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 John Bolton | Sun, 06/10/2018 - 12:04am | 0 comments
This paper analyzes how the Army’s Bureaucratic mindset, educational heuristics, and focus on big data negatively affects developing Situational Awareness. It argues that the Army’s bureaucratic mindset common throughout the Army and resident in DMCS presumes an ability to quantify the world based on faulty determinative assumptions.
by Hans Winkler, by Robert Kerr | Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:35am | 0 comments
As we dig deeper into the AFPAK Hands program, several holistic trends begin to surface. Although program management should be a topic addressed in future research, this article highlights a few disconnects that stand out during this review.
by Morwari Zafar | Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:16am | 0 comments
The deteriorating security in western Afghanistan may soon be worsened by a water crisis. A snowballing militancy, desiccating wetlands, and environmental migration create a trifecta of challenges to test the mettle of the Afghan government and complicate its already-tense relations with Iran.
by Chad M. Pillai | Thu, 06/07/2018 - 12:26am | 2 comments
With a better understanding of the Dark Arts that TSOCs and SOF planners bring to Joint Force Planners along with a clear understanding of desired effects, the more effective strategic and operational plans will be in competing and defending our nation’s national interests.
by Jason Rutledge | Thu, 06/07/2018 - 12:07am | 2 comments
This “letter home” is presented as part of the TRADOC G2's "Soldier 2050" Call for Ideas. This material will form a compendium of thoughts and ideas that will support the exploration of future bio-convergence implications on the Army of 2050.
by Eviya Vitola, by Jose Delgado | Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:28am | 0 comments
The idea of a Seaborne Mobile Operating Base was first seriously considered when the United States entered Operation Desert Shield in the 1990s. This proposed base concept could have virtually unlimited capabilities, and if appropriately implemented could provide more than just a floating air strip, but a town-sized base.
by John Gillette, by Mark Rocke | Tue, 06/05/2018 - 8:19am | 4 comments
It is well established, in lessons learned and academic research, that advisory success is predicated, or conditioned, upon three foundational requirements which depend on the ability to: (1) understand the historical, social, and cultural context in which the advising mission is being performed; (2) adapt individual behavior to operate effectively within this context; and (3) establish effective, productive relationships with counterparts.
by Hans Winkler, by Robert Kerr | Tue, 06/05/2018 - 1:06am | 0 comments
One of the more celebrated culture-oriented initiatives in the DoD is the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AFPAK) Hands program. Originally designed to strengthen long-term stability between allies and immerse military service members deep within the cultures and languages of Afghanistan and Pakistan, many within the DoD see the program as a glowing success. So successful in fact, that some military leaders want to replicate AFPAK Hands and create similar programs with a focus on other regions of the world. Yet, little to no work exists that examines the effectiveness of the program.
by Jessica Malekos Smith | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:48am | 1 comment
Although Israel achieved a tactical victory in the First Lebanon War, it was a ‘strategic mishap’ because it catalyzed Hezbollah’s formation, failed to produce a durable peace agreement with Lebanon and set in motion the Second Lebanon War of 2006. This essay evaluates the causes and outcome of the two Lebanon wars.
by Kyle Amonson | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:09am | 0 comments
Foreign policy often implores the inquiry, is war necessary to solve foreign policy challenges? It is not, however, the capability to wage, and win, conflict is necessary. War is often the insurance plan in the periphery of successful foreign policy, ready to be called upon when foreign policy no longer suits national interests or effectively ensures security.
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 06/03/2018 - 11:59am | 0 comments
The Normandy invasion is usually depicted with great crashes, bangs and volcanic energy combined with broad scenes of masses of material and manpower. But we should remember and reflect that the invasion began with subtle sounds and vibrations and brought the message of liberation to Europe on cat’s paws growing to crescendo. We remember and depict the crescendos but forget the subtlety of sounds that brought it all together.
by Luis Jorge Garay-Salamanca, by Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran, by Guillermo Macías | Sun, 06/03/2018 - 1:39am | 0 comments
This article defines and describes some strategies used to analyze the criminal structure known as “Lava Jato”, a transnational macro-corruption network. Likewise, the main results of this analysis are also discussed.
by Victor R. Morris | Fri, 06/01/2018 - 10:39am | 0 comments
Designing accurate wargames is necessary for planning operations resulting in stable and resilient end states. This article is the first installment of Bizarro World’s “Bizarrotan scenario” aiming to successfully link short-term military capabilities with long-term political objectives in a complex operational environment.
by Carter F. Smith | Thu, 05/31/2018 - 1:21pm | 0 comments
Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) have received military training such as tactics, weapons, explosives, or equipment, and the use of distinctive military skills. Gangs with military-trained members often pose an ongoing and persistent military and political threat. At least one tenth of one percent of the U.S. population is an MTGM, and there are between 150,000 and 500,000 MTGMs.
by Jason Scott | Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:45pm | 0 comments
Although not the number one perpetrator of offensive cyber operations, Russia has a significant presence in the global cyber warfront with substantial information warfare capabilities. They view information warfare as an offensive capability and have integrated it into their national strategic military framework.
by Ryan Orsini | Wed, 05/30/2018 - 10:09am | 0 comments
This article identifies future complications in achieving physical and psychological isolation, which both historically and doctrinally are so essential to successfully achieving military objectives in urban terrain. Furthermore, this article outlines tactical leader application of a new urban operational framework to understand and achieve both physical and psychological isolation in this future environment.
by Matthew Krause | Tue, 05/29/2018 - 8:10am | 0 comments
The rule of law effort Afghanistan since 2001 is the equivalent to the securing of only one side of the transitional justice bridge: the high side. This has not produced the rule of law as quickly and in the form that western brokers would have liked because there was little to no input and buy-in from the people, representing the low side.
by Thomas R. McCabe | Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:38am | 0 comments
As the ISIS statelet in Syria and Iraq is eradicated, an obvious question is what will happen in the aftermath of that eradication. We must remember that that the statelet in Syria and Iraq was only part--although a central part-- of ISIS, which was, functionally speaking, in some ways a worldwide entity mobilized by social media and tied together by the internet—the ‘virtual caliphate.’
by Scott A. Porter | Mon, 05/28/2018 - 3:34am | 0 comments
War is, and always will remain, a human endeavor. Corps and division commanders develop command climates that are inclusive and foster adaptive mindsets. Strong bonds between leaders must exist based on mutual trust and a shared sense of purpose that enables the free flow of ideas, including those from multi-national allies and partners. Especially in today’s digital age, senior commanders in large-scale combat operations must circulate the battlefield, being a leader of presence and engage soldiers in dialogue.
by Keith Nightingale | Sun, 05/27/2018 - 12:10pm | 1 comment
This year marks the 74th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. As time proceeds, the memories diminish and the significance ebbs into oblivion. There are occasional bursts of “remembrance” that capture a moment in time and permit some symbolic gesture for an historical event largely lost in time. This year, Presidents, Prime Ministers and the panoply of civilization will assemble on the week of the 6th of June to commemorate acts of long ago and to pledge fealty to that spirit and sacrifice.
by Nicholas Hargreaves-Heald | Sun, 05/27/2018 - 1:18am | 1 comment
Iranian unconventional warfare activities since 1982 have proved extensive. Their successes in Lebanon and Iraq came in the face of some of the world’s most significant military, economic, and political powers. In Syria, these successes culminated in a cunning (albeit simple) augmentation of their previous operational approach which allowed for a unified Expeditionary Force capable of executing complex military maneuvers.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Sat, 05/26/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
Mexico’s General Election will be held on 1 July 2018. This year’s election will include the Presidential election for the new Sexenio as well as for 128 members of the Senate and 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies. State and local elections are also being held for 8 governors, the head of government for Mexico City, and a variety of municipal officials, including mayors, municipal judges, and council members. A significant number of politicians and candidates have been killed in election-related attacks from organized crime groups in the build up to the election.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:31am | 0 comments
This article is in response to feedback on my previous “Small Wars Journal” article “Going Back to the Future: It is Time for Change in Afghanistan”. I want to thank all that took the time to comment and for their insightful thoughts and feedback.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:21am | 0 comments
Currently, USG strategy addresses Salafi jihadists primarily as a terrorist threat and is predominantly reliant on military and law enforcement efforts to kill or capture combatants. As a result, the Salafi jihadist threat has only grown worse as jihadists now control more territory and have experienced an exponential growth in the number of devoted adherents.
by Robert C. Hodges | Thu, 05/24/2018 - 9:26am | 2 comments
This paper evaluates the current and growing Islamic terrorist threat in North Africa and related concerns for U.S. National Security and U.S. interests in the region. By first assessing the history, capabilities, and goals of these foreign terrorist organizations in North Africa, the focus of the paper will include a broad look into the spread of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda into North Africa.
by Robert Muggah | Wed, 05/23/2018 - 4:50pm | 0 comments
Paraphrasing the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, in war, terrorism and crime, truth is the first casualty. While a proper accounting of the human toll of organized violence is critical to achieving justice and stability, it is a tricky endeavor. Part of the problem is that there are few people or institutions actually keeping track of the dead. In some of the most conflict-, terrorist- and crime-prone countries and cities, there may be no data collection systems in place at all.
by Richard H. Gross | Wed, 05/23/2018 - 6:52am | 0 comments
Debate regarding the nature of American involvement in Afghanistan has been a constant since 9/11. I have watched with more than usual interest since making 3 trips to the Afghan-Pak border in the late 1980’s. My purpose for making those trips was twofold. As a pediatric orthopaedist, I wished to help with the care of children in that region, and wanted to increase my understanding of “what’s going on”.
by Allyson Christy | Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
This assessment emphasises diplomatic posturing and dubious foreign policies that have overlapped with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s incremental authoritarianism. The analysis begins with a review of earlier contexts.
by Jeff Goodson | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:23pm | 1 comment
Only a few countries still rely principally on foreign aid to generate economic growth. Afghanistan is one, but it too will have to increasingly rely on its ability to attract investment and generate internal capital flows. Because promoting foreign investment is an essential element of economic growth strategies, the new lessons learned report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)—"Private Sector Development and Economic Growth: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan"—is important.
by Keith Benedict, by William Folinusz | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:30am | 0 comments
Cadet Command provides the preeminent holistic developmental experience for mid-grade officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Away from the “flagpole”, and in an unfamiliar and public environment, leaders arise. More importantly, mentors are forged. The Army benefitted from a chance encounter (resulting in a lifelong relationship) between Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower. Over the course of three years, they discussed military history, the future of warfare, and challenges inherent with coalition warfare.
by John Dreyer | Sun, 05/20/2018 - 9:55am | 1 comment
Advising is a duty that has few set factors in what makes success or failure. Above all, effective advisors need to know what has worked in the past though there is little guarantee that past methods will work on future missions. Advisors need to be able to improvise to drive towards a successful mission. This is not to say that sending undertrained advisors is acceptable. Indeed, advisors need a solid bedrock of training with language, culture and history of their host states. The newly created Army Security Force Assistance Brigades is a very solid start to address these issues.
by Nicholas A. Glavin | Fri, 05/18/2018 - 2:18am | 0 comments
As the U.S.-led coalition nears the military defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the collapse of its physical caliphate in the Levant, its various affiliates pose complex threats to host nation governments and Western interests from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Understanding how, when, and why local violent extremist organizations (VEOs) affiliate can inform policymakers and general officers in applying instruments of national power. This report analyzes Islamic State – West Africa Province and Islamic State – Sinai Province to examine the question, “What explains the appeal for local VEOs to reflag under the ISIS brand?”
by Bryan Hedrick | Thu, 05/17/2018 - 9:01am | 1 comment
Despite the vast changes in modern warfare, the human dimension of war still remains fixed—war has ethical limits. Multi-Domain Battle poses an intrinsic ethical dilemma to the warfighter’s ability to apply combat power congruent with the Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello principles inherent within the Law of War. As strategies and tactics develop, it is imperative to consider the ethical ramifications of our actions. The Army’s Ethical Reasoning Framework is no longer a viable tool as it does not provide commanders nor soldiers the rigor or speed at which to make sound ethical decisions. We must engage the ethical domain—the trust of our nation and the moral health of our military hangs in the balance.
by Richard Kaipo Lum | Wed, 05/16/2018 - 1:40pm | 0 comments
Unlike trend work, in which we are identifying important historical changes and extrapolate their trajectory into various futures, with emerging issues we work to anticipate things that may have an important future role if they continue to mature. Since “the future” does not actually exist yet, uncertainty is inherent in all our discussions about “it.” Emerging issues are thus about the possible, novel, threats and opportunities that we need to account for in our foresight work.
by Adam Scher | Tue, 05/15/2018 - 5:48am | 0 comments
It is only within the last forty to fifty years that militaries began developing formalized doctrine for fighting inside urban centers with civilians on the battlefield that aimed at preserving critical infrastructure and protecting the civilian population. Many of those writing doctrine before the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq correctly identified that general purpose forces increasingly would find themselves operating in urban areas, not only to defeat an entrenched enemy, but also to preserve delivery of services, protect critical infrastructure, and secure a disaffected population.
by Kimbra L. Fishel | Mon, 05/14/2018 - 12:33am | 0 comments
The 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States calls for the destruction of ISIS and its affiliates. As ISIS continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, the threat from the regional Caliphate diminishes as that from the global virtual Caliphate expands. This article utilizes psychological concepts from social identity theory and fusion theory within an overall framework of political realism to construct an ends, ways and means strategy to counter the evolving threat in Syria and Iraq, Europe and the United States. The strategy can be further applied on a global basis to all Islamist terror organizations.
by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. | Sun, 05/13/2018 - 9:01am | 0 comments
Conjuring up impending apocalypse in civil-military relations can become another weapon which, whether intended or not, may be used by critics invested in the “narrative of Trumpian disaster” to try to delegitimize an area in which the Administration has enjoyed some undeniable success: national security. Addressing the perennial challenges of civil-military relations isn’t facilitated when they get wrapped up with political narratives about specific individuals.
by Greg Kleponis | Sun, 05/13/2018 - 8:04am | 0 comments
While there is a Coalition effort in the conflict in Afghanistan, the overwhelming bulk of the resources, personnel and money come from the US. The main vector of those monies that flow into the Afghan economy, both directly and indirectly, come through the US Department of Defense Contracting entity. While the ambitions of the projects funded by the contracting process are noble and the intentions are to elevate the economic and social conditions of the Afghan people are genuine, in many cases the reality is that it is having the opposite effect.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Sat, 05/12/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
This paper is designed to examine how ISIL has used the Internet to communicate their agenda, and how they can use cyberspace to commit acts of cyberterrorism. We will be looking at the strategic advantage of terrorist organizations claiming responsibility for attacks, and how the Western legal system’s definition of terrorism solidifies this advantage in cyberspace.
by Kevin Ivey | Fri, 05/11/2018 - 10:15am | 1 comment
As ISIL's seemingly unquenchable thirst for violence pushed politicians and voters to prioritize its defeat over almost all other security goals, Al-Qaeda and its worldwide affiliates flew under the radar and seized on the empty space. With attention elsewhere, Al-Qaeda has studied the ISIL experience, quietly surpassing ISIL's capabilities while capitalizing on widespread backlash to the worst atrocities carried out by the pseudo caliphate.
by Ian Edgerly | Thu, 05/10/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
The conflict this paper will apply the idea of nationalism as an engine of intra-group instability towards is the long-standing issue between the sub groups of the Kel Tamasheq (commonly referred to as Toureg) in Northern Mali. Ultimately, this paper will seek to provide clarity on what has been defined as an ethnic conflict by many.
by Andrew Zapf, by Joshua Peltier | Wed, 05/09/2018 - 1:04am | 0 comments
The Popular Mobilization Forces comprised of Sunni and Shia tribal militias that have been accepted for registration, salaries, equipping, and supplies by the Iraqi government and trained by the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. Political allegiances, tribal influence, and sectarian identity of the PMFs have become heavily politicized and Shia groups dominate resources and favor with the Government of Iraq.
by W. R. Baker | Wed, 05/09/2018 - 12:48am | 0 comments
James H. Willbanks’ biography Danger 79er of General James Francis Hollingsworth (Holly) is a welcomed addition to our understanding important U.S. generals. From his Texas roots, through what became Texas A&M, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam (with points in-between), we read how events and people shaped his perceptions and Army career, especially two other armor officers, General George S. Patton and, later, General Creighton Abrams.
by Charles E. Pickard | Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
The combined illicit revenue collected by the seven major Drug Trafficking Organizations based in Mexico is staggering. By most estimates, it could be as much as $30 billion per year, a figure which exceeds the Gross Domestic Product of nations like Iceland, El Salvador, and Uganda.
by Robert Chung | Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:16am | 0 comments
To achieve readiness, we balance Army training and NSA requirements through a continuous process of situational understanding, training prioritization, training methodology, and leader engagement to provide the most effective Service and NSA-related training possible. This article describes how the 717th MI battalion achieves training readiness while executing its ongoing global mission.
by Michael J. Mooney | Mon, 05/07/2018 - 6:09am | 0 comments
If the Islamic State leadership were in fact queried about the reasons for the destruction of their caliphate, what would they say? With the probability of this occurring virtually nil, certain points can be brought to the surface by examining the trajectory of the operational and strategic decisions of the Islamic State from June 2014 to October 2017.
by Madeleine Terry, by Maggie Dene, by Molly Dinneen, by Colin Evert | Mon, 05/07/2018 - 1:37am | 0 comments
In a society where actual governing and problem solving are hindered by systemic disconnection among government agencies, how do we encourage interagency cooperation to better address national security challenges? On Friday, April 20, 2018, the William & Mary (W&M) Whole of Government Center of Excellence held its Inaugural National Security Conference to help answer that question.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:51am | 2 comments
The irregular forces have and will continue to play a critical role in Afghanistan’s constantly evolving and dynamic security environment. They fill a gap created by national, provincial, and district governance dysfunction and corruption. Irregular forces also address unique cultural and social characteristics reflective of Afghanistan’s tribal society.
by S.A. Cavanagh | Sat, 05/05/2018 - 12:07am | 0 comments
PMC contractors like Wagner, are elemental for conducting Russian military strategic doctrine. Wagner is central to Russia’s efforts to project power and influence in former soviet era regions of alliance and secure new opportunities that accomplish Russia’s foreign agenda.
by Joseph J. Collins | Fri, 05/04/2018 - 5:02am | 0 comments
We must temper our optimism. The public in the United States has read comparatively little of the new strategy compared to what it reads about terrorist bombings in Afghan cities. We must be careful of optimistic statements that portend this year is the one where there will be, in effect, “a light at the end of the tunnel,” when at the same time so many terrorist strikes in Afghan cities could have the effect on the U.S. public of a slow-motion Tet Offensive. We must be careful of generating expectations that are not liable to be accomplished in a single year or fighting season.