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 Sadaf Lakhani, by Rahmatullah Amiri | Fri, 01/24/2020 - 8:20am | 0 comments
Forced displacement affects over 70 million people worldwide and is among the most pressing humanitarian and development challenges today. This report attempts to ascertain whether a relationship exists between displacement in Afghanistan and vulnerability to recruitment to violence by militant organizations.
by Nathan P. Jones | Fri, 01/24/2020 - 3:55am | 0 comments
One of the most impressive things about this book is its readability. Reading government reports is dry stuff. Yet here, Klare has carefully gleaned the Pentagon’s view of Climate Change from abstruse and difficult to come by reports to give us a highly readable 20,000-foot view of the literature. I read it leisurely in just over two days in my free time.
by Arin Kumar Ghosh | Thu, 01/23/2020 - 3:01am | 0 comments
Even if Iran is able to procure modern aerial munitions and fighter jets, perhaps in October of 2020 if Russia sells such systems to Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei likely realizes he will still likely never procure symmetric munitions that will effectively counter Iran’s enemies. The continuing development of the IRGCAF’s offensive drone and cruise missile capabilities, however, give him a limited aerial capability window he and Iran so desperately need.
by Jason Payne | Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:32am | 2 comments
Is it ethical for the country’s intelligence agencies to exploit nearly every known wireless communication modality in favor of U.S. policies and interests even though it could potentially involve spying on countless American citizens in violation of the Fourth Amendment? Edward Snowden utilized principles of ethical decision making, but faulty logic resulted in a treasonous act with longstanding damage to U.S. intelligence operations and foreign diplomacy.
by Nate Wilson, by Thomas M. Hill | Wed, 01/22/2020 - 11:44am | 0 comments
The conference was another international attempt to end Libya’s conflict, but it remains to be seen if any progress was made.
by Carter F. Smith | Wed, 01/22/2020 - 7:35am | 0 comments
This note reviews the current state of military-trained gang members (MTGMs) in the United States military. MTGMs, whether from Street Gangs, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs), or Domestic Terrorist Extremist (DTE) groups, have endangered U.S. communities since before the birth of the country.
by Kathleen Brush | Wed, 01/22/2020 - 5:28am | 0 comments
It seems like Iran’s propaganda war against the United States and Israel is winning. Iran has brought incredible havoc to the MENA region since 1979, including precipitating the never-ending Iran-Saudi proxy wars, provoking Saddam Hussein and the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), and involvement in numerous atrocities in the past ten years, sometimes with the support of Russia and China. Still, within its base, it generates sympathy as a victim of American aggression.
by Jessica Ojala | Tue, 01/21/2020 - 12:11am | 0 comments
The United States faces an organizational dilemma when it comes to the cyber domain, as the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Intelligence Community, and the private sector all are stakeholders in the domain and the security. Uniting the stakeholders under one security domain, specifically quantum encryption, would strengthen the United States cyber defense against their adversaries.
by Allyson Christy | Mon, 01/20/2020 - 9:31am | 2 comments
President Trump may epitomize the kid who unabashedly challenges the menace of the schoolyard bully. Most kids? They tiptoe around bullies, nervously looking away. Most hope the bully will not take notice and simply move on without inflicting harm. Yet most kids understand these dynamics as irksome risks undermining the very sense of order, calm, and security.
by Magdalena Defort, by William Preston McLaughlin | Mon, 01/20/2020 - 1:01am | 0 comments
This essay explores why Latin America is of paramount strategic importance for Iran, and what factors or events gave Iran access to the region so it could pursue its classic rampant penetration of other nations’ governments and cultural institutions.
by Fouad Pervez, by Chris Bosley | Sun, 01/19/2020 - 12:30am | 0 comments
In many ways, peacebuilding and public health are kindred disciplines in that they both require whole-of-society approaches to succeed. But while both disciplines share similar traits, the relationship between peacebuilding and public health is often overlooked.
by Hesham Youssef | Sat, 01/18/2020 - 6:06am | 0 comments
Despite tremendous effort exerted since the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution, peace has been elusive. Today, there is a growing feeling among Palestinians, Israelis and the international community that the two-state paradigm may no longer be viable. USIP’s Ambassador Hesham Youssef examines the potential scenarios facing Israelis, Palestinians and the region as the stalemated conflict continues without progress toward two states.
by Euan Findlater | Sat, 01/18/2020 - 4:59am | 0 comments
Iran’s strategic culture and national security outlook is at a critical juncture, where historical nationalism, religion and political ideology are being challenged by modernisation, moderation and pragmatism. As a result, current Iranian national security policies can be analysed as working like a pendulum between supranationalist and realist tendencies.
by Alexandra Phelan | Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:19am | 0 comments
The internal split leadership within FARC presents the organisation with a significant crisis, particularly amongst a fragile and precarious peace agreement. Given the Colombian conflict’s transformation after the 2016 peace agreement with FARC that resulted in the opening of both territorial vacuums and resources for other armed groups, it remains precarious as to how FARC II will merge or compete given its current resources.
by Garrett Nada, by Maria J. Stephan | Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:15am | 0 comments
Recent regime missteps have triggered successive waves of popular discontent over longstanding grievances. USIP’s Garrett Nada and Maria Stephan explain how the protests have evolved over time and how demonstrators could use nonviolent tactics against the repressive regime.
by Karl Umbrasas | Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:09am | 0 comments
The need for servicemembers may necessitate prioritization of able-bodied males and females to operational billets and combat specialties. This prioritization must naturally draw capable personnel away from non-combat roles. Maladapted servicemembers, who at one time were considered candidates for expeditious involuntary separation, must be recycled to rear missions to allow the maximum number of mission-capable servicemembers closer proximity to the fight.
by John P. Sullivan | Thu, 01/16/2020 - 8:40am | 0 comments
Criminal cartels and Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) rely on corruption to enable their pursuit of criminal profit and power. Indeed, Mexico’s cartels emerged from the seeds of corrupt police profiting from the narcotics trade. While violence is the public face of criminal cartels and transnational gangs, corruption is the core threat to public trust and state legitimacy and capacity.
by Jessica ‘Zhanna’ Malekos Smith | Thu, 01/16/2020 - 8:03am | 2 comments
Drawing inspiration from da Vinci’s observations on force, power, and movement – elements in which “all the works of mortals have their beginning and their end” – this article suggests four cyberspace operations principles.
by Daniel J. O’Connor | Wed, 01/15/2020 - 9:39am | 0 comments
Several major actions taken by the United States and coalition in the last 18 years share much in common with the efforts of the Soviet Union during its combat operations in the country (1979-1989).
by Marc Chua | Wed, 01/15/2020 - 5:23am | 0 comments
Mozambique presents a complex scenario of great opportunities and serious challenges. Decades of civil war between the ruling FRELIMO party and the opposition RENAMO, has driven the country into economic turmoil causing over a million deaths with even more displaced people between 1977 and 1992. The conflict finally ended with both parties signing a ceasefire in Rome that ended the worst of the bloodshed and the fabrication of a new political party, RENAMO. But after years of peace, in October 2013, RENAMO annulled the peace agreement due to a military raid on one of their camps. The following year, RENAMO challenged the results of the election accusing FRELIMO of altering the polls in favor of themselves which further exacerbated political tensions.
by Ian Li | Tue, 01/14/2020 - 1:04am | 0 comments
Ever since Russia’s rapid annexation of Crimea in 2014 during the height of the Ukraine Crisis thrust the term “hybrid warfare” into mainstream consciousness, predictions of its imminent spread westward have been fervently propagated. The perceived threat of hybrid warfare has however since evolved into something more universal and far-reaching, and in recent years it would seem as if the tendrils of this virulent threat have finally traversed the vast expanse of the globe to arrive in the Asia-Pacific.
by Nick Impson | Tue, 01/14/2020 - 12:26am | 1 comment
The anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) campaign underway in the South China Sea is but one example of A2/AD being employed as a military strategy throughout history. A2/AD is defined as a strategy designed to bar an adversary’s entry to or occupation of a theater of operations and is most effectively utilized by a military when confronting a stronger adversary. A2/AD has become one of the most talked about issues in military policy circles today, but is by no means a new concept: the Yom Kippur War, the Cold War, and even the Civil War saw one (or both) sides incorporating the ideas of A2/AD.
by James P. Micciche | Mon, 01/13/2020 - 8:36am | 0 comments
As CA forces begin to instruct CMO to African partner forces the curriculum must be semi standardized in order to ensure both unity of effort and interoperability. AFRICOM, SOCAF, USARAF, and Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF) must ensure that they coordinate with each other as well as centers of instruction such as USAJFKSWCS to create a standard set of POIs that achieves the desired effect of an African partner force that is able to win the human domain.
by L. Burton Brender | Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:09am | 3 comments
I encourage you to write as often as you are able. Do your absolute best at your job. Be committed to your faith, your family, and your community. And then, when you have a spare moment, put your experiences down on paper. Regardless of rank, position, or whether you ever became an Art of War scholar, what you know is valuable—and it might just change the world.
by Marius Kristiansen, by Njaal Hoem | Sat, 01/11/2020 - 9:18pm | 0 comments
For small states with limited military capabilities, such as Norway, it is important to prioritize how we utilize our capabilities in order to generate intended strategic effects. Norway cannot contribute and/or prepare for everything, we must choose. And, in some respects we already have – whether it is intended or not – subsets of Security Sector Assistance (SSA) has become a preferred option for us to create short- and long-term strategic effects.
by Tal Tovy | Sat, 01/11/2020 - 11:20am | 0 comments
Throughout most of the 19th century, the American Army fought a series of battles of various scopes against the Indian tribes, thereby accruing much experience prior to the Great Sioux War. However, the lessons learned were never consolidated into an appropriate doctrine; instead, the American Army prepared itself for battle with a regular army. This article will attempt to answer the question of why the American Army operated in this manner.
by Cooper Strand | Sat, 01/11/2020 - 10:17am | 0 comments
Catatumbo seems to be a singular location where some of Latin America’s biggest problems converge, and the local population is suffering for it. This paper intends to take stock of the war’s history, its current status, and to make an argument that the War in Catatumbo deserves more attention from the international community than it is currently receiving.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:01pm | 0 comments
Mexican criminal cartels have been using a range of improvised armored fighting vehicles (IAFVs) since about 2010-2011. These improvised fighting vehicles range from retrofitted armored sports utility vehicles to more specially built units. The lower range vehicles are developed by adding armament and simple armor to pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles. The more complex versions involve artisanal armor (blindaje artesinal) applied to a range of vehicle platforms.
by Jacob Loel | Fri, 01/10/2020 - 10:19am | 0 comments
To maintain peace in the Arctic, the United States should promote international trade in the Arctic, especially with Russia while simultaneously incentivizing growth in the American Arctic. The biggest threat to peace in the Arctic is not Russian military buildup, nor Chinese investment, but Sino-Russian cooperation and coordination in the Arctic and across the Eurasian continent.
by Christopher M. Rance | Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:55am | 0 comments
In late 2018, the United States Army Sniper Course cadre took a hard look in the mirror and asked the all-important question, “what is the role of the sniper when it comes to large scale, ground combat warfare? How do we train the next generation of snipers to be effective force multipliers on the battlefield?”
by Matthew P. Arsenault | Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:21am | 5 comments
All too often academics and practitioners concern themselves with the latest theory or framework addressing some aspect of security studies, in this case insurgency and counterinsurgency. An excessive focus on the “now” does a disservice to the knowledge and hard work of those thinkers who came before. Often times the “new” drowns out the voices of the recent past who may have pushed against the current tide and offered an alternative to what may have become common wisdom.
by Elie Abouaoun, by Sarhang Hamasaeed | Thu, 01/09/2020 - 6:21pm | 0 comments
With tensions between Iran and the U.S. already simmering, the January 3 U.S. airstrike that killed powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani is sure to have ripple effects across the region. Maj. Gen. Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, coordinated Iran’s military operations and proxies across the Middle East.
by Louis René Beres | Thu, 01/09/2020 - 11:59am | 2 comments
Following recent events in Iraq, most notably the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleiman, President Donald Trump is apt to seek some sort of larger or longer-term “victory” over Iran. Though his favored operational stance is more likely to be incremental than sudden – that is, than some substantial “bolt-from-the-blue” war-initiating strike - there will still be multiple dangers of an uncontrolled escalation.
by John P. Sullivan, by Robert Bunker | Thu, 01/09/2020 - 4:25am | 0 comments
The largest anti-gang operation targeting MS-13 in New York State history culminated in 96 defendants indicted in Suffolk County, Long Island and a total of 230 arrests of gang members and associates throughout the United States and in El Salvador. Over 10 MS-13 cliques operate in Suffolk County, and leaders of 9 of those cliques were indicted as a result of a two-year, multiagency investigation, which significantly impacts the ‘New York Program’ of the transnational gang.
| Wed, 01/08/2020 - 12:29pm | 3 comments

This article has been retracted.

by Russell W. Glenn | Wed, 01/08/2020 - 9:50am | 0 comments
It is all well and good for Multi-Domain Operations to be military-centric. It is less acceptable for it to swing the pendulum to the extreme of armed conflict at the expense of guidance that recognizes and addresses the armed forces’ roles throughout the range of an ever-present conflict environment articulated in the concept as competition-armed conflict-return to competition.
by Robert Bunker, by David Kuhn, by John P. Sullivan | Tue, 01/07/2020 - 1:11pm | 0 comments
The potentials spread of FARC explosives [both devices and tactics, techniques, and procedures – (TTPs)] to the Mexican crime wars is now clearly evident. Prior warnings of the spread of FARC tradecraft to the Mexican situation are unfolding. CISEN had previously assessed that papas bombas based in the FARC template were being integrated into cartel TTPs.
by Rosarie Tucci | Sat, 12/21/2019 - 8:58am | 0 comments
For almost 15 years, Jacqueline O’Neill, now Canada’s first ambassador for women, peace and security, pondered a question that dogs policymakers everywhere and bears heavily on her work: How can governments speed up the implementation of major shifts in policy?
by Scott Smith | Fri, 12/20/2019 - 4:30am | 0 comments
The problem was not that U.S. officials lied to the public—it’s that for so long many believed that the war was winnable.
by Gary Anderson | Thu, 12/19/2019 - 2:57am | 1 comment
Any successful Russian thrust into one or more of the Baltic States depends on the calculus of speed. They need to make the action a fait accompli before NATO reinforcement can arrive. A 2016 Rand war game indicated that current NATO capabilities cannot properly offset the Russian 6-1 armor advantage in the Baltics in a timely manner. However, if key Baltic urban areas can be turned into potential urban fortresses, the equation changes radically.
by Theresa Cross, by Aaron Bazin, by Montgomery Erfourth | Wed, 12/18/2019 - 1:35pm | 0 comments
This article provides an analysis of the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and the national interests described within. First, this article discusses American interests in the context of past and then details a logical categorization of these interests by criticality (vital, important, or peripheral). Finally, this article discusses the implications of these interests through a regional lens.
by Christian M. Bills | Wed, 12/18/2019 - 3:55am | 0 comments
Many locations where our military branches and intelligence agencies currently operate are nations are as complex and hostile as the terrorist organizations themselves. Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Libya are just a few that are infested with well-armed, well paid, and highly motivated terrorist groups. For all the threats and challenges that face Americas defense planners one of the greatest hurdles that must be overcome resides in Pakistan.
by Cameron Evers | Tue, 12/17/2019 - 5:30am | 0 comments
The task of rethinking East African counterterrorism cooperation has gone through many phases but remains limited in scope. Kenyan, Tanzanian, and African Union counterterrorism centers exist, but they are principally research and policy centers or local one-country interagency apparatuses. Other limitations are highlighted by the lack of multi-country intelligence operations uniquely designed for East African counterterrorism writ large, i.e. tackling the regional al-Shabaab threat in a simultaneous permanent fashion at one location.
by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. | Mon, 12/16/2019 - 9:06am | 0 comments
Recently, an active duty lieutenant colonel and two retired lieutenant colonels – all military lawyers – penned separate, highly-derisive essays about President Trump’s actions in several military cases. While I personally would not have recommended his most recent actions, the two essays are both deeply flawed but for somewhat different reasons. As somehow who spent more than three decades as a military lawyer including service as military prosecutor, defense counsel, and trial judge, allow me to explain what these three officers got wrong.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 12/16/2019 - 5:16am | 0 comments
Japan’s security strategy is a uniquely regarded admixture of isolation and engagement. This blend is common to many countries but poses a stark dilemma for Japan’s citizens. Theirs is a country whose economic zone is five times the size of China’s, that is dependent on external sources for over 90 percent of its energy needs, and which is supposed to react to threats in self-defense under a constitution imposed during a postwar occupation (1945-1952). The so-called Peace Constitution (1947) forever renounces: war; the use or threat of force to settle disputes; military forces; and war potential.
by Aziz Amin Ahmadzai | Sun, 12/15/2019 - 12:45pm | 0 comments
Following the prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban – a deal facilitated by the United States, Qatar and Pakistan – it appears that the Afghan peace talks may soon resume. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is reportedly in Qatar holding informal talks with the Taliban. While the year-long marathon peace talks failed for several reasons, a new round of talks may present an opportunity to redress the mistakes.
by Jonathan Fagins | Sat, 12/14/2019 - 5:00pm | 1 comment
In the book "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present", Max Boot provides an insightful look into conflicts where revolutionary movements and guerrilla forces out-maneuver and out-strategize conventional armies that are exceptionally larger.
by Pasar Sherko | Fri, 12/13/2019 - 10:10am | 0 comments
Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al-Qurayshi is a new alias for ISIL’s new leader designed to obscure his identityand prevent targeting by counter-terrorism forces. There is a good chance that Amir Muhammed Sa’eed al-Mawla, also known as Hajji Abdullah al-‘Afri, is the new ISIL emir. This article explains what this succession means for ISIL and the world, and what we can glean from the announcement of the new leader.
by Robert Bunker | Thu, 12/12/2019 - 5:53pm | 0 comments
"Gangs and Organized Crime" is a major new book effort—aimed primarily at the university book market—by veteran authors and gang specialists George W. Knox, Gregg W. Etter, and Carter F. Smith.
by Andrew Shaughnessy | Thu, 12/12/2019 - 3:49am | 0 comments
Against the backdrop of a generation of Soldiers who grew up tethered to smartphones, the Army remains rigidly analog in many of its systems. While there are numerous potential examples of how smartphone applications could make Army systems more accessible, few seem as immediately viable for disruption as unit maintenance.