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 Moe Gyo | Tue, 08/21/2018 - 8:48am | 0 comments
Insurgents have a symbiotic relationship with their popular support base. The people provide money, food/supplies, new recruits, and intelligence while the insurgents provide protection, advancement of social, economic, and political aims, and social services, e.g., education and health care. Oppressive regimes attempt to separate the insurgents from their popular support base, that is according to Mao Zedong, to dry up/divert the water (popular support base) in which the fish (insurgents) swim. The FBR organize-train-equip model design is worthy of study by the unconventional warfare community for its potential applicability to support insurgences through strengthening the bonds and rapport between insurgents and their popular support base.
by Waleed Hashmi | Tue, 08/21/2018 - 7:13am | 0 comments
Greater attention has been drawn in recent years to the atrocities committed in Balochistan. The decades-long insurgency has galvanized the nation and cannot be resolved until there is better investment in civil efforts. The Supreme Court and its affiliated judicial bodies must convince the military to respect the law and be an example of human rights. The armed groups in Balochistan have largely defeated themselves through infighting and a fractured leadership system. Pakistan should seize this opportunity to address the core grievances that Balochistan faces.
by Drew Shepler | Mon, 08/20/2018 - 6:44am | 4 comments
To date, there are dozens of scholarly articles speculating on the nature of Russian unconventional actions. This debate has only led to further inaction. Rather than debate over the appropriate response to a new generation of warfare, policymakers should recognize that the Russian government is conducting a form of warfare that has been firmly rooted in U.S. military doctrine for over 50 years.
by Alexandra Stark | Sun, 08/19/2018 - 5:42am | 0 comments
In early July, the Saudi Arabian-led coalition halted its siege of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah to allow space for UN efforts to negotiate a political settlement. After three plus years of conflict, the United States, through its support of the coalition, has not achieved its strategic goals in the region, while also suffering harm to its international reputation. The Trump Administration should take this opportunity to press its allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to negotiate an end to the civil war in Yemen.
by J. Robert Kane | Sat, 08/18/2018 - 12:39am | 3 comments
The U.S. military has re-orientated its efforts to countering and deterring Russia abroad. While American counterintelligence and law enforcement has focused on information warfare from Russian assets both abroad and in country, the military has re-shaped its training and deployment to reflect near-peer armed conflict in Europe. Commanders have lost sight of counterinsurgency theory and counterterrorism, replacing it with understanding the Russian way of war.
by Doyle Quiggle | Sat, 08/18/2018 - 12:28am | 0 comments
The Taliban fighter today does not seek honor. He seeks cleanliness. When contaminated, he uses blood, the blood of that which is non-Taliban, as soul bleach. Any act, no matter how far outside the realm of human decency or of traditional Afghan honor codes it may be, now becomes possible for a Taliban fighter as long as he cleanses himself in medias res or ex post facto, in blood. Without the modulating elaborations of honor-rooted, traditional, highly evolved, overlapping clan relationships, the resulting cultural product -- the Taliban's fighter -- is more primal, far less sophisticated, and far less stable and predictable than the traditional Afghan warrior.
by Diana Myers | Fri, 08/17/2018 - 5:20am | 0 comments
The United States’ network of alliances and partnerships is an often heralded military advantage. Yet, this advantage is in many ways shaped, advanced, and maintained through military to military relations, especially those built through military training. Training foreign military personnel in American military institutions is an effective form by which to enhance defense familiarity with allies and partners—it’s a valuable program for our country. In addition to educating and training foreign military officers, these education programs build lasting relationships among officers of different countries contributing to a critical network of defense personnel around the world.
by Huba Wass de Czege | Fri, 08/17/2018 - 4:52am | 0 comments
Read-ahead notes for a 19 July 2018 seminar with the “senior class” at The School of Advanced Military Studies, Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
by Robert Muggah, by Jean de Dieu Ntanga Ntita | Thu, 08/16/2018 - 12:40am | 0 comments
Many of Africa's armed conflicts constitute wicked problems. Across parts of the continent, organized violence is fusing political, criminal and extremist motives, explicitly targeting civilians and involving multiple armed groups. In many cases, regional players are involved — profiting from disorder even as they sue for peace. Complicating matters, national and subnational governments suffer from chronic weaknesses, with limited control over their borders and territories. Due to the many security dilemmas arising from competing groups and the corrosive effects of predatory violence, these conflicts are exceedingly difficult to resolve.
by Parker Asmann | Thu, 08/16/2018 - 12:22am | 0 comments
Mexico’s powerful drug cartels could be using armed drones to attack those impeding their criminal operations, marking the potential expansion of the use of this technology from just transporting drugs or carrying out surveillance.
by Doyle Quiggle | Wed, 08/15/2018 - 10:39am | 0 comments
Ethnic/tribal identity is so sensitive an issue in Afghanistan today that neither the CIA nor any other entity monitoring demographics in Afghanistan (or its Diasporas) can provide even ball-park statistics about how many or which specific individuals belong to what ethnic, tribal, clan, or sectarian groups (genetic testing is, however, beginning to secure some reliable ethnic data). While Taliban and most other violent extremists proudly self-identify as Pashtun, the tribal, clan, and ethnic identity of the other Afghan today tends to change depending on which side of the street he's standing, which goat path he's using, or the immigration agent to whom he's relating his refugee narrative.
by Yul Rapoport, by B.J. Adrezin, by Joel Garrison | Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:20am | 0 comments
This is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. This paper provides a framework on the future of war in 2050 and is also a call to action, providing examples of current and emerging nutritional research to help the Army take its first steps toward a nutrition revolution.
by J. Robert Kane | Tue, 08/14/2018 - 12:25am | 0 comments
In counterterrorism, the interrogation of high-value targets (HVTs) can be difficult. Rapport building can be near impossible because HVTs may be determined not to talk regardless of the approach strategies used by the interrogator. If these unconventional HVTs were members of a conventional military, it would be said that they possessed a high degree of resistance training.
by Morgan Smiley | Mon, 08/13/2018 - 4:15pm | 1 comment
Instead of creating a sixth service, I recommend radically reorganizing the U.S. Air Force (USAF), using its manpower and existing resources as the foundation for establishing the Space Force. In doing so, I recommend not only consolidating the space personnel and assets of the other services but also stripping the USAF of its fighter platforms and turning those over to the U.S. Army (and re-establish the Army Air Corps) allowing it to control and defend the airspace of the areas they’re fighting in and on.
by Keith Nightingale | Mon, 08/13/2018 - 6:24am | 0 comments
Today, the Army Rangers are a key component of the US Special Operations capability. Their participation in world-wide SOF operations, as portrayed in “Blackhawk Down”, highlights their employment in this role. It was not always so, and its transition to SOF was bitterly resisted by many within the Army structure. It was only due to force deficiencies in Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D) during the planning phase of the Iran rescue attempt, that forced their inclusion. From that, all else has flowed. Inclusion, now taken for granted, was a hard and bumpy road.
by Nicholas A. Glavin | Sun, 08/12/2018 - 5:26pm | 0 comments
The Syrian regime’s application of “reconciliation agreements” in northwest Syria risks accelerating the humanitarian situation for internally displaced persons and destabilizing areas previously liberated from ISIS. There are no longer viable options for relocating individuals from Idlib Governorate given the presence of Turkish or U.S.-led Coalition elements in the other areas that remain outside of the regime’s control.
by Abdul Rahman Rahmani | Sun, 08/12/2018 - 12:25pm | 0 comments
Selling military equipment in Kabul has become a cause for concern among both Afghans and their international partners. To maintain law and order, boost the morale of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and strengthen the trust between ANSF and ordinary Afghans, the Kabul police must ban selling military goods in open markets.
by Lyda Tesauro | Sun, 08/12/2018 - 12:24am | 2 comments
As outlined in this report, I chose a specific terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, and analyzed the role that they played in cyberterrorism. Throughout the paper, I discussed how the terrorist organization utilized the internet to indoctrinate as well as recruit likeminded extremist individuals, delved into how Al Qaeda used the internet to conduct cyberterrorism, included some insight into how this particular terrorist organization’s activities effect the larger topic of cybersecurity, and touched on what the future of Al Qaeda could be in the cyber realm. Hopefully, after reading this paper, people will not dismiss Al Qaeda’s cyberterrorist capabilities or underestimate them while they are probably in the process of refining their credibility in cyberspace.
by Janardhan Rao, by Richmond Blake | Sat, 08/11/2018 - 6:42pm | 0 comments
When we met with South Sudanese civil society leaders in Juba last month and asked about the latest peace agreement after a series of unsuccessful accords, one common retort was “same paper, same pens.” We share their impatience for peace, which is why we’re joining our voices with theirs and calling on the U.S. government to adopt a new approach that puts civilians first in South Sudan.
by Keith Nightingale | Sat, 08/11/2018 - 3:45am | 0 comments
The unit exists in an altered form today, but it is an example as to how the USG can effectively mix Title 10 and 50 rules to achieve a common end and how conventional bureaucracies can stifle needed imaginative resolutions. Part 1 of 3 - Rangers and TF160/SOAR to follow.
by J. Robert Kane | Fri, 08/10/2018 - 12:39am | 1 comment
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is the most rapidly advancing terrorist group of the past five years. The problem is that it is not a terrorist group at all. Just because a group commits grave atrocities and “terrorizes” citizen populations does not make it a terrorist group. That is not what terrorism means.
by Sarah Rowland | Fri, 08/10/2018 - 12:16am | 2 comments
The most significant weakness of the counterinsurgency efforts is that the Myanmar government has not addressed any of the root causes driving the ARSA insurgency. The Rohingya Muslims continue to be classified as stateless people due their lack of citizenship within Myanmar and the limited and nearly impossible methods for seeking naturalization or repatriation.
by Bryan Baker | Thu, 08/09/2018 - 12:28am | 0 comments
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) declared their insurgency in 1964 and did not sign a peace agreement with the Government of Colombia (GoC) until 2016. This qualifies the FARC insurgency as one of the longest running in history (Leech, 2011). Through fifty-two years of government attacks, terrible defeats, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and through the demobilization or defeat of many sister movements, the FARC persisted. In this paper, I will attempt to account for this persistence.
by Katherine Graef | Wed, 08/08/2018 - 2:19am | 0 comments
Special Operations Command Africa cannot go far alone, especially in Africa. While Special Operations Forces (SOF) are among the most expeditionary of all military forces, capable of providing their own SOF-specific sustainment, they still require common user logistics such as replenishment of supplies, reliable transportation, logistics services, and engineering support. It is this category of sustainment that is the most challenging in Africa and requires significant coordination within the logistics enterprise.
by Peter Polack | Wed, 08/08/2018 - 1:28am | 1 comment
What was most extraordinary about the guerrilla leader William Wallace was the speed in which a virtual unknown rose up to national leadership and the short time between his first action, the killing of the English Sherriff of Lanark in May 1297 and his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297, a mere four months later. Even more compelling was that within a year he had ceased his position as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce, the future King of Scotland, before disappearing until capture and vile execution on the orders of King Edward 1 of England in 1305, only eight years between rise and demise.
by Peter Layton | Tue, 08/07/2018 - 9:56am | 0 comments
Robotic technologies seem set to disrupt warfare in at least two big ways: firstly, in improving productivity making armies equipment-centric; and secondly, in making defence dominant on the battlefield. In this revolution, the character of war will change and somewhat unexpectedly, possibly its nature.
by Octavian Manea | Tue, 08/07/2018 - 3:00am | 1 comment
SWJ discussion with retired Lieutenant General Frederick Benjamin (Ben) Hodges, the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He is a former commander of the United States Army Europe (2014-2017). He co-authored (together with Janusz Bugajski and Peter Doran) the report – “Securing The Suwałki Corridor: Strategy, Statecraft, Deterrence, and Defense.”
by Sophia Kostopoulos | Mon, 08/06/2018 - 12:33am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. To predict learning in 2050, we must observe learning now in 2018; the technologies of learning, the culture of learning, and the audience of learning.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker, by David Kuhn | Mon, 08/06/2018 - 12:15am | 0 comments
This incident should be considered an escalation of cartel/gang drone use and certainly won’t be the last use of armed drones in Mexico’s crime wars or by terrorists and/or insurgents elsewhere. Indeed, as we complete this assessment, a drone attack on 4 August 2018 in Caracas characterized as an attempted assassination on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dominates the news. The effectiveness of these future drone attacks is expected to vary—indeed most can be expected to inflict limited damage—however over time the threat will likely mature, yielding enhanced lethality and operational effectiveness.
by Haider A. Haider | Sun, 08/05/2018 - 2:38am | 2 comments
This paper explores how special operations forces have adapted to working with counterparts at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in addressing violent extremism at the country level and how these adaptations relate to broader policy discussions. Two case studies will be used as the basis of the study to examine how civil affairs teams have integrated with missions in Jordan and Tajikistan.
by Thomas M. Williams | Sat, 08/04/2018 - 12:40pm | 0 comments
This essay challenges you to think differently about leadership, to see new meaning in familiar terms but specifically to draw an unfamiliar but hard distinction between leading and the functions of running an organization. It asks that you reject longstanding traditions about what is leadership or who is the leader and see it more as a collaborative effort, a state of being.
by Gary Anderson | Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:41am | 5 comments
America’s Navy is badly in need of reform. After eight years under Obama’s abysmal Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the Navy is under disciplined and largely lacking the basic skills needed to conduct seamanship - much less win a war at sea.
by Kyle Amonson | Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
Perhaps most significant change in the 21st century has been the shift in focus from state security to ‘human security’, viewed as a sorely needed venue for highlighting the particular vulnerabilities of peoples who suffer violence from representatives of the stat, as well as other forms of violence and injustices. While addressing the challenges of human security is a worthy cause, the ambiguity presented by the concept of examining human security is undeniable.
by Gil Barndollar | Thu, 08/02/2018 - 12:56am | 1 comment
Perhaps no army in history has ever juggled as wide and challenging an array of campaigns and conditions as the British Army did from 1897 to 1945. Battling enemies from Burma to Belgium, the British Army rapidly transformed itself from a small imperial constabulary to a war-winning conscript mass army, shrank back almost overnight, and then repeated the trick barely twenty years later. Through it all, from the height of empire to the Pyrrhic victory of the Second World War, one of the army’s few constants was ceaseless mountain warfare on the Northwest Frontier of India.
by Howard R. Simkin | Thu, 08/02/2018 - 12:38am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. This paper examines the term technological fluency as it applies to future Special Operations Forces in the 2030 – 2050 timeframe. It begins with a proposed definition. It then shapes the discussion.
by David Kampf | Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:47am | 0 comments
There are a record number of ongoing conflicts in Africa, pushing millions of people out of their homes. New conflicts are displacing new people while long-standing wars and refugee crises go unresolved. If responses to war and displacement do not improve, mounting problems will destabilize the region further.
by J. Robert Kane | Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:23am | 1 comment
Time and time again, counterterrorism experts both in cabinet policy and military capacities alike have contended that you cannot just kill your way to victory when it comes to countering terrorism or violent extremism. They have argued that kinetic acts, such as drone strikes or capturing battlefield combatants, do not so much as reduce terrorists or terrorist actions (albeit temporarily) as much as they fuel the fire to a new generation of extremists. Meanwhile, we have invested most of our counterterrorism resources to either killing or capturing terrorists despite these revelations.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Tue, 07/31/2018 - 12:22am | 3 comments
The CIA’s efforts in Tibet were successful because the objectives of the covert action campaign were reasonably limited and achievable with the resources available. While the Tibetans themselves may have nursed illusions of eventually driving all Chinese occupiers from their homeland, it is clear from the available records that the CIA and the political leadership in Washington were content to simply destabilize China and frustrate the Communists’ designs to spread their ideology throughout Asia.
by Jim Greer | Tue, 07/31/2018 - 12:07am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. "Today, in the summer of 2018, 2050 is only 32 years from now. As we explore education and training for 2050, perhaps we should reflect on where we were 32 years ago in 1986."
by Tom Ordeman, Jr. | Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:32am | 1 comment
America should teach each recruit, be they commissioned or enlisted, how to speak a foreign language. Clearly, the need for language proficiency organic to units facing host nation personnel is every bit as important in 2018 as it was in 2001. And yet, except for a select group of occupational specialties, foreign language proficiency among uniformed personnel remains a statistical blip.
by Franklin C. Annis | Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:10am | 0 comments
The benefits of peer-learning groups are numerous. They include the development of self-directed learning (self-development) skill, increased communication skills, improved interpersonal skills, a greater sense of teamwork, improved critical-thinking, enhanced problem-solving abilities, and many more. In this article, I will lay out an historic example of how one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, took advantage of a small group of peers to form a 'Junto', and will provide advice on building a modern peer-learning group.
by Tryce Hyman | Sun, 07/29/2018 - 6:32am | 0 comments
The SWORD Model possesses useful functionality in historical analysis, especially in cutting through the historiographic polemics of conflicts which remain contentious. Even this study’s cursory use of the SWORD Model, for the purposes of demonstration and proof of concept, has shed useful light on the Jewish Insurgency in Mandatory Palestine of 1945-47 and its temporal environs. Moving forward, the SWORD Model shows great promise as a tool for historical analysis in addition to its intended design as a guide to counterinsurgency doctrine.
by Madeleine Terry, by Elizabeth Andrews, by Heather Messera | Sat, 07/28/2018 - 12:12am | 0 comments
Conference report on the Center for Climate and Security, the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William & Mary (W&M) Law School, and the W&M Whole of Government Center of Excellence forum on 9 July. The widespread effects of Arctic melting and climate change on our society and overall well-being are relatively well understood today, but what about the effects of climate change on national security?
by Yossef Ben-Meir | Fri, 07/27/2018 - 10:19am | 0 comments
This essay explores the vast potential for human development in Morocco. Though Morocco is a country with many diverse resources, it remains burdened by severe levels of poverty and illiteracy, growing social discord. There have recently been increased public calls for participatory development programs designed and implemented by and for local people. The essay identifies six existing Moroccan Frameworks intended to initiate decentralized human development programs, and critically examines their efficacy.
by Jeff Groom | Fri, 07/27/2018 - 1:08am | 1 comment
How can change be affected? If current trends hold, one of two outcomes is likely. A catastrophic military defeat that exposes the corruption of the system and serves as a spark for change, or the fiscal reality of future deficits forces a reorganization. Either scenario is regrettable and avoidable yet without the political willpower coming from either party, only the future will tell. America suffering a Mohacs-style military defeat would indeed be poetic irony, as the plains of Mohacs were dotted with Swampy marshes.
by Brett Lindberg, by Stephen Hamilton, by Brian Lebiednik, by Kyle Hager | Fri, 07/27/2018 - 12:49am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal.
by J. Robert Kane | Thu, 07/26/2018 - 1:46am | 0 comments
Operation NICKEL GRASS permitted an Israeli victory over the Arabs. The post-mortem assessment of the US role in the 1973 war revealed general Israeli dependence on the US in the conflict. And while Operation NICKEL GRASS was integral for an Israeli victory, the WSAG discussion and debate to its national security imperative was heavily contested.
by Charles Heard | Thu, 07/26/2018 - 12:40am | 1 comment
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal.
by William Allen | Wed, 07/25/2018 - 1:58am | 0 comments
The most celebrated political and military figure in the Horn of Africa may be Sayyid Mohammad Abdullah Hassan, a leader credited with constructing modern Somali political identity. Known as the ‘bard of Somalia,’ Hassan is oft considered the exemplar of colonial resistance, honored by numerous statues in the region.
by Christopher Davis | Wed, 07/25/2018 - 1:27am | 0 comments
Part of what separated World War I from all the previous conflicts in human history was its global scope. Though nearly all the significant battles of the war were fought in Europe, the process of imperialism and colonialism, begun long before the cataclysm of 1914, ensured that Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas would participate in the conflict in one way or another.