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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications


Quick Look: Cyber Fundamentals for SOF

Cyber Fundamentals for SOF

by Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell Wander

This Quick Look describes how Cyber Operations (CO) can present options to policymakers and military leaders to influence through the information environment or, if needed, create effects against critical infrastructure in the physical environment. Ultimately, SOF can use a foundational understanding of CO as both a planning consideration for force protection and operational enhancement to present opportunities to execute core mission areas.

Occasional Paper

Reconceptualizing Radicalized Groups and Their Messages by Paul Lieber and Yael Lieber

In this new JSOU Press occasional paper Dr. Paul Lieber and Dr. Yael Lieber explore alternative approaches for Special Operations Forces (SOF) to engage with radicalized groups through comprehensive engagement in the narrative space to defeat the effects of ISIS in the psychological and sociological aspects of the human domain. Rethinking this problem from a joint social psychology—notably realistic conflict theory (RCT)—and social network analysis approach can yield unprecedented insights on the inner workings of radicalized groups and their penchant for political violence. The authors explore conflict theory through the lens of the Robbers' Cave experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif. The authors posit that in general, radicalization, and hopefully de-radicalization, may be said to follow a similar process whereby groups that are culturally, religiously, and/or racially diverse perceive each other as in competition for scarce resources such as employment, housing, education, and benefits--in-groups and out-groups. This paper continues with an analysis of the roles that are essential to promulgating and sustaining message influence within an in-group social network—group communication norms. Within these pages are tremendous insights, relevant to the SOF community, on ways to rethink counter-radicalization efforts.

ISIS and Social Media

This is the award winning paper from the 2015 Lieutenant General Samuel V. Wilson Writing Award sponsored by the Joint Special Operations Command's Center for Counterterrorism Studies.  The author analyzes ISIS's use of social media and offers recommendations to the combatant commander on what can be done to counter the threat. The author discusses social media and demonstrates how social media represents a paradigm shift in communication, complete with significant opportunities and challenges for the operational commanders and their staff. This paper offers a brief history of ISIS as a historical frame of reference and details how ISIS uses social media in its operations. It also discusses the important role social media plays in ISIS's operational and strategic objectives and how that impacts the combatant commander's intelligence collection, lines of effort, and current/future operations. Finally, the author provides tailored suggestions for the combatant commander and staff to consider when prosecuting an information operations campaign against ISIS consistent with U.S. policy and first amendment constitutional concerns. 


Islam: Ideology and Conflict by Dr. Roby C. Barrett

Dr. Roby Barrett, in his latest JSOU monograph, provides an overview of the conflicts in early Islam that are still the sources of many conflicts today. Viewing the Islamic world as one entity, or one made up of major sects (Sunni and Shia), is misleading. Islam is a complex religion with a vast history of internal conflict that speaks to contemporary issues today, including discussions on terrorism and radicalism. Dr. Barrett discusses the shifting U.S. role relative to Islam and provides an overview of contemporary Islam, including radicalism and the issue of a fractured community. Islam's internal conflict highlights the reason why Pan-Islamic movements never gain much traction and why radical Islam remains disjointed. Dr. Barrett posits that the West must focus less on Islam as an ideology and more on those local issues that drive the threat. The insights provided by Dr. Barrett in this monograph challenge the reader to rethink how one approaches the challenges in the Middle East. 


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.


WHAM: Winning Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan and Elsewhere by Thomas Henriksen

Dr. Henriksen argues that America needs to get back to the basics of counterinsurgency lest it bankrupts itself in nation-building and reconstruction projects that are driven from the top, not the bottom.  Citing tremendously expensive “Winning Hearts and Minds” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, he hypothesizes that “WHAM operations must be waged with much less expenditure of U.S. dollars in the years ahead.”  He offers Britain’s frugal victory in Malaya as one example of a low budget counterinsurgency success that started with protecting the people, over time formed a representative government, and linked the people and their support to that government.  Economic development was part of the strategy, but it was a supporting and complementary effort.  It wasn't a major effort in and of itself. 

Initiating the Cognitive Revolution

The 4th Military Information Support Group (MISG) is the only active military information support group in the Department of Defense and operates across the full spectrum of military operations.  In 2006, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld designated the 4th MISG as a special operations unit.  In practice and by doctrine, special operations units possess highly specialized skills that they use in the routine execution of high-risk, politically sensitive missions.  Prior to 2006, the 4th MISG primarily supported general-purpose forces and its mission profile was random, broad, and unremarkable.


The Challenge of Nonterritorial and Virtual Conflicts: Rethinking Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism by Stephen Sloan

The author of this paper--an experienced and highly regarded terrorism specialist--provides a learned narrative about the scholarship and doctrine concerning terrorism and insurgency. The premise of the paper is that terrorism in the 21st century has become predominately international in nature, riding on the back of opportunities provided by new technologies in cyberspace, aerospace, and the Internet. In offering his thoughts about the well-chronicled flow of terrorism analysis, Dr. Sloan identifies how such recent trends should be affecting counterterrorism doctrine and policy. He suggests that traditional concepts for countering terrorism and insurgency are not effective in dealing with contemporary terrorism in its modern form as a non-territorially based insurgency. In the concluding parts of this monograph, Dr. Sloan addresses a number of additional views for improving upon the traditional approaches in order to deal with international and virtual threats, including a need to be keenly focused upon countermeasures for terrorist’s use of aerospace and cyberspace.


Hezbollah: Social Services as a Source of Power by James B. Love

This monograph provides special oper¬ations readers with useful and important insights into how civic actions can achieve strategic objectives. The author uses Hezbollah as an illustration and reminder of this process by outlining the comprehensive activities of the Hezbollah Social Service Section as a precursor for success in Hezbollah’s political and military actions. The author estimates that about half of Hezbollah’s budget is dedicated to social services sectors such as health, veterans’ services, reconstruction and compensation, education, women’s groups, and even the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts (roughly analogous to the Boy Scouts). Such efforts are employed to capture the willing support of the people in order to further Hezbollah’s political aims. The concept is working, as Hezbollah has largely supplanted the Government of Lebanon in the southern part of that country while it continues to harass Israel and the West on the political-military front.

Information Warfare: Assuring Digital Intelligence Collection

Information Warfare: Assuring Digital Intelligence Collection by William G. Perry

In this paper, Dr. William G. Perry provides guidelines about processing computer equipment for transfer to information and intelligence professionals who might wring out from digital storage media the critical information needed to penetrate the enemy's decision matrix. In addition, captured computer gear may often need to be protected by a chain of custody in order to support legal actions against illegal combatants-criminals. Note: This paper is not available in hard copy 

Next-Generation Strategic Communication

Sociologists and researchers have used the term social networks for over a century to describe complex sets of relationships between members of social systems at all levels. At its core, a social network-whether face-to-face or web-based-is a map of relevant ties among participants in the network. Within this social network map, individuals in a particular network may exhibit varying degrees of interconnectedness-ranging from tightly connected cliques to those with few connections within a single network-but nonetheless, they act as gateways to other networks. 


Psychological Operations: Learning is Not a Defense Science Project by Curtis D. Boyd

This paper intends to demystify Psychological Operations (PSYOP) by framing the analysis in terms of certain cultural biases, organizational challenges, and troubles with terminology. The objective is twofold: a. Make PSYOP more understandable by looking at how it is defined in today's information environment and its relationship to other information activities. b. Create an understanding that PSYOP is truth-based, is an amalgam of many media and marketing tactics and techniques, and requires a closer alliance with Public Affairs to communicate a more comprehensible message.