Small Wars Journal

small wars

Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

Small wars remain highly likely even as the U.S. stresses the return to great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will exhibit tension between strategic and tactical thinking. This tendency can be seen in the following discussion of Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who had a problematic vision of targeting the Chinese mainland during the Korean War that exemplifies tactical thinking at the expense of considering strategic ends.

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The Loss of South Vietnam and the Coming Loss of Afghanistan

Unlike conventional wars, which in Vietnam we called the “War of the Big Battalions”, small wars, or what back then we called “the other war”, integrate the military with the cultural and the political. Thus, small wars are hard to win with kinetic engagements and firepower alone. The complex reality of small wars also implies that they can be lost for cultural or political reasons even if single military engagements are won handily again and again.

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MacArthur, Eisenhower, and the Lost Lessons of Building Partnership Capacity

Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower justifiably have become legends for their accomplishments while commander World War II’s Pacific and Northern European campaigns. Yet even with renewed focus on great power conflicts, future commanders are more likely to face missions similar to what these officers faced in the Philippines prior to the war than the continent-wide conventional campaigns they are better known far.

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Shifting Militia Allegiances and the Prospects for Ending the Small War in Northern Mali

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to the situation in northern Mali. The Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation still provides a blueprint for a more just, inclusive, and peaceful social contract to regulate relations between the government and the people and between different communities in the area.

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Saving Blood & Treasure: The Evolving Art of War and the Application of Design Methodology to Complex Problems of 21st Century Small Wars

The United States and its Allies have historically been successful at fighting conventional wars. America must both build on its understanding of past state-on-state conflicts and learn from the small wars of this young century to be able to fight and win future wars.

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Leveraging Incomplete Sovereignty: Building a Peaceful Empire on the Cheap

Why has the United States focused their grand strategy on influencing states and central governments rather than the ungoverned areas within them? Pursuing reluctant authoritarians rather than the accepted rulers who control the land outside the states control has been a failed and misguided strategy.

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Assessment of U.S. Involvement to Counter Hutu Extremists’ Plans for Tutsi Genocide in Early 1994

The U.S. could have countered the genocide the April 1994 genocide in Rwanda. While it is very difficult to envision a scenario whereby the U.S. conducted unilateral military actions once the genocide started, the various indicators prior to that date offered the U.S. the opportunity, working through the United Nations (UN), to act to prevent the genocide before it started.

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Assessing the Jefferson Administration’s Actions During the First Barbary Wars and their Impact on U.S. Small War Policy

The First Barbary War of 1801 was the first significant American engagement outside of the Western Hemisphere and the second significant engagement against a foreign state without a formal declaration of war. Furthermore, this war’s multilateral strategy of using a coalition and diplomatic pressure provides valuable insight into the elements of a successful limited military operation.

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