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Irregular Warfare Podcast
40 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
How a Group of Women Brought the Fight to the Islamic State
How did the United States leverage local partners in the fight against the Islamic State? What were the unique dynamics of partnering with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, particularly the Women’s Protection Units? What can this case teach us about warfare, will, and relationships? Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of the New York Times best-selling book The Daughters of Kobani, and retired General Joseph Votel, former commander of US Central Command, join this episode to discuss these questions and more.
44 minutes | May 24, 2021
Irregular Warfare in the Next World War
What would a conflict with China look like? How will irregular warfare fit into a conflict before and during large-scale combat operations? Retired Admiral James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman explore the theme of escalation to large-scale conflict in their New York Times best seller 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, and they join this episode to discuss those questions and more.
54 minutes | May 7, 2021
The Harsh Lessons of Anbar: Insurgency, the Awakening, and the rise of ISIS
In this episode, we discuss US counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq's Anbar province, Iraq—from the 2006 surge through the rise of the Islamic State in 2013–2014—with two guests who both experienced the US COIN fight firsthand. Retired General Robert Neller served as the commandant as the Marine Corps and in 2005–2007, he was the deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in Anbar. Dr. Carter Malkasian is a historian who served as an advisor to US military leadership in Iraq and is the author of Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State.
41 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
From SAR to GFA: The ABCs of Conflict Prevention and Stabilization
How can the military and civilians work together to prevent or manage conflict? Two seminal policy initiatives, the Stabilization Assistance Review and the Global Fragility Act, provide important answers by emphasizing an alignment of defense, development, and diplomatic efforts and delineating clear roles for respective actors in addressing violence and instability. This episode examines how they have fundamentally reshaped the way the US government conceives and responds to conflict around the world based on lessons learned from places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
51 minutes | Apr 10, 2021
Airpower in Irregular Warfare
Aviation has played an important role in irregular warfare, from its use by the British against rebellious tribesmen in Iraq and Transjordan in the interwar period to the era of the unblinking eye and precision strike in Afghanistan. Our guests in this episode—retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Trask and Dr. James Kiras—discuss this evolution in the use of airpower to support ground forces. As they explain, rapid technological advances have helped perfect the employment of airpower, and yet the role of aviation in war has not significantly changed to this point. However, that with the transition to more distributed operations across the globe, it will no longer be possible to provide the level of responsive support to which the US military has become accustomed. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
47 minutes | Mar 26, 2021
Masters of Irregular Warfare—Past, Present, and Future
Irregular warfare practitioners have played a major role in just about every war over the past 250 years. In this episode, Dr. John Arquilla and Maj. Gen. John Brennan explain how the masters of irregular warfare have been able to achieve strategic effects even while losing tactical-level engagements—and offer recommendations for how to prepare and employ irregular warfare capabilities to address the major threats to US national security in the future. SPECIAL NOTE: We recently announced the launch of a new project—the Irregular Warfare Initiative. Along with the podcast episodes we release every two weeks, we are now publishing regular written content—commentary and analysis on a range of topics related to irregular warfare. If you would like to submit an article for consideration, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
37 minutes | Mar 12, 2021
The View from Washington: Civilian Oversight of SOF
As policymakers’ focus shifts from counterterrorism to great power competition, the implications for special operations forces are unclear. In this episode, our guests—Senator Joni Ernst and Owen West, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict—argue that SOF is uniquely suited to address irregular warfare challenges in the era of great power competition. However, limited understanding of these threats among policymakers in Washington, budget constraints, and outdated authorities hinder SOF’s ability to evolve. According to our guests, civilian leadership and oversight can help overcome these challenges. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
50 minutes | Feb 26, 2021
War Entrepreneurs: Economic Drivers of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Crime
What drives illicit violence by substate groups such as terrorists, insurgents, and criminals—and how can states counter these threats? Our guests in this episode, Juan Zarate and Gary Shiffman, argue that social science provides tools to understand why illicit violence occurs. And by understanding why it occurs, states can develop targeted sanctions and military strategies that disassemble and disrupt violent nonstate groups. This approach has implications for how policymakers and practitioners can counter violent actors from the strategic to the tactical level. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
49 minutes | Feb 12, 2021
Pacific Gambit: The Role of Irregular Warfare in Australia’s Great Strategic Shift
Australia is undergoing the most fundamental strategic realignment since the Second World War, toward a focus on threats closer to home without reliance on the United States. In that context, what role does irregular warfare play in Australian national security strategy? What lessons does the Australian experience hold for the United States as they both transition from the post-9/11 wars to great power competition? David Kilcullen and Andy Maher join this episode to discuss. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
43 minutes | Jan 29, 2021
Institution Building as a Counterinsurgency Tool: The Case of Colombia
In 2016, the Colombian government and FARC rebels signed a peace deal, ending over five decades of guerrilla war. What lessons can be gleaned from the case for the irregular warfare community? Former US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker and former assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Caryn Hollis argue that effective US interagency coordination, bipartisan congressional support, and a focus on building institutions and stabilizing the security situation were key ingredients to success in Colombia’s efforts against the insurgency. But more important than anything was that the Colombian government and population owned the commitment to resolve the conflict. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
41 minutes | Jan 16, 2021
Competing for Influence: Operations in the Information Environment
Information in its many forms has become a significant component of national power—the primary medium of competition between the United States and its adversaries. Our guests in this episode tackle that subject. Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds is the US Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for information and Dr. Thomas Rid is a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’ School of Advanced International Studies. Both are experts in their respective fields, each looking at this competition from opposing perspectives—one as a practitioner focused on the employment of military information power toward US national security goals, the other as a political scientist and historian who has investigated the strategic use of disinformation against the United States. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
51 minutes | Jan 1, 2021
Artificial Intelligence in Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency
What role do information and intelligence play in counterinsurgency? How can artificial intelligence assist in tracking and identifying insurgent or terrorist activity? What are some of the opportunities and challenges of using AI in irregular warfare contexts? Retired Gen. Stan McChrystal and Dr. Anshu Roy tackle those questions and more in this episode. They argue that AI allows counterinsurgent and counterterrorist forces to aggregate and process massive amounts of data that illuminates and even predicts insurgent activity. However, there are challenges that come with this groundbreaking opportunity. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
46 minutes | Dec 18, 2020
Breaking the Boom-Bust Cycle of Irregular Warfare
Where does irregular warfare fit within the framework of national security policy? Does the recently released Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy attenuate focus, or relegate irregular warfare to a policy afterthought? How can irregular warfare concepts become enduring elements of a comprehensive effort toward competition and conflict with US adversaries? Those questions are at the center of this conversation with two guests: Retired Col. David Maxwell, a thirty-year US Army veteran and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Mr. Deak Roh, the acting principal director in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism.
51 minutes | Dec 4, 2020
Russia’s Wagner Group and the Rise of Mercenary Warfare
What role do private military companies such as Russia’s Wagner Group play on the modern battlefield? How should US policymakers and US and allied troops in conflict zones manage threats from armed groups when Russia denies their existence? Is war by private armies a rising trend in modern conflict? The guests featured in this episode explore those questions and more.
54 minutes | Nov 19, 2020
The Practice and Politics of Security Force Assistance
When, why, and under what circumstances does security force assistance work? This episode focuses on best practices of security force assistance, along with challenges, realistic expectations, and the role it will play for the United States in an era of great power competition with guests Dr. Mara Karlin, author of the book Building Militaries and Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, and Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, commanding general of the US Army's Security Force Assistance Command. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
41 minutes | Nov 5, 2020
David Petraeus on Irregular Warfare and Countering Violent Extremism
This episode features a conversation with retired Gen. David Petraeus. He served over thirty-seven years in the US military, including as commander of coalition forces during the surge in Iraq, commander of US Central Command, and commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. He outlines lessons he argues the United States should have learned from two decades of fighting Islamist extremists, explains how US dominance in the particular areas allows it to support partners against violent extremist organizations using small and sustainable footprints, and provides his thoughts on the recently released Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy and how irregular warfare is situated within the context of rising great power rivalry. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 General David Petraeus served over 37 years in the U.S. military to include as commander of coalition forces during the surge in Iraq, commander of U.S. Central Command, and commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. Following his service in the military, Gen. Petraeus served as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He is a 1974 graduate of West Point and received his Ph.D. in international relations from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. General Petraeus currently is a Partner at KKR, a global investment firm, and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute.
52 minutes | Oct 22, 2020
The Costs and Benefits of Unconventional Warfare and Subversion
What are unconventional warfare and foreign subversion? Will they be important in an era of great power competition? What are some of the second- and third-order effects when states use subversion to undermine their rivals? Retired Lt. Gen. Ken Tovo and Dr. Melissa Lee join the Irregular Warfare Podcast to discuss these topics and more. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
53 minutes | Oct 8, 2020
Counterinsurgency in the Philippines: An Inside Look at Partner Warfare
This episode is a deep dive into insurgency and counterinsurgency in the Philippines, presented through the perspectives of two guests with many years of experience in Philippine counterinsurgency efforts. Dr. Joe Felter and retired Col. Dennis Eclarin discuss the history and evolution of insurgency and counterinsurgency in the Philippines, with a focus on US support to building effective counterinsurgency forces in both the pre- and post- 9/11 eras. Based on shared operational perspectives and collaboration on research—specifically an extensive micro-conflict database—they describe what makes COIN forces effective. They then discuss the implications of their lessons learned for counterinsurgency and security efforts around the world.
45 minutes | Sep 24, 2020
The Pentagon Bureaucracy and the Human Domain of War
What is the human domain of warfare, and will it be more or less relevant in great power competition? Who should own it? What does it take to change how the Department of Defense thinks about war? In this episode, Nick Lopez and Kyle Atwell dig into these questions and more with retired Brig. Gen. Kim Field and Dr. Sue Bryant. The conversation goes beyond defining the human domain of warfare, as the guests reveal how policy changes are considered within the Defense Department bureaucracy based on their experiences. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
48 minutes | Sep 13, 2020
Are Some Militaries Better at Counterinsurgency than Others?
Are the US Marines better at counterinsurgency than the US Army? How about the British Army? If so, why? If not then what else might explain success and failure in different counterinsurgency campaigns over time? In this episode, Kyle Atwell and Nick Lopez discuss these questions with Dr. Colin Jackson and Dr. Austin Long. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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