Small Wars and Big Thoughts

[by Mark Safranski / “zen“] U.S. Marines display captured flag of Nicaraguan rebels led by Augusto Cesar Sandino While pop-centric COIN may be dead, small wars and irregular warfare will always be with us. We might say they are in the fourth or fifth generation; are an open-source insurgency; or have become “hybrid“; or exist […] Read more »


[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“] “This important and terrifying book should be read by everyone who cares about the future of human civilization.” —Anatol Lieven Warlords, inc. ; Black Markets, Broken States and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, Edited by Noah Raford and Andrew Trabulsi Warlords, inc. a book to which I have contributed a […] Read more »

ISIS and the Crisis in American Statecraft

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“] A Facebook friend with an astute comment pointed me toward this Wall Street Journal article by Joe Rago on the mission of General John Allen, USMC  as “Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”. What is a “Special Presidential Envoy” ? In diplomatic parlance, a special envoy is […] Read more »

What to do About ISIS? Constructing Strategy, Weighing Options

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"] ISIS or the Islamic State “Caliphate” is the focus  of a great deal of discussion and demands for action from the United States – and also inaction – from many quarters. What is to be done? That is a famous question.  In matters of geopolitics and strategy, it is more […] Read more »

The Death of 4GW Revisited

Dr. Chet Richards is having seconds thoughts about “4GW is dead“: When I proclaimed the death of 4GW in this very blog about a year ago? Of course not. But there are disturbing developments, at least in its decline-of-the-state/road-warrior variant (aka, the Bill Lind definition). Did you know, for example, that groups espousing an ultra-orthodox [...] Read more »

Narco-cartels as MBAs Doing 4GW

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]   Yale organizational behaviorist Rodrigo Canales has an interesting talk on the Narco-insurgency in Mexico ( which he correctly sees as having been as lethal as Syria’s civil war). While this won’t be news to close students of Mexico’s cartel wars, Canales explains how Los Zeta, La Familia, Knights Templar and Sinaloa [...] Read more »

Heavy Metal: When Irregulars Go Armored

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"] If the symbol of the 20th century insurgent was the AK-47 and a red banner, his 21st century counterpart may someday be recognized by the suicide belt and the “homemade tank”. Irregular fighters have always used light arms, civilian passenger vehicles and armor captured (or donated by) from conventional armies, [...] Read more »

Octavian Manea interviews T.X. Hammes

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"] Octavian Manea and SWJ are on something of a roll lately. Colonel T.X. Hammes (ret.) PhD is the respected author of the excellent The Sling and the Stone. If you have never read it, you should. The Fallacies of Big Expeditionary Counterinsurgency: Interview with T.X. Hammes SWJ: How different is Mao’s [...] Read more »

Moral Degeneration in the Crucible of War

  The recent post on Is 4GW Dead? stirred a great deal of interest, so I would like to extend the discussion on a point that that is critical not only for those who have responsibility for conducting military campaigns, but for statecraft and policy as well. One of more important tenets of 4GW was [...] Read more »

Is 4GW Dead?: Point-Counterpoint and Commentary

4GW theory has always attracted overenthusiasts and  raging haters ever since the concept emerged way back in 1989, so debates about the merit of 4GW are nothing new; in fact, the arguments became so routine that they had largely gone sterile years ago.  After T.X. Hammes published his excellent  The Sling and the Stone and John [...] Read more »