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 Peter Polack | Wed, 08/08/2018 - 1:28am | 1 comment
What was most extraordinary about the guerrilla leader William Wallace was the speed in which a virtual unknown rose up to national leadership and the short time between his first action, the killing of the English Sherriff of Lanark in May 1297 and his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297, a mere four months later. Even more compelling was that within a year he had ceased his position as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce, the future King of Scotland, before disappearing until capture and vile execution on the orders of King Edward 1 of England in 1305, only eight years between rise and demise.
by Peter Layton | Tue, 08/07/2018 - 9:56am | 0 comments
Robotic technologies seem set to disrupt warfare in at least two big ways: firstly, in improving productivity making armies equipment-centric; and secondly, in making defence dominant on the battlefield. In this revolution, the character of war will change and somewhat unexpectedly, possibly its nature.
by Octavian Manea | Tue, 08/07/2018 - 3:00am | 1 comment
SWJ discussion with retired Lieutenant General Frederick Benjamin (Ben) Hodges, the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He is a former commander of the United States Army Europe (2014-2017). He co-authored (together with Janusz Bugajski and Peter Doran) the report – “Securing The Suwałki Corridor: Strategy, Statecraft, Deterrence, and Defense.”
by Sophia Kostopoulos | Mon, 08/06/2018 - 12:33am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. To predict learning in 2050, we must observe learning now in 2018; the technologies of learning, the culture of learning, and the audience of learning.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker, by David Kuhn | Mon, 08/06/2018 - 12:15am | 0 comments
This incident should be considered an escalation of cartel/gang drone use and certainly won’t be the last use of armed drones in Mexico’s crime wars or by terrorists and/or insurgents elsewhere. Indeed, as we complete this assessment, a drone attack on 4 August 2018 in Caracas characterized as an attempted assassination on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dominates the news. The effectiveness of these future drone attacks is expected to vary—indeed most can be expected to inflict limited damage—however over time the threat will likely mature, yielding enhanced lethality and operational effectiveness.
by Haider A. Haider | Sun, 08/05/2018 - 2:38am | 2 comments
This paper explores how special operations forces have adapted to working with counterparts at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in addressing violent extremism at the country level and how these adaptations relate to broader policy discussions. Two case studies will be used as the basis of the study to examine how civil affairs teams have integrated with missions in Jordan and Tajikistan.
by Thomas M. Williams | Sat, 08/04/2018 - 12:40pm | 0 comments
This essay challenges you to think differently about leadership, to see new meaning in familiar terms but specifically to draw an unfamiliar but hard distinction between leading and the functions of running an organization. It asks that you reject longstanding traditions about what is leadership or who is the leader and see it more as a collaborative effort, a state of being.
by Gary Anderson | Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:41am | 5 comments
America’s Navy is badly in need of reform. After eight years under Obama’s abysmal Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the Navy is under disciplined and largely lacking the basic skills needed to conduct seamanship - much less win a war at sea.
by Kyle Amonson | Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
Perhaps most significant change in the 21st century has been the shift in focus from state security to ‘human security’, viewed as a sorely needed venue for highlighting the particular vulnerabilities of peoples who suffer violence from representatives of the stat, as well as other forms of violence and injustices. While addressing the challenges of human security is a worthy cause, the ambiguity presented by the concept of examining human security is undeniable.
by Gil Barndollar | Thu, 08/02/2018 - 12:56am | 1 comment
Perhaps no army in history has ever juggled as wide and challenging an array of campaigns and conditions as the British Army did from 1897 to 1945. Battling enemies from Burma to Belgium, the British Army rapidly transformed itself from a small imperial constabulary to a war-winning conscript mass army, shrank back almost overnight, and then repeated the trick barely twenty years later. Through it all, from the height of empire to the Pyrrhic victory of the Second World War, one of the army’s few constants was ceaseless mountain warfare on the Northwest Frontier of India.
by Howard R. Simkin | Thu, 08/02/2018 - 12:38am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. This paper examines the term technological fluency as it applies to future Special Operations Forces in the 2030 – 2050 timeframe. It begins with a proposed definition. It then shapes the discussion.
by David Kampf | Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:47am | 0 comments
There are a record number of ongoing conflicts in Africa, pushing millions of people out of their homes. New conflicts are displacing new people while long-standing wars and refugee crises go unresolved. If responses to war and displacement do not improve, mounting problems will destabilize the region further.
by J. Robert Kane | Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:23am | 1 comment
Time and time again, counterterrorism experts both in cabinet policy and military capacities alike have contended that you cannot just kill your way to victory when it comes to countering terrorism or violent extremism. They have argued that kinetic acts, such as drone strikes or capturing battlefield combatants, do not so much as reduce terrorists or terrorist actions (albeit temporarily) as much as they fuel the fire to a new generation of extremists. Meanwhile, we have invested most of our counterterrorism resources to either killing or capturing terrorists despite these revelations.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Tue, 07/31/2018 - 12:22am | 3 comments
The CIA’s efforts in Tibet were successful because the objectives of the covert action campaign were reasonably limited and achievable with the resources available. While the Tibetans themselves may have nursed illusions of eventually driving all Chinese occupiers from their homeland, it is clear from the available records that the CIA and the political leadership in Washington were content to simply destabilize China and frustrate the Communists’ designs to spread their ideology throughout Asia.
by Jim Greer | Tue, 07/31/2018 - 12:07am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. "Today, in the summer of 2018, 2050 is only 32 years from now. As we explore education and training for 2050, perhaps we should reflect on where we were 32 years ago in 1986."
by Tom Ordeman, Jr. | Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:32am | 1 comment
America should teach each recruit, be they commissioned or enlisted, how to speak a foreign language. Clearly, the need for language proficiency organic to units facing host nation personnel is every bit as important in 2018 as it was in 2001. And yet, except for a select group of occupational specialties, foreign language proficiency among uniformed personnel remains a statistical blip.
by Franklin C. Annis | Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:10am | 0 comments
The benefits of peer-learning groups are numerous. They include the development of self-directed learning (self-development) skill, increased communication skills, improved interpersonal skills, a greater sense of teamwork, improved critical-thinking, enhanced problem-solving abilities, and many more. In this article, I will lay out an historic example of how one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, took advantage of a small group of peers to form a 'Junto', and will provide advice on building a modern peer-learning group.
by Tryce Hyman | Sun, 07/29/2018 - 6:32am | 0 comments
The SWORD Model possesses useful functionality in historical analysis, especially in cutting through the historiographic polemics of conflicts which remain contentious. Even this study’s cursory use of the SWORD Model, for the purposes of demonstration and proof of concept, has shed useful light on the Jewish Insurgency in Mandatory Palestine of 1945-47 and its temporal environs. Moving forward, the SWORD Model shows great promise as a tool for historical analysis in addition to its intended design as a guide to counterinsurgency doctrine.
by Madeleine Terry, by Elizabeth Andrews, by Heather Messera | Sat, 07/28/2018 - 12:12am | 0 comments
Conference report on the Center for Climate and Security, the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William & Mary (W&M) Law School, and the W&M Whole of Government Center of Excellence forum on 9 July. The widespread effects of Arctic melting and climate change on our society and overall well-being are relatively well understood today, but what about the effects of climate change on national security?
by Yossef Ben-Meir | Fri, 07/27/2018 - 10:19am | 0 comments
This essay explores the vast potential for human development in Morocco. Though Morocco is a country with many diverse resources, it remains burdened by severe levels of poverty and illiteracy, growing social discord. There have recently been increased public calls for participatory development programs designed and implemented by and for local people. The essay identifies six existing Moroccan Frameworks intended to initiate decentralized human development programs, and critically examines their efficacy.
by Jeff Groom | Fri, 07/27/2018 - 1:08am | 1 comment
How can change be affected? If current trends hold, one of two outcomes is likely. A catastrophic military defeat that exposes the corruption of the system and serves as a spark for change, or the fiscal reality of future deficits forces a reorganization. Either scenario is regrettable and avoidable yet without the political willpower coming from either party, only the future will tell. America suffering a Mohacs-style military defeat would indeed be poetic irony, as the plains of Mohacs were dotted with Swampy marshes.
by Brett Lindberg, by Stephen Hamilton, by Brian Lebiednik, by Kyle Hager | Fri, 07/27/2018 - 12:49am | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal.
by J. Robert Kane | Thu, 07/26/2018 - 1:46am | 0 comments
Operation NICKEL GRASS permitted an Israeli victory over the Arabs. The post-mortem assessment of the US role in the 1973 war revealed general Israeli dependence on the US in the conflict. And while Operation NICKEL GRASS was integral for an Israeli victory, the WSAG discussion and debate to its national security imperative was heavily contested.
by Charles Heard | Thu, 07/26/2018 - 12:40am | 1 comment
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal.
by William Allen | Wed, 07/25/2018 - 1:58am | 0 comments
The most celebrated political and military figure in the Horn of Africa may be Sayyid Mohammad Abdullah Hassan, a leader credited with constructing modern Somali political identity. Known as the ‘bard of Somalia,’ Hassan is oft considered the exemplar of colonial resistance, honored by numerous statues in the region.
by Christopher Davis | Wed, 07/25/2018 - 1:27am | 0 comments
Part of what separated World War I from all the previous conflicts in human history was its global scope. Though nearly all the significant battles of the war were fought in Europe, the process of imperialism and colonialism, begun long before the cataclysm of 1914, ensured that Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas would participate in the conflict in one way or another.
by Stephen Townsend | Tue, 07/24/2018 - 12:02pm | 0 comments
Multi-Domain Battle served its purpose—it sparked thinking and debate and it created a foundation. But what we need now is Multi-Domain Operations, and the next revision of the concept to be released this fall will reflect this change. Language is important. It conveys meaning. This change is not cosmetic—it is about growing an idea to its greatest potential in order to change the way we fight today and ensure overmatch against our adversaries of tomorrow.
by Jeff Groom | Tue, 07/24/2018 - 12:15am | 0 comments
Not giving the military quantifiable objectives has been disastrous for the institution as well as the taxpayers. The Congress should immediately pass a modified version of the S1939 bill incorporating 4th Generation Warfare considerations followed by a vote on all current conflicts.
by Joe Cheravitch | Mon, 07/23/2018 - 4:11am | 0 comments
The war-weary procession of Afghans who marched on Kabul in the name of peace this summer most clearly exemplifies a trend that caught many observers of the conflict in Afghanistan off guard: a level of independent civic activism that exceeds any similar movements in recent memory.
by Jon Hoffman | Sun, 07/22/2018 - 5:39pm | 0 comments
While Bahrain was expected to only remain a secondary theater for Iran within the near future (as opposed to primary theaters such as Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon), the low cost and burden of continuing such supportive action for Shi’a militant groups means the support would likely continue. Advances made by Iran and its proxies regionally could serve to increase Iranian support vis-à-vis Bahraini extremist groups, particularly as the IRGC’s influence within Iran rises.
by Doyle Quiggle | Sun, 07/22/2018 - 2:34pm | 0 comments
Above all, we need to gain access to and win the trust of local Somali moral authorities who can compel limbic complicity from poorly parented Somali teenagers who seek a warrior identity. We need to weaponize local moral authority in Somali so that we can provide Somali teenagers a legitimate means by which to fulfill a culturally appropriate and sanctioned warrior compulsion. Weaponized moral authority is the best, possibly the only feasible, means to achieve a de-clanned, professional Somali Army.
by Dash Radosti | Sun, 07/22/2018 - 1:39am | 1 comment
The episode on the southern border highlights the vulnerability of US policy to public relation disasters that involve children. In future conflicts, it is likely that our adversaries will combine the use of human shields (especially children) with a strong disinformation campaign to galvanize US public opinion against intervention.
by Adad Alan Shmuel, by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Sat, 07/21/2018 - 2:56pm | 0 comments
The May 2018 election results shocked Iraq. Officially, it was the lowest voter turnout recorded since the first freely held elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2005. The reasons for less than half the eligible voting population participating and the impact of these elections on Christian minority communities in Iraq, is what this article discusses.
by Matthew Blood | Sat, 07/21/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
In the current context, establishing a “good relationship” with Russia as American interests around the world remain under attack from an ongoing Russian campaign of hybrid warfare is flatly damaging to U.S. national security interests. Both the Bush II and Obama administrations eventually reverted to strategies aimed at punishing and deterring Russian aggression.
by Andrew Zapf | Fri, 07/20/2018 - 12:42am | 5 comments
Is the US Military committing the same sins as our military predecessors of the past 200 years? Is the MRAP the modern-day equivalent to the pre-World War I mounted cavalry? Will the SFABs be useful in the attrition of urban combat against a near-peer? Even the recapture of Mosul in 2017 indicates that our own wars continue to evolve, and setting aside our innovation to solve the Improvised Explosive Device problems in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, are we paying enough attention to the wars of 2018, which are currently the testbeds for future global war?
by Gary Anderson | Thu, 07/19/2018 - 4:38pm | 4 comments
Perhaps the greatest thing that the American State Department could do for Afghanistan would be to bring members of the legislature and other key government officials to the United States and allow them to see the real impact of state and local governance in action. Showing them the effectiveness of local governance and democracy in places like Alaska and Montana might well convince them that decentralization could work better for them than the present system. Perhaps that would encourage decentralization. Tip O’Neill was right, all politics is local - and so is the heart of most insurgencies.
by Jeff Groom | Thu, 07/19/2018 - 4:24pm | 1 comment
Citing a litany of abuses ranging from election meddling to targeted assassinations, Russia’s conduct over the last several years has clearly not been up to par with Western standards of democracy, human rights, and open markets. Diplomats, intelligence agencies, and pundits provide varying degrees of explanations for Russia’s conduct, some simple, some complex. But one dimension of causation is left almost entirely unexplored: national character.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Wed, 07/18/2018 - 7:10am | 0 comments
Despite its long service history, the M-16 and its variants have suffered from several issues. With innovation and effort, most of these issues have been overcome, though some issues are inherent in the basic design of the weapon system.
by Mike Matson | Tue, 07/17/2018 - 12:55pm | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project at Small Wars Journal. Set in 2035, it's an innovative look at combat between Angolan and Namibian forces and their respective Russian and South African advisors, both of whom employ autonomous combat systems.
by James Torrence | Mon, 07/16/2018 - 4:55am | 1 comment
The strengths of the current national security strategy in comparison to its two predecessors are: the comprehensive understanding of how the United States fits into the structure of the international system and the recognition that developing culture-specific solutions for state actors in the international system is better than forcing systems to conform to U.S. standards and values.
by Christopher Flaherty | Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:42am | 0 comments
A dynamic field of weapons options available to terrorist, extremist or violent attackers, represent a spectrum. The use of highly complex weapons to the use of simple weaponization of common, and everyday items. The defence against these varied threats needs to follow an elastic set of options rather than a lineal progression from the simple to the complex external hardening of inner-city massed public events.
by Dustin E. Lawrence | Thu, 07/05/2018 - 7:35am | 0 comments
Last year, the author of this article participated in Operation Persistent Venture, a bilateral exchange program between the British and US Armies, during which he observed one class-cycle at the Platoon Commanders’ Division. He acted as a guest instructor throughout the PCBC, observing, assessing, and evaluating newly commissioned Second Lieutenants recently graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
by Reinier Bergema, by Lucie Kattenbroek | Wed, 07/04/2018 - 6:48am | 0 comments
There is a lack of clear causation between the holy month and terrorist attacks. Although individual months of Ramadan have been especially violent, the fact that they are rarely the most violent months of the year shows that to claim a clear causation is inaccurate.
by David Campbell, by Jesse McIntyre III | Wed, 07/04/2018 - 6:31am | 2 comments
This work intends to assess how the German military achieved in six and half weeks in 1940 what it could not accomplish in over four years of fighting a generation earlier.
by Claudia ElDib | Tue, 07/03/2018 - 5:50am | 0 comments
As of 2018, over half the world now lives in Dense Urban Areas (DUAs). DUAs are exactly what the label suggests; areas of high human population density that may or may not achieve megacity levels but share urban morphology characteristics such as GDP levels per capita, rate of demographic growth, and historical origins.
by Max Erdemandi | Tue, 07/03/2018 - 5:40am | 0 comments
The elections showed a fundamental intellectual flaw in the Turkish center and left parties that if they believed hard enough, if they traveled to more cities and drew larger crowds than Erdogan, and if they complained about how hard it is to run against a leader who utilizes all state resources to ensure his victory, they will be victorious at the end.
by James Torrence | Mon, 07/02/2018 - 5:12am | 2 comments
"Change by Design" and "Cad Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies and T-Shaped People" are two examples of creative thinking literature developed outside the Army that can inform Army leaders how to create a culture of innovation and develop unique approaches to solving problems. The Army must develop a professional reading list that includes diverse creative thinking resources if it wants leaders capable of adapting to and succeeding in complex operational environments.
by Spencer Phillips | Mon, 07/02/2018 - 3:20am | 0 comments
As the U.S. faces an increasingly complex and perilous security environment, it must be careful not to become too fixated on traditional threats like state actors, WMDs, and terrorism, while failing to acknowledge the dangers posed by global climate change.
by Jim Golby | Sun, 07/01/2018 - 3:19pm | 0 comments
Throughout most of human history, societies and governments have failed to maintain the balance between liberty and security. It is not something we should take for granted. If we do, we once again will have realized the worst fears of the Framers and that would be a “dire” consequence indeed.
by Faith Stewart, by Andrew Byers | Sun, 07/01/2018 - 12:39pm | 0 comments
The death of Osama bin Laden ended one of the longest manhunts in U.S. history and was a satisfying moment for all those who had participated in the decades-long endeavor, but it did not result in the dissolution of al-Qaeda. Unlike many terror groups, al-Qaeda is a many-headed organization, making it capable of surviving even the death of its founder.