Small Wars Journal


Small Wars Journal facilitates the exchange of information among practitioners, thought leaders, and students of Small Wars, in order to advance knowledge and capabilities in the field. We hope this, in turn, advances the practice and effectiveness of those forces prosecuting Small Wars in the interest of self-determination, freedom, and prosperity for the population in the area of operations.

We believe that Small Wars are an enduring feature of modern politics. We do not believe that true effectiveness in Small Wars is a ‘lesser included capability’ of a force tailored for major theater war. And we never believed that ‘bypass built-up areas’ was a tenable position warranting the doctrinal primacy it has held for too long -- this site is an evolution of the MOUT Homepage, Urban Operations Journal, and, all formerly run by the Small Wars Journal’s Editor-in-Chief.

The characteristics of Small Wars have evolved since the Banana Wars and Gunboat Diplomacy.  War is never purely military, but today’s Small Wars are even less pure with the greater inter-connectedness of the 21st century.  Their conduct typically involves the projection and employment of the full spectrum of national and coalition power by a broad community of practitioners.  The military is still generally the biggest part of the pack, but there are a lot of other wolves.  The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

The Small Wars Journal's founders come from the Marine Corps.  Like Marines deserve to be, we are very proud of this; we are also conscious and cautious of it.  This site seeks to transcend any viewpoint that is single service, and any that is purely military or naively U.S.-centric.  We pursue a comprehensive approach to Small Wars, integrating the full joint, allied, and coalition military with their governments' federal or national agencies, non-governmental agencies, and private organizations.  Small Wars are big undertakings, demanding a coordinated effort from a huge community of interest.

We thank our contributors for sharing their knowledge and experience, and hope you will continue to join us as we build a resource for our community of interest to engage in a professional dialog on this painfully relevant topic.  Share your thoughts, ideas, successes, and mistakes; make us all stronger.

“…I know it when I see it.”

“Small Wars” is an imperfect term used to describe a broad spectrum of spirited continuation of politics by other means, falling somewhere in the middle bit of the continuum between feisty diplomatic words and global thermonuclear war.  The Small Wars Journal embraces that imperfection.

Just as friendly fire isn’t, there isn’t necessarily anything small about a Small War.

The term “Small War” either encompasses or overlaps with a number of familiar terms such as counterinsurgency, foreign internal defense, support and stability operations, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and many flavors of intervention.  Operations such as noncombatant evacuation, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance will often either be a part of a Small War, or have a Small Wars feel to them.  Small Wars involve a wide spectrum of specialized tactical, technical, social, and cultural skills and expertise, requiring great ingenuity from their practitioners.  The Small Wars Manual (a wonderful resource, unfortunately more often referred to than read) notes that:

Small Wars demand the highest type of leadership directed by intelligence, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. Small Wars are conceived in uncertainty, are conducted often with precarious responsibility and doubtful authority, under indeterminate orders lacking specific instructions.

The “three block war” construct employed by General Krulak is exceptionally useful in describing the tactical and operational challenges of a Small War and of many urban operations.  Its only shortcoming is that is so useful that it is often mistaken as a definition or as a type of operation.

We’d like to deploy a primer on Small Wars that provides more depth than this brief section.  Your suggestions and contributions of content are welcome.

Who Are Those Guys?

Small Wars Journal is NOT a government, official, or big corporate site. It is run by Small Wars Foundation, a non-profit corporation, for the benefit of the Small Wars community of interest. The site principals are Dave Dilegge (Editor-in-Chief) and Bill Nagle (Publisher), and it would not be possible without the support of myriad volunteers as well as authors who care about this field and contribute their original works to the community. We do this in our spare time, because we want to.  McDonald’s pays more.  But we’d rather work to advance our noble profession than watch TV, try to super-size your order, or interest you in a delicious hot apple pie.  If and when you’re not flipping burgers, please join us.