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 Mark D. Robinson, by Cori E. Dauber | Thu, 08/15/2019 - 3:30pm | 0 comments
Despite the fact that there is a robust conversation regarding “terrorism and technology,” that discussion is – as near as we can tell – uniformly about the back end, that is to say exclusively addressing the dissemination of what terrorists have already produced. We have found virtually nothing in the popular press and nothing at all in the academic literature about the technology involved in the production of the materials that are being distributed.
by Benjamin Runkle | Wed, 08/14/2019 - 12:41am | 0 comments
Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower justifiably have become legends for their accomplishments while commander World War II’s Pacific and Northern European campaigns. Yet even with renewed focus on great power conflicts, future commanders are more likely to face missions similar to what these officers faced in the Philippines prior to the war than the continent-wide conventional campaigns they are better known far.
by Michael Keen | Wed, 08/14/2019 - 12:20am | 0 comments
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to the situation in northern Mali. The Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation still provides a blueprint for a more just, inclusive, and peaceful social contract to regulate relations between the government and the people and between different communities in the area.
by Megan O'Dwyer | Tue, 08/13/2019 - 9:38am | 0 comments
Despite complete territory loss in recent months, ISIS still has plenty of life left, and its predecessors have recovered from far more difficult situations in the past. ISIS has more manpower, money, and reliable networks than it ever had before it began controlling territory.
by Gary Anderson | Tue, 08/13/2019 - 8:37am | 0 comments
China is waging a small war for control of the South China Sea (SCS) under the guise of protecting a ridiculous definition of its territorial waters in a manner designed to turn the SCS into a Chinese lake. She has militarized the area by using her Coast Guard to harass ships exercising the right of innocent passage and has built artificial islands in areas of disputed ownership. Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Republic of the Philippines have had vessels destroyed, detained, and otherwise intimidated.
by Philip W. Reynolds | Mon, 08/12/2019 - 9:08am | 0 comments
A multipolar view of the world inclines far more towards justice than one in which the U.S. jealousy protects her position. The British and French are firmly in the U.S. and NATO camps, and are defending their democracies, not docile parroting of the U.S. position. In Asia, Liberalism is anchored by Korea, Japan and Australia in a grand arc. This is not the work of Trump, but the sum of endless work over decades to make the U.S. safer. Recent events are vindication of this ‘offshoring’ strategy.
by Paul F. Messina | Mon, 08/12/2019 - 7:33am | 0 comments
The great strategic dilemma for both Athens and Sparta during the Second Peloponnesian War was how to bring their strength to bear against each other. While both sides made numerous mistakes in the prosecution of the war, the Spartans were able to bring their strengths, or the strengths of their allies, to bear more effectively against the Athenians, which resulted in Sparta’s ultimate victory. Although set in the ancient world, the policy/strategy mismatch between land and sea warfare capability resulted in phenomena that still have relevance for the 21st century.
by Hannah Richards | Mon, 08/12/2019 - 7:01am | 0 comments
Despite the initial success of Operation Serval in 2013, French intervention in the Sahel region has now reached impasse. The already intricate situation is further complicated by France’s status as a former colonizer operating in the region. Understanding how France’s former colonial status translates into relationships between local communities, French troops, and armed terrorist groups will influence long term engagement.
by Aaron Farley | Sun, 08/11/2019 - 12:36am | 0 comments
The North Korean conflict has been one of the most intractable – and opaque – issues on the international stage for decades. Analysts attempt to read into every new development like a haruspex interpreting so many chicken entrails. The internal politics of the regime are only dimly grasped, and the occasional glimpses the world receive into its inner workings often raise as many questions as they answer. North Korea can – and does – exploit its reputation for unpredictability. Renewed armed conflict with “the hermit kingdom” is a daunting prospect, and policymakers often go to great lengths to minimize this risk.
by Yousuf Abdelfatah, by David Thaler | Sat, 08/10/2019 - 1:27pm | 0 comments
Countering this insurgency has been at the forefront of Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s agenda since he assumed office in 2013. Roughly 1,000 security personnel have been killed in the region during this period. However, despite brutal methods and substantial military effort, the Egyptian government has little to show from the past five-plus years of counterinsurgency operations in the Sinai aside from hundreds of military and civilian casualties and an undeterred adversary.
by Dave Pinion | Sat, 08/10/2019 - 9:41am | 0 comments
On February 8th 2040, Congress passed a law that abolished and dissolved the United States Marine Corps and merged its personnel and assets into the Army, Navy and Air Force. It should not have come as a surprise to anyone. After a bruising two-month war with China in which the U.S. never landed a meaningful punch, there was bound to be a reckoning across the entire Department of Defense.
by Edwin Tran | Fri, 08/09/2019 - 11:51am | 0 comments
The United States’ intervention in the Lebanese Civil War was a peacekeeping operation defined by long term strategic goals centered around increasing American hegemony in the region. The United States sought to leverage its position as a peacekeeper against Israeli and Syrian advances. However, significant overreach and unplanned events would play a substantial role in limiting the extent of American success in Lebanon.
by Richard M. Crowell | Fri, 08/09/2019 - 12:25am | 0 comments
The United States and its Allies have historically been successful at fighting conventional wars. America must both build on its understanding of past state-on-state conflicts and learn from the small wars of this young century to be able to fight and win future wars.
by George Fust | Thu, 08/08/2019 - 11:15am | 0 comments
The purpose of this article is to consider the possibility that we are moving toward a world of "garrison states"-a world in which the specialists on violence are the most powerful group in society.
by Julian Koeck | Thu, 08/08/2019 - 1:56am | 0 comments
Cultural knowledge and cultural change are – on various levels – of significant importance for modern Western warfare. What does this mean for strategy?
by Francis X. Tailor | Wed, 08/07/2019 - 9:06pm | 0 comments
While it’s difficult to know everything that is going on around the negotiating table or how close the parties are to a final accord, what we can say with reasonable certainty is that any deal at the end of the day will need to be verifiable.
by Jesse Humpal | Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:09am | 0 comments
Why has the United States focused their grand strategy on influencing states and central governments rather than the ungoverned areas within them? Pursuing reluctant authoritarians rather than the accepted rulers who control the land outside the states control has been a failed and misguided strategy.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Tue, 08/06/2019 - 11:04am | 0 comments
Cyber-realpolitik or cyber-realism is an anarchic international system that is fragmented beyond the multiplicity of a multipolar distribution of state power. Nation-states are increasingly finding governance difficult as technology is propagated into the internet of things (IoT), and innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology. The power to disrupt and appeal to public impulses are redistributed to tech companies and their executives, developers, coders, technicians, and computer engineers.
by Robert Bunker, by José de Arimatéia da Cruz, by John P. Sullivan | Tue, 08/06/2019 - 8:24am | 0 comments
An assault took place at Altamira prison in which a local gang—Comando Classe A (CCA); Class A Command—controlling one wing of the prison stormed another wing controlled by an opposing gang—Comando Vermelho (CV) or the Red Command. The Comando Vermelho wing of the prison was set on fire, resulting in multiple asphyxiation deaths along with sixteen pre-mortem decapitations as a component of the initial inter-gang warfare action.
by Robert Bunker | Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:07am | 0 comments
The concluding workshop of the EU funded MESMERISE project was conducted at the Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain on 11-12 July 2019. The three year MESMERISE project began on 1 May 2016 and will conclude on 31 July 2019. Earlier meetings for this project took place in May and December of 2016 and in November 2017 at various venues.
by Benjamin J. Anderson | Mon, 08/05/2019 - 11:53am | 0 comments
With Iran’s insatiable appetite for nuclear independence and cyber warfare retaliatory strikes against the West, the imposed sanctions have resulted in increased socio-economic unrest at a time where greater individual access to technology and communication devices by individuals may result in further regional destabilization.
by George Fust | Mon, 08/05/2019 - 8:49am | 0 comments
The most recent National Defense Authorization Act includes a section directing the Secretary of Defense to assess if this five-year service obligation should be extended. Congress is now questioning if the increase in the cost of educating and training should equate to an increase in time served for graduates. In short, is the nation getting “an adequate return on investment for a service academy graduate?”
by Naiomi Gonzalez | Mon, 08/05/2019 - 12:49am | 0 comments
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required the support of the private military industry. However, the United States government’s increased reliance and dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy. In fact, the lack of accountability that has allowed certain sectors of the private military industry to act with impunity have arguably complicated the U.S. military’s already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
by Franklin C. Annis | Sun, 08/04/2019 - 7:30pm | 0 comments
I can only describe this book as “honestly” written by a man that had nothing to prove as he spent his life demonstrating his ability to stand among the most elite warriors. Sparks’ use of colorful language and a total disregard for political correctness demonstrates his integrity to his worldview.
by Tony Stark | Sun, 08/04/2019 - 12:16pm | 0 comments
Dreams never come reality when preached from the mouths of tyrants. They become nightmares, twisted by humanity’s flaws and the fallibility of systems that belong on the ash heap of history.
by Malcolm Beith | Sun, 08/04/2019 - 11:33am | 0 comments
Better intelligence sharing between Mexican and U.S. counter-drug officials might have prevented the rape of children. Following the revelation that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his cohorts allegedly had minors delivered to them for sexual purposes—made public by Judge Brian Cogan prior to jury deliberations in Guzman’s Brooklyn trial—several former U.S. officials say better relations between Mexico and the U.S. could have prevented these alleged atrocities.
by Scott Martin | Tue, 07/30/2019 - 8:16am | 0 comments
The U.S. could have countered the genocide the April 1994 genocide in Rwanda. While it is very difficult to envision a scenario whereby the U.S. conducted unilateral military actions once the genocide started, the various indicators prior to that date offered the U.S. the opportunity, working through the United Nations (UN), to act to prevent the genocide before it started.
by Samuel T. Lair | Mon, 07/29/2019 - 2:40am | 0 comments
The First Barbary War of 1801 was the first significant American engagement outside of the Western Hemisphere and the second significant engagement against a foreign state without a formal declaration of war. Furthermore, this war’s multilateral strategy of using a coalition and diplomatic pressure provides valuable insight into the elements of a successful limited military operation.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Tue, 07/23/2019 - 12:19pm | 0 comments
Law enforcement officials said the two-year spasm of violence was carried out largely by Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants hoping to return MS-13 to its bloody roots. Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said the bloodshed was motivated in part by the group’s desire to make MS-13 less deferential to the Mexican Mafia, which wields influence over most Hispanic and Latino street gangs in the Los Angeles area.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Tue, 07/23/2019 - 9:25am | 0 comments
Sometimes brutal honesty is the best form of diplomacy, and if there is a conflict that is in immediate need for some kind of resolution, it is the conflict over the region of Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
by Tom Ordeman, Jr. | Mon, 07/22/2019 - 4:34pm | 0 comments
The situation in Yemen mirrors familiar challenges faced by international troops in Afghanistan. Just as Afghans elect to grow opium and cannabis in lieu of food crops like wheat or pomegranates, Yemeni farmers dedicate scarce arable land and irrigation resources to khat.
by Jelle Hooiveld | Mon, 07/22/2019 - 12:10am | 0 comments
The USASOC History Office caused quite a stir in the US Special Forces and Intelligence community with its eyebrow-raising article about OSS influence on Special Forces, published in Veritas in 2018. Troy Sacquety, author of this article, concluded that “a grossly disproportionate share of the pioneering influence” was incorrectly attributed to the OSS veterans who joined early Special Forces.
by Charles S. (Sam) Faddis | Sun, 07/21/2019 - 7:32pm | 0 comments
Iran, via the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah, retains the capacity to stage terrorist attacks worldwide. That includes inside the United States. Planning for such attacks is ongoing and detailed as illustrated by the cases of Ali Kourani and Samer el-Debek, two Hezbollah operatives tasked with collecting information on U.S. targets in preparation for terrorist attacks and arrested by U.S. authorities in 2017.
by Thomas M. Williams | Sun, 07/21/2019 - 11:02am | 0 comments
This is a practical guide for unit cultural change - a simple yet powerful tool for command teams to create shared understanding around “what is,” what we would prefer, but most importantly, how to discuss what change means on a day-to-day basis.
by Sean Parrott | Tue, 07/16/2019 - 2:57am | 0 comments
A culture change, emphasizing the dismounted scout as the primary collection platform would be the bedrock of the new-look IBCT cavalry squadron.
by Christophe Bellens | Mon, 07/15/2019 - 11:58am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019. It considers from the perspective of the United States government what options are on the table in the use private military forces.
by Billy Carter | Mon, 07/15/2019 - 1:23am | 0 comments
This essay is meant to demonstrate that a unified influence activity achieves the greatest efficiency necessary to challenge the persistent efforts of our traditional adversaries, to seize initiate in the information domain, to exploit opportunities with emerging methods and technologies. Political Warfare by our adversaries are present in common rhetoric: “Russian Election Meddling, Islamiphobic, Chinese Hacking”. This language can be found in any newspaper and blog on a daily basis across the US, across political boundaries.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Sun, 07/14/2019 - 12:17am | 0 comments
When cyberwarfare is the top defensive policy for the Pentagon, including the protection of critical infrastructure from a catastrophic cyber-attack, the Commander-in-Chief should strategically avoid social media if at all possible.
by W. R. Baker | Sun, 07/14/2019 - 12:09am | 0 comments
When senior officers don’t listen to intelligence, they are responsible for the consequences - though they usually aren’t held to the same standards as their subordinates. When this occurs in combat, the most you might see is a senior officer fired after the fact, though many may have died as a result of their action or lack of action.
by Kylie Bielby | Sat, 07/13/2019 - 8:50pm | 0 comments
A court case in the United Kingdom has revealed that terrorists are considering the use of driverless cars and drones to avoid their own deaths. Farhad Salah, (born 20/03/95) of Sheffield, was found guilty of preparing to commit an act of terrorism, following an investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing in the U.K.
by George Fust | Sat, 07/13/2019 - 8:33am | 0 comments
A Pew Research Center report published on July 10 suggests that most veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan believe these wars are “not worth fighting.” What are the implications of these findings? What can they reveal about the health of U.S. civil-military relations? Is it dangerous for the guardians to be opposed to the mission they are directed to accomplish? At first glance, the data is troubling.
by Matthew R. Doherty | Fri, 07/12/2019 - 7:13am | 0 comments
There are many reasons (political/diplomatic/financial) why Laos was taken over by the Pathet Lao in 1975. Perhaps the overriding reason was the state of its military. The Royal Lao Army was one of the most ineffective forces of modern times. Despite being funded by a near inexhaustible American bankroll, it was a very poor shadow of its model, the ARVN.
by Ekene Lionel | Fri, 07/12/2019 - 6:29am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.
by Andrew Narloch | Thu, 07/11/2019 - 3:00pm | 0 comments
What makes MANPADS the most effective tool for insurgents and freedom fighters alike is the versatility of the weapon to help fulfill several basic requirements for a successful guerrilla campaign.
by Michael L. Burgoyne | Wed, 07/10/2019 - 1:07am | 0 comments
The following is a summary of a study entitled Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle published by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. The full study is available here.
by Michael L. Burgoyne | Wed, 07/10/2019 - 1:02am | 0 comments
El siguiente trabajo es un resumen del estudio titulado Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle, publicado por el Instituto México del Centro Woodrow Wilson. El estudio completo se encuentra disponible aquí.
by Phillip William Etches | Tue, 07/09/2019 - 1:36am | 0 comments
Despite al-Suri’s reputation, however, questions exist about the relevance of his work, and jihadi strategic thought as a whole. Broadly, the relevance of jihadi strategic thought is unclear. Some note its potential to enable clearer understandings of jihadi behaviour.
by Jeremiah Goodpaster | Mon, 07/08/2019 - 8:39pm | 0 comments
With growing tension on the European continent, the risk of escalation between Russia and NATO or the EU is becoming more prominent. The use of a non-traditional means to achieve warlike objectives will force NATO and others to address their current definitions and plans for security.
by Bryan Baker | Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:31am | 0 comments
The US should embrace the fact that it is in part responsible for this crisis. America should do everything it can to help Central American migrants. This injustice must be corrected if the United States is to live up to its great legacy as the city upon a hill.
by Thomas Hader, by Peter Kent Forster, by Chris Kong | Sat, 07/06/2019 - 5:12pm | 0 comments
This study determines what trends, if any, may be associated with the announcements of US troop withdrawals in both Syria and Afghanistan on December 19 and 20, respectively. It examines the extent to which linkages exist between the unintended consequences and the announcement of the US military’s withdrawal by examining activities and commentary associated with the Taliban, the SDF, and the Daesh.