding on the soldiers. Rock of the Marne detailed the recollection of the weeks and day leading into the Second Battle of the Marne.
by Nathan Jones | Wed, 09/25/2019 - 5:43am | 0 comments
"Understanding Human Trafficking" by Luz Nagle takes the reader into the sometimes arcane yet important legal world for a master lesson in how global and domestic actors can and will fight the scourge that is human trafficking.
by Irina Tsukerman | Wed, 09/25/2019 - 12:16am | 0 comments
Following the recent attacks on Saudi ARAMCO oil fields, which according to US and Saudi intelligence assessments, involved both drones and cruise missiles, and most likely originated in Southern Iran, the future of the US-Saudi alliance has come into question as President Trump has been taking time to assess the nature of the threat and to decide on reasonable next steps that would deter Iran from further aggression in the region.
by Patrick Burke | Tue, 09/24/2019 - 1:04am | 0 comments
The international community, with the U.S. at the helm, has made it clear chemical weapons attacks are a uniquely abhorrent violation of international norms and laws. One that justifies punitive military strikes against the Syrian regime. Some might wonder if the Syrian regime could be deterred by more significant military action. Probably not.
by Jason Payne | Tue, 09/24/2019 - 12:07am | 0 comments
As the Department of Defense shifts its national defense strategy to re-establish dominance against near-peer threats by synchronizing joint and coalition forces in full-spectrum operations, the Army is well served to update its doctrine into a universally shared language with sister services and allied partners.
by Billy Carter | Mon, 09/23/2019 - 6:48am | 0 comments
Russian intelligence has adapted to exploit modern tools and the host of vulnerabilities they present, building on a robust history of exploiting the open access to media and information that are hallmarks of western, democratic societies. Russian confidence is at an all-time high, where intelligence activities are conducted with little regard for political costs.
by Christopher J. Heatherly, by Ian A. Melendez | Mon, 09/23/2019 - 4:29am | 0 comments
What role do unofficial transnational and criminal organizations play in the global adversarial competition among nations occurring today? How specifically do Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or other specifically named adversary employ unofficial transnational or criminal organizations in its strategic efforts to undermine the United States or its allies?
by Louis René Beres | Sun, 09/22/2019 - 1:55pm | 0 comments
Though generally unseen, the most compelling form of power on earth is power over death. Always. Today, after an American president declared "victory" over one especially notorious organization with aggressive claims to such ultimate power, Jihadist doctrine is anything but in retreat. On the contrary, ISIS is in the verifiable midst of a substantial "comeback" or group "resurrection."
by DJ Collier | Sun, 09/22/2019 - 11:10am | 1 comment
It is our responsibility to establish and foster a new culture unique to military advisers. A culture built around the small unit construct present in special operations units but ultimately unique. A culture that can enable joint operations, build capacity by identifying indigenous solutions to indigenous problems and who are confident working with partners outside the norm of typical combat operations.
by Nathan Jones | Sat, 09/21/2019 - 5:30pm | 0 comments
Unlike many University Press books, Jeremy Slack’s Deported to Death is informative, methodologically rigorous, and an entertaining read. It is a masterful account based upon years of deep ethnographic fieldwork that will be of interest to those studying transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) given it supplies incredible detail on the modus operandi or tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of illicit networks from the perspective of their victims along the US-Mexico border.
by Phil Walter | Fri, 09/20/2019 - 3:03am | 0 comments
Continue on for a list of all the winners! Congrats to all who entered, job well done. - Dave D.
by Rafael Loss | Thu, 09/19/2019 - 7:45am | 0 comments
Following the Franco-Prussian war and its unification in 1871, the German Empire was a latecomer to the “Scramble for Africa.” Only in 1890 did it adopt Weltpolitik, seeking possessions abroad and equal status among the European imperial powers.
by Kevin Butler | Wed, 09/18/2019 - 4:06am | 0 comments
Less than a decade after weathering massive geo-political upheavals from the Arab Springs, the Middle East is on the verge of yet another crisis; the plummeting price of crude oil. “Rentier states” in the Middle East, have for several decades, secured their status-quo by building an overwhelming portion of their economy dedicated to the sale of crude oil. While the rentier system has been successful in propping up Middle Eastern governments for decades, the downside to this system is the economic and political uncertainty created by the rapidly changing value in a single commodity.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 5:34pm | 0 comments
As a follow-on to "The US National Security Strategy Needs Combined Effects", this paper shows how combinations of US National Security Strategy (NSS) effects can integrate US National Defense Strategy (NDS) objectives to create strategically significant advantages.
by Travis Prendergast | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
During the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, the United States Marines officered a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. Throughout the occupation, the Gendarmerie built infrastructure and assisted in the administration of the country. The success of the Gendarmerie can be compared with the failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq.
by Brandon Brooks | Sun, 09/15/2019 - 12:38am | 0 comments
This paper examines the major shifts in irregular warfare, defined here in accordance with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Operating Concept as “a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over [a designated] population.” While there have been several noteworthy evolutions in the ways in which insurgents wage war, this paper argues that the most consequential developments in irregular warfare have occurred on the state-side, reasoning that Western democracies’ embrace of “soft” COIN approaches has spread worldwide.
by Cameron Evers | Fri, 09/13/2019 - 7:31pm | 0 comments
Sudan has begun to send thousands of soldiers next door to Libya to shore up renegade General Khalifa Haftar’s failing siege of Tripoli. The move, believed to be bankrolled by United Arab Emirates (UAE), marks a new phase in Sudan’s post-Bashir foreign policy that further defines the feared mercenary paramilitary, Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as a bartering chip and proxy army for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, first in Yemen, and now Libya.
by James King | Thu, 09/12/2019 - 1:29pm | 0 comments
Advising foreign forces is hard, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it. Since the inception of the Military Transition Team (MiTT) early in the Iraq war people who were disgruntled by the fact they had to serve on one or didn’t understand how they worked would rail against their existence.
by Katherine Voyles | Wed, 09/11/2019 - 9:14am | 0 comments
What follows here sketches some of the currents, undercurrents and crosscurrents of Mattis’s re-emergence before zeroing in on the themes, issues and concerns that dominate his writing. Hearing from people talking about Mattis is an important prelude to hearing from him on his own terms, and the current runs in the other direction too, hearing from Mattis himself is an important rejoinder to hearing other people talk about him. The Mattis that emerges in his own writing is a different Mattis than the one argued over.
by Michael Gladius | Wed, 09/11/2019 - 12:08am | 0 comments
In order to see how the Artillery Army fits into Multidomain Operations, we must look at its doctrinal and organizational logic. Firstly, the doctrinal: Western culture and mindset is based on trinities, and doctrine contains three components. The first component involves the differences between firepower warfare, guerrilla/ranger warfare, and mobile warfare (a trinity within a trinity, no less!).
by Riley Murray | Mon, 09/09/2019 - 5:10am | 0 comments
Andrew Krepinevich’s “Army Concept” provides a useful model for understanding the mindset military organizations take towards advising operations, which subsequently shapes outcomes, including the U.S. Air Force’s advising efforts in small wars. Efforts to advise the South Vietnamese Air Force and Afghan Air Force demonstrate that U.S. Air Force advising concepts have been poorly suited towards irregular conflicts, creating counterproductive effects.
by Pedro Cardoso | Fri, 09/06/2019 - 1:39am | 0 comments
Corruption, money laundering and alliances with national and Brazilians’ drug dealers and with the Russian mafia. Mexico’s “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is in Portugal and has set up a cocaine transhipment base for central and northern Europe. The Mexican drug dealer sons control the cocaine shipment to Portugal. This article was originally published as “A cor do cartel” at the Portuguese magazine Expresso (Lisbon) on 17 August 2019.
by David S. Maxwell | Thu, 09/05/2019 - 5:42pm | 0 comments
Continue on for a short review of the new book on leadership by Jim Mattis and Bing West.
by Mathew Daniels | Thu, 09/05/2019 - 12:27am | 0 comments
As the Global War on Terror continues to expand, the U.S. believes it is important to maintain sound strategy and policy in order to bring about success and avoid costly foreign policy and militaristic commitments. This is especially true in Somalia, where the U.S. is engaged in a small war which currently has a light footprint approach, but risks of increased involvement are possible.
by Alex Wilson | Wed, 09/04/2019 - 1:11pm | 0 comments
What if you never had to go to war because your strategy in peace was so effective that the carnage of a future war could be avoided? In other words, are we in the UK, right now, maximising our strategy in peacetime? Much of this rests on our understanding of Soft Power, but Soft Power seems to be treading so softly in any of the current defence and security debates that it is virtually absent.
by William M. Darley | Wed, 09/04/2019 - 12:41am | 0 comments
This brief survey of the observations of four different historical figures with demonstrated skill in manipulating public opinion highlighted here is intended in part to encourage interest in modern propaganda and stimulate critical analysis of the propaganda methods employed today in the modern global information environment to ascertain whether the assertions of each historical propagandist are, in fact, salient or relevant.
by Carsten Schmiedl | Tue, 09/03/2019 - 8:21am | 0 comments
What are the limits of a security strategy predicated on relative advantage, and what can be done to mitigate them? Great powers rely on strengths and actively seek to bolster them, particularly vis-à-vis potential adversaries—hence ‘relative advantage’—when considering how to secure themselves. This is seen in the most recent versions of the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Defense Strategy (NDS). But relative advantage alone does not guarantee strategic success.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Mon, 09/02/2019 - 1:07am | 0 comments
The CIA’s primacy in matters of paramilitary activities is well-established through existing Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. However, today the United States faces serious threats from near-peer state adversaries, terrorist groups, and other sub-state actors that should lead its leaders to rethink its organizational and operational approaches to paramilitary activities to optimize both its capabilities and capacity to meet these threats.
by Irina Tsukerman | Sun, 09/01/2019 - 11:27am | 0 comments
Two major recent developments illustrate ongoing challenges and potential new obstacles in the war in Yemen, the major objective of which, the put down of the rebellion by the Iran-backed Houthi separatists appears to be sidelined by other considerations and misunderstandings.
by Robert Alan Murphy | Thu, 08/29/2019 - 1:05pm | 0 comments
In December of 1860, William Tecumseh Sherman delivered a speech to Louisianans on the subject of secession and articulated the kind of timeless logic Americans ought to apply before deciding to go to war.
by Evan Matos | Thu, 08/29/2019 - 8:45am | 0 comments
The Federal Government of Somalia and the Somali National Army have maintained great momentum in their military operations this year. They have conducted operations in areas that have historically been long held by Al-Shabaab, liberating villages throughout the Lower Shabelle Region, thus freeing civilians from oppression in the areas surrounding Mogadishu. Even with those large governmental gains, Al-Shabaab continues to be a formidable foe within the information environment with a well-developed Information Operations strategy.