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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications



The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age by Will Irwin and Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson III


The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age is a sweeping monograph that chronicles the history of modern Special Operations Forces (SOF) and insightfully describes their new challenges. The authors have compiled an excellent, concise history of SOF’s three earlier ages: 1941–1960, 1961–1979, and 1980–2020, setting the stage for projecting SOF’s Fourth-Age roles in the emerging era of strategic competition. The early years were not easy, but with determination and perseverance, the SOF community prevailed, and four decades of remarkable and unprecedented SOF achievements resulted. As they begin their Fourth Age, SOF will again be challenged.


Trained to Win? Evaluating Battlefield Effectiveness and Sociopolitical Factors Among Partnered Forces by Matthew Cancian

In Trained to Win? Evaluating Battlefield Effectiveness and Sociopolitical Factors among Partnered Forces, Matthew Cancian offers a much-needed framework for evaluating the effectiveness of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the effort to professionalize partner forces. The author proposes that structured surveys related to tactically oriented training outcomes can yield significant information about partnered forces’ evolution over time. Since SOF often operate in politically sensitive or denied environments, it becomes all the more necessary to conduct the kind of research he describes in this monograph to assess the best strategies for improving partner capabilities while recognizing the limitations imposed by their sociopolitical realities. Effectiveness is ultimately a political as well as military condition, and in this monograph Matthew Cancian offers an excellent approach to evaluating both.


Iranian Proxy Groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen: A Principal-Agent Comparative Analysis by Diane M. Zorri, Houman A. Sadri, and David C. Ellis

Understanding how and why Iran uses proxy forces throughout the Middle East is vitally important for policymakers, military strategists, and operators. The lessons in this volume are not isolated to U.S. approaches toward Iranian use of proxies but have broader implications in great power competition. Russia and China have their own versions of proxies that also seek to compete with the U.S. short of armed conflict. Zorri, Sadri, and Ellis have provided the special operations community with a roadmap to responding to such activities when so many are struggling to find a solution.

Resistance Operating Concept (ROC)

undefinedResistance Operating Concept (ROC) by Otto C. Fiala with foreword by Major General Kirk Smith and Brigadier General Anders Löfberg

     (Note, this is a 10MB files so may take longer than expected to download).

The primary focus of the Resistance Operating Concept (ROC) is developing a nationally authorized, organized resistance capability prior to an invasion and full or partial occupation resulting in a loss of territory and sovereignty. Resistance, as a form of warfare, can be conceived as part of a layered, in-depth national defense. Toward this end, the ROC first seeks to delineate the concept of national resilience in a pre-crisis environment. Second, the ROC seeks to develop resistance requirements, and support planning and operations in the event that an adversary compromises or violates the sovereignty and independence of an allied or partner nation. The ROC attempts to demonstrate both the significance of national resilience and the criticality of maintaining legitimacy during the conduct of resistance operations during the struggle to restore and resume national sovereignty. This publication will serve as a cornerstone of knowledge for strategists, policymakers, researchers, academics, and practitioners involved in furthering resistance capabilities.


Decision-Making Considerations in Support to Resistance by Will Irwin with Foreword by Lieutenant General Kenneth E. Tovo

The intent of this monograph is to reveal to Special Operations Forces (SOF) leaders and planners the variety of considerations facing decision makers, the approaches used in strategic- and operational-level decision making, and how they can better inform and influence that process with regard to special warfare. This monograph is a companion volume to two earlier works: Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness, and How Civil Resistance Works (And Why It Matters To SOF). This third volume describes some of the factors that decision makers have faced when considering support to resistance (STR) as a foreign policy option. This monograph should shed some light on how national security officials in the past have arrived at certain conclusions or why, in some cases, presidents have directed actions that were especially risky or controversial.


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.


Complexity, Organizational Blinders, and the SOCOM Design Way by David C. Ellis and Charles N. Black

Complexity, Organizational Blinders, and the SOCOM Design Way (SDW) takes on the monumental task of explaining why the complex world is so difficult to comprehend and provides a way for navigating through it. The authors accomplish this utilizing U.S. Special Operations Command design techniques. This monograph is not just for the Special Operator or the Operational Planner. It is useful for anyone who is seeking out a better way to address problems that seem to have no solution. Dr. David Ellis and Mr. Charles Black provide the tools necessary to define the problem and develop an approach. The SDW needs to be seriously considered and put into practice if the community desires to make progress in complex and wicked problems.


Growing SOLO: Expanding the Spectrum of SOF Advisory Capabilities by Troy White

The SOF advisory role is a long-term commitment to help enable and aid other nations improve their military forces and security. SOF advisors have traditionally operated at the tactical level to increase partner capabilities ‘by, with and through’ to generate sufficient rule of law, address local needs, and advance rapport building. Mr. White advocates for a SOF role in advising foreign militaries at the high operational/strategic and ministerial levels. He provides real world examples through four vignettes of SOF advisors in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, and the Philippines. This monograph is a handy resource for commanders and planners needing to establish a rapport with allies and friends at the highest operational/strategic and ministerial levels.

Resistance Views Seminar Essays

Resistance Views: Tartu Resistance Seminar Essays on Unconventional Warfare and Small State Resistance, Edited by Kevin D. Stringer and Glennis F. Napier

This volume is based upon the discourse, dialogue, and outcomes of the 2nd Senior Unconventional Warfare (UW) and Resistance Seminar, hosted by the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU); Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL); U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (USSOCEUR); Estonian Special Operations Forces; and the Centre for Applied Studies, Estonian National Defence College. From 4–6 November 2014, a multinational and interagency group of academics and practitioners gathered at the Baltic Defence College in Tartu, Estonia to discuss and debate the study and practice of UW and resistance. This book’s aim is to spark intensive discussion on both UW and counter-UW approaches, doctrine, and capabilities.

Chapters include:

USSOCEUR Commander Foreword

Introduction Seminar Opening Remarks

Chapter 1. Asymmetry in Russian New Generation Warfare

Chapter 2. Societal Resilience: A Basis for Whole-of-Society Approach to National Security

Chapter 3. Small State UW Doctrine: Feasibility and Application for National Defense

Chapter 4. NATO Special Operations Contribution to a Comprehensive Approach

Chapter 5. Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Unconventional Warfare

Chapter 6. Nonviolent Civil Resistance Movements: Theory and Practice

Chapter 7. Winning the Peace by Living the Way We Fight

Chapter 8. Conclusion


How Do SOF Contribute to Comprehensive Deterrence? by Robert Haddick


In this concise monograph, the author argues that U.S. SOF use their skills, capabilities, and relationships to provide planners and policymakers a unique deterrence tool. Mr. Haddick first provides a brief overview of deterrence theory as a baseline for presenting his viewpoints on this neglected special operations role. Then, presents a case study that effectively highlights how U.S. adversaries have adapted their tactics to exploit gaps in our current deterrence framework, thwarting or bypassing our legacy deterrence structure. The Joint Special Operations University is pleased to offer this monograph to inform policymakers and the SOF community of the deterrent value of both direct and indirect special operations. 


The Death of the Golden Hour and the Return of the Future Guerrilla Hospital by Warner D. “Rocky” Farr


Colonel Warner “Rocky” Farr has made an important contribution to the body of SOF knowledge with this well-researched monograph. He advances the understanding of the many challenges and accomplishments related to guerrilla warfare medicine—care provided by predominantly indigenous medical personnel under austere conditions with limited evacuation capability—by providing a survey of the historical record in UW literature. Colonel Farr relates manyhistorical experiences in the field, assesses their effectiveness, and lays a foundation for further in-depth study of the subject. The Joint Special Operations University is pleased to offer this monograph as a means of providing those scholars and operators, as well as policymakers and military leaders, a greater understanding of the complex and complicated field of guerrilla warfare medicine.

Occasional Paper

Unconventional Warfare as a Strategic Force Multiplier: Task Force Viking in Northern Iraq, 2003 by Timothy D. Brown

In this paper, retired Air Force Colonel Timothy Brown describes the necessity to prepare for both conventional and irregular warfare (IW). Preparing for one or the other does not have to be exclusionary—competence in both can be complementary and symbiotic. Proficiency in one, backed by proper theory, doctrine, training, planning, and preparedness, can bolster proficiency in the other. Through a historical account of the unconventional warfare (UW) campaign in northern Iraq in 2003, the author provides an example of how UW, an activity of IW, is valuable to the nation and can, when properly applied in conjunction with a thoughtful plan, be a significant force multiplier. The historical example shows that despite considerable and nearly crippling geographic and political obstacles, the UW campaign in northern Iraq successfully aided the coalition advance to Baghdad. 

Russian Hybrid Warfare

Russian Hybrid Warfare, by Victoria Barber, Andrew Koch, and Kaitlyn Neuberger

Note: This is a Capstone project prepared for USSOCOM by graduate students in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

The purpose of the research project was to provide a comprehensive review of the emerging threat of hybrid warfare, with a particular focus on the use of hybrid tactics by Russia against those states that were part of the former Soviet Union and contain what Moscow describes as having "near-abroad" Russian populations. The objective of the study was to examine the extent to which hybrid warfare represents the future of interstate conflict and the ramifications of Russian hybrid warfare against these states for NATO, the U.S. government, and particularly USSOCOM. The authors present three historical cases and one fictional, but plausible, scenario, which will be of benefit to wargame events. The authors provide a thorough review of the threat of hybrid warfare and conclude with nine specific recommendations for Special Operations Forces and USSOCOM.

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.

Occasional Paper

Maskirovka 2.0: Hybrid Threat, Hybrid Response by James Q. Roberts

In this paper Mr. Roberts describes the irregular and hybrid tools and techniques that Russian President Vladimir Putin, his security forces, and his intelligence forces have used, first in the attack against Georgia in 2008, then in the assault on Ukraine, and now in Syria, to advance renewed Russian regional hegemony and strategic reach. The paper also describes the mobilization of Russian minority populations, the co-option of the Georgian and Ukrainian regimes, and the West's seeming inability to effectively counter these Russian moves. Since this paper was finalized Russia has moved into Syria and the assessment of Russia's Syrian adventure is still very speculative at this time. Nevertheless, many aspects of the Syrian case are fully congruent with Russia's hybrid approach in Georgia and Ukraine. Mr. Roberts holds the Office of the Secretary of Defense chair at the Eisenhower School, National Defense University. His prior assignment was as the principal director, Special Operations and Combating Terrorism, Office of the Secretary of Defense.


Hybrid Warfare by Timothy McCulloh and Richard Johnson

Major McCulloh and Major Johnson wrote this monograph on Hybrid Warfare while they were students at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Written in two parts, their individual approaches complement each other by providing a synergistic combination of both an overarching theory as well as an operational perspective.  While the idea of hybrid warfare is not new, the authors together provide a clarity and utility which presents a relevant contextual narrative of the space between conventional conflicts and realm of irregular warfare.  Major McCulloh’s contribution in the first section lays the theoretical basis to bring a definition of Hybrid Warfare into focus while addressing the pertinent question of its historical origin.  Major Johnson’s section uses historical examples and case studies to form a basis for approaching hybrid threats through a lens of U.S. oriented operational art. The authors contribute to the understanding of warfare as a spectrum of conflict rather than a dichotomy of black and white alternatives.


Irregular Warfare: The Maoist Challenge to India's Internal Security by Prakash Singh

Mr. Prakash Singh’s monograph on the Maoist Movement in India benefits from his unique perspective as a distinguished police officer in some of the country’s most turbulent regions. He provides a detailed history of insurgency in India, including the history of uprisings starting from the Telengana insurrection of the mid-to-late 1940s to the Communist move¬ment, sponsored by Mao Zedong’s China. Mr. Singh traces the transition of the peasant-led Naxalite movement, with its roots in a single village in West Bengal, to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) Movement, which has spread to some 20 of India’s 28 states. India’s prime minister has declared more than once that the Maoist challenge is the biggest threat to the internal security of the country. How India accommodates its tribal minorities and reaches an accommodation with insurgents is a critical element for long-term regional stability. 

Report of Proceedings: Irregular Warfare and the OSS Model


The JSOU and OSS Society hosted 68 attendees who included veterans of the OSS from WWII (including Major General [Retired] John Singlaub) as well as veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflicts of the past seven decades at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel in Tampa, Florida from 2-4 November 2009. Representatives from the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) headquarters (including Admiral Eric Olson), USSOCOM components, Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) and selected interagency partners also participated.The purpose of the symposium was to gather information about the OSS model and to stimulate thinking on whether and how elements of that model might be applied to contemporary and future irregular warfare challenges. Specific areas of focus included authorities, organization, recruitment, selection and assessment, desired skill sets, training, command and control, communications, sustainment, and interagency collaboration.During the course of the symposium, several recurring themes and conclusions emerged. These are discussed within the report that follows and are listed in the conclusion.


Irregular Warfare: Brazil's Fight Against Criminal Urban Guerrillas by Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro

Major General (Ret.) Alvaro Pinheiro-whose career in the Brazilian Army has seen service as a paratrooper, jumpmaster, pathfinder, commando, and Special Forces Operational Detachment commander-in this monograph addresses the challenges posed by urban guerrillas. Recognizing that urban guerrillas are far from limited to a few individual countries, he uses the experiences of Brazil in combating this complex criminal-terrorist phenomenon to illustrate the ways in which this threat can be understood and confronted within legal and Constitutional frameworks. In this assessment, General Alvaro includes their origin, operational environment, tactics, impact on society, and the role of the armed forces in countering these criminal-terrorist elements. The monograph includes both the theory and practice of the urban criminal-terrorist, and draws upon the writings and activities of the notorious urban terrorist Carlos Marighella's (author of the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla) as well as his own experience and that of other military and law enforcement specialists who have dealt directly with this destabilizing threat.


Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare by George A. Crawford

Despite the increasing employment of manhunting, the U.S. national security establishment has not developed appropriate doctrine, dealt with challenging legal issues, nor has it organized forces and assigned clear responsibility to deploy and employ these capabilities. Manhunting could become an important element of future U.S. national security policy, as highly trained teams disrupt or disintegrate human networks. This monograph reviews historical cases related to manhunting and derives lessons from a large number of these historical manhunting operations. Building on these lessons, the monograph then explores potential doctrine, evaluates possible organizational structures, and examines how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security. 


Africa: Irregular Warfare on the Dark Continent by John B. Alexander

Dr. John Alexander's current JSOU Press monograph provides an assessment of the African continent with a particular focus on how Special Operations Forces (SOF) may need to operate and how the local environment impacts these operations. He provides a strategic overview and assessment of current conditions on the continent, identifies current conditions on the continent, identifies key concerns and issues, and discusses key players. For a variety of reasons, Africa is, and will remain, a region of critical importance not only to the United States but also to other regions and countries of the world. 


Contemporary Security Challenges: Irregular Warfare and Indirect Approaches by  Richard D. Newton [and 4 PME authors]

The JSOU Press presents this collection of writings from five current and former practitioners in the field of irregular warfare. The writers delve into the concept of surrogate warfare, defined as a substitute force acting on behalf of the interests of another as well as its own interests. For many special operators, the concept of unconventional warfare provides the paradigm for working "through, with, or by" other forces to achieve strategic objectives. Here the authors expand the concept by exploring "surrogate warfare." This volume provides insights into this aspect of modern warfare and should be considered by senior military leaders and policymakers. Drawing upon their recent experiences in the field, the authors provide practical lessons for their colleagues' consideration. 


Intelligence in Denied Areas: New Concepts for a Changing Security Environment by Russell D. Howard

Russell Howard's paper focuses on intelligence operations within denied areas and how these operations today differ from those of the Cold War period. Today, the preeminent threat is transnational, violent terrorist groups that operate under the cover of failed or weak states, as well as under the civil protections afforded in western liberal democracies. Howard focuses on the operational environments in failed or weak states as he discusses ways to improve intelligence targeting and collection in these challenging areas. 

Second Annual Symposium

The symposium presentations and discussions clearly showed no current consensus exists on the topic of irregular warfare. Some participants embraced it as a new, more effective way to describe the long-term conflict for which the U.S. and its partners are engaged, while others challenge whether it is even a type of warfare. These disagreements aside, a consensus was achieved concerning the need to emphasize our opponents' "logic of action" versus their tactics. 


The Israeli Approach to Irregular Warfare and Implications for the United States by Thomas H. Henriksen

The purview of this study is not large-scale conventional wars such as Israel's 1948, 1956, 1967, or 1973 conflicts or America's Persian Gulf War or its Kosovo bombing campaign. The emphasis is on Israel's practice of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, and the IDF generally and its SOF in particular are rich in experience in these most difficult forms of conflict. Even before Israel's declaration of independence, there have been specialized Jewish forces that date back to the 1930s. With World War II, Great Britain (who ruled Palestine under a League of Nations mandate) trained and equipped unconventional forces from among the Jewish population to combat Nazi armies and their Arab sympathizers in the Middle East. 


One Valley at a Time by Adrian T. Bogart III

The 2004 counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan was historic. Service personnel of general purpose, special operations, coalition, and irregular forces worked in unison to defeat the insurgency in a country stricken by war. Their unwavering trust, cooperation, close integration, collaborative planning, and nested execution were in many cases, textbook. In recognition of their professional effort, this case study captures many of the lessons learned in their planning and operations. Success in Afghanistan also came from the determination of millions of Afghans who were supported by these gallant sailors, soldiers, Marines, and airmen. 


Logistic Support and Insurgency: Guerrilla Sustainment and Applied Lessons of Soviet Insurgent Warfare: Why It Should Still Be Studied by Graham H. Turbiville, Jr.

This is a pertinent and timely study of a critical issue facing the United States military today: how do insurgents logistically sustain and expand their operations? Graham H. Turbiville, Jr. appropriately mentions Martin Van Creveld's excellent treatise, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton but argues persuasively that a similar study on the role of logistics in unconventional or "small" wars is sorely needed. Dr Turbiville's essay discusses logistics and sustainment of guerillas operating in the Soviet Union behind German lines during World War II. The paper is a significant step in addressing the research shortfall on insurgency logistics.