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Irregular Warfare Podcast
39 minutes | Jan 14, 2022
Anytime, Anyplace: Air Force Special Operations Command in Future Irregular Warfare
Irregular warfare is executed across all domains. In the air, the responsibility for IW falls to Air Force Special Operations Command. Today, the command stands at an inflection point in which it must prepare to compete against great powers while continuing the fight against violent extremist organizations. How must AFSOC change in order to meet divergent demands for specialized airpower? This episode featured a conversation with two guests who address that question: Lt. Gen. James C. Slife, commander of AFSOC, and Dr. Richard Norton, a retired Air Force officer and adjunct professor at the Joint Special Operations University. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
44 minutes | Jan 1, 2022
Two Sides of the COIN: Good Governance vs. Compellence
In counterinsurgency warfare, how can powerful states reform corrupt or repressive governments into legitimate ones? Our guests on this episode, Jacqueline L. Hazelton and Anne-Marie Slaughter, discuss this fundamental challenge and explain two competing models of counterinsurgency that take different approaches to it. The first is the good governance model, which has dominated both scholarship and COIN practice over recent decades. But the second, the compellence model, might actually better explain COIN success in the past. The discussion concludes with a reflection on both the opportunities and the limits of US power in potential future interventions. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
56 minutes | Dec 17, 2021
The Future of Coalition Building and Irregular Warfare
In the aftermath of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the country's chaotic collapse, it is easy to forget the prominent role that the United States played in building, leading, and sustaining a forty-nation coalition for the war effort—a task that required some determined diplomacy and a sophisticated understanding of what each country brought to the table. As the United States pivots to the Indo-Pacific region and the competition with China for legitimacy and influence below the level of armed conflict, the question becomes whether coalition building is the right approach for new challenges and a new strategic environment. Retired US Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute and retired Australian Army Major General Duncan Lewis both have deep experience working with coalitions, both as senior officers and in diplomatic roles. They join this episode to share their experiences and lessons for the future.
41 minutes | Dec 3, 2021
Learning from the Past, Anticipating the Future: Organizational Change in Irregular Warfare
hroughout history, IW organizations have undergone dramatic changes at all levels to meet the demands of new operating environments and threats. The book The Changing of the Guard: The British Army since 9/11 explores the difficulties the British Army faced trying to reorganize for irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. Simon Akam, the book's author, is one of our guests on this episode, and he provides listeners with lessons learned and key takeaways from the British experience that can guide ongoing organizational changes. Our other guest is retired General John Allen, who draws on his decades of experience at the highest levels of military leadership and policy, giving his perspective on how IW organizations can successfully meet the needs of strategic competition. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
54 minutes | Nov 19, 2021
Cyberspace as a Battlespace: Irregular Warfare through Bits and Bytes
What is the intersection between cyber and irregular warfare? Should the United States consider cyberspace a typical or exquisite domain? How did the counterterrorism fight serve as a proving ground for the application of these emerging capabilities? This episode examines the character of cyber warfare—both in its relationship to irregular warfare and in its applicability to broader national security approaches—and features a conversation with Dr. Jacquelyn Schneider and Admiral Mike Rogers. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
57 minutes | Nov 5, 2021
Special Operations Forces and Great Power Competition
Will the role and capabilities required of special operations forces change in a geopolitical context characterized by great power competition? How will SOF balance enduring counterterrorism missions with new requirements to deter great power rivals? This episode examines those questions and more and features a discussion with General Richard Clarke, commander of US Special Operations Command, and Linda Robinson, a leading researcher on special operations forces and author of two books on the subject. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
72 minutes | Oct 22, 2021
What Have We Learned from Twenty Years of War?
What lessons should the United States and its allies take from twenty years of irregular warfare since 9/11? What will the future of irregular warfare look like? Episode 38 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast is a recording of the keynote policy panel, featuring prominent scholars and practitioners, from the inaugural Irregular Warfare Initiative conference held on September 10, 2021. The panelists address these questions and discuss the overarching theme of the changing character of irregular warfare. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
51 minutes | Oct 18, 2021
On the Road to Jihad: The Role of Foreign Fighters in Irregular Warfare
Foreign fighters play an influential role in Islamic extremist groups. They tend to be more violent, more committed, and more resistant to reconciliation than their indigenous counterparts. Perhaps most significantly, they act as vectors of extremism, moving between zones of conflict, and sometimes returning to their countries of origin to instigate acts of terrorism. Our guests on this episode, Jasmine El-Gamal and Nate Rosenblatt, have researched the problem extensively for almost two decades. They predict that the next wave of extremism fueled by this phenomenon is gathering momentum even now and could pose an even greater threat to global security than its predecessors. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
47 minutes | Sep 24, 2021
Information Operations for the Information Age: IO in Irregular Warfare
When information can travel globally at the tap of a finger, irregular warfare professionals must contend with an ever-changing environment. How does strategic messaging tie into operations on the battlefield? How can we build a more information-savvy force? And how can information act as both weapon and warfighting space? Raphael Cohen and Brent Colburn join this episode to discuss these vital questions and more. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
53 minutes | Sep 13, 2021
Lessons from the Hardest Place: Twenty Years of War in Afghanistan
What lessons should the United States military take from twenty years of war in Afghanistan? This episode focuses on US efforts in the Pech valley, where the United States waged an enduring counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaign over many years. Our guests, Wesley Morgan and retired Colonel Bill Ostlund, argue that the Pech represents a microcosm of the broader US war effort in Afghanistan, and that the collapse of the Afghan government following the withdrawal of US forces from the country in August 2021 was foreseeable by looking at what happened in the valley after US forces withdrew years earlier. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
56 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
China’s Strategically Irregular Approach: The Art of the Gray Zone
How does China operate in the space between war and peace to gain strategic advantage in Asia and globally? What do these gray zone activities look like, and how do they facilitate China’s influence in the region? What are the consequences of inconsistent US policy and posture in the Pacific in countering China’s rise? This episode features a conversation with Ambassador David Shear and Dr. Zack Cooper, who explore what China's efforts in the gray zone mean for the United States. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
55 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
An Un-American Way of War: Why the United States Fails at Irregular Warfare
The United States and other nations have spent billions of dollars and invested untold effort, not to mention lives, in a global campaign against Islamist terrorism—and yet the threat landscape is arguably worse now than it was on 9/11. Despite the importance for national security of understanding how to wage irregular warfare effectively, something in the American way of war, the fundamental culture of the US military, prevents us from doing so. William Wechsler and retired Colonel Liam Collins join this episode to discuss the question of what needs to be done to reverse this trend and thus ensure that the United States can recover from the mistakes of the past, restore its credibility, and return to its place of prominence on the global stage.
42 minutes | Jul 30, 2021
Land Forces, Irregular Warfare, and a New Strategic Landscape
The US military and its allies are faced with the challenges of shifting focus toward great power competition while still maintaining the ability to counter threats on the fringes. Where does irregular warfare fit in this new strategic landscape? This episode explores the role of land forces within great power competition. Chief of Staff of the Army General James C. McConville and Dr. Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute discuss the implications for land forces within this strategic shift from counterterrorism to a national security strategy oriented on great power competition, including the role of irregular warfare and shaping the environment as ways to deter near-peer competitors. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
37 minutes | Jul 16, 2021
Closing the Chapter: Ending Afghanistan for US Army Special Forces
US Army Special Forces units continued to quietly operate in Afghanistan when conventional troops withdrew around 2015. These soldiers have worked closely with Afghan commandos and government partners to hold the hard-won and fragile stability. What happens when they leave the country this summer? This episode examines that question and features two guests with experiences and perspectives that uniquely equip them to do so. Jessica Donati covers foreign affairs and national security for the Wall Street Journal, having served as the paper's bureau chief while reporting from Afghanistan between 2013 and 2017. Colonel Brad Moses is a US Army Special Forces officer who most recently served as the deputy chief of staff for strategy and policy, United States Forces Afghanistan and Operation Resolute Support. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
47 minutes | Jul 2, 2021
Back to the Future: Resetting Special Operations Forces for Great Power Competition
Special operations forces have been a favorite national security tool during the United States' post-9/11 wars. However, the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy pivoted the United States’ strategic focus from terrorism to near-peer competitors China and Russia. What will be the role of special operations forces (SOF) in this era of great power competition? Where is SOF falling short in the shift to meet this new focus area? Former Under Secretary of Defense for policy Michèle Flournoy and retired Admiral Eric T. Olson join this episode to discuss.
42 minutes | Jun 18, 2021
American Decline: Losing the Campaign for Influence
A new US administration is eager to reengage with both allies and competitors, reasserting the role of global leader that the United States has claimed since World War II. At the same time, former partners wary of indications of US withdrawal from the global stage no longer look to the United States for leadership and current adversaries emboldened by apparent US apathy toward their breaching of international norms are no longer cowed into restraint. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata and Dr. Anthony Cordesman join this episode to discuss how these conditions developed and what can be done to reverse the apparent decline. Intro music: "Unsilenced" by Ketsa Outro music: "Launch" by Ketsa CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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
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