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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications



Special Operations Forces Transformation in the Future Operating Environment by Dr. Peter McCabe

In this edited volume, the authors pose solutions to Special Operations Forces’ (SOF) future challenges. Looking to the national defense strategy, this volume describes the role of competition in the future and the three ways SOF can compete, deter, and win. SOF must maintain their edge, and their transformation needs to be addressed at the individual, organizational, and institutional levels. This volume takes risk into consideration while addressing SOF transformation in three key areas: SOF roles and missions, culture, and great power competition. Both U.S. and Canadian SOF perspectives are outlined in this volume, and each chapter urges readers to consider how SOF might better compete short of armed conflict.


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.


Special Operations Forces Civil Affairs in Great Power Competition by Travis Clemens

This monograph explores one key element of the ability of SOF to compete below the level of armed conflict—civil affairs (CA). Although the counterterrorism fight has featured kinetic operations as the quintessential SOF strength, great power competition will likely see CA assume a more prominent role as the U.S. and its competitors seek broader influence across the Global South. Major Travis Clemens provides a terrific overview of how CA can contribute in new and highly valuable ways in seeking advantage in the context of great power competition. As the enterprise wrestles with adapting itself for the future, assessments from members of the force, such as this one, will become increasingly important.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


Iran: Illusion, Reality, and Interests by Roby C. Barrett

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has perhaps been the United States’ most intractable foreign policy issue. Dr. Roby Barrett provides a deep analysis of Iran’s motivations and finds that they are not the result of irrational messianic religious thought, but rather are based on a rational worldview developed over centuries of history. Looking back over the course of history Barrett argues that a strong sense of victimization and humiliation, rooted in Persia’s loss of its historical preeminence in the Gulf, shapes the Iranian psyche. He suggests that their president holds little actual power. The Iranian constitution vests the highest political and religious authority in the supreme leader; this includes the power to declare war and dismiss the president. As such the United States must be prepared to deal with the paradigm of an entire regime, not just the president. 


Russian Special Forces by Graham H. Turbiville, Jr.

Dr. Turbiville assesses Russia's faltering special operations forces and the backdrop of organizational, tactical and operational failures that has characterized their recent performance. He focuses on the relationship of these counterterrorism shortfalls to internal Russian allegations linking members of the special operations community to corruption, crime, and terrorism itself. Turbiville emphasizes that the implications of corrupt, ineffective, or rogue security forces extend beyond Russia and the region, and that continued candid appraisals of Russian counterterrorist effectiveness should influence the extent to which Russia can be regarded as a reliable partner against common security threats.