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 Rachel Bryson, by Bulama Bukarti | Tue, 05/07/2019 - 12:10pm | 0 comments
Just because there are imperfections with a deradicalization camp, it does not make it a failure. In fact, Nigeria is courageous in its approach and has taken strides beyond many countries in its steps towards restoring the lives of those who have left violent and extreme groups.
by Michael E. Hauben | Mon, 05/06/2019 - 2:11pm | 0 comments
In the final, 1975 onslaught, ARVN with RF lacked the capacity to react to multiple diversionary assaults by enemy local forces and to deploy the necessary concentration of force on multiple fronts to halt PAVN advances toward the capital.[v] Overstretched ARVN, further weakened by US Congressional reduction, with a vengeance, of POL, ammunition and equipment re-supply to a trickle, was simply overwhelmed.
by Norman T. Lihou, by Brett Doyle | Mon, 05/06/2019 - 1:06am | 0 comments
Improvisation on the battlefield is not new. However, the improvised threats that are faced today have increased the scope, scale, and degree of battlefield improvisation impact at all levels of warfare. With technology accelerating knowledge proliferation and the expanding access of technological diffusion, non-state actors have been able to create unprecedented risks to US forces and our partners
by Gary Anderson | Sun, 05/05/2019 - 7:55am | 0 comments
"Frustrated members of Venezuela’s opposition and their supporters saw their attempt at a military coup fall short last week as senior leaders of the security forces failed to join an attempt to force President Maduro out of office and out of the country. Despite an economy in ruins, a failed health care system, and international sanctions; the Maduro regime has survived. There are several reasons for this."
by Louis René Beres | Sat, 05/04/2019 - 4:51pm | 0 comments
"Are they normal?" It's not a usual question for commanders or strategic planners. Still, to some reasonable and ascertainable extent, this complex question could be applied to virtually any adversary in war, or at least to certain identifiable cadres of a pertinent enemy leadership.
by Stephen B. Young | Fri, 05/03/2019 - 1:39am | 0 comments
The decision to suspend territorial security reporting may indeed indicate that the process of American withdrawal from Afghanistan is picking up speed.
by Alma Keshavarz | Fri, 05/03/2019 - 12:34am | 0 comments
A former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General, Saeed Ghasemi has, as early as 2015, revealed Iran’s involvement in the Bosnian War. While not much has been written about the topic nor has Ghasemi penned articles, there are videos of him on Iranian-state news outlets discussing Iran’s involvement. In the latest interview from 2019, Ghasemi reveals details of the Guards relationship with al-Qaeda.
by Team 6031- National War College | Thu, 05/02/2019 - 11:25am | 0 comments
Team 6031 consists of Dr. Joseph Collins of the National War College faculty, the coordinating author of this article; Army COLs Charles Hornick, Justin Reese, Matthew Sheiffer; Army LTCs Chad Froehlich and Karen Radka; Marine LtCol Erick Clark; Navy Commander Lloyd Edwards; and Navy Medical Corps Captain Frank Mullens.
by Robert Hranek | Thu, 05/02/2019 - 1:13am | 0 comments
First things first: I am not a Mad Scientist - I am an Angry Engineer! I’ve been in the business of analyzing systems for decades, as active duty military, DoD systems engineer, intelligence analyst, and more. And yes, I’ve been a REMF (look it up if you don’t already know it, please refer to pages 9-11 for explanation of all the other acronyms and terms used in this report) the entire time because I enjoy not being shot at while I work. Enough of my background, my task here is to provide an End-To-End Analysis and lessons learned from the April Fools’ Day battle for Otso fought mainly between Donovia and the United States.
by John P. Sullivan, by José de Arimatéia da Cruz, by Robert Bunker | Tue, 04/30/2019 - 7:21am | 0 comments
The arrests on racketeering charges of over a dozen members and associates of the Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM), a gang with ties to Brazil, in Eastern Massachusetts highlights the potential for transnational gang networks to emerge within criminal diasporas. This note documents the first significant case of Brazilian gang emergence in the United States.
by Bradley L. Rees | Mon, 04/29/2019 - 5:40am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.
by Jack DeOliveira | Mon, 04/29/2019 - 5:03am | 0 comments
"There is no doubt that China poses one of the greatest espionage and cyber-attack threats to the United States. The Chinese government has committed to becoming the world’s cyber leader and has made no real attempt to hide that notion. When assessing Chinese cybersecurity, we look at the infrastructure the government has built to address cybersecurity. From creating some of the strictest domestic cyber laws in the world to building a cyber army larger than a standing army of most countries, proves that China is establishing a presence in cyber operations.
by David Retherford | Sun, 04/28/2019 - 1:56am | 0 comments
To what extent can the examples of individual testimony offer a sense of collective experience? The experience of war can only be understood through the commonality that is shared amongst all the participants. Perception varies greatly from one individual to the next. What one may view as surrounded, may be seen as scarce to the next. Therefore, it is vital to compile individual testimonies and find the universal commonality amongst them in order to formulate a collective experience.
by Jaylan Haley, by John Long, by Melissa Sidwell | Sat, 04/27/2019 - 6:36am | 0 comments
The USAF is well known for its precision strike capability as well as space and airborne ISR expertise. With this consideration, a resilient ISR C2 model that offers embedded expert joint controllers for leveraging ISR C2 capabilities is appropriate; in other words, a single, integrated structure that fully empowers the TACP through its ISR team to execute C2 of ISR missions. This ensures that the USAF’s expertise is leveraged and optimized through streamlined and synchronized joint operations.
by Scott Padgett | Tue, 04/23/2019 - 9:13pm | 0 comments
This article explores how state actors are using advanced software development tools and artificial intelligence (AI) to invent and perfect new deception capabilities to fool both people and machines on the virtual battlefield. It examines intelligent computer vision systems and their capabilities to support state-sponsored hybrid warfare.
by Jeff Goodson | Mon, 04/22/2019 - 5:09pm | 0 comments
In the future, more countries are likely to serve as theaters of great power competition. Conflict will arise in those countries where it didn't exist before, and will deepen in those where it already exists. In both cases, instability will grow. The use of proxies will mitigate the potential for direct great power conflict, but tensions will rise as the world becomes smaller and opportunities for conflict grow.
by David B. Parker | Mon, 04/22/2019 - 2:49am | 0 comments
Preparations for future small wars described in the JOE 2035 must account for stability operations, FHA and peace operations, and counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations. Viewing these types of small wars as distinctly separate and mutually exclusive is a flawed perspective; the world is an interconnected place and the types of small wars the joint force may encounter in the future will often occur simultaneously and as a result of one another.
by Ronald W. Sprang | Mon, 04/22/2019 - 12:07am | 0 comments
This research seeks to determine how cyberwarfare applied through the lens of operational art contributes to cross domain synergy within the context of multi-domain battle. Cyber and EW capabilities are critical to enable operational commanders the opportunity to create temporary windows of advantage, shape the deep fight, control tempo of multi-domain operations, and arrange cyber effects in time and space to achieve strategic objectives.
by Stephen B. Young | Sat, 04/20/2019 - 4:11pm | 0 comments
The study needs to start with a baseline of how to defeat terrorists and insurgents. It can’t accept at face value the hopes and aspirations of American policy makers and field commanders as they entered the War on Terror. It needs to measure their strategies and tactics against proven success.
by J. “Lumpy” Lumbaca | Thu, 04/18/2019 - 6:25am | 0 comments
The past two decades in the Indo-Pacific region have resulted in remarkable change across the terrorist landscape. Attacks and deaths are down, but jihadist ideology and threats persist. The Indo-Pacific states of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines consistently remain among the “Top 10” countries affected by terrorism according to the Global Terrorism Index report. If there was any doubt whether or not 2019 would see a continuation of the deadly trend, this year’s bombing just days before the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite, the Pulwama terrorist attack in India, the breakup of an international terrorist cell in Malaysia, and the New Zealand mosque shootings all serve to remind us that extremism remains at our front door.
by Robert Hunter Ward | Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:46am | 0 comments
To a large extent, the question of whether remote warfare waged by RPAs is ethical depends on if one believes riskless war is dangerous, destructive, and overly easy. The ethical issues of asymmetric risk, moral hazard, and destructive behavior are difficult considerations to face, but necessary to reconcile. Ultimately, despite these concerns, the RPA is an ethical instrument of air warfare which leaders should certainly take advantage of, if they do so judiciously as they should with any weapon.
by SWJ Editors | Mon, 04/15/2019 - 10:11pm | 0 comments
U.S. Department of the Treasury Report: "Action Targets ISIS Financial Facilitators and Money Transfer Company"
by Bruce McClintock | Mon, 04/15/2019 - 6:01pm | 0 comments
Imagine this: As you drive down the highway at the speed limit in the right lane, another car races past you on the left then veers into your lane without warning. The other car then slows down until it is just feet in front of you, forcing you to make a quick decision to slow down, change lanes or even swerve off the road to the right to avoid a collision. Now imagine the same scenario involving two satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above the earth and traveling at 6,800 miles per hour.
by Barnett S. Koven | Mon, 04/15/2019 - 9:16am | 0 comments
This article is informed by the author’s experience adapting his previous fieldwork studying counterinsurgency in Colombia into lecture content for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School’s Contemporary Irregular Warfare Course.
by SWJ Editors | Sun, 04/14/2019 - 4:57pm | 0 comments
The 279 page edited work Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán: Imagery, Symbolism, and Narratives is divided into a preface, introduction, twelve chapters, postscript, imagery data set, four appendices, selected references, and further readings. This Small Wars Journal-El Centro eBook is edited by Robert J. Bunker and Alma Keshavarz.
by Aleksandra Nesic, by Arnel David | Sun, 04/14/2019 - 7:31am | 0 comments
Special Operations Forces (SOF) must continue to build capability and capacity to scientifically understand, accurately interpret and effectively influence human behavior. It is the SOF operator who will be on the ground early, working with an indigenous populace, learning to understand a given situation in order to provide critical context to both civilian and military leadership. SOF must be able to navigate complex social systems and operate at a speed that creates critical decision space while ensuring their actions don’t make matters worse.
by Bradley Fultz | Sat, 04/13/2019 - 8:18am | 0 comments
The Republic of Georgia is a loyal U.S. ally and the largest non-NATO contributing nation to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Georgia’s geographic location combined with firmly entrenched western values amongst its engaged populace make Tbilisi an ideal partner for both today and the foreseeable future in the contest against regional near-peer enemies. This article provides needed context and background regarding this important U.S. military partner.
by Patrick Burke | Fri, 04/12/2019 - 4:12am | 0 comments
“Jim Roussell and the Marines he works with broke the Abu Ali cell of the Iraqi insurgency in much the same way he caught gang leaders on Chicago's West Side,” according to a 2007 article from the Chicago Tribune. Sgt. Russel’s success illustrates that counterinsurgents can learn from U.S. law enforcement, and vice-versa.
by John Turner | Thu, 04/11/2019 - 11:25am | 0 comments
The dramatic increase of Venezuelan refugees entering the country, record-level coca cultivation and cocaine production levels, and the power vacuum created by the disarmament, and demobilization of the country’s oldest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in key cultivation and smuggling areas are just a few things for U.S. policy makers, defense officials, and legislators to take into consideration as they evaluate bilateral security assistance to Colombia.
by Scott Padgett, by Steve Banach | Tue, 04/09/2019 - 10:00am | 0 comments
The goal of this paper is to present learning concepts, and virtual maneuver schemata that can help the US Army win the real war that it is confronted with, vice the ideal war that it is currently designed to fight. Winning the real war will guarantee freedom and the preservation of our way of life for the foreseeable future.
by Mike Sweeney | Mon, 04/08/2019 - 5:58pm | 0 comments
There is by necessity a detached coldness to the sort of analysis contained in this paper. For the citizens of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Taiwan, it is not a simple intellectual exercise. The conflicts explored here could have real impacts on their existing way of life, to say nothing of bringing death and destruction to their doorstep. I don’t mean to discount this or suggest that a Chinese or Russian invasion should simply be shrugged off. But there is the question of the bigger picture.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Mon, 04/08/2019 - 7:43am | 0 comments
The purpose of this paper is to describe behavior differences between managing like a boss and managing like a leader. The terms boss and leader can be used interchangeably, but if you analyze what makes a boss and a leader, you will start noticing important differences. In today’s world, being a leader rather than a boss is more effective, and if understood and implemented will improve individual performance, build effective teams, and promote success for the organization.
by Nick Rife, by Josh Brown | Sun, 04/07/2019 - 2:37pm | 0 comments
Few things in life induce a greater sense of accomplishment than implementing a digital strategy that produces tangible results while serving as an intelligence Soldier at a US Army tactical echelon. A rarely replicated degree of hubris consumes the self because ingesting data and extracting the right insights at the right time as a component of the Army mission command intelligence enterprise is indeed a strategic vision quest of herculean magnitude.
by Peter A. Newell | Sat, 04/06/2019 - 9:22pm | 0 comments
We are about to kick off the 4th year of our nation’s premier program for teaching Mission Driven Entrepreneurship — Stanford’s Hacking for Defense course. This year’s course, like each of the previous three, will challenge us, our students and an entire ecosystem of interested partners to once again help bring solutions to some of our country’s hardest problems.
by Michael Gladius | Fri, 04/05/2019 - 7:10am | 0 comments
In part 1 two new weapons platforms were suggested as a way to incorporate drones into traditional weapons platforms. In this article, I look at four platforms which can be developed using existing technology in order to prepare America’s Army for urban combat.
by Max Erdemandi | Wed, 04/03/2019 - 1:43pm | 0 comments
The truth is, however - as ugly as it may sound - Turkey is not a major world power. President Erdogan is painfully aware that Turkish political and military power is as relevant as the superpower to whom he can hitch his wagon - whether it is the U.S. or Russia. Hence, he continues to play a dangerous game of Russian roulette (pun is definitely intended) to gain more leverage with both countries to get what he wants.
by Robert Bunker, by John P. Sullivan | Wed, 04/03/2019 - 2:32am | 0 comments
The Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL), also known as the Cártel de Guanajuato, Cártel de Santa Rosa, or el Cártel del Marro, is a criminal cartel operating in the Mexican state of Guanajuato (Gto.). Its principle enterprise is huichicol or fuel theft. The competition for the illicit petroleum trade has led to violent conflict with their rival—the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). This tactical note reviews the symbology (logos and symbols) used by the CSRL.
by Peter Layton | Tue, 04/02/2019 - 6:20am | 0 comments
A new industrial process is rapidly emerging. This fourth industrial revolution (4IR) based on hyper-connectivity brings with it both continual – indeed relentless – innovation and the possibility of practical large-scale prototype warfare.
by Jonathan C. Nielsen | Tue, 04/02/2019 - 3:29am | 0 comments
Does the U.S. Army need a dogma? Before you say yes or no, let’s consider a few points worth debating.
by Michael Gladius | Mon, 04/01/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
Maneuver Warfare has several real weaknesses that do not translate well into the American way of war. In this essay, we will look at 2 ways in which maneuver warfare can be defined, their weaknesses, and then how America can incorporate their benefits into its own doctrine.
by Scott Harr | Mon, 04/01/2019 - 12:20am | 0 comments
This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.
by Stephen B. Young | Sun, 03/31/2019 - 1:36pm | 0 comments
"To treat Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as Westphalian states where the national government has real authority is to ignore reality. Those countries need “nation-building” in order to become Westphalian states capable of enforcing border control and providing sufficient public security and economic development so that their people are happy and content to live out their lives in their local communities under a viable and just national state political system."
by Kiril Avramov | Sat, 03/30/2019 - 3:08am | 0 comments
Modern day “condottieri”, a new type of modern “soldiers of fortune”, is emerging center stage. Namely, the ascent of a new breed, one that could be best described as “digital mercenaries”. The advent of these new professionals is of no less importance than their “traditional” counterparts who provide muscle and boots on the ground in distant and difficult environments.
by David Murphy | Fri, 03/29/2019 - 2:22am | 0 comments
Lawrence’s account of the campaign, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom suggests that this was a campaign of tribal raiding, occasionally bolstered with further assets. However, a closer reading of the surviving sources shows that, between 1916 and 1918, the Arab armies were developing quite dramatically in terms of their operational abilities. Furthermore, the increasing levels of investment in terms of officers, money and material would suggest that the revolt was viewed by Allied commanders as much more than a mere sideshow. This was particularly true for the British and the French. Far from being a rather haphazard romantic affair led by one eccentric British officer, by 1918, dozens of British and French advisors had been assigned to help train and direct the Arab forces.
by Reyes Cole | Thu, 03/28/2019 - 5:59am | 0 comments
The belief that peer/near-peer/VEO competitors and adversaries will only fight us via traditional warfare, man to man, tank to tank, ship to ship, and plane to plane, are missing the historical and present day reality that these designated threats are currently competing and prevailing over us via Irregular Warfare activities in the competition space, and doing so quite successfully.
by Shawn Peerenboom | Thu, 03/28/2019 - 3:56am | 0 comments
"As terror groups such as ISIS gain more experience using social media platforms, the structure of posts and the methods used to promote the posts are becoming similar to the strategies a business would use to promote a product on those platforms. Although, the groups can’t directly mimic a business. They generally are blocked from using straightforward promotion tools put in place by the platform, such as advertisements or paid promotions. Groups like ISIS also tend to violate the terms of service for the social media platforms they are using. Much like the battle between cyber attacks and cyber security, terrorist organizations are continually adapting to circumvent detection and removal by the platforms they are using."
by Franklin C. Annis | Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:11pm | 0 comments
On March 25th, the National Guard Bureau officially announced new branding for recruiting. The traditional “Minuteman” logo will no longer appear on recruiting materials. It was reported that the image did not “resonate” with 16-18-year-old high school students because of lack of knowledge of the historic symbol.
by Paul Rexton Kan | Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:16am | 0 comments
Modeled on the Iranian Basij militia, the 'colectivos' have targeted critical media outlets, opposition politicians, and dissidents as well as exerted control over entire neighborhoods and towns. They have operated death squads with the full acquiescence of Venezuela’s intelligence agencies and in partnership with the military. Venezuela’s previous president, Hugo Chavez, organized these paramilitary groups to protect the gains of his self-proclaimed Bolivarian Revolution from the perceived threat of external powers. They rapidly transformed into a force to prop-up the political elite and to preserve the power of the regime.
by Kimberly Imri Metcalf | Wed, 03/27/2019 - 4:08am | 0 comments
With limited resources and policy that was constructed as it was being implemented, the US supported a coalition of Syrian forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF and their anti-Islamic State coalition liberated Kobane and Manbij in 2016, and then moved onto to Raqqa in 2017, and finally Baghouz in 2019 beating the Islamic State into a corner of Syria. Despite this massive military accomplishment and territorial success, the heartbeat behind the ideology isn’t dead, in fact it might be growing stronger.