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 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.
by Michael Kelvington | Wed, 08/28/2019 - 12:52am | 0 comments
In order to advise our way to a more sustainable partner, we must continue to address one of the main issues plaguing our Afghan partners in their fight against the Taliban. It is frustrating to watch the ongoing adult version of “capture the flag” play out on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
by Pamela Ligouri Bunker, by Robert Bunker | Wed, 08/28/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
Rising levels of inequality, both internationally and domestically, represent a societal as well as, increasingly, a national security concern. A strong and robust middle class has long been considered an integral part of American society, required for both the functioning of its industrialized economy and armor and mechanized-infantry based armies as well as the stability of its liberal-democratic governmental system. This reality now seems imperiled.
by N. V. Subramanian | Tue, 08/27/2019 - 9:28am | 0 comments
Having failed in the gamble of speedily containing the fallouts of stripping Muslim-majority Kashmir of its autonomy and statehood, the religious right government of Narendra Modi has taken the country to the brink almost reminiscent of India’s vulnerabilities at the end of the Cold War.
by Heather Venable | Mon, 08/26/2019 - 12:13am | 0 comments
Small wars remain highly likely even as the U.S. stresses the return to great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will exhibit tension between strategic and tactical thinking. This tendency can be seen in the following discussion of Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who had a problematic vision of targeting the Chinese mainland during the Korean War that exemplifies tactical thinking at the expense of considering strategic ends.
by Mangesh Sawant | Sun, 08/25/2019 - 2:59pm | 0 comments
The February Indian air strikes in Pakistan has completely changed the dynamics of Pakistan’s strategy of supporting and sponsoring terrorism against India as unconventional warfare and being protected by the threat of first use nuclear attack doctrine. It has also transformed India’s defensive and cautious strategy of strategic restraint. Nuclear deterrence is no longer an impediment in South Asia.
by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Sat, 08/24/2019 - 3:52pm | 0 comments
What is now categorized as the “cognitive domain” includes areas of influence in all sectors of society. Cognitive domain(s) should not be restricted to influence and information operations, social engineering and ‘winning hearts and minds’ approaches, but expanded to include all areas where ideological attacks are possible.
by Benjamin J. Anderson | Fri, 08/23/2019 - 4:29pm | 0 comments
The rise of ransomware as an attack vector has continued to thrive and appears focused on those municipalities and law enforcement agencies with limited resources and unchecked system vulnerabilities. Of major concern are the evidentiary losses and reduction in consumer confidence within these governmental organizations requiring a new focus and financial expenditures to mitigate these attacks from occurring in the future.
by Heather Venable | Fri, 08/23/2019 - 6:04am | 0 comments
Every discussion of a military organization’s future must begin with this question: what capabilities does it require to meet possible strategic objectives in a variety of conflicts? Unfortunately, a recent article suggesting that the Air Force downsize significantly to focus solely on air superiority within the organizational construct of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) fails to begin this way.
by Stephen B. Young | Wed, 08/21/2019 - 6:09am | 0 comments
Unlike conventional wars, which in Vietnam we called the “War of the Big Battalions”, small wars, or what back then we called “the other war”, integrate the military with the cultural and the political. Thus, small wars are hard to win with kinetic engagements and firepower alone. The complex reality of small wars also implies that they can be lost for cultural or political reasons even if single military engagements are won handily again and again.
by Michael Gladius | Tue, 08/20/2019 - 4:28pm | 0 comments
In the aftermath of WWI, the question of Air Power’s role in the military as an institution arose. Two competing theories arose: The first treated air power as another branch of the Army and Navy, while the second treated Air power as a separate form of war that would be super-dominant. America’s Military has tried both forms, using the former during WWII and the latter post-1947. In recent decades, many critics of an independent Air Force have called for its abolition and a return to the first model.
by H. K. Roy | Tue, 08/20/2019 - 4:33am | 0 comments
Over the years, on the many flights I’ve taken, I’ve had several “celebrity sightings” and even had the opportunity to meet one or two of them in the process. I sat in front of a beret-wearing Samuel L. Jackson on a night flight to London, and across the aisle from late, great US Marine and Full Metal Jacket actor R. Lee Ermey on a flight to DC.
by H. K. Roy | Mon, 08/19/2019 - 12:40am | 0 comments
This story could have been included in the previous chapter [“Ignore My Intelligence at Your Peril (I Am Not As Stupid As I Look)”], but as you will read, this premeditated intelligence failure in Iraq is so mind-boggling in nature that it deserves a chapter all its own. Technically it was not an intelligence failure; it was a spectacular tactical intelligence success story, followed by an unconscionable bureaucratic failure to properly manage an invaluable ongoing counterterrorism intelligence operation.
by Ray K. Ragan | Mon, 08/19/2019 - 12:14am | 0 comments
Currently Civil Information Management (CIM) systems employed by the U.S. Military are not keeping pace with the current revolution seen in civilian next-generation knowledge management systems (KMS). These KMS are possible through the convergence of modern computing, predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML). This CIM limitation is unnecessary and self-imposed as a KMS offers persistent and progressing inputs to the common operating picture. This assessment explores how civilian business harnessed this revolution and how to apply it to CIM.
by Thomas Doherty | Fri, 08/16/2019 - 1:13pm | 0 comments
In the era of great power competition, the United States can ill afford to ignore nonviolent resistance as an offensive strategy employable by ourselves, our allies, and also our enemies. The ability to achieve UW end states using strategic nonviolence will increase the options and capabilities available to policymakers and allow us to understand it when utilized against U.S. interests.
by Robert Bunker, by Pamela Ligouri Bunker | Thu, 08/15/2019 - 4:20pm | 0 comments
New eBook out by Robert J. Bunker and Pamela Ligouri Bunker, "The Islamic State English-Language Online Magazine Rumiyah (Rome): Research Guide, Narrative & Threat Analysis and U.S. Policy Response". Reston, VA: Terrorism Research Center, August 2019, 130 pp.