Small Wars Journal
  • "In 1991 the Gulf War showed everyone how not to fight us, but the 2003 invasion of Iraq showed everybody how to fight us."
    -- David Kilcullen
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    -- Old MOUT Adage
  • “For Dave Dilegge and Bill Nagle, founders and editors of Small Wars Journal. They gave the counterguerrilla underground a home, at a time when misguided leaders banned even the word ‘insurgency,’ though busily losing to one. Scholars, warriors, and agitators, Dave and Bill laid the foundation for battlefield success: our generation owes them a debt of gratitude.”
    -- David Kilcullen ('Counterinsugency' Dedication)
  • “It takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army.”
    -- Joseph Stalin
  • “With no other security forces on hand, U.S. military was left to confront, almost alone, an Iraqi insurgency and a crime rate that grew worse throughout the year, waged in part by soldiers of the disbanded army and in part by criminals who were released from prison.”
    -- John Spratt

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"Small wars are operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our Nation."

-- Small Wars Manual, 1940

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Journal

by César Pintado | Fri, 10/22/2021 - 12:47am | 0 comments
Combatants have turned to all sorts of substances to enhance their performance or to alleviate their hardships, from the wine and opium used by Greek hoplites to the Dexedrine employed by fighter pilots to stay alert. Sometimes this has been the path to pharmacological innovations, sometimes to the spread of addictions. Although the abuse of these substances remains a problem in all armies, new drugs are emerging to reduce the need for sleep and even open the door to genetic modification.
by Michael Perry | Fri, 10/22/2021 - 12:41am | 0 comments
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began as a war to combat transnational terrorism but quickly evolved into something deeper and more profound.  To combat terror emanating from a foreign country the U.S. sought a cooperative Afghan government, and thus the war became an exercise in first toppling an uncooperative regime in the Taliban, and second establishing an effective government with a monopoly on force.  The first step proved easy, while the second led to a revival of counterinsurgent theory and doctrine in the U.S. military, as the deposed Taliban fought to undermine the newly established government.  With President Biden’s announcement all U.S. troops will be withdrawn after 20 years of engagement, it’s natural to take stock of what’s been achieved.  Most now recognize the error in the strategy of deploying large numbers of U.S. and Coalition troops to augment the Afghan defense forces.  Economically, through 2017 the combined efforts of the Afghan War had cost $877 billion, a price tag few would argue is justified by the realized returns.
by David M. Tillman | Fri, 10/22/2021 - 12:31am | 1 comment
The Study of Terrorism is plagued with ambiguity and contradiction, much of which stems from the inability to agree upon a universal definition. This is particularly apparent when analyzing the various contributing factors surrounding individuals who gravitate towards and ultimately adopt extremist ideologies. To reduce the complexity of analyzing this topic, we will focus exclusively on individuals who have adopted an extremist ideology and are prone to commit violence in support of it. There is a multitude of characteristics that may be associated with these types of individuals, but as Boaz Ganor (2021) alludes to, it is typically an amalgamation of variables that precipitate the manifestation of these ideologies. While some characteristics appear almost symbiotic in nature, others may be viewed as directly contradicting one another. This article argues that there are five major factors that perpetuate extremist ideology and acts of terrorism including sociocultural incompatibility, lack of personal achievement, aptitude toward ignoring contradictory evidence, elevating basic values into sacred ones, and falling well outside the typical socioeconomic distribution curve. It is the amalgamation of these factors that leads individuals to become receptive to extremist ideologies which, as this article will later discuss, all typically follow a consisently  specific archetype. 
by David M. Tillman | Fri, 10/22/2021 - 12:25am | 0 comments
The history and evolution of terrorism is one of great complexity, spanning centuries rather than decades. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that “[t]     errorism remains a contested term, with no set definitions for the concept or broad agreement among academic experts on its usage” (Ward, 2018). However, many believe that recognizing terrorism is akin to Justice Potter Stewart’s concurring opinion regarding the recognition of obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) - “I’ll know it when I see it.” Although there is      a multitude of definitions, many experts[1]  agree that terrorism has two distinguishing elements – violence and a political dimension or motive (Burgess, 2015). This much can be discerned by the definitions of Bruce Hoffman and Louise Richardson of Georgetown University and Oxford University, respectively (Ward, 2018). However, by analyzing this phenomenon through the prism of the military’s Strategic Framework, we can reduce the elements of terrorism down to the ends, ways, and means (Eikmeier, 2007).
by David S. Clukey | Tue, 10/19/2021 - 8:09pm | 0 comments
September 11, 2021 marked 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 (911) and shortly before this solemn commemoration, on August 30, the United States (US) withdrew the last of its military forces from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA).  Prior to the withdrawal, US forces had been on the ground in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001. In these two decades, the US spent over $2 trillion USD and invested over 2,300 in human capital to offer Afghanistan a chance for prosperity. Unfortunately, the way the US withdrew from Afghanistan appeared as curious as it did haphazard. On a global stage, the US orchestrated a series of diplomatic, tactical, and strategic missteps that were all preventable. Although cringeworthy and tragic, these recent missteps offer opportunity for reflection and lessons to learn from; as did the way the US approached the war in Afghanistan.
by Michael D. Shaler | Mon, 10/18/2021 - 6:47pm | 1 comment
The United States Army has long regarded itself as a LEARNING ORGANIZATION, so, as the President noted, we should ask ourselves: “What have we learned --- both positive and negative --- from our 20 years involvement in the Afghanistan War?”
by Robert S. Burrell | Wed, 10/13/2021 - 8:51pm | 6 comments
The recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and resulting takeover of governance by the Taliban has caused significant doubt in America’s ability to conduct long-lasting and effective counterinsurgency operations. However, a historical analysis into America’s small wars (or dirty wars) over the past two centuries offers an indispensable perspective. The United States has been at war for about 226 of its 245 years, the vast majority of these conflicts have been prosecuted short of traditional war, and many came as a result of great power competition. During this same period, the United States has developed its own unique methods of addressing insurgency. This essay illuminates the evolution and adoption of America’s double-edged reward and punishment approach to addressing insurgency, from the Plains Indian Wars through the Vietnam War, the lessons of which are essential to consider before embarking upon tomorrow’s conflict.
by Gabriel Lloyd | Sun, 10/10/2021 - 3:50am | 0 comments
Modern Russian intelligence operations, cyber intrusions and influence operations have found both potency in the proliferation of social media technologies and a receptive target in the existing political and social divisions in the United States. Media reports, including dramatic documentaries and breathless biopics on the ten Russian “illegals” arrested in 2010, create perceptions of either a newly developed Russian playbook or a full-scale return to the Cold War era of spy-vs-spy. Neither perspective is entirely accurate.
by Peter Layton | Sun, 10/10/2021 - 3:43am | 2 comments
China’s gray zone activities grind remorseless on but in so doing are creating an opposing pushback. As is customary, the paradoxical nature of war applies in that those impacted by a damaging strategy will over time devise optimized countermoves.
by Alexander Smith | Sun, 10/10/2021 - 3:36am | 1 comment
“Not to have an adequate air force in the present state of the world is to compromise the foundations of national freedom and independence.”[1] British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, recognized the value of airpower as early as 1933 during the rise of Adolf Hitler, and his words hold to this day. The United States spent sixteen of the last twenty years and precious resources attempting to rebuild the Afghan Air Force (AAF) into a viable, self-sustaining military aviation component capable of supporting the democratically-elected Afghan government. The withdrawal of U.S. and Coalition forces in August of 2021, and the embarrassingly swift takeover by the Taliban, have left the AAF in shambles. Many pilots fled with their aircraft to neighboring countries, where their fate remains uncertain, while the rest are now in Taliban hands.

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