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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications


IS and Cultural Genocide: Antiquities Trafficking in the Terrorist State by Russell D. Howard, Marc D. Elliott, and Jonathan R. Prohov

In this monograph, the authors offer compelling research that reminds government and military officials of the moral, legal, and ethical dimensions of protecting cultural antiquities from looting and illegal trafficking. Internationally, states generally agree on the importance of protecting antiquities, art, and cultural property not only for their historical and artistic importance, but also because such property holds economic, political, and social value for nations and their peoples. Protection is in the common interest because items or sites are linked to the common heritage of mankind. The authors make the point that a principle of international law asserts that cultural or natural elements of humanity’s common heritage should be protected from exploitation and held in trust for future generations. The conflicts in Afghanistan, and especially in Iraq and Syria, coupled with the rise of the Islamic State (IS), have brought renewed attention to the plight of cultural heritage in the Middle East and throughout the world.


Cultural Intelligence for Special Forces Personnel by Russell D. Howard, Greta Hanson, and Carly Laywell


In a 2009 JSOU Press monograph reflecting on the education requirements for Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel, Brigadier General Russ Howard (U.S. Army, retired) identified “cultural competency” as critical to SOF professional development. He returns to this theme with researchers Greta Hanson and Carly Laywell by answering this question: Why can some people act effectively in new cultures or among people with unfamiliar backgrounds while others, even highly respected people within their own group, stumble in those same situations? The research team asserts that cultural intelligence (CQ) makes the difference and describes a proficiency that goes beyond simply being intelligent, emotionally mature, or having good general social skills. Their message to SOF is that a person with high CQ, whether cultivated or innate, can understand and master situations, persevere, and do the right thing.

Occasional Paper

The Evolution of Global SOF Enterprise from a Partner Perspective by Lieutenant Colonel Asbjørn Lysgård, Norwegian Army

Lieutenant Colonel Lysgård was the first Norwegian exchange liaison officer assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).  In this paper he chronicles the development and maturation of the Global Special Operations Forces Network (GSN). He sets the stage by recounting the evolution of present day Norwegian Special Operations Forces (SOF) from its genesis in World War II. He then explains the development of the GSN at USSOCOM and describes the utility of the network. Knowing whom to trust and who is willing to support a nation’s efforts becomes important as leaders build a ‘coalition of the willing.’ He shows that through the GSN, SOF can execute integrated campaigning with partners to facilitate dialogue across borders, shortening lines of communication and continuing development of high technology solutions. The author concludes that the creation and implementation of the GSN by partner nations has created cost-effective coordination solutions and, through that, increased security for deployed personnel across the globe.

Occasional Paper

The Geopolitics of Mediterranean Security: Assessing Regional Threats in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the Post–Arab Spring by Joseph R. Cerami


Dr. Cerami’s paper examines contrasting views on the geopolitical effects of the post–Arab Spring, assessing Middle Eastern, U.S., and European perspectives on transnational security issues—exploring those threats that directly influence the roles and missions of U.S. special operations forces (SOF). His analysis begins focused on the outward-directed threats in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including the use of force, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction proliferation, as well as human security issues, such as illegal immigration, refugees, and violence against noncombatants, especially women and children. He then assesses internal threats, such as the inability to address political conflict and enable non-violent transitions between regimes, from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Syria. For the West, there are further questions such as the ability to influence efforts at MENA state building in positive directions and whether there are convincing arguments for favoring stability and security over meaningful reforms that include the rule of law, civil society, and legitimate governance. Dr. Cerami’s research is an intriguing look into a region whose stability is directly related to our national interests and national security.

Occasional Paper

SOF and a Theory of Modern Terrorism by Harry (Rich) Yarger


Dr. Rich Yarger takes an in-depth look into the theory of modern terrorism to develop better understanding of ways to counter expansion of the terrorist threat. Dr. Yarger offers insights into the purpose of his theory. He describes how it provides a conceptual understanding of the phenomenon of modern terrorism and how the dynamics of any particular threat might play out, explains how terrorists may think and act, and provides insights into how states might react or choose to act in regard to the phenomenon. After outlining his theory he then illustrates some of its implications for Special Operations Forces (SOF). Dr. Yarger concludes that terrorists can be defeated in their strategic aims through studying their use of various forms of hard and soft power, and countering, or better applying, friendly hard and soft power. A theory of modern, or strategic, terrorism better informs  this strategic analysis.


Training Surrogate Forces in International Humanitarian Law: Lessons from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, and Iraq by Patrick Paterson


Patrick Paterson’s monograph, Training Surrogate Forces in International Humanitarian Law: Lessons from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, and Iraq, leverages the author’s vast experience in Latin American history to examine how U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) train surrogate forces. He argues that it is necessary to employ United States Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) indirect approach to grow and build partnership capacity through foreign internal defense (FID) and to find a balance with international humanitarian law (IHL). Paterson also examines the legal issues and restrictions on training and equipping foreign forces and the impact of these exchanges with our partners. His research methodology includes extensive interviews and incorporates a historical case study approach, examining FID efforts in Peru, Colombia, and El Salvador for lessons learned, and then compares and contrasts USSOF train and equip efforts in Iraq.


Assessing Special Operations Forces Language, Region, and Culture Needs: Leveraging Digital and LRC Learning ot Reroute the "Roadmap" from Human Terrain to Human Domain by Robert R. Greene Sands


Dr. Greene Sands’ Assessing Special Operations Forces Language, Region, and Culture Needs uses his vast experience and knowledge of this subject and draws from the existing Department of Defense Defense Language Transformation Roadmap (DLRT), recent lessons learned, and historical beginnings to outline the importance to the U.S. military, especially the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community. The past decade of counterinsurgency operations has challenged the U.S. military personnel in their ability to carry out a variety of missions involving culturally complex situations and interactions. Success in such operations often depends on difficult linguistic and interpersonal skill-based competencies and abilities. Dr. Sands emphasizes the utility of language skills, along with regional and cultural knowledge and cross-cultural competence, in engaging populations across sometimes uncompromising cultural divides. This monograph provides key lessons learned as U.S. Special Operations Command determines the way ahead for LRC education and training to better prepare the future SOF operator to meet the challenges of operating in complex environments and meet the command’s priority to continue to build relationships.


The Asia Pivot: Implications for U.S. Special Operations Forces by Russell D. Howard and John P. Duvall, Jr.


In this compelling new monograph by Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Russ Howard and U.S. Marine Corps Major John Duvall, Jr., the authors leverage their vast experiences and knowledge of the region to explore the Obama Administration’s Asia Pivot strategy, announced in 2011, and its impact on Special Operations. The authors begin by defining this vast region. They then look at the U.S. strategic goals, evaluate the threats, and provide an analysis of the progress of where America is today along with the importance and impact on special operations. This monograph is the culmination of two years of analysis of the “pivot to Asia” by the authors. It provides a starting point for all SOF to gain a better understanding of this vast region and the future role SOF could play to counter the threats to our national interests.


Military Innovation in War: It Takes a Learning Organization - A Case Study of Task Force 714 in Iraq by Richard Shultz


In this monograph, Dr. Shultz provides key findings on how organizational change and innovation by Task Force 714 dismantled al-Qaeda in Iraq’s networked secret organization. Dr. Shultz utilizes sound methodology to show how TF 714 was able to achieve this incredible transformation. Drawing from memoirs and in-depth interviews with several TF 714 leaders, Dr. Shultz further analyzes these sources through the use of analytic tools drawn from leading business and management studies focused on organizational learning and innovation. This monograph provides critical insights and lessons learned for U.S. Special Operations Forces and interagency partners who will establish, deploy, or support a special operations command and control organization. It is also a good historical case study and provides a foundation on how to adapt, innovate, and grow military structures into learning organizations to meet the future challenges of complex environments and our enemies.

Research Topics 2017

JSOU Special Operations Research Topics 2017


The JSOU Special Operations Research Topics 2017 represents a list of SOF-related topics that are recommended for research by those who desire to provide insight and recommendations on issues and challenges facing the SOF enterprise. As with the past several years’ topics publications, this list is tailored to address priority areas identified by USSOCOM. There are five SOF priorities: Ensure SOF Readiness, Help Our Nation Win, Continue to Build Relationships, Prepare for the Future, and Preservation of the Force and Family. This publication also includes another key document that identifies critical research topics, the Key Strategic Issues List, developed and maintained by the USSOCOM J5 Strategy, Plans, and Policy Directorate. These topics reflect a consensus of the SOF experts who participated in the Research Topics Workshop as particularly worthwhile in addressing immediate SOF needs and in building future capacity for emerging challenges.

Occasional Paper

A Comprehensive and Proactive Approach to Unconventional Warfare by Will Irwin

In this paper Mr. Irwin explores gray zone unconventional warfare (UW) options in the context of the recent Syria train and equip mission. To better posture itself for engagement in gray zone political warfare, the U.S. Government, and especially Special Operations Forces, must work to reestablish, revitalize, and master important but seemingly lost components of our UW capability, as well as engage in concept development marked by uncommonly creative and innovative thinking.  Mr. Irwin argues that early U.S. UW engagement, effective influence and coercion actions, and a more disciplined approach to nonviolent civil resistance in Syria could have resulted in more favorable outcomes in line with U.S. interests.


Unconventional Economics: Operational Economics in Unconventional Warfare by Major Riley J. Post and Colonel (Ret.) Jeffrey D. Peterson, Ph.D.


In this monograph, Major Riley Post and Dr. Jeffrey Peterson offer a compelling look into economic activities and influence in the context of unconventional warfare (UW). The value of this monograph lies in the creation of a framework that provides a structured approach for UW practitioners to employ as they assess and analyze economic factors that influence and support insurgency movements. This framework offers a way to simplify the varied and complex economic activities required to support equally complex resistance operations. This monograph provides examples of tactical, economic opportunities that support operational and strategic objectives. As a vignette, the authors evaluate the rise and potential vulnerabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This monograph concludes with recommendations to enhance training for Special Operations Forces leaders and operators in the application of economic factors in UW.


2016 Special Operations Essays

Each year, the Joint Special Operations University partners with the Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association in sponsoring an annual essay contest. This year’s first place winner is U.S. Air Force Major Jared Harris, with “Daydreams of an Operational Planner: Reimagining the Counterterrorism Task Force.” In second place is U.S. Army Major Tim Ball, with “Bringing the Alliance Back to SOF: The Role of NATO Special Operations Headquarters in Countering Russian Hybrid Warfare.” This collection also includes high-quality, original works from four other professional military education (PME) students: U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Allbright, Peruvian Army Colonel Ricardo Benavides, U.S. Army Major Orlando Craig, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Stephen Dayspring. These essays provide current insights on what our PME students see as priority national and international security issues affecting special operations. They add value to the individuals’ professional development, provide an outlet for expressing new ideas and points of view, and contribute to the knowledge of the special operations community.


The War Within: A Look Inside al-Qaeda’s Undoing by Jarret Brachman,

In this monograph, Dr. Jarret Brachman delves into al-Qaeda’s crumbling global movement and its internal struggles, including its attempts to remain relevant in the shadow of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Brachman cites various internal writings of al-Qaeda’s past and present leaders, thinkers, and supporters. It becomes clear that this once dominant terrorist organization has changed in the post-bin Laden era, is becoming fractured, and is taking a backseat to ISIL. Brachman analyzes letters, blog posts, and social media comments from various ranks within al-Qaeda that show the discontent, frustration, and confusion the once prominent terrorist organization has faced in recent years. Although struggling, al-Qaeda remains a serious threat and maintains a global footprint. But as ISIL gains more publicity, al-Qaeda has more trouble competing for followers, funding, and attention. This monograph explores al-Qaeda’s recent efforts to make sense of itself.

Occasional Paper

Rethinking Special Operations Leadership: Process, Persuasion, Pre-existing, and Personality by Paul S. Lieber

In this paper Dr. Lieber describes leadership characteristics through the lens of special operations.  By exploring the importance of process, persuasion, pre-existing schemata, and personality nuances on special operations leadership training and execution, along with additional traits/characteristics necessary for success within them, Dr. Lieber extends beyond the traditional definitions of military leadership. The first section looks at process and adaptation to innovation.  Organizations must innovate, but it is the leader’s responsibility to make certain that innovation is both appropriate and matched to an established goal.  The next section explores the leader’s power of persuasion and the ability to nuance messaging and influence desirable opinions and consensus building.  He then explores pre-existing schemata and provides recommendations to avoid cognitive dissonance.  Finally, personality differences are described with a nod to exploiting teams comprised of diverse personality types.  Dr. Lieber is an award-winning scholar and practitioner on global strategic communication. Currently a resident senior fellow at JSOU, he previously served as the command writer for two USSOCOM commanders.

SOF Role in Combating Transnational Organized Crime













SOF Role in Combating Transnational Organized Crime, edited by William Mendel and Dr. Peter McCabe

       In April 2015, military and civilian personnel from Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together at Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a symposium hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command-North and facilitated by Joint Special Operations University and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. Their task was to examine the role of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in combating transnational organized crime (TOC). The panelists and plenary participants set to work considering a wide range of issues attending to the TOC threat. After the Symposium concluded, panelists and speakers synthesized the results of their research and panel discussions in articles for publication—those articles are found in the chapters of this report of proceedings. The implication for SOF is they must continue to train to meet the strategic challenges ahead. This will require forward-deployed units that are engaged with their counterparts in host countries because TOC is both a threat to, and a result of, weak, emerging democratic governments that benefit from engagement. Readiness to conduct all SOF core activities will remain a priority.


Improving the Sustainment of SOF Distributed Operations in Access-Denied Environments by Robert Haddick

In this monograph, Robert Haddick examines a variety of emerging technologies and techniques that could improve the sustainment and effectiveness of distributed SOF operations, especially in access-denied environments. He begins by describing a challenging yet plausible notional unconventional warfare campaign scenario. He describes how current SOF planners would attempt to cope with this scenario under current doctrine and sustainment capabilities, explores current and emerging technologies that could provide new options and capabilities, and evaluates new technologies that promise to reduce logistic demand for distributed SOF operations. Haddick proposes research and development recommendations that provide SOF with capabilities that improve their capacity to execute clandestine UW campaigns in denied areas. This monograph helps close the gap between current conditions and what will be necessary in an access-denied future.


The Collapse of Iraq and Syria: The End of the Colonial Construct in the Greater Levant by Roby C. Barrett, Ph.D.

A day does not go by without Iraq and Syria as well as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) being in the news. Most of the news coverage deals with atrocities, factionalism, civil war, and cultural/ethnic strife. The value of this monograph is Dr. Roby Barrett's thorough delve into history to help explain this complicated story. It is a story of creating states with artificial borders that have been ruled with iron fists to keep a lid on fractured societies. What we are witnessing and what Barrett explains is the dissolution of borders and the collapse of central governments in Iraq and Syria. In fact, the author contends that Iraq and Syria no longer exist as nation-states. Their ultimate fate is yet to be seen. Regardless, this monograph provides the reader with a historical review of the Greater Levant that helps explain the reality on the ground today.

More Than Just a Compelling Story

More Than Just a Compelling Story by William M. Knarr, Jr.

The purpose of this paper is to offer a general model, based on learning theory that links the two: Case + Study. It begins with learning objectives and outcomes centered on the identified needs of a community. The science of developing the case study is in linking the storyline to the learning outcomes via discussion points. Those discussion points bring life to the study; depending on the desired cognitive learning level, they can compel a seminar member to think critically about the topic. The art of developing the case study, in challenging seminar members to higher levels of learning, lies in the quality of those linkages in conjunction with appropriate teaching/learning styles.

To illustrate the model’s application this paper uses “A Case Study in Counterinsurgency” as the topic; it frames counterinsurgency tenets as the learning objective; and uses “Discuss the root causes of the insurgency” as a learning outcome. The case used to discuss the model and illustrate this process is the “Anbar Awakening,” the partnering of the Sunni Tribes with the Coalition and Government of Iraq to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2005-2008.

Special Operations in a Chaotic World (PRISM Special Issue)

Special Operations in a Chaotic World - a New PRISM Journal Edition Dedicated to Special Operations (PRISM Volume 6, Number 3, 2016)

The Editors at PRISM, a journal published by the Center for Complex Operations located at National Defense University, have just released their latest edition which is focused on special operations.  This dedicated issue was developed collaboratively with Joint Special Operations University and highlights the insights and opinions of Special Operations Forces (SOF) senior leaders (active and retired), SOF operators, experts, academics, and practitioners. The issue begins with a prologue from the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, General Thomas, and culminates with an interview with General (Ret.) McChrystal.