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 Max Erdemandi | Wed, 04/03/2019 - 1:43pm | 0 comments
The truth is, however - as ugly as it may sound - Turkey is not a major world power. President Erdogan is painfully aware that Turkish political and military power is as relevant as the superpower to whom he can hitch his wagon - whether it is the U.S. or Russia. Hence, he continues to play a dangerous game of Russian roulette (pun is definitely intended) to gain more leverage with both countries to get what he wants.
by Robert Bunker, by John P. Sullivan | Wed, 04/03/2019 - 2:32am | 0 comments
The Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL), also known as the Cártel de Guanajuato, Cártel de Santa Rosa, or el Cártel del Marro, is a criminal cartel operating in the Mexican state of Guanajuato (Gto.). Its principle enterprise is huichicol or fuel theft. The competition for the illicit petroleum trade has led to violent conflict with their rival—the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). This tactical note reviews the symbology (logos and symbols) used by the CSRL.
by Peter Layton | Tue, 04/02/2019 - 6:20am | 0 comments
A new industrial process is rapidly emerging. This fourth industrial revolution (4IR) based on hyper-connectivity brings with it both continual – indeed relentless – innovation and the possibility of practical large-scale prototype warfare.
by Jonathan C. Nielsen | Tue, 04/02/2019 - 3:29am | 0 comments
Does the U.S. Army need a dogma? Before you say yes or no, let’s consider a few points worth debating.
by Michael Gladius | Mon, 04/01/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
Maneuver Warfare has several real weaknesses that do not translate well into the American way of war. In this essay, we will look at 2 ways in which maneuver warfare can be defined, their weaknesses, and then how America can incorporate their benefits into its own doctrine.
by Scott Harr | Mon, 04/01/2019 - 12:20am | 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 Stephen B. Young | Sun, 03/31/2019 - 1:36pm | 0 comments
"To treat Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as Westphalian states where the national government has real authority is to ignore reality. Those countries need “nation-building” in order to become Westphalian states capable of enforcing border control and providing sufficient public security and economic development so that their people are happy and content to live out their lives in their local communities under a viable and just national state political system."
by Kiril Avramov | Sat, 03/30/2019 - 3:08am | 0 comments
Modern day “condottieri”, a new type of modern “soldiers of fortune”, is emerging center stage. Namely, the ascent of a new breed, one that could be best described as “digital mercenaries”. The advent of these new professionals is of no less importance than their “traditional” counterparts who provide muscle and boots on the ground in distant and difficult environments.
by David Murphy | Fri, 03/29/2019 - 2:22am | 0 comments
Lawrence’s account of the campaign, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom suggests that this was a campaign of tribal raiding, occasionally bolstered with further assets. However, a closer reading of the surviving sources shows that, between 1916 and 1918, the Arab armies were developing quite dramatically in terms of their operational abilities. Furthermore, the increasing levels of investment in terms of officers, money and material would suggest that the revolt was viewed by Allied commanders as much more than a mere sideshow. This was particularly true for the British and the French. Far from being a rather haphazard romantic affair led by one eccentric British officer, by 1918, dozens of British and French advisors had been assigned to help train and direct the Arab forces.
by Reyes Cole | Thu, 03/28/2019 - 5:59am | 0 comments
The belief that peer/near-peer/VEO competitors and adversaries will only fight us via traditional warfare, man to man, tank to tank, ship to ship, and plane to plane, are missing the historical and present day reality that these designated threats are currently competing and prevailing over us via Irregular Warfare activities in the competition space, and doing so quite successfully.
by Shawn Peerenboom | Thu, 03/28/2019 - 3:56am | 0 comments
"As terror groups such as ISIS gain more experience using social media platforms, the structure of posts and the methods used to promote the posts are becoming similar to the strategies a business would use to promote a product on those platforms. Although, the groups can’t directly mimic a business. They generally are blocked from using straightforward promotion tools put in place by the platform, such as advertisements or paid promotions. Groups like ISIS also tend to violate the terms of service for the social media platforms they are using. Much like the battle between cyber attacks and cyber security, terrorist organizations are continually adapting to circumvent detection and removal by the platforms they are using."
by Franklin C. Annis | Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:11pm | 0 comments
On March 25th, the National Guard Bureau officially announced new branding for recruiting. The traditional “Minuteman” logo will no longer appear on recruiting materials. It was reported that the image did not “resonate” with 16-18-year-old high school students because of lack of knowledge of the historic symbol.
by Paul Rexton Kan | Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:16am | 0 comments
Modeled on the Iranian Basij militia, the 'colectivos' have targeted critical media outlets, opposition politicians, and dissidents as well as exerted control over entire neighborhoods and towns. They have operated death squads with the full acquiescence of Venezuela’s intelligence agencies and in partnership with the military. Venezuela’s previous president, Hugo Chavez, organized these paramilitary groups to protect the gains of his self-proclaimed Bolivarian Revolution from the perceived threat of external powers. They rapidly transformed into a force to prop-up the political elite and to preserve the power of the regime.
by Kimberly Imri Metcalf | Wed, 03/27/2019 - 4:08am | 0 comments
With limited resources and policy that was constructed as it was being implemented, the US supported a coalition of Syrian forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF and their anti-Islamic State coalition liberated Kobane and Manbij in 2016, and then moved onto to Raqqa in 2017, and finally Baghouz in 2019 beating the Islamic State into a corner of Syria. Despite this massive military accomplishment and territorial success, the heartbeat behind the ideology isn’t dead, in fact it might be growing stronger.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Tue, 03/26/2019 - 1:04am | 0 comments
The beauty of writing this article on leadership is that anyone who reads it can agree with it or not. This article affords the writer an opportunity to create a body of thought that encourages careful consideration and opportunity to the reader to look at the subject of leadership development and education differently.
by John Harrison, by Matthew Kawas, by Chase Sargeant | Mon, 03/25/2019 - 12:58am | 0 comments
After a 20-year hiatus since the fall of the Soviet Union, the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) identify a new great power competition as the priority security threat to the United States. Although focused on Europe with Russia, and Asia with China, this great power competition is just as applicable in Latin America where China is aggressively using the economic instrument of power.
by Franklin C. Annis | Mon, 03/25/2019 - 12:43am | 0 comments
We will begin our examination of talent management by first examining the philosophy behind this program and how talent management might be best applied to AMEDD Officers of the Army National Guard. Once we gain understanding of the appropriate talent management philosophy, we can further explore how this philosophy could be put into practice.
by Mike Karlson | Sun, 03/24/2019 - 12:02am | 0 comments
The Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide Crimes is a stark reminder to the world of the human cost of war. It stands shoulder to shoulder in time with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, inscribed with the names of the over 58,000 American servicemembers that gave their lives during the Vietnam War. This former school in Cambodia, and the black granite wall in Washington, D.C., can serve as metaphors for how history can both present or hinder opportunities in the future.
by David Retherford | Sat, 03/23/2019 - 11:39am | 0 comments
Myke Cole has written a new book covering ancient Hellenistic phalanx and Roman legion warriors. The author’s work focused on Hellenistic and Roman military unit formations with a tactical analysis. Cole’s work spans a time period from approximately the 3rd through the 2nd century BC battlefields with a discipline focus. Cole’s main argument focuses on the tactical success and failure of the phalanx and legion military units.
by Marc J. O'Connor | Sat, 03/23/2019 - 8:41am | 0 comments
This paper explores the application and effects of locally-produced electronic warfare systems in the environment of the Fourth Generation (4GW) ‘come-as-you-are’ war in the context of a non-state actor using such systems to produce military effects for mission support and strategic influence, in order develop and facilitate competition as a peer/near-peer competitor against a state or other incumbent actor.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Fri, 03/22/2019 - 7:03am | 0 comments
Officials in Guanajuato (Gto.) state have confirmed that alleged huachicolero (fuel theft) capo José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, known as “El Marro,” is believed to have eluded capture on Monday 6 March 2019 by escaping through a series of tunnels. The presence of a functional tunnel network to further fuel theft operations by the Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) illustrates the tactical complexities of underground/tunnel operations in counter-cartel operations.
by William Gawthrop | Fri, 03/22/2019 - 5:26am | 0 comments
Islam is a civilization, ideology, culture, body of law, as well as a religion. An argument can be made that no other civilization is as tightly interconnected among its five domains as is Islam. Research into one domain initiates a response from the other four domains. In many cases, critical analysis into sensitive civilizational, ideological, cultural, or legal issues results in the outcries from the religious domain sending researchers and their supervisors into retreat.
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 | 0 comments
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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 comments
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 | 0 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 | 0 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 | 0 comments
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."