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 Nicholas Underwood | Wed, 05/26/2021 - 4:24pm | 3 comments
A review of David Kilcullen's new book on how U.S. adversaries (state and non-state) have adapted to be more effective at competition with the U.S.-led international system
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker, by José de Arimatéia da Cruz | Tue, 05/25/2021 - 8:59pm | 2 comments
On 6 May 2021, at approximately 0600 hours (6 AM), Rio de Janeiro’s civil police (Polícia Civil do Estado do Rio de Janeiro – PCERJ) entered the Jacarezinho favela (slum) to perform a raid—Operação Exceptis(Operation Exception)—against members of the Comando Vermelho (CV or Red Command).  As the PCERJ entered the favela, they encountered small arms fire.  A PCERJ officer was killed in the initial exchange and a sustained battle continued through the day.  At least 28 persons were killed, including the police officer and 27 residents. The incident was the deadliest in Rio de Janeiro’s history and provoked widespread globalcriticism.
by Max G. Manwaring | Sat, 05/22/2021 - 2:36pm | 6 comments
The traditional distinctions between crime, terrorism, subversion, and insurgency are blurred.  This new dynamic involves the migration of the monopoly of political power (i.e., the authoritative allocation of the values in a society) from the traditional nation-state to unconventional actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), transnational criminal organizations, Leninist-Maoist insurgents, tribal militias, mafia organizations, private armies, cartel enforcers, third generation gangs (3GEN Gangs), and other modern mercenaries and entrepreneurs. These actors conduct some form or level of war against various state and non-state adversaries and promulgate their own rule of law—within alternatively governed spaces—within the societies they control.  That activity creates an ambiguous bazaar of violence where criminal entrepreneurs fuel the convergence of crime and war.
by Keith Nightingale | Sat, 05/22/2021 - 1:01pm | 3 comments
A tribute to Medal of Honor recipient COL(RET) Ralph Puckett.
by Patricia H. Escamilla-Hamm | Thu, 05/20/2021 - 12:16am | 14 comments
Review essay on Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera and Tony Payan,  "La guerra improvisada: Los años de Calderón y sus consecuencias." The book "La Guerra Improvisada" (in Spanish) sheds light on the decision-making process of the so-called “war on drugs” (from here on referred to as war) launched and implemented in Mexico by President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) in collaboration with the United States. It explores key questions like why launch the war? Who designed and implemented it and how? Who determined the strategy? What was the US role? And why use military forces? Undoubtedly, the role of the military has been one of the most persistent and controversial issues about the war. 
by Christopher D. Booth | Wed, 05/19/2021 - 8:47pm | 4 comments
Considered by many to be an anachronism is this technological age, there are grounds to reconsider their use for future conflict. Pack-animals can carry up to a third of their bodyweight in cargo. Pack-train logistics could not only play a role in supporting U.S. special operations units engaged in irregular warfare, but would be well suited for the U.S. Marine Corps’ expeditionary advanced base operations concept. They provide mobility with a limited logistical tail, as they do not require fuel, lubricants, or spare parts; and in the case of mules require little forage (and often can subsist off of indigenous plants) – ideal for dispersed units who may be cut-off or irregularly supplied in a great-power conflict. Furthermore, they are not susceptible to many of the counters China is expected to employ to blunt U.S. technology. At a minimum, the Marine Corps’ new Marine Littoral Regiment could serve as a test-bed for an experimental unit equipped with pack-animals as the Corps engages in force design. A review of the history of military pack-trains helps highlight their continued relevance.
by James King | Tue, 05/18/2021 - 9:40pm | 2 comments
Samual Colt may have created the gun that won the West but John Browning’s guns have won everything else. From his humble beginnings in Ogden Utah to his death on the Fabrique Nationale factory floor in Belgium and beyond, Nathan Gorenstein tells a story that is long overdue, in the first major biography of the man who has been called the Thomas Edison of guns. Not even Mikhail Kalashnikov and his AK-47 can stake a claim to the level of influence in the conduct of warfare that John Browning’s inventions still have almost 100 years after his death.
by Jelle Hooiveld | Mon, 05/17/2021 - 12:37pm | 2 comments
The author recognizes another forgotten member of the OSS who contributed to the development of U.S.Special Forces.
by Daniel de Wit , by Salil Puri | Fri, 05/14/2021 - 12:31pm | 8 comments
           The Defense Department is confused. Numerous manuals and joint publications testify to the importance of information and influence in the contemporary operating environment, as do countless studies, articles, books, and official testimony. And yet despite this trend, different sectors of the military have adopted widely divergent concepts of the role of information in competition and conflict, leading to a fractured understanding of how the military should view information functions, and even what they should be called. “Information operations” has been the standard term across the military for twenty-five years, though its usage has changed significantly since it was originally employed in the context of the 1990s-era “revolution in military affairs.”
by David S. Clukey | Wed, 05/12/2021 - 10:39am | 3 comments
September 11, 2021 will mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 (911) and United States (U.S.) President Joe Biden recently called for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan on this date. U.S. forces have been on the ground in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001. In this time, the U.S. invested over 240,000 in human capital and over $2 trillion U.S.D. From 2001 – 2010, after the immediate route of the Taliban, the U.S. orchestrated a series of disjointed campaigns and priorities shifted almost as frequently as commanders. This misalignment with a concurrent refocus of U.S. resources to Iraq in 2003, realized a deteriorated situation in Afghanistan. Conditions improved in 2009 under a series of pragmatic U.S. Army Generals who commonly advocated Special Operations Forces driven Village Stability Operations (VSO).
by Ryan N. Mannina | Tue, 05/11/2021 - 8:46pm | 2 comments
This article attempts to determine whether the Chemical Weapons Convention's prohibition of riot control agents as a method of warfare succeeds in limiting human suffering in war. I argue that the prohibition has led the U.S. military to adopt more lethal and destructive means of fighting in dense urban terrain. This results in more collateral damage and non-combatant suffering in urban warfare, instead of less. The article utilizes the case study method to compare the 1968 Battle of Hue and the 2004 Battle of Fallujah, describes the weapons and tactics used in each, and attempts to quantify the cost in terms of non-combatant deaths and collateral damage. It draws extensively from primary sources, including AARs from the units involved, published eyewitness accounts, and official histories. This article will benefit senior military leaders by informing their analysis and recommendations to policymakers regarding the use of RCAs, suggesting topics for further study, and providing recommendations for how the United States might approach modifications to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
by Robert Bunker, by John P. Sullivan | Mon, 05/10/2021 - 8:41pm | 2 comments
This research note documents two recent developments in the proliferation of weaponized consumer drones (aerial improvised explosive devices) in Mexico. The first incident is an alleged attack by the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán on the morning of 4 May 2021. The second is the arrest of two suspected Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) drone weaponeers in Puebla on 22 April 2021. Both incidents follow the widely reported 20 April 2021 drone attack in Aguililla, Michoacán.
by Edgardo Buscaglia | Sun, 05/09/2021 - 7:32pm | 2 comments
El propósito principal de este artículo es explicar porqué algunos países experimentan un deterioro creciente y crónico en su desempeño institucional en la lucha contra la delincuencia organizada transnacional, incluso cuando estos mismos países cuentan con abundantes recursos humanos y recursos materiales dentro de sus Estados para combatir a delitos complejos. Este artículo también se enfoca en presentar casos de países en donde el Estado, a sabiendas o no, patrocina o fomenta a la delincuencia organizada tal como sucede en los casos de China, Mexico y Rusia. Se publicó una versión anterior de este artículo en inglés como “Antimafia Impasse: State-Driven Organized Crime & Organized Crime States.”
by Robert Muggah | Fri, 05/07/2021 - 12:19am | 5 comments
Small Wars Journal-El Centro Fellow Robert Muggah assesses the state of police practice in Rio de Janeiro in the aftermath of a civil police raid on a Comando Vermelho (Red Command) stronghold in the Jacarezinho favela in Rio de Janeiro. Dr. Muggah concludes that "A commission of inquiry and disciplinary action are mandatory, and a radical change of police culture is essential."
by Edgardo Buscaglia | Tue, 05/04/2021 - 5:54pm | 1 comment
This article reviews the reasons why some countries experience chronic and growing deterioration in their institutional performance in fighting and preventing transnational organized crime, even when plentiful national human and material antimafia resources are readily available. This piece also focuses on country case studies where the State sponsors or fosters organized crime, such as in China and in Mexico.
by Eddie Banach | Tue, 05/04/2021 - 9:05am | 2 comments
This article seeks to answer what makes security institutions effective in poor security environments, and how these lessons can be applied in Afghanistan against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.  This paper explains why only specific institutions such as the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service and special Afghan units are noted successes, despite only a fraction of their parent forces’ funding and support, even though the massively better funded, more substantially supported Iraqi and Afghan army and police forces are proven failures.  The central argument is that only a few security institutions have proven to be effective security organizations, due to their mastery of their complex environments, while larger, ineffective security institutions routinely prove inadequate in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and as basic security providers.  This phenomenon seems at odds with logic as well as U.S. policy, yet almost two decades of U.S.-led counter-insurgency campaigns, multiple large-scale Middle Eastern wars, and countless U.S. and allied strategy changes, demonstrate the futility of clinging to the inherently flawed conceptualizations of the contemporary security institution model. 
by Robert Bunker, by John P. Sullivan | Wed, 04/28/2021 - 9:17pm | 2 comments
Two police officers in Aguililla, Michoacán were injured in a weaponized drone attack at approximately 0100 hours, (01:00 AM) Tuesday morning, 20 April 2021 on the highway between Aguililla and Apatzingán. The attack involving drones artillados (armed or ’gun’ drones) is the fifth documented incident involving aerial improvised explosive devices utilized by the cartels in Mexico and the first one in which injuries have resulted.
by Daniel Weisz | Sat, 04/24/2021 - 5:01pm | 2 comments
Este ensayo del asociado de SWJ-El Centro, Daniel Weisz, examina la Guerra de Propaganda que se libra entre el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) y el presidente de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). Este "concurso de información" destaca la importancia de las "operaciones de información" para ambas partes en el contexto de las guerras del crimen en México.
by Connor Hirsch | Fri, 04/23/2021 - 7:29am | 3 comments
Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War braced the regime during its nadir and helped reestablish President Bashar al-Assad’s political dominance over much of Syria just two years later. Despite its importance, Russian intervention did not change the character of the counterinsurgency campaign. Rather, the similarities in Russian and Syrian approaches to counterinsurgency preserved Assad’s strategy and optimized Russian intervention, integrating formidable capabilities into an already brutal campaign. Leaders in Moscow and Damascus were aligned in their approaches. Effective patron-client politics facilitated strategic and tactical cooperation and enabled counterinsurgent forces to strike the insurgencies’ center of gravity by targeting Syrian civilians.
by Daniel Weisz | Thu, 04/22/2021 - 11:34pm | 1 comment
This essay by SWJ-El Centro Associate Daniel Weisz examines the Propaganda War being waged among the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and Mexico's President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). This "information contest" highlights the importance of "information operations" to both parties within the context of Mexico's crime wars.
by Dave Maxwell | Thu, 04/22/2021 - 4:11pm | 1 comment
Michael Noonan provides us with the best contemporary treatment of unconventional warfare (UW) and foreign internal defense (FID) I have read.  I begin this review with this statement at great risk because I know many people will not read further because of the antibodies surrounding UW and FID, but especially UW.  If you do not want to read this review, fine.  But I urge you to read the book because it goes well beyond UW and FID.
by Robert Coombs | Wed, 04/21/2021 - 12:15pm | 1 comment
The US demand signal for psychological warfare and influence-based operations is indicating exponential growth, unseen since the 1950s. A thorough analysis of the influence-based profession indicates a crucial need to develop an overarching set of principles, especially during the era of Great Power Competition (GPC). Many US policy makers are unknowingly replicating the discussions of the 1940s and the 1950s without taking into account the successes and failures of our psychological warfare forefathers. This analysis provides a set of psychological warfare principles based on historical analysis and returns psychological warfare back to the forefront of discussions in the era of GPC. The US must use psychological warfare as the arrow of initial penetration if we are to compete with nations that maintain parity or overmatch in the influence fields.
by Anthony Wertz , by Stuart Gallagher | Sun, 04/18/2021 - 9:22pm | 12 comments
To achieve its theater-strategic goals and counter Russian aggression despite ongoing fiscal constraints, the United States Government (USG) must consciously increase its U.S. interagency and whole-of-government efforts specifically by augmenting U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) and Department of State (DoS) collaboration in the European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility. Both European Union (EU) and U.S. leadership recognize Russia as the greatest security threat confronting Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  In response, NATO countries and the U.S. have increased defense spending, but capacity gaps will continue to remain in the near future.  These gaps relate to both fiscal austerity and Russia’s recent unconventional approaches to warfare. 
by Robert Bunker | Wed, 04/14/2021 - 7:28pm | 2 comments
The COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated and accelerated the ‘hollowing out’ of the American liberal democratic state’s ability to provide public goods to its citizens while at the same time greatly benefiting its richest families and the multinational corporations under their ownership and control. With the pendulum shifting in the recent presidential and congressional elections from one major political party to another, US federal governmental (and the governed’s) economic interests are now in a direct collision course with plutocratic privilege and prerogative. While the state now seeks to revitalize the public infrastructure—for the American people—family dynastic and plutocratic interests seek to increasingly maximize their economic profits and, in the process, further defund and commoditize such public goods.
by Michael L. Burgoyne | Mon, 04/12/2021 - 3:49pm | 1 comment
An excerpt from "Ascensión: A Tale of the Mexican Drug War" by Small Wars Journal-El Centro Fellow Michael L. Burgoyne. This fictional account—or FICINT (Fictional Intelligence)—describes the security situation in Mexico in an accessible manner. Here the situation in Mexico is described through the lens of fiction and intelligence to depict future conflict scenarios grounded in reality.
by Michael Schwille, by Scott Fisher | Sun, 04/11/2021 - 3:40pm | 2 comments
Constellations of low-altitude, low-latency satellites providing broadband internet access to wide swathes of the earth are an impending challenge to the information dominance enjoyed by the world’s authoritarian states. Whether Amazon’s proposed Project Kuiper, Elon Musk’s Starlink (already functional in some areas of North America), or the United Kingdom funded OneWeb, the ability to provide relatively low cost internet access outside of government control is both a challenge for authoritarian states and an opportunity for democracies.
by Sandor Fabian | Sun, 04/11/2021 - 3:31pm | 2 comments
During the last couple decades U.S. Special Forces have become champions of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. However, with the recent changes of the global strategic landscape and the increasingly multipolar world they are required once again to adapt to emerging challenges. While as many practitioners and scholars already argued the U.S. Special Forces must maintain all their hard-earned irregular warfare skills, they must also find new niche capabilities to effectively support the activities of the rest of the U.S. government during the competition. This article argues that one such capability is building urban resistance networks within allied and partner nations pre-conflict and enabling such networks during war.
by Robert Bunker, by Alma Keshavarz | Thu, 04/08/2021 - 8:30pm | 1 comment
On 11 March 2021, the Iranian-aligned Houthi insurgents unveiled a variety of so-termed ‘Made in Yemen’ weaponry. Called the "Martyr Leader Exhibition for Military Industries," Houthi leaders showcased new armaments and other munitions. According to the accompanying Yemen based news outlet Taiz News, this is a part of the broader mission to achieve certain strategic objectives by the Houthis.
by Robert Bunker | Tue, 04/06/2021 - 8:41pm | 3 comments
Review of Ioan Grillo's "Blood Gun Money: How America Arms gangs and Cartels" by Dr. Robert J. Bunker.
by Lucas Webber | Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:49am | 1 comment
The global jihadist movement has grown markedly more hostile towards China as a result of the country’s domestic security policy in Xinjiang as well as its foreign policy and growing influence in the Islamic world. Uighur jihadists have traditionally spearheaded anti-China propaganda efforts, however, in recent years China-related issues have gained rhetorical traction throughout broader international militant discourse. Jihadists of disparate geographies and numerous languages have notably increased their focus on Chinese policy in their media content. Yet there are few non-Uighur militants that really stand out as being particularly ardent, outspoken, and persistent critics of China. Such figures play a role in giving anti-China narratives the added momentum to further transcend the Uighur jihadist realm and reach a more global audience.
by Pierre Jean Dehaene | Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:42am | 1 comment
The Localization Strategy (LS) is devised to assist Western expeditionary forces to navigate through the jungle of complexity with the application of local logic and energy. The name itself is a stark reminder that yesterday’s logic and success is intimately tied to yesterday’s circumstances. New eyes are needed time and again as connections keep changing the nature of things. Soldiers must learn to unlearn and military planners must learn to reset themselves to zero. The LS’ main purpose is to take as many lessons identified from inadequate Western practices in war over the past twenty years and structure them into one approach. This approach attempts to “add a pinch of spice to existing ideas and literature” and is graphically represented by the Resilience Temple. George Box famously said, ‘all models are wrong, but some are useful’. I hope the Resilience Temple provides a useful sequence of practicable ideas for overcoming the uncertainty and volatility of conflicts in the 21st Century.
by Adam Taylor | Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:37am | 2 comments
President Biden’s transition into power caps an important four-year period for the Department of Defense (DoD).  While many will debate the Trump administration’s national defense legacy for years to come, current evidence suggests that its decision to focus on great power competition has proven decidedly consequential. Both the Marine Corps and the Navy have released new future force design proposals intended to better prepare the services to compete in a great power conflict. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force has also released his own guidance about how his service must meet the great power moment. Yet, the rush to bureaucratic relevancy in a great power environment shouldn’t lead the services to abandon those capabilities needed to succeed in an irregular conflict.  Specifically, the Corps must ensure its force modernization plans ensure the service can fight and win the irregular conflicts it has historically fought for the nation.  How the service balances its traditional irregular warfighting responsibilities with the need to field a force able to compete against peer adversaries will determine its utility on the future battlefield. 
by Octavian Manea | Mon, 04/05/2021 - 6:06am | 1 comment
Interview with Dr. A. Wess Mitchell, co-chair of the NATO 2030 Reflection Process. He is co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative, a policy initiative focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition. Previously, he served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from 2017 to 2019. Prior to joining the State Department, Mitchell cofounded and served as President and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
by Mark Grzegorzewski | Sun, 04/04/2021 - 6:53pm | 1 comment
As the excitement around artificial intelligence applications grows, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) remains on the forefront in adopting this emergent technology. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have always been the tip of the spear in fighting our nation’s wars and serve as the preeminent asymmetric force. Thus, it comes as no surprise that USSOCOM would want to incorporate the potentially game changing technology of AI into every new program. However, SOF should be careful not to become too enamored with AI tools. Rather, it should continue the focus on executing its core missions and seeing where AI applications may fit in instead of being captivated by a still brittle technology that may or may not have the impacts needed within SOF’s core missions. For the missions of the future, especially downrange in the future operating environment, highly advanced technology may not always be the weapon of choice. Therefore, we both must prepare the force for the potentialities of AI and stay focused on operating with the human domain without support from AI technologies.
by Marc Losito | Sun, 04/04/2021 - 6:48pm | 1 comment
China—above all else—is the preeminent issue on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.  The competition between a rising China and the ruling U.S. will test the presumption that great power wars were obsolete.  This great power war, however, will not be emblematic of the past.  It has taken shape amidst global governance institutions and utilizes new domains of strategic terrain to compete without conflict, reform institutions and norms, and present an alternative international model—in lieu of the liberal world order—that reflects authoritarian priorities and values.  In an era of democratic absenteeism, the problem is clear: autocracies have learned how to use the strengths of the liberal order to promote undemocratic ends.  What is required is a unified and coordinated democratic response to promote the liberal ideals of a new, technology-driven world order.  While the scope of the issue is both wide and deep, one arena for competition and cooperation stands out from the others—internet governance.  At the center of China’s technological self-reliance ambitions—Made in China 2025[1]—is the Chinese techno-autocracy model of internet governance.
by Christopher Keith Johnson | Sun, 04/04/2021 - 6:44pm | 2 comments
Even in national emergencies, including but not limited to those associated with terrorism, there are limits in which a government must operate to fully observe internationally recognized laws, rules, and regulations of its conduct. These rules apply even as that nation engages in the act of countering violent extremism on its shores or abroad. For those governments professing to adhere to international law, issues involving the avoidance of torture in the handling of detainees have proven to be contentious.  There has been wide disagreement on the very fundamentals of the question--what is torture? How should one measure the physical and mental toll, if any, of certain investigatory techniques employed by security agents on suspects or detainees? In doing so, one could surmise that what is intolerable for one person, could be a moderate vexation to another. 
by Nicole Thomas, by Matthew Jamison, by Kendall Gomber, by Derek Walton | Sun, 04/04/2021 - 6:34pm | 2 comments
On September 27, 2020, intense fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia when the Azeri military went on the offensive. The Azeris’ objective was to recapture the territories lost to Armenia in 1994. But to understand the underlying reasons for the current conflict, one must look back to the root of hostilities and to the role of other powers in the region.
by Clay Fuller | Mon, 03/29/2021 - 3:33pm | 4 comments
           Everyday Americans are on the frontlines of the irregular warfare campaigns in the era of Great Power Competition—and these hardworking Americans may not even know it.  Every community, from coastal cities to Appalachian small towns, is a grey zone attack away from an adversary and losing critical systems for law enforcement, public utilities, or healthcare.  The future is here where one stroke of the keyboard of a foreign adversary like China or other revisionist and rogue powers could send our criminal justice systems into chaos by erasing systems that store evidence or case information.  One key stroke could hold the water supply of a community hostage.  One key stroke could condemn a critically ill patient in a hospital to death.  Not only would this act edge the United States closer to war, it would devastate the American community that it was perpetrated upon.  It is not an exaggeration that our foreign adversaries have a gun to the head of municipal and local governments in the United States—who would have no power or ability to respond.  So who is best positioned to contribute an element of deterrence and address the huge challenges of Great Power Competition?  How do we make them more effective at this monumental task?
by Joshua Sinai | Sun, 03/28/2021 - 5:22pm | 2 comments
Review of Shabtai Shavit's "Head of Mossad: In Pursuit of a Safe and Secure israel" by Dr. Joshua Sinai.
by  Bridget Bachman | Thu, 03/25/2021 - 12:44pm | 2 comments
Asymmetric warfare, irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, protracted warfare, conventional warfare, and political warfare are just a few terms used to define conflict.  Now, add hybrid warfare. War is continuously evolving and attempting to define war poses trouble. Opinions and personal preferences do appear in research, which further serves to increase the breadth of reasonable definitions for hybrid warfare. Hybrid warfare has many different definitions, but the importance must shift to having an in-depth knowledge of the activities conducted by our adversaries. We limit ourselves by continuously seeking definitions.
by Chris Liggett | Thu, 03/25/2021 - 12:38pm | 1 comment
This article highlights Special Operations Civil Affairs’ (SOF CA) unique ability to support the U.S. Military’s governance mission in Northwest Africa and to claim the potential for a Civil Affairs-commanded Task Force and Company Headquarters in the region. While Civil Affairs (CA) units currently serve a supporting role within Northwest Africa’s Special Operations Task Force (SOTF-NWA) and Advanced Operations Base (AOB Sahel)–the Army’s only company-level command in the region–this discussion asserts that the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion should participate in the command rotation with 3rd and 19th Special Forces Groups. With governance as their primary operational focus and with extensive, uninterrupted presence on the continent, the 91st Battalion (in command) would better address the U.S. Military’s mission in Northwest Africa and further integrate Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations soldiers into effective Cross-Functional Teams
by Paul Gillikin | Thu, 03/18/2021 - 9:21am | 2 comments
The 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy mandated a change to the way the US Government focused on threats. No longer was the mantra a Global War on Terrorism, but a Great Power Competition. Violent Extremist Organizations would remain a serious risk, however, peer and near-peer threats such as China, Russia, and an emerging Iran would dominate the security strategies. Both strategy documents touched on a key theme to compete in this type of environment: innovation. For the senior Joint Force (JF) leadership, knowing the organization needs to innovate to stay ahead of peer competitors is one issue, but selecting the right leaders capable of discovering and developing innovations is another.
by Alexandra Phelan | Thu, 03/18/2021 - 2:05am | 1 comment
The formal demobilisation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) after the 2016 peace agreement with the Colombian government has resulted in a multiplicity of armed actors vying over former FARC territory and resources throughout the country. Conflicts over a monopoly of illicit economies (such as the production and trafficking of coca products including cocaine, the control of illegal mines, extortion rackets etc.) has continued to fuel violence, particularly worsening on the Colombian/Venezuelan border. In recent years, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, the ELN) has continued to expand its presence throughout Colombia, particularly capitalising on territorial vacuums since 2017 where FARC is no longer present, and in some other regions where the organisation has reportedly built alliances with other armed groups. Furthermore, the ELN has seized the opportunity to continue to territorially expand into Venezuela.
by Paulina Rios Maya  | Thu, 03/18/2021 - 12:06am | 2 comments
Although a plethora of literature has already debated what should be categorised as a hybrid threat, most of the research is still based on contesting the definition rather than an analysis of specific case studies. With this in mind, this paper posits that the rapid development of tactics used by Mexican narco-cartels has allowed these organisations to build a solid structure of influence. A structure that has amplified their efforts to coerce the state while increasing their capacity to dislocate social life and erode state institutions. Thus, by evaluating the Sinaloa Cartel’s strategic and operational methods, it demonstrates how these organisations deserve a place in the hybrid threat category.
by Robert Bunker | Wed, 03/10/2021 - 9:54pm | 2 comments
Review of Miron Lakomy's comparative analysis of Islamic State (IS) propaganda:  "Islamic State's Online propaganda: A Comparative Analysis."
by Daniel Riggs | Wed, 03/03/2021 - 8:21pm | 6 comments
With the return to Great Power Conflict and the Department of Defense’s renewed focus on Unconventional Warfare (UW), the next few years should welcome a conversation on legacy UW doctrine and find what to keep and what to discard. Just as importantly, DOD needs to find new means to engage in UW that are beyond the classic model of a Special Force Team infiltrating the Third World to assist a resistance. The following will argue that Agorism should be considered as one new UW strategy as it is more able to operate within a complex and open system. This essay provides a brief history of the movement, strategies of Agorism, and potential drawbacks.
by Clint Mallory | Wed, 03/03/2021 - 8:13pm | 1 comment
      The overwhelming conventional military superiority of the US has succeeded in deterring the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from directly using its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to achieve its strategic objectives to return to great power status by expanding political and economic influence, taking back “lost territories,” eroding and ultimately displacing the US as the leader of the international system, and creating a world safe for PRC authoritarian interests.  However, this same qualitative over-match has revealed new and more complex problems as it has driven the PRC and other revisionist powers such as Russia, to pursue more asymmetric, or Gray Zone, methods to change the status quo in their favor. And they are succeeding. Despite this, some still believe that doubling-down on more of these same conventional “deterrence” capabilities and activities is all that is needed to deter the PRC from pursuing their interests and preserving ours. We are taking the wrong actions, albeit for the right reasons.
by Robert Muggah, by Steven Dudley | Tue, 03/02/2021 - 3:59pm | 1 comment
Latin America and the Caribbean are suffering from the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and organized crime and violence. On the one hand, a third of all the world’s COVID-19 related fatalities occurred in the region's sprawling unequal cities, especially its most vulnerable neighborhoods. On the other, the region clocks over a third of all global homicides despite registering less than a tenth of the global population. Some 43 of the 50 most violent cities on the planet (with populations over 250,000 people) are located there.
by Dan Pace | Thu, 02/25/2021 - 9:45pm | 5 comments
In the wake of the recent analysis on SOF misconduct, a bumper sticker has emerged that claims SOF doesn’t have an ethics problem, it has a leadership problem.  While this is partially true – the strain on the force created by rapid, frequent deployment has stretched SOF leadership’s ability to build and maintain discipline – the slogan doesn’t tell the whole story.  SOF does have an ethics problem, and it stems from a dissonance the community breeds into its operators.  SOF operators are selected for a willingness and aptitude to conduct traditionally immoral acts, trained to be proficient at the conduct of those acts, but then expected to refrain from those acts outside of approved operational circumstances.
by Daniel Weisz | Thu, 02/25/2021 - 3:53pm | 1 comment
Review of Gema Kloppe-Santamaría, "In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice, and the State in Post-Revolutionary Mexico" by Daniel Weisz.