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 Jeff Goodson | Fri, 04/20/2018 - 10:55am | 0 comments
Expeditionary economics is an important line of effort in all five kinds of irregular warfare. RAND argues, for example, that the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) model could play a major role in future foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency and stability operations, as well as serve as an enabler for counter-terrorism actions that are nested with stability ops. Post and Peterson go further, proposing an applied framework for understanding and planning for the economic terrain in unconventional warfare. Although designed for military effect, expeditionary economics nests easily within the larger economic development objectives pursued by civilian organizations.
by Lee Ferran | Fri, 04/20/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
The Oscars are long-over, but you're one of those people who still likes to catch up on all the top nominees, right? Well, among that select group are "The Post" and "Darkest Hour," which are both fine movies but, to me, incomplete.
by David Lewton | Thu, 04/19/2018 - 4:23am | 0 comments
The battlefield is messy, and success often appears ephemeral. U.S. Special Forces deploy to austere and remote locations to confront terrorists that pose no existential threat to the United States. They continue to defend against human suffering at the hands of depraved terrorists and Islamist militants while strengthening defense relationships at a time when revisionist states are actively working to undermine the United States. Two Special Operations Imperatives are helpful concerning the future employment of U.S. Special Forces: understand the operational environment, and consider long-term effects. It is up to U.S. Special Forces senior leaders to ensure Army Green Berets are employed accurately in this complex security environment.
by Michael Senft | Thu, 04/19/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
“Why did the lessons of Stuxnet, Wannacry, Heartbleed and Shamoon go unheeded?” asked the inquisitive student to the doleful professor, whose withered, prematurely-aged face bore witness to the shattering of a hyperconnected world. Today students ask the same questions about the Russo-Japanese War and the Spanish Civil War. Voluminous accounts detailed the terrible lethality of modern weaponry at the Siege of Port Arthur and the Battle of Mukden, which foretold the unimaginable bloodshed of the First World War. Likewise, the Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of blitzkrieg warfare and the unspeakable carnage unleashed during the Second World War. Despite insightful analysis and almost clairvoyant assessments, the lessons from both conflicts were largely ignored as they ran counter to prevailing views, established organizational structures and pre-ordained plans. Are we any different today?
by Elizabeth Chalecki | Wed, 04/18/2018 - 12:22pm | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Science Fiction: Visioning the Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project. These stories allow readers to place themselves in a world where familiar meets unfamiliar. This world features a myriad of future technologies forcing paradigm shifts away from current, conventional thinking. The future world is hyper-connected, extremely dynamic, and at times uncertain. Writings portray an environment in which humans, and especially Soldiers, are confronted with complex, rapidly-changing situations outside of the known operational environment of today.
by Carter F. Smith | Wed, 04/18/2018 - 12:19am | 0 comments
Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) have been identified in every wartime period for the United States—from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts. Active duty MTGMs threaten the cohesiveness of military units and undermine the authority of military leadership, using the military to further their criminal organization’s goals. They are a clear threat to military discipline, bringing corrupt influences, an increase in criminal activity, and a threat to military family members on military installations. MTGMs increase the level of dangerousness to the community with their warfighter training and share their ability to remain undetected by law enforcement or members of the community, which allows their organization to thrive and grow unchecked. Members of 3GEN Gangs benefit from military training in positions like leadership, intelligence analysis, electronic warfare, psychological operations, and finance.
by Cheon Seong Whun | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 2:33pm | 0 comments
With the forthcoming April 27th inter-Korean summit meeting and a potential U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in May, there is growing hope of realizing a nuclear-free and peaceful Korean peninsula. Since North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is what has brought about these historic opportunities, there is no doubt that the main agenda of the two summits should be denuclearization. The fact that there exist two divergent conceptions of denuclearization will be a critical obstacle to the success of the summits.
by John Friberg | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:29am | 0 comments
Number 6 of 6 in SWJ's "The Village" series. A book about a small squad of U.S. Marines embedded in a Vietnamese village as a part of the Combined Action Program provides pertinent and timely lessons in counterinsurgency applicable to the current conflict in Afghanistan.
by John C. Hale | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
Roger Trinquier accurately assessed that a deliberate and methodical process must be conducted, to defeat an insurgency that does not present a single decisive battle that turns the tide of war. The development of a methodical campaign plan for Counter-insurgency (COIN) requires planners to use a new method of thinking in the way they approach their mission. Campaign Design for COIN incorporates many non-traditional aspects to planning that many have practiced in the field yet have not be codified into doctrine until recently.
by Jody L. Barth | Mon, 04/16/2018 - 2:03am | 0 comments
The Defense Department may have fallen behind its interagency partners in a true “hurry up and wait” fashion characteristic of tactical military operations. It is not too late for the Defense Department – it just needs commitment from its senior military leaders as well as a change in attitude from “hurry up and wait” to “hurry up and work.” Half the world’s population is depending on it.
by Franklin C. Annis | Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:20am | 0 comments
As the complexity of war increases and training time remains finite, the U.S. Army will be increasingly depended on self-directed learning to maintain dominance of the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army has the difficult task of preparing leaders to operate in complex environments. For decades the Army has struggled to consistently define terms and provide materials to support self-directed learning. This paper examines the constantly shifting definitions within the Army Leader Development Model and suggests corrections to the definitions and design of the model to ensure that self-directed learning within the Army is fully supported.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Sun, 04/15/2018 - 5:06pm | 1 comment
Last summer, the great dame of modern classical studies, Mary Beard, was subjected to vicious online abuse for simply defending the reality of Roman Britain as a diverse place, as depicted in a BBC cartoon that had provoked the initial outrage from conservative British nativists. Battles of diversity and inclusion, and how we acknowledge the reality of diversity and inclusion, seem to sadly be timeless, then. President Donald Trump and his fans seemed to be pretty happy at the outset of this year to be referring to Africa in excremental terms, mentioning Haiti and El Salvador in the same context. Such behavior adds fuel to allegations of racist intent behind some of the Trump Administration’s policies; at the very least, Trump and senior Republicans seems to believe that severely limiting immigration from these places and others will make America stronger and safer. History shows us otherwise.
by Sangeet Jain | Sun, 04/15/2018 - 7:41am | 4 comments
The Arms Trade Treaty is a multilateral treaty, regulating international trade in conventional arms. It was envisioned as a tool to prevent conflict and human rights violations fuelled by poorly regulated trade in arms, which could not conceivably be controlled via national legislation alone. The treaty’s initial pace was unprecedented – it’s ratification target achieved in less than two years. It currently has 180 signatories and 89 ratifications. However, in order to be a success, it needs to be universalised, which is among the major items on its current agenda. India had been a vigorous participant in the Treaty’s negotiating process. However, the final draft did not meet its expectations and it chose to abstain when the treaty was put to vote at the UNGA on the 2nd of April 2013. This paper aims to evaluate, by present standards, whether India must re-look its stand taken on the Arms Trade Treaty then.
by Marcel Plichta | Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:02pm | 0 comments
A ‘New York Times’ column about the Central African Republic (CAR), “Conflict is More Powerful Than Peace”, from two-time Pulitzer winner Nick Kristof, is a big deal. The African nation’s ongoing conflicts constitute one of the least-known political crises of our time. The only substantial coverage CAR received before Kristof’s article was ongoing allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers that came to light in 2015. The article has come under fire from commentators for its portrayal of the country, but, despite some egregious errors, Kristof got more right than wrong about the Central African Republic.
by W. R. Baker | Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:15am | 5 comments
The exact location or locations where a massacre may have occurred is unknown. The NVA may have marched the ARVN troops to North Vietnam or even Laos. There is thick vegetation in the Rockpile area, as well. Though it may take a human rights organization to prove or disprove this possible massacre, it will remain an open question until it is put to rest, one way or another.
by Timothy Clark | Thu, 04/12/2018 - 12:53am | 0 comments
Federal troops have had a long, but at times controversial history of operations along the U.S. Southwest Border going back as far as military conflicts with Mexican in the 1840s, with subsequent basing and excursions along and even across the border with Mexico to show force, hold territory and exhibit hegemony, defend settlers, suppress and combat Native Americans, defend against excursions from bandit and Mexican revolutionary forces, and more recently counter smuggling efforts.
by James King | Thu, 04/12/2018 - 12:37am | 1 comment
Let’s just forget the Vietnam War ever happened. For thirty years following the last Huey helicopter flying off the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Saigon that’s exactly what the U.S. military tried to do. We had lost for the first time, and it hurt. Service members coming home from the war were spat on, ridiculed, and looked down upon, and it hurt. It hurt so much that senior leaders let the military become hollow and weak, turning a blind eye to misconduct and sinking unit morale. They vowed to never fight another war like that and stripped the lessons of Vietnam out of the lexicon of U.S. combat operations.
by Hamid Lellou | Wed, 04/11/2018 - 9:20am | 0 comments
Al-Shabaab, is a terrorist organization that began conducting attacks in Somalia in 2006, and later claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda. Although they have labeled themselves as an Islamic armed Organization, there is evidence that suggests that the root cause is structural, while Islam and the group’s behavior are dynamics. As with other terror groups, the historical, political, and geographical context in which al-Shabaab developed their goals and became violent are crucial to understanding their dynamics and causes of their terrorist activities today.
by Hamid Lellou | Wed, 04/11/2018 - 8:59am | 0 comments
Despite its wealth in natural and human resources, and its political and economic influence on the continent of Africa, the Nigerian government struggles to reduce or eliminate insecurity. One of the most prominent security challenges is the Boko Haram terrorist organization which has already resulted in human, infrastructure, and military loses in the north-eastern part of the country. Nearly all experts agree on the problem, but the differences lie in the analysis of the causes of this terrorism and developing a solution. This literature review aims to examine if Boko Haram is truly religiously motivated, as suggested by the International Crisis Group, who asserts that Boko Haram is an organization that fights the corrupt local government on behalf of Islam or, as proposed by Aghedo, Anydike, and others, it is a self-branded Islamic terrorist organization with its roots causes in corruption and socio-economic disparities.
by SWJ Editors | Tue, 04/10/2018 - 12:50am | 1 comment
Moral Injury has been called the “signature wound” of today’s wars. It is also as old as the human record of war, as evidenced in the ancient war epics of Greece, India, and the Middle East. But what exactly is Moral Injury? What are its causes and consequences? What can we do to prevent or limit its occurrence among those we send to war? And, above all, what can we do to help heal afflicted warriors? This landmark volume provides an invaluable resource for those looking for answers to these questions. Gathered here are some of the most far-ranging, authoritative, and accessible writings to date on the topic of Moral Injury. Contributors come from the fields of psychology, theology, philosophy, psychiatry, law, journalism, neuropsychiatry, classics, poetry, and, of course, the profession of arms.
by Robert Bunker, by Juan Ricardo Gómez Hecht, by John P. Sullivan | Tue, 04/10/2018 - 12:30am | 0 comments
The emergence of the dissident MS-503 organization, while still relatively small in size and influence due to the immediate depuration of various insubordinate MS-13 cliques, has a number of potentially significant implications for MS-13 going into the future. The first is, if MS-503 is able to seize territory and expand within areas of Mexico, it will do so in direct opposition to MS-13 Northbound human smuggling and Southbound marijuana and small arms trafficking illicit economic interests. Natural allies for MS-503 for such an endeavor would be entities competing with the MS-13 allied Sinaloa or Zetas cartels—such as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
by W. R. Baker | Mon, 04/09/2018 - 1:25pm | 0 comments
The new “Vietnam Veterans for Factual History” magazine is a resource designed to address a concern by its creators and associated blog readers that many history books and teachers are presenting a fraudulent picture of what was done and accomplished in Vietnam.
by Walker D. Mills | Mon, 04/09/2018 - 12:10am | 0 comments
“Small Wars Journal’s” fourth review of six. “The Village” is a classic, probably the only book that has been on the Commandant of the Marine Corps Professional Reading List for over forty years, it is still taught as part of the curriculum at The Basic School for Marine officers in Quantico, VA. It is a book about a little piece of the Vietnam War that offers lessons for every counterinsurgency since. It’s a book for everyone in the military or in the business of counterinsurgency, over fifty years after the establishment of the CAP program we’re still struggling to replicate its successes.
by Nikolai Kerry | Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
This book is unique in that unlike many others published since the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan it is focused on the neglected systemic treatment of the insurgency itself, while others in this genre focus on counterinsurgency. Jones breaks down over seven chapters how an insurgency begins and then goes through the various strategies, tactics, organizational structures, how insurgents use propaganda and gain outside support historically used in an insurgency. He uses past and current insurgencies to validate his points throughout the book.
by Richard A. Best Jr. | Thu, 04/05/2018 - 12:18am | 0 comments
The announcement that John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs and Ambassador to the United Nations in the George W. Bush Administration, will succeed H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser effective April 9th raises important and interesting questions about the direction of American national security policy and the role of the National Security Council staff.
by Aleyzer Mora, by Linda O. Jones | Thu, 04/05/2018 - 12:05am | 0 comments
An Army commander must be able to communicate with geographically dispersed forces to command effectively. A home station mission command center (HSMCC) increases a commander's ability to communicate with military partners anytime, anywhere.
by William Allen | Wed, 04/04/2018 - 12:54am | 0 comments
This paper focuses on emerging tactics, techniques, and procedures in the threat finance world concerning cryptocurrencies. It will examine critical vulnerabilities in the crypto market, explore how non-fiat currencies have altered conventional money laundering techniques, and consider potential adversarial use of distributed computational infrastructure. This study will conclude with policy recommendations to US Government officials at the national, strategic, and operational levels that are designed to enable greater scouting of emerging technologies, which may be exploited.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Mon, 04/02/2018 - 9:13am | 0 comments
The reason I am writing this article is because I received a lot of feedback on my article published in Small Wars Journal on leadership. The comments below are a sample of what I received from readers. These comments speak to the problem we are having in the military with humility, top-cover for mistakes, understanding how to manage failure, and organizational change.
by Myles Tucker | Sun, 04/01/2018 - 7:53pm | 0 comments
Faced with an aggressive Russia, expansionary China, and rising military expenditures swelling the national debt, American policymakers are left with a choice: will the country continue to maintain a standing capability to tackle multiple major threats across the world at any fiscal or diplomatic cost?
by Alexander Sharpe, by Oliver Lotze | Sun, 04/01/2018 - 6:19pm | 0 comments
Rather than continue short duration efforts that lead to little long term gain, long-term embedded advisors in partner nation military institutions should be used. A Western military presence in partner nation professional military educational facilities can provide an enduring effect that may result in professional armies inculcated in Western concepts of professionalism and fealty to civilian control and oversight.
by Kyle Amonson | Sat, 03/31/2018 - 4:07pm | 0 comments
This essay examines the structure and role of non-governmental organizations, identifies the principles of liberal institutionalism, discusses International Committee of the Red Cross events in Afghanistan and concludes with identifying viable solutions through international response with a liberal institutionalist theoretical framework.
by James Torrence | Fri, 03/30/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
To develop an effective foundation for the creation of cybersecurity strategy, cyber policymakers must learn from a historical example when a new domain of warfare, rapidly evolving technology, and an environment dominated by the offense presented challenges to conventional defense.
by Erik Grossman | Thu, 03/29/2018 - 12:17am | 0 comments
This paper examines the foundations of the "Chechen model" of Russian intervention, briefly recap the much-documented American "Afghan model” and analyze how the Chechen model proved superior in a shared conflict space with competing objectives in Syria.
by Lewis Sorley | Thu, 03/29/2018 - 12:07am | 0 comments
Bing West gives us, in this timeless work, an incomparable portrait of the lower end of the spectrum, a small war indeed. The Marines, chronicled by Marine Captain Bing West in a RAND report, all volunteers, were given one simple order—control the five square miles of the village of Binh Nghia, day and night, and do it with rifles, not artillery or airpower. The costs were high.
by Nicolò Scremin | Wed, 03/28/2018 - 10:54am | 0 comments
Although Italy might be currently safer than other European societies, not only could Rome turn into a prime target in the short/medium term; evidence also suggests that, in the long term, the risk of experiencing more serious dynamics of radicalisation is not minimal.
by Bryan Baker | Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:21am | 0 comments
Some might argue that these successes of the ultra-rich have trickled down to the middle and working classes; the data simply does not support such notions. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz finds that from 2005 to 2015 the income of the ultra-rich increased by eighteen percent, while the middle class saw slight declines in income and men with high school degrees experienced precipitous falls in income.
by Aaron Farley | Tue, 03/27/2018 - 6:03pm | 1 comment
This is the second in a series of “Small Wars Journal” reviews of Bing West’s military classic “The Village”.
by Stuart Vanweele, by Ralph Tillinghast | Tue, 03/27/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
Article two of two in the latest Mad Scientist at Small Wars Journal series.
by Michael Goodyear | Mon, 03/26/2018 - 8:55pm | 0 comments
Perhaps the most apt description of the factions in the Syrian war can be taken from pop culture: “They're all just spokes on a wheel. This ones on top, then that ones on top and on and on it spins crushing those on the ground.”
by Jeremy D. McLain | Mon, 03/26/2018 - 1:16am | 0 comments
Article one of two in the latest Mad Scientist at Small Wars Journal series.
by Adam Klus | Sun, 03/25/2018 - 10:33am | 0 comments
In this paper, nine threat categories are discussed through the prism of a unified analytical framework. This discussion forms the central element of the paper’s analysis focusing on expanding the boundaries of the threat landscape.
by Timothy Grebos, by Thomas McAvoy, by Jonathan Gerson, by John Hughes | Sun, 03/25/2018 - 1:54am | 7 comments
From the United States’ perspective as the stronger force in recent conflicts, and typically fighting on foreign soil, Time is a critical vulnerability. For US forces fighting abroad, the shorter the duration of the conflict, the more likely the result will be decisive victory.
by Asim Yousafzai | Sat, 03/24/2018 - 12:55am | 0 comments
Manzoor Pashteen is a genuine voice for peace and his demands are constitutional; suppressing him and his movement would result in more chaos in the region. Peace in Afghanistan is ultimately related to peace in FATA, the sooner Pakistani and US authorities realize this, the better.
by Carter F. Smith, by Joshua Harms | Fri, 03/23/2018 - 8:28am | 0 comments
Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) have been identified in every wartime period for the United States—from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts. MTGMs in the military threaten the cohesiveness of military units and undermine the authority of military leadership.
by Christopher Flaherty | Thu, 03/22/2018 - 5:18pm | 0 comments
A defining feature of the marauder is that it operates outside of the rules and conventions that govern. This feature makes the marauder ubiquitous, giving it a capacity to easily outwit and overwhelm its conventional opposition.
by Peter K. Forster, by Thomas Hader | Thu, 03/22/2018 - 12:20am | 0 comments
Vast amounts of research exist on why the individual or small group might join a violent organization and travel to a conflict zone, but little exists on how the receiving organizations recruit, vet, and facilitate the foreign fighter process.
by Christopher Solomon | Wed, 03/21/2018 - 3:20pm | 0 comments
Fifty years ago, an armed confrontation between Israel, Jordan, and Palestinian guerillas created a new phase of Middle East diplomacy and conflicts. What does the battle’s legacy tell us about Jordan and its place the troubled region today?
by Nicholas A. Keipper | Wed, 03/21/2018 - 3:22am | 2 comments
While the US Army has an exceptional force to win the nation’s wars, it lacks the ability to stabilize areas after conflict abates.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Tue, 03/20/2018 - 12:25am | 1 comment
Army leadership needs to admit to itself it has a trust and honesty problem. These problems can be directly attributed to inadequate leadership engagement, poor talent management, requirement overload, and a lack of moral courage.
by Brenda A. Oppel, by David M. Gohlich, by John D. Dietz | Mon, 03/19/2018 - 12:17am | 1 comment
We propose that the United States recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, make it blatantly clear that this an unacceptable end state, and provide nuclear weapons in South Korea and Japan that are jointly maintained, but still owned by the United States.