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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications

Occasional Paper

Defense Institution Building ... by Design by Richard D. Newton

In this occasional paper, Dr. Richard Newton presents the case that sustainable, strategic effects through Defense Institution Building (DIB) can be achieved through paradigmatic change among key military stakeholders and a willingness to engage in systemic reform. While Security Force Assistance (SFA), Foreign Internal Defense (FID), and Joint/Combined Exchange Training (JCETs) have long been staples of Special Operations Forces engagement, they are often unable to achieve DIB objectives because they are not intended to achieve paradigm shifts and the consequent organizational transformation necessary to organically sustain the new capabilities. Overtly recognizing this discrepancy is essential for improving DIB practices and augmenting allied and partner nations’ contributions to collective defense. This paper recommends taking a design thinking approach for designing, developing, and implementing a sustainable DIB partnership with a willing nation. The author concludes with a case study of how a design-thinking approach facilitated the transformation of Romania’s SOF—a priority DIB effort for Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR).



How Civil Resistance Works (And Why It Matters To SOF) by Will Irwin with foreword by Lieutenant General Charles T. Cleveland

Mr. Will Irwin reminds us in this extremely timely and well-written monograph, as John F. Kennedy observed more than a half century ago, that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. Million man protest marches in Hong Kong, riots and rebellion in Caracas, continued rumors of widespread discontent in Tehran, sabotage in the face of unspeakable brutality in North Korea, sectarian civil war in Syria, and the unrelenting assault on liberal democracy by the dictatorial regime in Moscow—the headlines of today have their seeds in the inherent fear of tyrants. It is that fear on which America must capitalize and be prepared to use to our advantage. These disturbances reveal the critical role that America’s special warfare units play in the contemporary era of nation state competition and conflict, for it’s their own people that our enemies fear most. Will Irwin’s monograph is a timely and important contribution to what will eventually become canon for the American Way of Irregular War and the basis for the professional military education of its uniformed and civilian irregular warfare practitioners.


Tickling the Dragon’s Tail: The Destabilizing Effects of an Irregular Warfare Critical Mass by Ned B. Marsh

Lieutenant Colonel Ned Marsh wrote this monograph while attending the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies. He proposes that over time a metaphorical critical mass constructed of global irregular warfare (IW) actors, state and non-state, has developed. The core is now active and exists within an enabling contemporary environmental structure. State warfare hegemony has decreased conventional competition and increased asymmetrical strategies. The result of this has been the emergence of IW as a prominent strategy and a self-propagating chain reaction of IW activity. This activity is releasing increasingly dangerous levels of destabilizing effect. This monograph reviews IW theory and history, and describes the contemporary operational paradigm. It analyzes the effect of cumulative IW activity and discusses prescriptive approaches to the problem. It concludes that, if stability is an objective, then counter-IW must be holistically undertaken with strategies to reduce conventional warfare competition.

Occasional Paper

Current Trends in Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Implications for U.S. Special Operations Forces by J. Philip Craiger and Diane Maye Zorri

In this new occasional paper, Dr. J. Philip Craiger and Dr. Diane Maye Zorri explore current trends in small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) technology and its applications to Special Operations Forces (SOF). The paper begins with analysis of the definition and classification of sUAS, their major applications, and characteristics. The authors then present sUAS military applications, threats, current/future threat scenarios, and counter-sUAS capabilities and technology. The authors conclude with a look at the five-year trends in sUAS to include cyber-enabled counter-sUAS. Setting the stage in their introduction the authors state, "As armed forces around the world continue to invest in research and development of sUAS technologies, there will be tremendous potential to revolutionize warfare, particularly in context of special operations."

Occasional Paper

Information Age Proxy Warfare by Andrew Maher

Australian infantry officer Major Andrew Maher explores the utility of employing proxies to achieve strategic ends--utility that has increased with the arrival of the information Age. Akin to the “classic” nuclear deterrence theory of the Cold War era, the costs of major conventional warfare (to all parties) have encouraged the use of virtually-supported proxy forces to limit the likelihood and costs of escalation in future conflicts. Conversely, the opportunities inherent in information age access, reach, and penetration to proxy forces overcome certain conventional force deterrence effects. The author describes these outcomes as being achieved through weapons of mass mobilization, subversion, instruction, and surveillance. This occasional paper explains why such proxy options appeal to government, and how proxy warfare considerations might influence Western military strategy.

Research Topics 2020

Special Operations Research Topics 2020

Joint Special Operations University’s (JSOU) publication of Special Operations Research Topics 2020 represents a list of Special Operations Forces (SOF)-related research topics proposed so that the resulting research can provide insight and recommendations on issues and challenges facing the SOF enterprise. As in previous years, this list is tailored to address the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Commander’s special operations priorities. This year’s topics focus on how the confluence of information, technology, and innovation (artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber operations, and big data) affect these issues.  Researcher may explore and identify doctrine, capabilities, techniques, and procedures that will increase SOF effectiveness in addressing them. At the same time, research on these topics may be used to inform policymakers, military professionals, and the public of the issues and challenges facing the SOF community. 


Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness by Will Irwin with foreword by Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, Jr.

This monograph is the first in a planned series of three volumes that will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) with an in-depth study of resistance movements. Mr. Will Irwin provides a wealth of case studies focused on the United States Government’s support to resistance movements. For each of his case studies the author summarizes in a clear, concise manner the duration of U.S. support, the political environments or conditions, the type of operation, the purpose or objective of U.S. support, and the ultimate outcome: success, partial success, failure, or an inconclusive outcome. Unfolding world events are indicative of the need for SOF to maintain and enhance traditional unconventional warfare (UW) skills, but those skills must be assessed in the context of modern resistance movement dynamics. This work will serve as a benchmark reference on resistance movements for the benefit of the special operations community and its civilian leadership.


Political Strategy in Unconventional Warfare: Opportunities Lost in Eastern Syria and Preparing for the Future by Carole A. O’Leary and Nicholas A. Heras

Framed by more than three decades of anthropological research experience working in Syria and surrounding Middle Eastern countries, and experience working with both U.S. development and military entities, Dr. O’Leary and Mr. Heras offer a sociocultural and political analysis valuable for deployed SOF. They contend that the political strategy necessary for sustainable strategic effect in the unconventional warfare (UW) component of the counterterrorism operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was subordinated to the operational level imperative to cultivate a viable proxy force. The authors offer SOF a way to conceptualize strategic political analysis for UW efforts using Syria as a recent case study, but also provide a glimmer of hope for consolidating the gains made there in support of national policy.

Occasional Paper

Warrior Pose: Building Readiness through Resilience—Yoga and Meditation by Ajit V. Joshi

Mr. Ajit V. Joshi's award-winning research asserts that the foundation for readiness is resilience, which aligns with the warrior ethos and is an enduring quality of good leaders. A variety of techniques and practices including yoga, trauma sensitive yoga, systematic relaxation, breathing (pranayama), meditation, yoga nidra, and iRest Yoga Nidra are evidenced based tools with proven efficacy for improving the health and resilience of Joint Force service members and their families. Leading change in the Joint Force to adopt these tools for all service members’ comprehensive physical, mental, and spiritual fitness is vital in a world of greater uncertainty, but barriers exist both at individual and organizational levels. This paper defines relevant terms; reviews the extensive literature on the subject, with particular attention to the conclusions of studies conducted with veteran and military populations; examines the relevance of these tools to the modern warrior ethos and military culture; and makes specific recommendations regarding cultural and institutional change to facilitate program implementation. Mr. Joshi conducted this research while attending the U.S. Army War College and received the U.S. Army War College Commandant’s Award for Distinction in Research for excellence in research and writing.