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 Stephen Townsend | Tue, 07/24/2018 - 12:02pm | 0 comments
Multi-Domain Battle served its purpose—it sparked thinking and debate and it created a foundation. But what we need now is Multi-Domain Operations, and the next revision of the concept to be released this fall will reflect this change. Language is important. It conveys meaning. This change is not cosmetic—it is about growing an idea to its greatest potential in order to change the way we fight today and ensure overmatch against our adversaries of tomorrow.
by Jeff Groom | Tue, 07/24/2018 - 12:15am | 0 comments
Not giving the military quantifiable objectives has been disastrous for the institution as well as the taxpayers. The Congress should immediately pass a modified version of the S1939 bill incorporating 4th Generation Warfare considerations followed by a vote on all current conflicts.
by Joe Cheravitch | Mon, 07/23/2018 - 4:11am | 0 comments
The war-weary procession of Afghans who marched on Kabul in the name of peace this summer most clearly exemplifies a trend that caught many observers of the conflict in Afghanistan off guard: a level of independent civic activism that exceeds any similar movements in recent memory.
by Jon Hoffman | Sun, 07/22/2018 - 5:39pm | 0 comments
While Bahrain was expected to only remain a secondary theater for Iran within the near future (as opposed to primary theaters such as Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon), the low cost and burden of continuing such supportive action for Shi’a militant groups means the support would likely continue. Advances made by Iran and its proxies regionally could serve to increase Iranian support vis-à-vis Bahraini extremist groups, particularly as the IRGC’s influence within Iran rises.
by Doyle Quiggle | Sun, 07/22/2018 - 2:34pm | 0 comments
Above all, we need to gain access to and win the trust of local Somali moral authorities who can compel limbic complicity from poorly parented Somali teenagers who seek a warrior identity. We need to weaponize local moral authority in Somali so that we can provide Somali teenagers a legitimate means by which to fulfill a culturally appropriate and sanctioned warrior compulsion. Weaponized moral authority is the best, possibly the only feasible, means to achieve a de-clanned, professional Somali Army.
by Dash Radosti | Sun, 07/22/2018 - 1:39am | 1 comment
The episode on the southern border highlights the vulnerability of US policy to public relation disasters that involve children. In future conflicts, it is likely that our adversaries will combine the use of human shields (especially children) with a strong disinformation campaign to galvanize US public opinion against intervention.
by Adad Alan Shmuel, by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Sat, 07/21/2018 - 2:56pm | 0 comments
The May 2018 election results shocked Iraq. Officially, it was the lowest voter turnout recorded since the first freely held elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2005. The reasons for less than half the eligible voting population participating and the impact of these elections on Christian minority communities in Iraq, is what this article discusses.
by Matthew Blood | Sat, 07/21/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
In the current context, establishing a “good relationship” with Russia as American interests around the world remain under attack from an ongoing Russian campaign of hybrid warfare is flatly damaging to U.S. national security interests. Both the Bush II and Obama administrations eventually reverted to strategies aimed at punishing and deterring Russian aggression.
by Andrew Zapf | Fri, 07/20/2018 - 12:42am | 5 comments
Is the US Military committing the same sins as our military predecessors of the past 200 years? Is the MRAP the modern-day equivalent to the pre-World War I mounted cavalry? Will the SFABs be useful in the attrition of urban combat against a near-peer? Even the recapture of Mosul in 2017 indicates that our own wars continue to evolve, and setting aside our innovation to solve the Improvised Explosive Device problems in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, are we paying enough attention to the wars of 2018, which are currently the testbeds for future global war?
by Gary Anderson | Thu, 07/19/2018 - 4:38pm | 4 comments
Perhaps the greatest thing that the American State Department could do for Afghanistan would be to bring members of the legislature and other key government officials to the United States and allow them to see the real impact of state and local governance in action. Showing them the effectiveness of local governance and democracy in places like Alaska and Montana might well convince them that decentralization could work better for them than the present system. Perhaps that would encourage decentralization. Tip O’Neill was right, all politics is local - and so is the heart of most insurgencies.
by Jeff Groom | Thu, 07/19/2018 - 4:24pm | 1 comment
Citing a litany of abuses ranging from election meddling to targeted assassinations, Russia’s conduct over the last several years has clearly not been up to par with Western standards of democracy, human rights, and open markets. Diplomats, intelligence agencies, and pundits provide varying degrees of explanations for Russia’s conduct, some simple, some complex. But one dimension of causation is left almost entirely unexplored: national character.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Wed, 07/18/2018 - 7:10am | 0 comments
Despite its long service history, the M-16 and its variants have suffered from several issues. With innovation and effort, most of these issues have been overcome, though some issues are inherent in the basic design of the weapon system.
by Mike Matson | Tue, 07/17/2018 - 12:55pm | 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. Set in 2035, it's an innovative look at combat between Angolan and Namibian forces and their respective Russian and South African advisors, both of whom employ autonomous combat systems.
by James Torrence | Mon, 07/16/2018 - 4:55am | 1 comment
The strengths of the current national security strategy in comparison to its two predecessors are: the comprehensive understanding of how the United States fits into the structure of the international system and the recognition that developing culture-specific solutions for state actors in the international system is better than forcing systems to conform to U.S. standards and values.
by Christopher Flaherty | Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:42am | 0 comments
A dynamic field of weapons options available to terrorist, extremist or violent attackers, represent a spectrum. The use of highly complex weapons to the use of simple weaponization of common, and everyday items. The defence against these varied threats needs to follow an elastic set of options rather than a lineal progression from the simple to the complex external hardening of inner-city massed public events.
by Dustin E. Lawrence | Thu, 07/05/2018 - 7:35am | 0 comments
Last year, the author of this article participated in Operation Persistent Venture, a bilateral exchange program between the British and US Armies, during which he observed one class-cycle at the Platoon Commanders’ Division. He acted as a guest instructor throughout the PCBC, observing, assessing, and evaluating newly commissioned Second Lieutenants recently graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
by Reinier Bergema, by Lucie Kattenbroek | Wed, 07/04/2018 - 6:48am | 0 comments
There is a lack of clear causation between the holy month and terrorist attacks. Although individual months of Ramadan have been especially violent, the fact that they are rarely the most violent months of the year shows that to claim a clear causation is inaccurate.
by David Campbell, by Jesse McIntyre III | Wed, 07/04/2018 - 6:31am | 2 comments
This work intends to assess how the German military achieved in six and half weeks in 1940 what it could not accomplish in over four years of fighting a generation earlier.
by Claudia ElDib | Tue, 07/03/2018 - 5:50am | 0 comments
As of 2018, over half the world now lives in Dense Urban Areas (DUAs). DUAs are exactly what the label suggests; areas of high human population density that may or may not achieve megacity levels but share urban morphology characteristics such as GDP levels per capita, rate of demographic growth, and historical origins.
by Max Erdemandi | Tue, 07/03/2018 - 5:40am | 0 comments
The elections showed a fundamental intellectual flaw in the Turkish center and left parties that if they believed hard enough, if they traveled to more cities and drew larger crowds than Erdogan, and if they complained about how hard it is to run against a leader who utilizes all state resources to ensure his victory, they will be victorious at the end.
by James Torrence | Mon, 07/02/2018 - 5:12am | 2 comments
"Change by Design" and "Cad Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies and T-Shaped People" are two examples of creative thinking literature developed outside the Army that can inform Army leaders how to create a culture of innovation and develop unique approaches to solving problems. The Army must develop a professional reading list that includes diverse creative thinking resources if it wants leaders capable of adapting to and succeeding in complex operational environments.
by Spencer Phillips | Mon, 07/02/2018 - 3:20am | 0 comments
As the U.S. faces an increasingly complex and perilous security environment, it must be careful not to become too fixated on traditional threats like state actors, WMDs, and terrorism, while failing to acknowledge the dangers posed by global climate change.
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.