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 SWJ Editors | Sat, 01/05/2019 - 8:01am | 1 comment
General Charles C. Krulak (31st Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps) talked about conflict and combat around the world and the future of the Marine Corps and his role in the process of modernizing and improving the Marines. He said he was focusing on preparing and training the Marines for the 21st century and different types of conflict and battle. Following his prepared remarks, General Krulak took questions from the audience. National Press Club, 10 October 1997.
by Charles Cameron | Sat, 01/05/2019 - 6:19am | 0 comments
This essay has been written specifically for Small Wars Journal—El Centro as part of an ongoing Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán research project that will be published as a future eBook.
by Erik Grossman | Thu, 01/03/2019 - 12:37am | 3 comments
This essay therefore holds the assumption that engaging in UN-led enforcement operations is to the geopolitical benefit of the United States and endeavors to answer the following question: If the United States chooses to contribute to UN peace enforcement operations, to what extent should this effort be privatized? To answer this question, this essay defines UN peace enforcement and examines the present and potential role of private military and security companies (PMSCs), as well as the role of PMSCs in the US's current enforcement model. The advantages and disadvantages of using PMSCs are then addressed, followed by a recommendation that the United States seek to privatize its UN peace enforcement contributions by engaging PMSCs.
by Bryan Baker | Wed, 01/02/2019 - 7:03am | 0 comments
In this essay, the author describes and evaluates Putin's pragmatism, explains that this pragmatism grew increasingly assertive over time due to Western encroachments in the Former Soviet Union, and concludes that the crisis in Ukraine shows this strategy has provided significant payoffs for Russia.
by Kyle Amonson | Tue, 01/01/2019 - 3:17am | 0 comments
If Saddam Hussein had remained in power, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as Daesh, may not have been able to secure a foothold and establish dominance in the region. This counterfactual approach specifically assesses Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship as a stabilizing factor in the state of Iraq, effectively opposing transnational terrorist networks like Daesh.
by G. Murphy Donovan | Mon, 12/31/2018 - 2:20pm | 3 comments
Foreign policy in the Trump era is a tug-of-war, a test of wills between national pragmatists and global utopians. Binary equations might be simplistic, but if it has done nothing else, the Trump agenda has exposed the venal politics and pratfalls of “social” democracies, here and in Europe. The contest is a struggle, as irony would have it, between voices arguing for change and the “business as usual” crowd.
by Stephen B. Young | Mon, 12/31/2018 - 5:15am | 3 comments
Failure of national authorities in Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras pose risks to the well-being of the United States. First, state failure in El Salvador and Honduras creates migrant flows seeking refuge in the United States as a safe-haven for families. Second, state failure in each of these countries could grow into complete collapse of state authority and the rise to power of authoritarian regimes such as in Cuba and Venezuela which will collaborate with geo-political rivals of the United States in contravention of the Monroe Doctrine. Third, instability of social orders, economics, and politics in the countries immediately to our south will decrease regional progress towards higher living standards, undermining quality of life in our part of the world
by Ron Iammartino, by Gary Whelan, by John M. Fossaceca, by Todd Doherty, by Grant Hume | Sun, 12/30/2018 - 8:09am | 0 comments
A proliferation of information technology advances have disrupted the modern world, which has accelerated the pace of change and expanded the body of knowledge in nearly every human endeavor. Previously isolated events now have near immediate, pervasive effects for militaries, politics, and cultures worldwide. The implications of these changing conditions are perhaps most applicable to how the Chairman has expressed the criticality of global integration for military operations across Combatant Commands and Areas of Responsibility.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Sat, 12/29/2018 - 9:37am | 2 comments
The President made it clear for some time that he is not in favor of these wars. His advisors, Senior Civilians, and Generals had almost two years to figure out how to disengage and they did not get it done. The President probably grew weary of hearing that if we depart, ISIS will resurge in the political vacuum.
by Bülend Özen | Fri, 12/28/2018 - 6:08pm | 0 comments
This essay considers the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of strategic thought. Specifically, it assesses the prospects of a new ‘post-strategy’ era dominated by AI and new technologies.
by Malcolm Beith | Fri, 12/28/2018 - 12:17am | 0 comments
Contrary to his campaign pledges, Lopez Obrador appears to be planning to use the military and the new national guard in much the same way as his predecessors. The day after his inauguration, he oversaw a ceremony at the national military HQ, the Campo Marte in Mexico City, and praised the troops. “Together, we’ll make history!” he said, repeating his campaign slogan, before emphasizing the need for both a national guard and the armed forces to bring peace to the Mexican people.
by Keith Nightingale | Thu, 12/27/2018 - 8:54pm | 0 comments
Christmas Day 1944, near Trois-Pont, Belgium, was truly a white Christmas. It was also incredibly cold, especially for those 82nd paratroopers that were holding a tenuous thin line against the best combined armed force the German army could muster. Due to the lack of manpower, men were scattered in two-man foxholes across a much broader front than normal tactics dictated. In such situations, necessity breeds violation.
by Gordon James Knowles | Wed, 12/26/2018 - 1:31am | 0 comments
Al-Qaeda religious extremist theology is a negative social movement in Brazil. Additional factors such as poverty, discrimination, and government inefficiency will permit radical Islamists to multiply and the Al-Qaeda terroristic theology to become a dangerous social movement in Brazil. Human terrain analysis and sociological intelligence notes that Al-Qaeda has embedded themselves into benevolent and peaceful Islamic communities of Brazil. Failure to believe that Al-Qaeda is not active in Brazil is a major social problem and intelligence failure.
by Naman Habtom-Desta | Wed, 12/26/2018 - 12:16am | 0 comments
The Ogaden War, though officially ending in 1978, sparked rapid militarization as well as political repression on a heightened level within Ethiopia, which in turn triggered the conflagration of the Civil War itself. Political radicalization doesn’t attack outwards but rather inwards. The Red Terror, having claimed up to possibly half a million lives.
by Tamim Asey | Mon, 12/24/2018 - 7:02pm | 1 comment
SWJ Editor’s Note: With the U.S. troop draw-down and the increased and accelerated emphasis on Afghan security force capabilities, this may be the most important paper SWJ has ever published. "To win this war we need good intelligence. Right now, we are throwing our swords in darkness"
by Kyle Amonson | Mon, 12/24/2018 - 2:19pm | 2 comments
To recognize the shift in the challenges of the 21st century, we must recognize that the international community is now marked by a manifesto of globalization. In this modern environment, without cooperation, states may fail to learn of impending attacks as terrorists plot against them from foreign lands, or they may watch as terrorist suspects remain free because of lack of extradition agreements or sharing of evidence.
by Ryan N. Mannina | Sun, 12/23/2018 - 4:42pm | 7 comments
The United States was on the verge of achieving a lasting victory in the Iraq War after a costly seven-year occupation and the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. troops. In 2006, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had lost its charismatic leader and chief strategist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Over the next few years, the organization lost its base of support as Iraq’s Sunni tribes turned against it and began fighting beside US and Iraqi troops to eject the terrorists from their communities. By 2010, Iraq had emerged from its civil war and AQI had become irrelevant. Then, President Barack Obama made two strategic mistakes that reversed that progress and sent Iraq spiraling back down the path of sectarian violence.
by Franklin C. Annis | Sat, 12/22/2018 - 5:33pm | 1 comment
Why should we study military history? It is an interesting question that I believe most will never take the time to fully analyze. As an U.S. Army Officer, my gut reaction to this question was to answer, “It is an expectation in my profession.” But this explanation falls far short of the true purposes we should be investing in while studying military history.
by Michael Gladius | Fri, 12/21/2018 - 10:11am | 3 comments
In the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (Senate Bill 2987), Congress has proposed reorganizing America’s armed forces. Under the new model, the Army will handle conventional warfare, while the Marine Corps will handle counterinsurgencies. This reorganization would benefit all branches by aligning each branch’s culture and mentality with their respective real-world needs. In this essay, we will look at the three branches (Navy, Marine Corps, and Army) and explore how each branch will benefit, individually.
by Benjamin Aziza | Fri, 12/21/2018 - 8:40am | 0 comments
This paper explores the two aspects that makes Morocco’s CT/CVE strategy unique: 1) the promotion of moderate Maliki Islam, and 2) fighting poverty and investment in the public of the country. While other countries may have taken a similar approach, most have not done so on the scale in which Morocco has.
by Malcolm Beith | Thu, 12/20/2018 - 12:04pm | 0 comments
Kabila still controls everything and is forcing even the most skeptical to dance to his tune, and there’s little doubt he will ever truly leave. He is allowing the electoral process to take its course; but he won’t contest the election because he won’t have to. Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, his candidate —or surrogate, as some observers contend—will win the vote. “Kabila has no option but to make his heir apparent win, by hook or by crook.”
by Matthew R. Doherty | Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:35am | 0 comments
Both operations were based on three key tenets of control: population control, food control and spatial control. Population control involved exerting enough force over the target population so that they would (or could) not provide support to active insurgent forces. Food control specifically targeted cattle and crops to deprive the enemy of resources and destroy fighting will and capability. Spatial control involved reducing the enemy’s operational space, preventing them from escape and evasion, and finally hunting the remnants down by exerting constant pressure through armed sweeps
by Daphné Richemond-Barak | Wed, 12/19/2018 - 6:51pm | 0 comments
Tunnel warfare has become as central to modern conflicts as it was in centuries past. Tunnels have been a feature of war since time immemorial, typically as an anti-personnel tactic or as a means to overcome fortifications. Their appeal has grown on the modern, high-tech-dominated battlefield, where surveillance and intelligence capabilities can detect virtually any movement of personnel or vehicles above ground.
by Jamie Schwandt | Wed, 12/19/2018 - 8:58am | 0 comments
A short paper on the Kobayashi Maru training exercise employed in the fictional Star Trek universe. A discussion of 3 key takeaways.
by Nathan Jennings | Wed, 12/19/2018 - 7:28am | 1 comment
Since the close of the Second World War the United States has retained a significant ground force presence in Europe to defend against Russian aggression. While laudable during the halcyon days of the Soviet Empire, it is past time for this anachronistic policy to end.
by Arin Kumar Ghosh | Tue, 12/18/2018 - 8:54pm | 1 comment
As Iraq works to create an efficient armed force in post ISIS Iraq, it must reconsider the traditional defense template of weapons systems that need to be purchased with its own needs.
by Chris Telley | Tue, 12/18/2018 - 6:41pm | 0 comments
Mapping the Cartel de los Soles in order to identify individuals that were entrenched in the network but untargeted by U.S. sanctions, as well as discover subgroups and seams which could be influenced as a means to provide opportunity to the opposition.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Mon, 12/17/2018 - 12:51pm | 2 comments
This paper addresses my concerns about issues raised by news media publicity surrounding the 2017 ambush in Niger that killed four Americans - members of U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) Team OUALLAM - and the perceived mishandling of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) investigation results by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Mon, 12/17/2018 - 12:45am | 0 comments
While grenade use by cartels and gangs in Mexico isn’t novel, this attack nevertheless represents a strategic progression by once again demonstrating the willingness of criminal cartels to attack US targets in Mexico and wage information operations in order to influence enforcement initiatives by both the United States and Mexico.
by Patricia Murphy Minch | Sat, 12/15/2018 - 1:47pm | 0 comments
"The Luckiest Guerrilla: A True Tale of Love, War and the Army" by Patricia Murphy Minch was recently published by First Steps Publishing, a small traditional publisher in Oregon The book is available in several formats through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.
by David L. Harrell | Sat, 12/15/2018 - 12:38am | 0 comments
Through extensive social media use, groups revolt, leadership falls, and countries change. Civil Affairs as a branch needs to continue to evolve within the civil environment by formally adding a social media analysis function.
by Tamim Asey | Fri, 12/14/2018 - 3:34am | 0 comments
The new Afghan President, Dr. Ashraf Ghani, has the chance to clean up the Afghan foreign policy machinery from corruption political cronyism and bring competent, loyal and patriotic diplomats and formulate a clear foreign policy to manage its crucial relations with the world and its neighbors.
by John M. Gillette | Wed, 12/12/2018 - 6:35pm | 11 comments
The purpose of this paper is to offer some thoughts and, hopefully, stimulate debate about the Department of Defense’s collective advising efforts over the last fifty plus years; of which I have been a witness from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
by SWJ Editors | Wed, 12/12/2018 - 4:42am | 2 comments
Small Wars Journal-El Centro is seeking papers on the theme of corruption, violence, and governance in Latin America for the next SWJ-EL Centro Anthology.
by Leanne Erdberg, by Maria J. Stephan | Tue, 12/11/2018 - 1:59pm | 1 comment
Terrorists make the case for violent, radical change and recruit aggrieved individuals to be part of the change. But in radicalization, there is more than a political mission at play —violent extremists warped political identity includes dehumanizing others, speaking to grievance, victimhood, and local characteristics of social orientation.
by Franklin C. Annis | Tue, 12/11/2018 - 10:30am | 2 comments
What would become the book "An English Woman-Sergeant in the Serbian Army" is a collection of journal entries and letters that she wrote between 1915-1916 when she joined the ambulance of the Second Infantry Regiment of the Serbian Army.
by William McHenry, by Adam Twardowski | Sun, 12/09/2018 - 7:46pm | 1 comment
Russia is counting on the United States and its allies to calculate that supporting Ukraine with additional lethal and non-lethal aid exposes them to unacceptably high risk of escalation with Russia. But the only side this risk serves to constrain is the West.
by Brad Striegel | Sun, 12/09/2018 - 9:36am | 1 comment
Today, the U.S. has several Dragons to contend with, to include; Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Radical Islamic Terrorism and Narco-Terrorism in Mexico. When dealing with Dragons one must first be ready with the right weapons and protection. When dealing with Dragons we must also be careful how we approach them.
by Tamim Asey | Thu, 12/06/2018 - 9:30am | 2 comments
History is repeating itself in Afghanistan. Proxy wars and great power politics is returning to the country. It is putting Afghanistan once again at the center stage of regional and global rivalries over influence for a variety of geostrategic interests and the quest for resources. This time, unlike the past, there are many players including almost all of Afghanistan's neighbors - with the prominent players being Pakistan, Iran, China and India.
by Matthew Enderlein | Wed, 12/05/2018 - 6:25am | 2 comments
Now more than ever, commanders require a dynamic flow of information and analysis to support decision making. Intelligence facilitates operations, and military intelligence professionals have developed systems to deliver intelligence support down to the lowest tactical level.
by Edward E. Brown | Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:18am | 13 comments
Military writing requires that the bottom line be stated up front. Here is the bottom line: an advisor is a person lawfully tasked and employed to provide expert advice and counsel to Foreign Security Force officials, representatives, and influencers; through the establishment or continuance of interpersonal relationships founded on mutual trust and respect.” For some reading this, that definition may seem obvious; for others it may seem almost counterintuitive. Our considerably diverse comprehension of what an advisor actually is was the motivation for writing this article.
by Drew McClean | Tue, 12/04/2018 - 7:11am | 0 comments
The ferocious rise of the Islamic State, and the impact of their barbaric acts, turned attention away from Al Qaeda. This has enabled the organization to slip back into shadows, and to reassess their strategic options, in light of new factors that have developed in the Middle East.
by Art Schmitz | Mon, 12/03/2018 - 1:46pm | 1 comment
The holiday season means family time for most Americans, but that’s not the case for many U.S. military personnel who can’t return home to eat turkey dinners, open presents, light the menorah or participate in other traditions.
by David S. Maxwell | Mon, 12/03/2018 - 9:53am | 7 comments
It pained me to read the latest issue of the USASOC Historian Office's publication Veritas and it pains me even more to have to write these words. You might not be familiar with Veritas because it is not published on line, only in an expensive high gloss print publication. The specific article in the recent edition is “The OSS Influence on Special Forces.”
by Gary Anderson | Sun, 12/02/2018 - 3:21am | 5 comments
The United States is actively involved in two hybrid conflicts (ISIS in Syria and Iraq) and is supporting the Ukraine against hybrid threats from Russia. That said, America lacks a formal doctrine for dealing with such conflicts or even an agreed-on doctrinal definition of what they are.
by De Faakto Intelligence Research Observatory | Sun, 12/02/2018 - 2:51am | 0 comments
Open source research indicates a significant trend for countries opening combat occupations to women. Some countries have been slow to remove gender barriers for women in combat while others have progressively dismantled all roadblocks. Many militaries have not succeeded in facilitating female military participation despite gender integration efforts.
by Tamim Asey | Wed, 11/28/2018 - 12:13pm | 2 comments
At a recent peace conference in Moscow, Taliban representatives sat in front of the Russian media and gave interviews to a select number of Russian women journalists. It was a message of change when compared to their brutal regime and their repressive policies toward Afghan women. The move was calculated and strategic; it was meant to send a message to the world that they have changed and are no longer a threat to regional and global security.
by Stephen B. Young | Wed, 11/28/2018 - 8:18am | 7 comments
Clausewitz defined war as “a continuation of politics by other means” linking war with political objectives. But what if kinetic violence to break the will of an enemy is systematically organized but has no conventional political objective? Would it still be war? Its objectives might well be to control people and territory; to provide unquestioned order for a community; to regulate behaviors.
by Tamim Asey | Tue, 11/27/2018 - 9:52am | 5 comments
The Afghan government and its allies are winning battles in Afghanistan but not the war. The Afghan war started as the “good war” and as President Obama termed it later as “war of necessity” and was won in less than two months. Quickly the success of the Afghan war was termed as an international model for fighting global terrorism. It was hailed as a model of international cooperation but what has happened since then? Why is it now at worst a “lost war” and at best a “forgotten war”? Is this war winnable? Who is the enemy we are fighting? What are the costs of inaction and withdrawal and what are the costs of winning? What does victory look like? And finally, how we can achieve victory? Do we have the right means both on the Afghan side and on the side of the international community to win it and how long would it take to win this war?
by David S. Maxwell | Fri, 11/23/2018 - 4:54pm | 1 comment
Yesterday, on Thanksgiving Day, we lost a true national treasure, Colonel (Retired) John Collins, Warlord Emeritus at age 97. There are very, very few who have had such an impact on US national security thought as Colonel Collins. Please read his books on military strategy and military geography, special operations (he is the creator of the Five SOF Truths) and small wars and others. From his service in World War II to being General Westmoreland's planner to teaching at the National War College to his second career at the Congressional Research Service he was a prolific writer and exceptional leader, teacher, thinker, and mentor. His lasting legacy is the creation of the Warlord Loop during which for almost two decades he mentored approximately 500 national security practitioners from the military, foreign service, intelligence community, and other government agencies as well as scholars and journalists.