Episode 62 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast explores the diverse concepts that undergird irregular warfare (IW) as a whole. These theoretical structures offer innovative ways to conceptualize and envision the wide array of unconventional activities that comprise IW.
Our guests begin by addressing the various ways the US government defines irregular warfare, drawing from their unique areas of expertise. They continue by discussing the interplay between nations and nonstate actors—and how sovereign states are increasingly adopting methods traditionally employed by irregular actors to achieve their larger geopolitical aims. Finally, they conclude by reflecting on different frameworks that strategic- and operational-level professionals can use to plan, implement, and evaluate IW campaigns more effectively.
Dr. Thomas Marks is a distinguished professor and serves as the Major General Edward G. Lansdale chair of irregular warfighting strategy at the National Defense University. He has authored hundreds of publications on warfare and in July 2020 published a monograph entitled Crafting Strategy for Irregular Warfare: A Framework for Analysis and Action. This piece, which serves as the foundation for our conversation, offers an analytical construct for planning irregular warfare operations.
Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) Maurice “Duc” Duclos enlisted in the Army in 1985. Over his career he has served in various positions in the 75th Ranger Regiment and at 1st Special Forces Group. Mr. DuClos has deployed in support of multiple combat operations including Panama, Somalia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He also holds a PhD in social psychology with a focus on civil resistance and revolution and helped stand up Joint Task Force INDOPACOM (Indo-Pacific Command) in Singapore, which synchronizes competition efforts in the Pacific. He now serves at US Special Operations Command, working on several high-profile programs including the command’s comprehensive review of its culture and ethics and the implementation of the command’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2021.
Ben Jebb and Laura Jones are the hosts for Episode 62. Please reach out to Ben and Laura with any questions about this episode or the Irregular Warfare Podcast.
The Irregular Warfare Podcast is a production of the Irregular Warfare Initiative (IWI). We are a team of volunteers dedicated to bridging the gap between scholars and practitioners in the field of irregular warfare. IWI generates written and audio content, coordinates events for the IW community, and hosts critical thinkers in the field of irregular warfare as IWI fellows. You can follow and engage with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn.
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Image credit: 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek, US Army
Part 1. In order to understand irregular warfare — in the Old Cold War of yesterday — one needed to first understand, I suggest:
a. The political objective of the Soviets/the communists back then (see "Russian expansive tendencies" in the quoted item below) and
b. What the U.S./the West — thus threatened back then — thought it needed to do; this, so as to counter, to defeat, etc., this such opponent political objective (see "firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies," which is also to be found in the quoted item below):
“The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” (See George Kennan’s “Long Telegram.”)
Part 2. In order to understand irregular warfare — in the New/Reverse Cold War of today — one needs to first understand, I suggest:
a. The political objective of the U.S./the West post-the Old Cold War (see "enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies" in the quoted item below)
" 'The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement, enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,’ Mr. Lake said in a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.”
(See the September 22, 1993 New York Times article “U.S. Vision of Foreign Policy Reversed” by Thomas L. Friedman.) And:
b. What such diverse entities as Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, the Islamists, etc. — thus threatened post-the Old Cold War — thought that THEY needed to do; this, so as to counter, to defeat, etc., this such U.S./Western political objective. (Think a long-term patient but firm and vigilant containment of, in this case, U.S./Western expansive tendencies.)
Part 3. From the perspective provided at Part 1 above, it becomes easy to see why:
a. In the Old Cold War of yesterday, the more conservative/the more "no change" (and/or "reverse unwanted change") elements of the states and societies of the world — those such elements both within and outside of the Soviet/communist camps — why these such more conservative folks might become the "natural allies" of the U.S./the West. (And, thus, might become the "natural enemies" of the Soviets/the communists):
“Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism.” (In fact, Gorbachev himself gave the Kremlin’s long-term enemy this due, ‘It would have been impossible without the Pope.’)
(See the Public Broadcasting System [PBS] “Frontline” article “John Paul II and the Fall of Communism” by Jane Barnes and Hellen Whitney.)
Likewise, from the perspective provided at Part 2 above, it becomes easy to see why:
b. In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, the more conservative/the more "no change" (and/or "reverse unwanted change") elements of the states and societies of the world — those such elements both within and outside of the U.S./the West — why these such more conservative folks might become the "natural allies" of such entities as Russia, etc.. (And, thus, might become the "natural enemies" of the U.S./the West):
"Liberal democratic societies have, in the past few decades, undergone a series of revolutionary changes in their social and political life, which are not to the taste of all their citizens. For many of those, who might be called social conservatives, Russia has become a more agreeable society, at least in principle, than those they live in. Communist Westerners used to speak of the Soviet Union as the pioneer society of a brighter future for all. Now, the rightwing nationalists of Europe and North America admire Russia and its leader for cleaving to the past."
(See "The American Interest" article "The Reality of Russian Soft Power" by John Lloyd and Daria Litinova.)
Part 4. Conclusion:
As the above hopefully shows us, when the U.S./the West — in the New/Reverse Cold War of today — embarked on its post-Cold War "expansionist" mission, the U.S./the West's Old Cold War enemies — now thus threatened — and based on their own harsh experience in Old Cold War of yesterday — CLEARLY understood the power, and the value, of pursuing a "containment"-based, "conservative"-oriented, irregular warfare campaign.
Thus the irregular warfare mission of the U.S./the West today, this would seem to be to find a way to defeat these such "containment"-based, "conservative"-oriented, irregular warfare campaigns — which our opponents with "turn about is fair play" zeal — are pursuing against us today.