Small Wars Journal
  • “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
  • “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)
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    -- Joseph Stalin
  • "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
    -- Old MOUT Adage
  • "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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"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

Small Wars Journal publishes original works from authentic voices across the spectrum of stakeholders in small wars. We also link you to relevant goings on elsewhere.  Login with your SWJ Username to comment, or Register, it's free. You can start your own threads in the Small Wars Council discussion board, but note that the board requires a separate Council Username. Follow SWJ on Twitter @smallwars.

Journal

by Kate Kingsbury | Sun, 09/26/2021 - 9:40pm | 0 comments
On 6 May 2021, three heavily armed men stormed into the Santa Muerte temple known as Santa Muerte Internacional Tultitlán (SMI Tultitlán), firing off shots into the air. The men, who had previously attacked the home of Enriqueta Vargas, the former leader of the temple, looted the shrine for items of worth and beat up staff members. This paper looks at the background of SMI Tultitlán and the new religious movement (NRM) surrounding Santa Muerte with a discussion of the roles of Jonathan Legaria Vargas "Comandante Pantera" and Enriqueta Vargas "La Madrina" culminating in a discussion of the future of SMI Tultitlán.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Fri, 09/24/2021 - 1:59am | 0 comments
Article 5 of NATO’s foundational 1949 North Atlantic Treaty demands that if an “armed attack” is carried out against even just one member state, all other member states “shall” consider that attack (and any armed attack) on a member state “an attack against them all” and “will assist,” up to and “including the use of armed force.”  This bedrock is the centerpiece for over seven decades of the Pax Americana: the U.S.-led global system of military power, alliances, collective defense, and ability to project combined strength anywhere on the planet.  For it to continue in these roles, NATO must adapt to current and future threats by adding cyberwarfare—including information warfare—to Article 5.
by Frank Sobchak | Thu, 09/23/2021 - 6:27am | 2 comments
Since the disastrous fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, there have been a continuous series of reports that announce far-reaching observations and conclusions from the conflict. Two popular narratives are that cowardly Afghan forces collapsed with barely a shot fired and that the U.S. military is incapable of building an effective foreign partner force. On its face, each judgement would seem to have some threads of truth given the considerable debacle that played out over August 2021. But the reality is much more complex and requires nuance, something that is challenging in the current American political environment.
by Alex Richards | Thu, 09/23/2021 - 5:21am | 0 comments
In 1989, a team of American analysts presented an argument that the next generation of war would have blurred lines between war and politics, and civilians and combatants. This has become increasingly true as corporations now have major stakes in global conflict and are able to influence outcomes of global politics and war. The Russo-Georgian War further blurred those lines when the Georgian government transferred Internet capabilities that were under attack to TSHost servers in the United States. Private cybersecurity firms and non-state sponsored hackers can influence diplomacy on a global scale due to the deep penetration of the internet into the military, critical infrastructure, and everyday society. This penetration has increased the effectiveness of information warfare and cyber espionage.
by Richard McManamon | Thu, 09/23/2021 - 5:15am | 0 comments
With the election of a new U.S. president comes a new foreign policy strategy. While the U.S. continues to manage the recent evacuation of forces and allies from Afghanistan, monitors the volatile situation between Israel and Hamas, and carefully listens to North Korea’s aggressive rhetoric, it must not lose focus on Russia and China. At a time when both countries continue to expand their presence in eastern Europe, it becomes evident that the U.S. must have a focused strategy within the Balkans. The recent build-up of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border in April 2021 reinforces the idea that Russia will continue to destabilize the region while China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has found its way into eastern Europe, specifically to the Balkan countries. China’s dangerous lending practices and infrastructure projects can put Balkan countries at increased risk and provide China a backdoor into Europe. The U.S. benefits from a strong E.U. and NATO as well as sustainable stability throughout Europe. Targeted support for European allies is a strong incentive for U.S. involvement in the region as the U.S. can benefit from increased stability and stronger trading partners. This was highlighted by President Biden’s recent signing of an Executive Order on June 8, 2021, that provided additional sanction authority, efforts to combat corruption, and promote accountability within the Balkans and the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Lastly, the Balkans present a unique challenge for western allies as this region simultaneously displays global competition from both Russia and China, which will require a comprehensive approach to counter their expansion effectively. 
by Ernest John C. Jadloc | Thu, 09/23/2021 - 5:06am | 0 comments
In 1952, U.S. officials approved the establishment of an international anticommunist movement for rural reconstruction in the Philippines. Central to this project was the issue of land reform. After a perceived success of development programs and subsequent surrender of the Hukbalahap insurgents, the U.S. abandoned its commitment to land reform.[1] However, land reform and its security implications have not been forgotten and are at work today.
by Chris Bronk | Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:56pm | 0 comments
Review of Amy Myers Jaffe, "Energy's Digital Future: Harnessing Innovation for American Resilience and National Security." This monograph looks at future energy security issues in a 'post-oil' world punctuated by technological change and great power conflicts marshaling hybrid warfare strategies including cyberattacks.
by Vanda Felbab-Brown | Wed, 09/15/2021 - 2:51pm | 0 comments
Perhaps nowhere in the world has a country and the international community faced an illicit drug economy as deeply entrenched as in Afghanistan. After toppling the Ashraf Ghani government in August of this year, the Taliban has announced its intention to rid Afghanistan of drugs. They tried to ban opium production in 2000 with limited success, This analysis by SWJ-El Centro Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown provides a retrospective view of the Taliban's opium control initiatives from the 1990s to the present. She concludes that maintaining these suppression efforts would be wickedly difficult and could internally destabilize the Taliban.
by Sandor Fabian | Tue, 09/14/2021 - 10:15pm | 1 comment
In her recent articles in Foreign Affairs and the Irregular Warfare Initiative at Modern War Institute Rachel Tecott paints a quite bleak picture about US Security Force Assistance efforts. In both of these articles the author arrives to strong conclusions by suggesting that the US approach to building foreign militaries does not deliver the expected results and even argues that recent events “exposed the rot” within these efforts.     While there are several compelling and thought-provoking points in these articles their arguments and conclusions seem to be significantly weakened by the authors` narrow definition of US security force assistance efforts` scope and objectives, and the cherry-picking of scholarly literature and cases that scream obvious confirmation bias. A more comprehensive investigation of the issue at hand reveals that the topic is much more complex than presented in these two articles and while undeniably there are several bad cases in the history of US security force assistance efforts they also have yield some great results as well.
by Adam Reitz | Tue, 09/14/2021 - 9:53pm | 3 comments
Traditionally most people think of using the stick of coercion when dealing with a foe and the carrot of persuasion with an ally, but we should amend our influence planning to include the possibility of applying both, as required, in a goal-centric model.  Friend or Foe?  As a target it makes little difference in designing the dialog of influence if we recognize that either would decide on an action only after weighing the pros and cons. Instead, distinguishing between whether you are trying to discourage an actor’s potential behavior or you are trying to encourage their current behavior offers planners more utility than focusing on your relationship with them.

Blog Posts

by Dave Maxwell | Mon, 09/27/2021 - 9:47am | 0 comments

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by Dave Maxwell | Sun, 09/26/2021 - 11:01am | 0 comments

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by SWJ Editors | Tue, 09/14/2021 - 8:24pm | 0 comments
A recent analytical report by Aneliese Bernard, summarized in an article for the Irregular Warfare Initiative at the Modern War Institute at West Point, details the expansion of violent extremism from West Africa's Sahel region into the Littoral states on the Gulf of Guinea
by Dave Maxwell | Tue, 09/14/2021 - 9:36am | 0 comments

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