Small Wars Journal
  • “So, I’m going to give you a proposed solution,” Zinni told the group. “I’m going to say we need to create an interagency command” to manage America’s response to complex or “hybrid” security crises. “I hate to use that word, ‘command,’ because I don’t mean it to be military.”
    -- General (Ret.) Anthony Zinni
  • “It's so damn complex. If you ever think you have the solution to this, you're wrong and you're dangerous.”
    -- Lieutenant General (Ret.) H.R. McMaster
  • “Tunnel systems and irregular urban warfare are essentially advanced methods of cover and concealment. Given that the mission of the infantry is to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver,” if the enemy can prevent us from locating him or closing with him, it will be nearly impossible for us to destroy him.”
    -- William Birdzell
  • “Strategic pioneers who create theories, concepts, and other intellectual tools for use by doers have been scarcer than hen’s teeth throughout human history. Sun Tzu, Mahan, Liddell Hart, Herman Kahn, and Bernard Brodie, the world’s first nuclear strategist, are prominent exceptions. Lenin, Mao, Giap, Billy Mitchell, and a handful of others who practiced what they preach, remain even rarer.”
    -- Colonel (Ret.) John Collins, The Warlord Emeritus
  • “As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more. So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”
    -- BG Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB Commander

Home, Above Feeds, Annoucement



New and now available at Amazon - Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities provides a foundation for understanding urban operations and sustaining urban warfare research. This Small Wars Journal (SWJ) Anthology documents over a decade of writings on urban conflict. In addition to essays originally published at SWJ it adds new content including an introduction by the editors, a preface on “Blood and Concrete” by David Kilcullen, a foreword "Urban Warfare Studies" by John Spencer, a postscript “Cities in the Crossfire: The Rise of Urban Violence” by Margarita Konaev, and an afterword “Urban Operations: Meeting Challenges, Seizing Opportunities, Improving the Approach” by Russell W. Glenn. These essays frame the discussion found in the collection’s remaining 49 chapters. Blood and Concrete continues the legacy of Small Was Journal's coverage of urban operations, conflict and combat. - Dave Dilegge, Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, and Alma Keshavarz, Editors.



Northern NATO Patrol - A Marine conducts an evening patrol on mountainous terrain in Norway, 13 May 2019, during Platinum Ren, an exercise conducted with Norwegian forces in harsh environments that aims to strengthen coalition partnerships. Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb.

"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.

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by Mike Karlson | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 3:39pm | 0 comments
A fundamental aspect to understanding human geography, insofar as it relates to the entirety of the academic field of geography, is gaining a grasp on the sheer breadth of it. The subdisciplines of geography can be bifurcated between the physical and the social sciences. “When geography concentrates on the distribution of physical features, such as climate, soil, and vegetation, it is a physical science. When it studies cultural features, such as language, industries, and cities, geography is a social science”.
by Dale C. Eikmeier | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 3:05am | 0 comments
Can an amorphous system characterized by low hierarchy, dispersal, and decentralization have a Center of Gravity (CoG)? I say, “Yes,” because the purpose of the system determines the CoG, not the structure. However, to many theorists the answer is a resounding no, because the system’s structure is the determinate. They claim a system must be concentrated and centralized to have a targetable CoG. Both answers have compelling arguments. Which is correct depends on one’s conceptual foundation of the CoG concept.
by Rick Martin | Fri, 05/17/2019 - 12:37pm | 0 comments
Ultimately, the most ideal way to facilitate an orderly and deliberate U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is to end the war entirely. The Trump administration’s decision last year to talk to the Taliban and engage the insurgency's leadership in negotiations was a giant step in the right direction.
by Nick Chadwick | Thu, 05/16/2019 - 12:31am | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Robert C. Jones | Tue, 05/14/2019 - 12:51am | 7 comments
Unconventional Deterrence is not Unconventional Warfare any more than Nuclear Deterrence is Nuclear Warfare. The goal of UD is not to destabilize the societies of our enemies, rather the goal of UD is to deter our enemies from destabilizing our own society, and those of our Allies and Partners. While most of my contemporaries overly fixate on the strengths of our opponents and how they match up with inherent weaknesses of our own; I am far more interested in where their inherent weaknesses play to our strengths.
by Greg Olsen | Mon, 05/13/2019 - 1:22am | 2 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. The French military intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict in 2013 (Operation Serval) was a military success and met the criteria for success established by civilian leadership, however, it did not alter the trajectory of conflict in the region. It subsequently became conjoined to a United Nations liberal peacebuilding effort in Mali with low prospects for rapid success, resulting in a lengthy “forever war” in the Sahel.
by Marc Meeker | Mon, 05/13/2019 - 12:20am | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Daniel Phillips | Sun, 05/12/2019 - 5:06am | 1 comment
Typically, Americans are raised from a young age to mind their manners, wait their turn, share, and most of all to not fight. They are raised as members of a non-aggressive society that continues to discourage competition more and more by the year. So imagine, after a life time of learning societal norms, you enter a new profession that begins to shift everything you thought you knew.
by Cassandra Ulrich | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 7:19pm | 0 comments
The Mad Scientist team executed its 2019 Science Fiction Writing Contest to glean insights about the future fight with a near-peer competitor in 2030. We received 77 submissions from both within and outside of the DoD. This story was one of our semi-finalists and features a futuristic look at warfare and its featured technologies.
by Michael Kidd | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 8:45am | 0 comments
Is the national security of the United States impacted by a strike in India, a bombing in France, a trade war with Russia, or an earthquake in Mexico? Is there social liability within our supply chains as the result of unscrupulous sub-vendors? In most cases the answer is, “We don’t know.” While commanders can quickly assess whether they have assets located in a specific area and may know if they have a strategic vendor at the location, there is little visibility into the location or identification of companies that provide significant products or services to the Department of Defense.

Blog Posts

by InSight Crime | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 11:02pm | 0 comments
"The capture of a former FARC leader in Colombia has revealed how he tried to falsely enlist drug traffickers within the country’s peace process, registering them as guerrillas having laid down their arms in order to grant them legal protection."
by The Washington Post | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 10:37pm | 0 comments
"The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, spending lavishly on benefits for its fighters, funding social services for its constituents and accumulating a formidable arsenal that has helped make the group a significant regional force, with troops in Syria and Iraq."
by The Washington Post | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 10:15pm | 0 comments
"It is one of the most famous battles of the long Vietnam War. It inspired a movie and congressional hearings, symbolizing for some the incredible bravery of the American infantry in Vietnam and for others the futility and waste of the war."
by Reuters | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 9:45pm | 0 comments
"U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, The New York Times reported Saturday."
by War on the Rocks | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 1:29pm | 0 comments
"Recently... the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction disclosed that “the U.S.-commanded NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan... is no longer assessing district-level insurgent or government control or influence.” The revelation that the U.S. military was no longer providing — or even keeping track of — data on district control led to a flurry of reporting, a lot of questions, and even some accusations that the Pentagon was hiding information that was likely to be embarrassing or not in keeping with a narrative of progress."
by The Washington Post | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 1:16pm | 0 comments
"U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan killed as many as 18 Afghan police officers late Thursday during heavy ground fighting with Taliban forces near the capital of Helmand province, Afghan officials and provincial leaders said Friday."
by The New York Times | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 12:17pm | 0 comments
"The head of Colombia’s army, frustrated by the nation’s faltering efforts to secure peace, has ordered his troops to double the number of criminals and militants they kill, capture or force to surrender in battle — and possibly accept higher civilian casualties in the process, according to written orders and interviews with senior officers."
by Defense News | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 4:18am | 0 comments
"U.S. Special Operations Command is bullish at the prospect of buying a light-attack aircraft, according to the command’s top leaders — a marked contrast from the U.S. Air Force, which wants to expand the effort to other types of platforms."
by Voice of America | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 12:40am | 0 comments
"While Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq have largely been forced underground, the terror group's other fighters along with its media operatives appear intent on surging, combining an increase in attacks with ramped-up output on social media."
by The Los Angeles Times | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 12:33am | 0 comments
"The State Department ordered several hundred U.S. diplomatic personnel to leave Iraq on Wednesday, citing heightened threats from neighboring Iran amid a buildup of U.S. military forces in the volatile region and growing concerns of a potential conflict with Tehran."
by The New York Times | Sat, 05/18/2019 - 12:19am | 0 comments
"The Indonesian police say they have foiled a suspected terrorist cell with the ability to use Wi-Fi to detonate explosive devices, highlighting advances in bomb-making in a country with a history of militant activity tied to the Islamic State."
by Bloomberg News | Fri, 05/17/2019 - 3:03pm | 0 comments
"The Pentagon is working with its Defense Intelligence Agency to declassify and release images -- including two traditional sailing vessels carrying land-attack missiles -- to back up the Trump administration’s claims of a growing threat from Iran, according to four defense officials."
by The New York Times | Fri, 05/17/2019 - 2:07pm | 0 comments
"When things go wrong, those in power often promise to make it right. But do they? This is the first in a series in which The Times is going back to the scene of major news events to see if those promises were kept."
by Marine Corps Times | Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:42pm | 0 comments
"The March 1 assault by Taliban fighters against the generally perceived secured major military base in Helmand, Afghanistan, will result in some of the first combat action ribbons for a small group of Marines, whose primary task is advising Afghan forces."
by The New York Times | Thu, 05/16/2019 - 2:39pm | 1 comment
"President Trump has told his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, according to several administration officials, in a message to his hawkish aides that an intensifying American pressure campaign against the clerical-led government in Tehran must not escalate into open conflict."