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 Jeremy Blascak | Fri, 11/08/2019 - 3:01pm | 0 comments
The difference between success or failure on the Korean Peninsula fell on the shoulders of the theater commander, US Army General Douglas MacArthur. His decision to execute Operation Chromite, a bold, combined arms, amphibious landing on the Korean west coast at Inchon, turned the tide of the war. Chromite successfully prevented a defeat at the Pusan Perimeter while cutting off vital North Korean lines of supply and communication through an amphibious envelopment. In order to understand the operational art and dynamics of Chromite’s success, it is necessary to frame the problem through a Cold War perspective militarily and politically, analyze the defense of the Pusan Perimeter to the planning and execution of Chromite, and evaluate how the operation successfully met strategic objectives through the creative and skillful employment of military forces while balancing the ends, ways, means, and risk.
by Tony M. Kail | Thu, 11/07/2019 - 5:14pm | 0 comments
The use of magico-religious systems to promote the activities of drug trafficking organizations is nothing new. In my book "Narco Cults: Understand the Use of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican Religious Cultures in the Drug Wars", I define a narco cult as “An individualistic, shamanistic, communal or ecclesiastical cult that functions as a source of spiritual or psychological empowerment for individuals or organizations connected to drug production or trafficking.” Based on these early reports of the investigation and witness testimonies it appears that several of the religious shrines discovered in the raid were possibly used for spiritual protection.
by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. | Wed, 11/06/2019 - 9:30am | 0 comments
Recently Professor Mary McCord published an essay in which she rhetorically re-makes the reality of a scattered collection of rag-tag right-wingers who call themselves “militias” into potent “private armies” akin to what she calls “foreign forces prepar[ing] for potential violence.” Regrettably, Professor McCord‘s essay lacks a sufficient military perspective to adequately gauge the true nature of the threats.
by Leanne Erdberg, by Fouad Pervez | Wed, 11/06/2019 - 8:50am | 0 comments
There is a great hunger to better understand violent extremism and diminish its impact, especially given its global spread. Policies should stand on the shoulders of research to yield better outcomes for countless people around the globe whose lives are devastated by violent extremism.
by Nick Lopez | Mon, 11/04/2019 - 4:33am | 0 comments
In "Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World", General (Retired) Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell highlighted the transformation of Joint Special Operations Command in the early 2000s to more effectively fight the Global War on Terror, and ultimately offered insights on how to respond to 21st century problems. This same transformation may not be feasible across the Department of Defense (DOD). However, established networks in the DOD can be utilized to tackle the wicked problems of the 21st century. One such network is the FAO corps serving across the globe.
by Louis René Beres | Sun, 11/03/2019 - 10:39am | 0 comments
Already, back in 2014, US Senator Bernie Sanders fancied himself an informed scholar on the complex laws of war. Then as now, however, the Senator's seat-of-the-pants judgments concerning Israeli counterterrorism were evidently contrived and woefully incorrect. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, this recurrent American presidential aspirant, by accusing Israel of using "disproportionate force" against Palestinians, still ignores the (1) critical regional context of Israel's self-defense responses to terrorism, and (2) the authentic legal meaning of "proportionality."
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 11/03/2019 - 9:22am | 0 comments
Laden Grunts traversing the steep scree-laden hills, Preternaturally alert, analyzing, Cunning senses energized, Behind them, others followed...
by Muhammad Faizal bin Abdul Rahman | Sat, 11/02/2019 - 11:15am | 0 comments
Given the heightened terrorist threat, the police forces of global cities are beefing up their special forces units by adopting more militarised approaches in weaponry, tactics, culture, and organisation even as they increase the level of cooperation with the state’s armed forces. This civil-military integration in homeland security is present in Singapore where the police force and the army are conducting more joint patrols in public places besides key installations (KINS), and the Army is training more soldiers for peacetime operations.
by Lex Oren | Sat, 11/02/2019 - 12:19am | 0 comments
The Arctic Sea is a significant expanse for American security and has repeatedly been under-resourced by the Department of Defense (DoD). Without access to the sea and airspace that the freedom of the seas provides, the United States’ ability to maintain a forward presence and accomplish a range of military and humanitarian assistance missions will be compromised.
by Lauren Serrano | Fri, 11/01/2019 - 12:11am | 0 comments
Underpinnings of ethnic, religious, tribal, and demographic factors as well as their associated social identities remain a recurrent player in Iraqi politics and has affected the building of the Iraqi Army over the past 16 years. Researching Iraqi culture, social identities and their historical context is paramount to understanding the challenges the U.S. has faced in its efforts to train, equip, and advise the Iraqi Army. Independent thinking, creative ideas, information sharing, individual initiative, decentralized control, delegation of responsibility, and personal merit are all keys to success in U.S. military doctrine but contradict Iraqi sociocultural norms of centralized power, groupthink, and avoiding shame, embarrassment, and admission of mistakes. Training, equipping, and advising Arab militaries to follow Western military doctrine has had a history of at best mediocre results and rarely outlives the departure of Western advisors. U.S. capacity building doctrine in Iraq did not adjust to take into account Iraqi culture, instead it expected the Iraqi military to adapt to American military doctrine.
by Michael L. Burgoyne, by Albert J. Marckwardt | Thu, 10/31/2019 - 8:23am | 0 comments
Counterinsurgency isn’t dead no matter how much the U.S. military may want it to be. Ten years ago, we wrote a short parable designed to quickly inform junior leaders on the basic concepts of counterinsurgency called The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa. It seems appropriate to take this anniversary to revisit the book and the concept of counterinsurgency.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Thu, 10/31/2019 - 3:41am | 0 comments
In 2019, we are immersed in competitions that require persistent advantages to prevail against long-view opponents. Victory is relative and temporary, and our operations need to be influential lest they become irrelevant. This strategic challenge is acute in complex warfare, where operations are waged across domains (land, sea, air, space, cyber, electro-magnetic) using diverse means (diplomatic, informational, military, economic, social—DIMES) to produce synergistic effects (preventive and causative, psychological and physical, cooperative and confrontational).
by Mustafa Hasan, by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Wed, 10/30/2019 - 2:22pm | 0 comments
Protests in Iraq continue despite the harsh measures against those participating. Starting Thursday night, October 24th, crowds of protesters in Baghdad, Babel and Nasiriyah gathered to prepare for more protests. The vast majority of those participating according to the field reports, were males between 15-35 years old. Then Friday morning protests started again in earnest, renewing calls for reform and action. This time both men and women and high school aged boys and girls, joined the protests.
by N. V. Subramanian | Tue, 10/29/2019 - 6:18pm | 0 comments
Saudi Arabia’s overweening confidence as a leading Sunni power has been enfeebled by the 14 September attack on its oil facilities. Its sworn enemy, Iran, has carried out the attack by itself or its Houthi proxy in Yemen. It amounts to the same thing.
by Louis René Beres | Mon, 10/28/2019 - 11:00am | 0 comments
The US targeted killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on 26 October 2019 raises both tactical and legal questions. Although it is by no means certain that such "decapitation" tactics can tangibly diminish Jihadist terrorist threats to the United States, there is little reason to doubt their permissibility under pertinent international law. In the final analysis, such permissibility derives from our world's still-decentralized legal structure.
by SWJ Editors | Mon, 10/28/2019 - 12:44am | 0 comments
"War Amongst the People: Critical Assessments" - Edited by David Brown, Donette Murray, Malte Riemann, Norma Rossi and Martin A. Smith, The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Published by Howgate Publishing, May 2019.
by Louis René Beres | Mon, 10/21/2019 - 6:36pm | 0 comments
At first glance, the main argument here may appear counter-intuitive. It suggests that the United States should become less concerned about achieving any future military victories than optimizing its overall national security. Such a sensible argument would already have appeared orthodox to Carl von Clausewitz. After all, this foundational military strategist's "On War" assessed every international conflict from the irreducible standpoint of maximizing a determinative "political object."
by Dave Dilegge | Mon, 10/21/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
ICYMI item from 2003. General Anthony Zinni (USMC Ret); experienced in the theory, planning, and conduct of Military Operations Other Than War as well as a leading proponent of cultural intelligence; developed the following considerations for humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, and peace enforcement operations.
by Cody Mattern | Sun, 10/20/2019 - 5:41am | 0 comments
While still brutal, the Irish War of Independence ended with relatively little loss of life (some estimate that less than 2,000 lives were lost during the conflict) in order to secure the independence of three million people. In order to understand the result of this war and its enduring nature, it becomes incumbent upon us to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the combatants in order to understand the factors that led to its conclusion.
by Daniel Moriarty, by Kevin Peckenpaugh | Fri, 10/18/2019 - 4:45am | 0 comments
This paper will begin by establishing definitions for key terms used throughout it; with a subject matter steeped in both Army and Navy terminology, it is critical to ensure shared understanding. Next, we will discuss first-hand experience with the challenges of maritime CAA, through several examples that have been conducted by A/83d. Following this review, we will discuss a proposed role for CA forces conducting CAA in a maritime environment. Using existing doctrine and academic research as a foundation, our analysis seeks to provide meaningful recommendations on how CA can support maritime forces through targeted CAA in both littoral and maritime environments. Lastly, we will review our analysis and summarize recommendations for the force. This paper is not intended to demand what maritime CAA should or shouldn’t be. Instead, we seek to offer ideas of what maritime CAA could be and hope to generate further discussion on a topic that is increasingly relevant.
by Alexander Boroff | Thu, 10/17/2019 - 3:27am | 0 comments
Utilizing a future fictional war against a near-peer adversary, reconnaissance and security fundamentals are presented in the manner of “The Defence of Duffer’s Drift.” Unique in addressing both the interconnectedness of reconnaissance and security and tying them to concrete examples of failure, this paper attempts to present plausible ways to integrate said concepts into an iterative tactical decision-making exercise.
by John P. Sullivan, by José de Arimatéia da Cruz, by Robert Bunker | Wed, 10/16/2019 - 3:56pm | 0 comments
Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) has been increasingly targeted from 2014 onwards by fuel thieves (ladrões de combustível). The gangs (gangues) involved include the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC or First Capital Command) and milícias (militias). A similar pattern of large-scale petroleum theft has been taking place in Mexico since at least 2006.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 10/14/2019 - 7:28pm | 0 comments
China is wielding strategies that envelop opponents with an all-effects all-domain approach to national power. These effects are neither precise nor pre-ordained because they occur in an uncertain information environment that encompasses behavior by all sensors – living, or artificial. Drawing from a rich tradition of hybrid stratagems and holistic information, China’s leaders use a variety of asymmetric approaches that exploit weaknesses in opponents’ strategies.
by Matthew E. Miller | Mon, 10/14/2019 - 5:43pm | 0 comments
Offensive cyber, EW, and counterspace operations against sustainment enterprise could create a ‘shockwave’ across the theater of operations. The TSC G-2 sections need to emphasize analysis and collection against these multi-domain threats to the sustainment forces from both inside and outside of theater.
by Robert Boudreau, by Don Newberry Jr., by Richard Phillips | Mon, 10/14/2019 - 12:34am | 0 comments
For the last hundred years, where diplomacy has failed and warfare has resulted, CA has repeatedly been revitalized and integrated with military operations during wartime. However, on the present-day battlefield, where open conflict is decreasing but “gray zone” activities are increasing, CA personnel should be utilized to undermine U.S. competitors’ attempts to build military, diplomatic, economic, and informational advantages in regions of U.S. interest.
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 10/13/2019 - 2:45pm | 0 comments
With each generation, its soldiers are issued the new cutting-edge weapons to defend or destroy as required. From rocks to spears to nuclear weapons, mankind has progressed in the technology of killing. It has permitted its users to evolve from the highly personal closeup application to the most distant and dispassionate destruction from afar. However, one combatant tool always remains resident regardless of the evolution of time and generations and that is the power of thought.
by Shantanu Roy-Chaudhury | Wed, 10/09/2019 - 3:14pm | 0 comments
The Indian Ocean has gained geostrategic importance due to the volume of trade that passes through it. At the same time, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is increasing Chinese influence in numerous countries in Asia and across the globe. Against this backdrop, this paper seeks to examine how the growing Chinese footprint in Sri Lanka and the Maldives can have implications for India’s national security and how the Chinese expansion is of strategic importance to New Delhi.
by Franklin C. Annis | Tue, 10/08/2019 - 8:57pm | 0 comments
Currently the development of Combat Medics is too heavily focused within the Institutional domain and needs the immediate introduction of the Operational domain to improve the abilities of Army medics. Offering supporting materials for Self-Development could further optimize the performance of Combat Medics on the modern battlefield.
by Andrew Narloch | Mon, 10/07/2019 - 12:29pm | 0 comments
A hyper-mobile defense’s goal is to shock, not destroy, the enemy through rapid, repeated, multi-directional engagements. The fixed objectives serve to lure in vulnerable tanks, helicopters and armored personnel carriers along pre-planned routes, making them easy targets for the small strike teams. While this shock technique did not entirely destroy the Israeli force, it did disrupt the attacker’s central strategy of a swift, air-covered, armored penetration. The desire of achieving a quick, comprehensive strike for effect has long been the linchpin of effective urban conquest.
by Assad A. Raza | Mon, 10/07/2019 - 12:31am | 0 comments
The Army published its Army Total Force Policy in 2012 to define steps and guidance to integrate all components to meet DoD’s goal for a total force. U.S. Army Civil Affairs should take the NCFA recommendations and the lessons learned by other services and from those Army units participating in the AUPP to develop a Civil Affairs Total Force Policy.
by Justin Magula | Sun, 10/06/2019 - 3:48am | 0 comments
North Korea has always relied on provocation to preserve regime stability. The Kim regime refuses to recognize the 1953 armistice as an end of the Korean War and desires to reunite the peninsula under North Korean control. Even in the face of international pressure, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons to combat threats to the regime and maintain Kim’s survival.
by Mahmut Cengiz | Sun, 10/06/2019 - 1:21am | 0 comments
Small Wars Journal on July 7, 2019 published this author’s article[1] “Who Was Behind the July 15, 2016 Military Uprising in Turkey?” and then retweeted it on July 15, 2019 the third anniversary of the coup attempt. In the meantime, a reader of Small Wars Journal, who is referred to hereafter as respondent X, who is from the United Kingdom (UK), reached out to article’s author to speak about the coup attempt and article.
by Joe Buccino | Sat, 10/05/2019 - 11:31am | 0 comments
Rick Atkinson's thorough research reveals a Continental Army that was often hapless, frightened, and under-resourced. It’s often terrified soldiers are led by the ineffectual, the self-interested, and the deceitful.
by Joe Cheravitch | Fri, 10/04/2019 - 5:06am | 0 comments
Moscow’s form of information warfare targeting the West has attracted significant international attention since 2014, especially through its reinvigorated military intelligence branch. Nonetheless, little research has focused on these campaigns’ apparent shortcomings.
by Andrew J. Bibb | Thu, 10/03/2019 - 12:32am | 0 comments
The unfortunate truth is that supported commands are not nearly as aware or informed of what Civil Affairs offers as other branches. Every commander knows that the role of the Infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy. Not every commander knows that Civil Affairs Soldiers and Marines are his or her sensors on the battlefield.
by Jaron Wharton, by Sean Parrott | Wed, 10/02/2019 - 11:39am | 0 comments
Are Regionally Aligned Force missions readiness-building or readiness-consuming for U.S. forces? Having deployed recently in support of exercise Shared Accord 19 in Rwanda, we argue that an answer to this question requires nuance that is often glossed over.
by Scott Crino, by Andy Dreby | Wed, 10/02/2019 - 8:18am | 0 comments
The recent drone attacks targeting critical components of Saudi Arabia’s energy sector, highlighted by the September fourteenth attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Khurais oilfield and Abqaiq refinery, demonstrate the strategic effect small drones can make in conflict zones.
by Alia Awadallah | Tue, 10/01/2019 - 2:55am | 0 comments
The military defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria gave rise to a flurry of speculation regarding the possible threats posed by fighters returning to their countries of origin. Journalists and academics have since uncovered considerable information on the backgrounds of these ISIS fighters and speculated on the ways they could wreak havoc within their home countries. Yet one question remains largely unanswered: What exactly are Arab states doing with fighters who return home?
by W. R. Baker | Mon, 09/30/2019 - 2:26pm | 0 comments
On March 30, 1972, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) invaded South Vietnam and the Easter Offensive of 1972 in I Corps/First Regional Assistance Command (FRAC) area began, flouting their 1968 promise to “respect the DMZ.” Though seldom acknowledged or known by many, the priority objective of North Vietnam’s invasion was northern South Vietnam. Eventually, six NVA divisions, two tank regiments, and three-four independent infantry regiments would strike through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Laos catching United States and South Vietnamese command elements completely dumbfounded and slow to respond.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 09/30/2019 - 9:48am | 0 comments
Our need to scrutinize information becomes more acute as automation outstrips human understanding. If machine-learnt becomes machine-taught, we may lose the power to make responsible decisions. At the same time, our drive for technological advantage creates dependence on complex networks such as the “collaborative sensing grid.” Uncertainty persists.
by Samuel Canter | Mon, 09/30/2019 - 6:30am | 0 comments
The exodus of Junior Military Officers (JMO) from the service, colloquially known as the “brain drain,” represents one of the more slow-burning problems facing the United States Army. Beyond the immediate results on planned force structure and end-strength, the subtler effects of these departures will take decades to manifest.
by N. V. Subramanian | Sun, 09/29/2019 - 9:31am | 0 comments
Having angered China by stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and calling to question its claims on Ladakh, India may attempt to placate its powerful northern neighbour and adversary at an informal Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summit slated for next month.
by Michael Kelvington | Sun, 09/29/2019 - 12:10am | 0 comments
Killing terrorists is not all about kinetic strikes, area clearances, and pinpoint raids. Terrorist organizations must be pressured in every aspect of their organization’s lifeblood. Attacking their coffers, often referred to as “counter-threat financing,” or CTF, is a key aspect of hurting terrorists from growing future capabilities and preventing future high-profile attacks.
by Sammie Wicks | Sat, 09/28/2019 - 8:22am | 0 comments
This memo describes how Nigerian Organized Crime affects both host nations and Nigerian diaspora communities as it specifically relates to Italy. Further, this memo argues that Nigerian organized crime has entrenched itself in Italy and persists as a significant threat to Nigerian diaspora communities in Italy.
by Donald "Tony" Vacha | Fri, 09/27/2019 - 1:35am | 0 comments
Army Civil Affairs (CA) faces an existential conundrum. The Army’s renewed focus on peer competition and lethality in Large Scale Combat Operations challenges how the branch defines itself and how the Army perceives its role. The inability of CA to define itself in relation to the Army’s operating concepts and doctrine is an enduring problem.
by Benjamin Ordiway | Fri, 09/27/2019 - 1:14am | 0 comments
When Special Forces train foreign partners, I can know how many bullets exited a rifle and how many foreign partners eventually qualified on the weapons range. I’m just not sure I can see what your Civil Affairs Teams accomplished during their deployment. What can you show me?
by Adam Wilson | Thu, 09/26/2019 - 10:34am | 0 comments
The 2020 presidential candidates Afghan policy stance will surely be focused on short term political gains over the long-term prosperity of Afghanistan. Ultimately, Afghanistan has run its course politically and many would argue there exists no US policy that can “win” in Afghanistan and “win” politically at home in the US. The question each candidate should be asked next is what does your withdrawal look like?
by Robert Alan Murphy | Thu, 09/26/2019 - 8:32am | 0 comments
If American policymakers were to simplify the objectives of its military adventures it would not only limit the costs in blood in treasure, it would render the military more able and ready to address the existential threats to American national security, relieve the American people’s exhaustion with persistent war, and improve the prospects for decisive victory in theaters where it has proven so elusive.
by David Retherford | Wed, 09/25/2019 - 5:56pm | 0 comments
Historian and author, Stephen L. Harris, has written the definitive history of shared combat experience of the 3rd Infantry Division and the soldiers who fought in the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918. The American involvement in the First World War was minor compared to the French and British commitment. Yet, the American combat experience was equally demanding on the soldiers. Rock of the Marne detailed the recollection of the weeks and day leading into the Second Battle of the Marne.
by Nathan P. Jones | Wed, 09/25/2019 - 5:43am | 0 comments
"Understanding Human Trafficking" by Luz Nagle takes the reader into the sometimes arcane yet important legal world for a master lesson in how global and domestic actors can and will fight the scourge that is human trafficking.