Small Wars Journal
  • “Bing West gives us, in this timeless work, an incomparable portrait of the lower end of the spectrum, a small war indeed. The Marines, chronicled by Marine Captain Bing West in a RAND report, all volunteers, were given one simple order—control the five square miles of the village of Binh Nghia, day and night, and do it with rifles, not artillery or airpower. The costs were high.”
    -- Lewis Sorley on Bing West’s ‘The Village’
  • “Without a sound strategy, the most brilliant generals, the most well-equipped troops, the most high-tech equipment, fine tactics - none of that works unless your strategy, your framework for what you’re doing, can actually tie ways and means together.”
    -- Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
  • “1,500 to 2,000 - The U.S. estimate for the number of Islamic State fighters currently operating in Afghanistan, believed to be half the level it was 18 months ago.”
    -- Wall Street Journal
  • “You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.”
    -- Leon Trotsky
  • "We will ensure Iran has no possible path to a nuclear weapon -- ever."
    -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

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Flag Honors - Air Force Tech. Sgt. Derek Smiling holds a U.S. flag before a National Police Week opening ceremony at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., 14 May 2018. The base flew the flag throughout the week to honor military and civilian police who lost their lives in the line of duty. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves.

"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

Welcome. 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.


by Robert Muggah | Wed, 05/23/2018 - 4:50pm | 1 comment
Paraphrasing the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, in war, terrorism and crime, truth is the first casualty. While a proper accounting of the human toll of organized violence is critical to achieving justice and stability, it is a tricky endeavor. Part of the problem is that there are few people or institutions actually keeping track of the dead. In some of the most conflict-, terrorist- and crime-prone countries and cities, there may be no data collection systems in place at all.
by Richard H. Gross | Wed, 05/23/2018 - 6:52am | 0 comments
Debate regarding the nature of American involvement in Afghanistan has been a constant since 9/11. I have watched with more than usual interest since making 3 trips to the Afghan-Pak border in the late 1980’s. My purpose for making those trips was twofold. As a pediatric orthopaedist, I wished to help with the care of children in that region, and wanted to increase my understanding of “what’s going on”.
by Allyson Christy | Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
This assessment emphasises diplomatic posturing and dubious foreign policies that have overlapped with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s incremental authoritarianism. The analysis begins with a review of earlier contexts.
by Jeff Goodson | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:23pm | 0 comments
Only a few countries still rely principally on foreign aid to generate economic growth. Afghanistan is one, but it too will have to increasingly rely on its ability to attract investment and generate internal capital flows. Because promoting foreign investment is an essential element of economic growth strategies, the new lessons learned report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)—"Private Sector Development and Economic Growth: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan"—is important.
by Keith Benedict, by William Folinusz | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:30am | 0 comments
Cadet Command provides the preeminent holistic developmental experience for mid-grade officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Away from the “flagpole”, and in an unfamiliar and public environment, leaders arise. More importantly, mentors are forged. The Army benefitted from a chance encounter (resulting in a lifelong relationship) between Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower. Over the course of three years, they discussed military history, the future of warfare, and challenges inherent with coalition warfare.
by John Dreyer | Sun, 05/20/2018 - 9:55am | 1 comment
Advising is a duty that has few set factors in what makes success or failure. Above all, effective advisors need to know what has worked in the past though there is little guarantee that past methods will work on future missions. Advisors need to be able to improvise to drive towards a successful mission. This is not to say that sending undertrained advisors is acceptable. Indeed, advisors need a solid bedrock of training with language, culture and history of their host states. The newly created Army Security Force Assistance Brigades is a very solid start to address these issues.
by Nicholas A. Glavin | Fri, 05/18/2018 - 2:18am | 0 comments
As the U.S.-led coalition nears the military defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the collapse of its physical caliphate in the Levant, its various affiliates pose complex threats to host nation governments and Western interests from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Understanding how, when, and why local violent extremist organizations (VEOs) affiliate can inform policymakers and general officers in applying instruments of national power. This report analyzes Islamic State – West Africa Province and Islamic State – Sinai Province to examine the question, “What explains the appeal for local VEOs to reflag under the ISIS brand?”
by Bryan Hedrick | Thu, 05/17/2018 - 9:01am | 1 comment
Despite the vast changes in modern warfare, the human dimension of war still remains fixed—war has ethical limits. Multi-Domain Battle poses an intrinsic ethical dilemma to the warfighter’s ability to apply combat power congruent with the Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello principles inherent within the Law of War. As strategies and tactics develop, it is imperative to consider the ethical ramifications of our actions. The Army’s Ethical Reasoning Framework is no longer a viable tool as it does not provide commanders nor soldiers the rigor or speed at which to make sound ethical decisions. We must engage the ethical domain—the trust of our nation and the moral health of our military hangs in the balance.
by Richard Kaipo Lum | Wed, 05/16/2018 - 1:40pm | 0 comments
Unlike trend work, in which we are identifying important historical changes and extrapolate their trajectory into various futures, with emerging issues we work to anticipate things that may have an important future role if they continue to mature. Since “the future” does not actually exist yet, uncertainty is inherent in all our discussions about “it.” Emerging issues are thus about the possible, novel, threats and opportunities that we need to account for in our foresight work.
by Adam Scher | Tue, 05/15/2018 - 5:48am | 0 comments
It is only within the last forty to fifty years that militaries began developing formalized doctrine for fighting inside urban centers with civilians on the battlefield that aimed at preserving critical infrastructure and protecting the civilian population. Many of those writing doctrine before the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq correctly identified that general purpose forces increasingly would find themselves operating in urban areas, not only to defeat an entrenched enemy, but also to preserve delivery of services, protect critical infrastructure, and secure a disaffected population.

Blog Posts

by DoD News | Tue, 05/22/2018 - 5:55pm | 1 comment
The coalition training effort in Iraq is all about “making a good force better,” said Italian army Brig. Gen. Roberto Vannacci, the deputy commanding general for training for Operation Inherent Resolve's Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.
by The Wall Street Journal | Tue, 05/22/2018 - 2:42pm | 0 comments
"FARAH, Afghanistan—The weekend visit by a high-level delegation from Kabul to this now calm provincial capital in western Afghanistan promised to be a victory lap of sorts, after the Taliban were driven from the city following two days of fierce fighting last week."
by Associated Press | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 6:47pm | 0 comments
“The Trump administration’s revamped Afghanistan strategy has made little progress against the Taliban insurgency, leaving the country a ‘dangerous and volatile’ place nearly 17 years after the U.S. invaded, a government watchdog report said Monday.”
by The United States Institute of Peace | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 4:44pm | 0 comments
USIP online course intended to provide a nuanced understanding of the context and dynamics of a conflict can determine the effectiveness with which you intervene, help you untangle the often-unintended consequences of any actions or policies, prevent any harm from being done, and help determine future priorities for program development.
by Lawfare | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 1:18pm | 0 comments
“A proxy war occurs when a major power instigates or plays a major role in supporting and directing a party to a conflict but does only a small portion of the actual fighting itself. Proxy war stands in contrast not only to a traditional war—when a state shoulders the burden of its own defense (or offense)—but also an alliance, when major and minor powers work together with each making significant contributions according to their means.”
by The Washington Times | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:49am | 0 comments
“As two of the Middle East’s military heavyweights edge closer to a shooting war, Israel boasts one of the world’s most effective militaries backed by a nuclear arsenal, but Iran has 10 times the population and an increasing number of ways to strike back asymmetrically.”
by The New York Times | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:28am | 0 comments
“Iraqis are still haunted by memories of black-clad death squads roaming Baghdad neighborhoods a decade ago, cleansing them of Sunnis as the country was convulsed by sectarian violence. Many of the mass killings in the capital were done in the name of Moktada al-Sadr, a cleric best remembered by Americans for fiery sermons declaring it a holy duty among his Shiite faithful to attack United States forces.”
by The Washington Post | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
“This election season has been the most violent in Mexico’s recent history, with 36 candidates killed since September, and dozens of other politicians and campaign officials slaughtered. That macabre statistic has created a fresh challenge for the country’s political parties: They are now trying to fill dozens of candidacies left open by the assassinations.”
by Associated Press | Sun, 05/20/2018 - 9:08pm | 0 comments
"The State Department unit overseeing the fight against the Islamic State group will stay in business for at least six more months, reversing an administration plan for the unit’s imminent downgrade even as President Donald Trump presses ahead with a speedy U.S. exit from Syria."
by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Sat, 05/19/2018 - 10:14pm | 0 comments
“When 20-year-old Khamzat Azimov went on a deadly stabbing spree in Paris this month, a May 12 attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, details about his upbringing caught the attention of psychoanalyst and counterterrorism expert Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin. Considering Azimov's infancy in war-torn Chechnya, and the fact that he continued to live with his mother in a one-room Paris apartment until he was shot dead by police in the midst of his attack, Kobrin saw a pattern reflected in other Islamist terrorists she has studied and written about.”