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 Jim Golby | Sun, 07/01/2018 - 3:19pm | 0 comments
Throughout most of human history, societies and governments have failed to maintain the balance between liberty and security. It is not something we should take for granted. If we do, we once again will have realized the worst fears of the Framers and that would be a “dire” consequence indeed.
by Faith Stewart, by Andrew Byers | Sun, 07/01/2018 - 12:39pm | 0 comments
The death of Osama bin Laden ended one of the longest manhunts in U.S. history and was a satisfying moment for all those who had participated in the decades-long endeavor, but it did not result in the dissolution of al-Qaeda. Unlike many terror groups, al-Qaeda is a many-headed organization, making it capable of surviving even the death of its founder.
by Chris Telley | Fri, 06/29/2018 - 12:40am | 0 comments
The criminal micro-sovereignty is a diametric opposite of the Westphalian ideal, and offers a powerfully sustainable, but morally repugnant, alternative to any modern governance model. This new insurgent is not interested in taking control of the state to enact a policy agenda or ideologic revolution but aims instead to cripple its host as a path toward business efficiency.
by Jaim Coddington, by Casey LaMar | Fri, 06/29/2018 - 12:20am | 0 comments
A proactive, and therefore better, strategy for combating threat IW should combine IW force protection and IW network engagement into an umbrella program that this paper calls IW buffering.
by Donald E. Vandergriff | Thu, 06/28/2018 - 1:03am | 0 comments
The Army defines Mission Command as the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations. But before a culture of Mission Command (Auftragstaktik) succeeds, the Army must possess the moral courage to identify countless Industrial Age barriers
by Jeff Groom | Wed, 06/27/2018 - 1:26pm | 1 comment
The readiness crisis is not in dispute. But what should be investigated is from where have we fallen? And more importantly, to where should we return, and why? Or more simply, what is the proper size of the military to achieve readiness and assigned missions?
by Frank Hoffman | Wed, 06/27/2018 - 12:16am | 1 comment
The new National Defense Strategy (NDS) identifies China and Russia as our primary competitors. Some members of the defense community misread the NDS as embracing great power wars and perceive these as purely conventional wars. Some even suggest that the Pentagon reflexively yearns for a large conventional threat, so it can get back to what it wants to, fighting peers and justifying its technologically oriented hardware programs.
by Richard A. Carrick | Tue, 06/26/2018 - 2:10am | 1 comment
As the United States enters its eighteenth year in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. military remains no closer to ending this conflict. President Trump has given the U.S. military one last chance to implement a new strategy to end the conflict. For him, the American people, the Afghans, and the U.S. military the decisive point in this long conflict is rapidly approaching.
by Bing West | Tue, 06/26/2018 - 1:35am | 1 comment
Reproduced with permission of the Marine Corps Gazette - October 1967, pp. 38-44, by Captain F.J. West, Jr., USMCR. The Marines had the fastest rifles in the village of Binh Nghia. It wasn't long until the second fastest belonged to their comrades-in-arms, the Popular Forces.
by Nathan Meehan | Mon, 06/25/2018 - 6:15am | 0 comments
Peacekeepers need the ability to distinguish threats from the larger population they are meant to protect. Through early identification, preemptive action to a threat can reduce the need to use force, decrease the likelihood that the observer or civilian will suffer injury, and facilitate the protection of human rights.
by Christopher Flaherty | Sat, 06/23/2018 - 12:27am | 0 comments
Recent trends in the use of weapons by terrorist, extremist or violent attackers points to a dynamic field of options, representing a spectrum from the highly complex to the simple weaponization of common everyday items. Rather than a linear progression from the simple to the complex, or devolution from the complex to the simple, there is an elastic set of polar options, that attackers range between.
by Nick Brunetti-Lihach | Fri, 06/22/2018 - 12:39am | 0 comments
History has shown successful military innovation requires leaders with vision, temperament, and conviction. A vision establishes an objective, even temperament builds a cohesive team, and conviction lends passion and patience to that end.
by Donald E. Vandergriff | Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:17pm | 0 comments
As an institution, the U.S. Army has yet to see Mission Command as what it really is - a culture of professionalism. All too often, we have sought tangible metrics at the expense of holistic understanding.
by Peter Layton | Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:30am | 0 comments
Grand strategy may seem an irrelevant idea but it’s not. As Colin Gray declares “all strategy is grand strategy.” Without a grand strategy that explains the ends, works the means and sets out the ways, lower-level strategies will be uncoordinated, work at odds with each other and be unlikely to succeed. It should be thought of as a practical problem-solving methodology you can apply to particular real-world problems. This article rethinks grand strategy to provide just that.
by Bryan Baker | Wed, 06/20/2018 - 3:51pm | 0 comments
Freedom of movement is a long established civil right in free societies. Today, however, this right has been sacrificed as a part of America’s War on Terror. In the name of preventing illegal entries into the US, citizens across America are being stopped by armed Border Patrol (BP) agents at interior checkpoints—up to 100 miles inside of the border—and asked any of a series of questions: “Do you own this car? Are those your kids? Are you an American citizen?” “What is your social security number? “What is your phone number?” “What company do your work for?”
by William Spach | Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:49am | 0 comments
Both ideologies emphasize using violence to overthrow the existing international order and replace it with a strict, intolerant doctrine. Of the similarities, one of the most foundational is an emphasis on appealing to disenfranchised members of a middle class and the groups’ exploitation of middle class identity to achieve their goals.
by Daniel H. Heinke | Tue, 06/19/2018 - 12:07am | 1 comment
This sketch intends to highlight the need for an expanded systematic cooperation between those state actors tasked with ‘external’ security and those responsible for homeland security. It expands on the role of law enforcement in counter-terrorism brief the author delivered in a multi-national environment of both military and law enforcement practitioners.
by Margaret Loper | Mon, 06/18/2018 - 6:22pm | 0 comments
Cities may be the first to benefit from the IoT, but reliance on these machines to make decisions has profound implications for trust. 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 AT&T Global Public Sector | Mon, 06/18/2018 - 6:21am | 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 AT&T Global Public Sector: Roger Wong, Usha Mohan, Michael Canty, Tina Chester, Richard Chung and Terry White.
by Gary Anderson | Sun, 06/17/2018 - 12:14am | 0 comments
If I were a commander in Afghanistan today, my first question on visiting an Afghan air base would be; “what is your aircraft readiness rate”? If it is less than 70%, I’d want to talk to the mechanics. That would say volumes.
by Donald E. Vandergriff | Sat, 06/16/2018 - 8:17am | 0 comments
The U.S. Army spills the words "Mission Command" everywhere from its literature, PowerPoint briefings, doctrine manuals, and professional journals that now seem to include an article on "Mission Command" in every issue. The U.S. Army culture, while it aspires to adopt a concept originating in German military thought, has in reality cultivated a culture that more closely emulates the French Army culture during the interwar period (1918-1939).
by Andrew Schoka | Fri, 06/15/2018 - 6:59am | 0 comments
Maneuver theory has now evolved to consider the first man-and-machine-made domain, in which cyberspace, as an artificial information domain, overlaps, intersects, and engages with the four other warfighting domains. The unique nature of the cyberspace warfighting domain presents a host of distinct challenges and considerations to maneuver thinking, requiring a change to the approach of training maneuver warfare principles for military cyberspace leaders.
by Matthew A. Cronin | Fri, 06/15/2018 - 5:40am | 1 comment
A policy decision in 2015 requires the integration of women into all military occupational specialties (MOS), including combat MOS if they meet the appropriate standards. Human history shows that women participated in war in supporting roles, but did not fight as combatants. The risks associated with changing this fundamental characteristic of human society should be assessed considering science.
by Leon Young, by Timothy Keeffe | Thu, 06/14/2018 - 12:37am | 0 comments
There is a clear requirement for the development of strategic thinking in modern militaries that is not being addressed by the JPME continuum. This short article proposes a generalised model that frames the development of strategic thinking through a deliberate pedagogy and a suggested set of activities is provided.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Wed, 06/13/2018 - 1:00am | 0 comments
There are 12 critical areas that must be addressed to ensure the Army is successful in the future. None of what appears here has to do with technology, but rather people, our most important asset.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Tue, 06/12/2018 - 12:13am | 2 comments
Lebanese Hezbollah, in the face of dwindling external financial support from the Iranian government between 2006 and 2012, diversified its funding streams by establishing lucrative and expansive narcotics smuggling and sales networks around the world. This narcotics trade is now arguably Hezbollah’s largest consistent source of revenue, enabling it to conduct terrorist activities, fund its charitable projects in Lebanon, and portray itself as a legitimate political and resistance movement.
by Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, by Samuel Casey | Mon, 06/11/2018 - 9:31am | 0 comments
This “letter home” is presented as part of the TRADOC G2's "Soldier 2050" Call for Ideas. This material will form a compendium of thoughts and ideas that will support the exploration of future bio-convergence implications on the Army of 2050.
by Lydia Kostopoulos | Mon, 06/11/2018 - 3:53am | 1 comment
This paper was submitted to ‘Small Wars Journal’ as part of the TRADOC G2’s Mad Scientist Initiative. Today they can say that the future of increasingly autonomous combat is preordained. Perhaps it is ‘written on the walls’, but I would remind those who say that; that there is still more space to write on the walls.
by John Bolton | Sun, 06/10/2018 - 12:04am | 0 comments
This paper analyzes how the Army’s Bureaucratic mindset, educational heuristics, and focus on big data negatively affects developing Situational Awareness. It argues that the Army’s bureaucratic mindset common throughout the Army and resident in DMCS presumes an ability to quantify the world based on faulty determinative assumptions.
by Hans Winkler, by Robert Kerr | Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:35am | 0 comments
As we dig deeper into the AFPAK Hands program, several holistic trends begin to surface. Although program management should be a topic addressed in future research, this article highlights a few disconnects that stand out during this review.
by Morwari Zafar | Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:16am | 0 comments
The deteriorating security in western Afghanistan may soon be worsened by a water crisis. A snowballing militancy, desiccating wetlands, and environmental migration create a trifecta of challenges to test the mettle of the Afghan government and complicate its already-tense relations with Iran.
by Chad M. Pillai | Thu, 06/07/2018 - 12:26am | 2 comments
With a better understanding of the Dark Arts that TSOCs and SOF planners bring to Joint Force Planners along with a clear understanding of desired effects, the more effective strategic and operational plans will be in competing and defending our nation’s national interests.
by Jason Rutledge | Thu, 06/07/2018 - 12:07am | 2 comments
This “letter home” is presented as part of the TRADOC G2's "Soldier 2050" Call for Ideas. This material will form a compendium of thoughts and ideas that will support the exploration of future bio-convergence implications on the Army of 2050.
by Eviya Vitola, by Jose Delgado | Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:28am | 0 comments
The idea of a Seaborne Mobile Operating Base was first seriously considered when the United States entered Operation Desert Shield in the 1990s. This proposed base concept could have virtually unlimited capabilities, and if appropriately implemented could provide more than just a floating air strip, but a town-sized base.
by John Gillette, by Mark Rocke | Tue, 06/05/2018 - 8:19am | 4 comments
It is well established, in lessons learned and academic research, that advisory success is predicated, or conditioned, upon three foundational requirements which depend on the ability to: (1) understand the historical, social, and cultural context in which the advising mission is being performed; (2) adapt individual behavior to operate effectively within this context; and (3) establish effective, productive relationships with counterparts.
by Hans Winkler, by Robert Kerr | Tue, 06/05/2018 - 1:06am | 0 comments
One of the more celebrated culture-oriented initiatives in the DoD is the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AFPAK) Hands program. Originally designed to strengthen long-term stability between allies and immerse military service members deep within the cultures and languages of Afghanistan and Pakistan, many within the DoD see the program as a glowing success. So successful in fact, that some military leaders want to replicate AFPAK Hands and create similar programs with a focus on other regions of the world. Yet, little to no work exists that examines the effectiveness of the program.
by Jessica Malekos Smith | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:48am | 1 comment
Although Israel achieved a tactical victory in the First Lebanon War, it was a ‘strategic mishap’ because it catalyzed Hezbollah’s formation, failed to produce a durable peace agreement with Lebanon and set in motion the Second Lebanon War of 2006. This essay evaluates the causes and outcome of the two Lebanon wars.
by Kyle Amonson | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:09am | 0 comments
Foreign policy often implores the inquiry, is war necessary to solve foreign policy challenges? It is not, however, the capability to wage, and win, conflict is necessary. War is often the insurance plan in the periphery of successful foreign policy, ready to be called upon when foreign policy no longer suits national interests or effectively ensures security.
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 06/03/2018 - 11:59am | 0 comments
The Normandy invasion is usually depicted with great crashes, bangs and volcanic energy combined with broad scenes of masses of material and manpower. But we should remember and reflect that the invasion began with subtle sounds and vibrations and brought the message of liberation to Europe on cat’s paws growing to crescendo. We remember and depict the crescendos but forget the subtlety of sounds that brought it all together.
by Luis Jorge Garay-Salamanca, by Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran, by Guillermo Macías | Sun, 06/03/2018 - 1:39am | 0 comments
This article defines and describes some strategies used to analyze the criminal structure known as “Lava Jato”, a transnational macro-corruption network. Likewise, the main results of this analysis are also discussed.
by Victor R. Morris | Fri, 06/01/2018 - 10:39am | 0 comments
Designing accurate wargames is necessary for planning operations resulting in stable and resilient end states. This article is the first installment of Bizarro World’s “Bizarrotan scenario” aiming to successfully link short-term military capabilities with long-term political objectives in a complex operational environment.
by Carter F. Smith | Thu, 05/31/2018 - 1:21pm | 0 comments
Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) have received military training such as tactics, weapons, explosives, or equipment, and the use of distinctive military skills. Gangs with military-trained members often pose an ongoing and persistent military and political threat. At least one tenth of one percent of the U.S. population is an MTGM, and there are between 150,000 and 500,000 MTGMs.
by Jason Scott | Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:45pm | 0 comments
Although not the number one perpetrator of offensive cyber operations, Russia has a significant presence in the global cyber warfront with substantial information warfare capabilities. They view information warfare as an offensive capability and have integrated it into their national strategic military framework.
by Ryan Orsini | Wed, 05/30/2018 - 10:09am | 0 comments
This article identifies future complications in achieving physical and psychological isolation, which both historically and doctrinally are so essential to successfully achieving military objectives in urban terrain. Furthermore, this article outlines tactical leader application of a new urban operational framework to understand and achieve both physical and psychological isolation in this future environment.
by Matthew Krause | Tue, 05/29/2018 - 8:10am | 0 comments
The rule of law effort Afghanistan since 2001 is the equivalent to the securing of only one side of the transitional justice bridge: the high side. This has not produced the rule of law as quickly and in the form that western brokers would have liked because there was little to no input and buy-in from the people, representing the low side.
by Thomas R. McCabe | Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:38am | 0 comments
As the ISIS statelet in Syria and Iraq is eradicated, an obvious question is what will happen in the aftermath of that eradication. We must remember that that the statelet in Syria and Iraq was only part--although a central part-- of ISIS, which was, functionally speaking, in some ways a worldwide entity mobilized by social media and tied together by the internet—the ‘virtual caliphate.’
by Scott A. Porter | Mon, 05/28/2018 - 3:34am | 0 comments
War is, and always will remain, a human endeavor. Corps and division commanders develop command climates that are inclusive and foster adaptive mindsets. Strong bonds between leaders must exist based on mutual trust and a shared sense of purpose that enables the free flow of ideas, including those from multi-national allies and partners. Especially in today’s digital age, senior commanders in large-scale combat operations must circulate the battlefield, being a leader of presence and engage soldiers in dialogue.
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 05/27/2018 - 12:10pm | 1 comment
This year marks the 74th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. As time proceeds, the memories diminish and the significance ebbs into oblivion. There are occasional bursts of “remembrance” that capture a moment in time and permit some symbolic gesture for an historical event largely lost in time. This year, Presidents, Prime Ministers and the panoply of civilization will assemble on the week of the 6th of June to commemorate acts of long ago and to pledge fealty to that spirit and sacrifice.
by Nicholas Hargreaves-Heald | Sun, 05/27/2018 - 1:18am | 1 comment
Iranian unconventional warfare activities since 1982 have proved extensive. Their successes in Lebanon and Iraq came in the face of some of the world’s most significant military, economic, and political powers. In Syria, these successes culminated in a cunning (albeit simple) augmentation of their previous operational approach which allowed for a unified Expeditionary Force capable of executing complex military maneuvers.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Sat, 05/26/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
Mexico’s General Election will be held on 1 July 2018. This year’s election will include the Presidential election for the new Sexenio as well as for 128 members of the Senate and 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies. State and local elections are also being held for 8 governors, the head of government for Mexico City, and a variety of municipal officials, including mayors, municipal judges, and council members. A significant number of politicians and candidates have been killed in election-related attacks from organized crime groups in the build up to the election.