Irregular Warfare Reference Library and Case Studies

Assessing Revolutionary And Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) Studies

Assessing Revolutionary And Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) logo

The Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project consists of research and case studies conducted for the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) by the National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It produces academically rigorous and operationally relevant research to develop and illustrate a common understanding of insurgency and revolution. ARIS is intended to form a foundation of knowledge for USASOC personnel, as well as to enable the development of future doctrine, professional education, and training.

The ARIS project is modeled on the research conducted by the Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of American University in the 1950s and 1960s. ARIS continues the work of SORO by adding new research to that body of work, republishing original SORO studies, and releasing updated editions of selected SORO studies.

Casebook on Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare, Vol. 1: 1933-1962                           

Casebook on Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare, Vol. II: 1962-2009  (Large file)                         

Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Algeria 1954–1962                             

Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Colombia (1964-2009)  (Large file)                            

Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Cuba 1953–1959                 

Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Guatemala (1944–1954)                    

Case Study in Guerrilla War: Greece During World War II                             

Human Factors Considerations of Underground in Insurgencies                        

Irregular Warfare Annotated Bibliography                  

Legal Implications of the Status of Persons in Resistance                    

Unconventional Warfare Pocket Guide  

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary and Resistance Warfare                  

Special Operations Research Office (SORO) Case Studies

The Special Operations Research Office (SORO) was established at The American University to conduct non-materiel research under Department of the Army auspices on the problems involved in understanding, influencing, or supporting foreign
peoples and societies.
SORO’s program was both “problem” and “country” oriented and involves three distinct types of activity. The first type. involving the largest portion of the work program, consists of social science research on problems relating to Army missions in psychological operations, unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency, military assistance, and counterinsurgency strategy and planning. The second type of activity, the U.S. Army Area Handbook program, which produced comprehensive country studies which deal with the sociological, political, economic, and military aspects of selected countries. These studies attempt to
impart a basic understanding of the fundamental patterns of a living society, but do not attempt to supply encyclopedic detail.
The third type of activity consists of rapid presentation of requested information and analysis.

Annotated Bibliography of SORO Publications (1966)

Case Study in Guerrilla War: Greece during World War II (1961)   COMING SOON!

Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Algeria 1954–1962 (1963)

Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies: Volume I (1966)

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare (1963)   COMING SOON!

These and additional SORO documents are also available via the Defense Technical Information Center.


The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis. RAND operates three FFRDCs sponsored by the Department of Defense and one sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security.

Maritime Irregular Warfare

Understanding Russian Hybrid Warfare

Distinguished Thinkers

Mao Tse-tung: On Guerrilla Warfare

Valery Gerasimov: The Value of Science is in the Foresight

CIWAG Case Studies

The Naval War College’s Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups (CIWAG) is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the challenges presented by irregular warfare (IW) and non-state actors, also known as armed groups, in the 21st Century. Additionally, CIWAG facilitates interaction and collaboration between professional military educational institutions, civilian academics and battlefield practitioners.

CIWAG aims to make cutting edge research studies available to various professional curricula that assist professionals preparing to meet the complex challenges of the post-9/11 world, while aiding the work of operators, practitioners, and scholars of irregular warfare.

CIWAG Irregular Warfare Studies

The Irregular Warfare Studies are a collection of case studies that examine the use of irregular warfare strategies by states and nonstate actors to achieve political goals. These cases address a wide variety of irregular challenges on the spectrum of political violence and competition that encompass current-day or historic armed groups and conflicts, as well as the use of other irregular strategies and means to achieve political goals, including gray-zone activities, economic coercion, information operations, and resource competition.

Wildlife Trafficking and Poaching: Contemporary Context and Dynamics for Security Cooperation and Military Assistance

Wildlife Trafficking and Poaching: Contemporary Context and Dynamics for Security Cooperation and Military Assistance, by Dr. Christopher Jasparro, examines the impact wildlife crime has played on exacerbating the delicate security situation in Africa, and the effectiveness of the security cooperation and assistance programs that have formed as a result. Wildlife crime has become a significant international security issue as poaching is used to fund terrorism, drug trades, and other illicit activities that destabilize local African governments and endanger vulnerable species. Wildlife crime is complex and varied with no individual solution. To combat this growing issue, plans and programs carefully crafted to address the context of each unique threat and the strategic environment is required to prevent creating unintended negative consequences.

Defeating ISIS and Al-Qaeda on the Ideological Battlefield: The Case for the Corporation Against Ideological Violence

Defeating ISIS and Al-Qaeda on the Ideological Battlefield: The Case for the Corporation Against Ideological Violence, by Dr. Michael W.S. Ryan, explores the radicalization process and the strategies employed by ISIS and al-Qaeda to recruit jihadists. In order to more effectively combat violent extremism and adversarial propaganda, a new federal agency with dedicated resources in the form of a public-private corporation should be created with the primary goal of subduing violent ideologies and countering the spread of violent extremism.

Totalitarian Insurgency: Evaluating the Islamic State’s In-Theater Propaganda Operations by Charlie Winter examines the in-theater propaganda strategies of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Although much attention has rightly been paid to their online recruiting and social media campaigns, their in-theater strategies are equally compelling and strategically targeted. As ISIS and al-Qaeda continue to inspire and sponsor new franchises around the globe, the issue of how to control access to counter-narratives becomes more urgent; this first look at in-theater strategies provides the basis for further research and investigation into the in-theater and online competition for ideas and influence around the world.

Using primary source materials, Jacob Zenn’s case study, The Al-Qaeda Accelerant in Boko Haram’s Rise, maps the group’s many factions, loyalties, splinterings, and re-formations. Zenn supplies deep insight into the seams and gaps that exist, and how strategic and tactical motivations have propelled an armed group to regional importance. He also dissects how the group’s evolution has taken place under the watchful eye, and often directing hand, of both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and highlights its starring role in a new international rivalry: the uncivil war between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s engaged a remarkable degree of attention at the highest levels of the U.S. government and became a proxy of the Cold War. El Salvador in the 1980s: War by Other Means, by Donald R. Hamilton, brings to light the challenges of committing oneself to a flawed ally and intervening in another country with an exceptionally limited number of military personnel.

(IWS/02 – Irregular Warfare Studies, book 2)

This case study presents a historical net assessment of ISIS, and its strengths and weaknesses at its zenith. Its military and policy recommendations for degrading ISIS are useful conclusions for confronting similar ideological territorial based groups in the future. This case study represents historical research current as of August 2015.

Sovereign Wealth Funds as Tools of National Strategy: Singapore’s Approach

Across the globe – from the port of New Jersey to the copper mines in trans-Sahel Africa – governments are wrestling with the issue of foreign financial influence and national security. This becomes even more acute in states that are trying to transition from conflict to stability: When should states allow or encourage other countries to invest in them, and what industries should they allow foreign companies to own or build? Should states allow foreign investment funds to build infrastructure, extract rare minerals, and operate ports? How does this support or undermine the legitimacy and authority of the state? Successful IW practitioners need to understand and be able to account for third-party influence in its many varieties.

(IWS/03 – Irregular Warfare Studies, book 3)

The 2011 Libyan revolution was marked by the intensive use of cyber technology. Using decentralized ways of connecting, such as two-way satellite Internet, the Libyan opposition almost completely bypassed the government’s sophisticated Internet monitoring equipment and effectively ended the ability of the Gaddafi regime to control Internet access. Still, electronic actors working on behalf of the regime attacked opposition computers by exploiting key human vulnerabilities.

Dr. Antonio Giustozzi relies on his extensive experience as a researcher in Afghanistan to create an insightful analysis of a wide range of topics including assessments of the Taliban’s strengths and weaknesses, their ability to reassess and adapt, and their operational and strategic successes and failures. He has presented a balanced treatment of the subject matter; however, balance does not mean that the case study will be uncontroversial. In fact, Giustozzi’s analysis contains some rather blunt appraisals of many of the major actors in this conflict; including both ISAF and the Taliban.

Varieties of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq, 2003-2009 offers a useful analytical framework for understanding how and why rebellions either grow or diminish. This case study was created to focus on two specific challenges that operators and practitioners faced in Iraq: how to understand the actors and the complex irregular warfare environment; and how to manage interaction, adaptation, and reassessment in irregular warfare.

Organizational Learning and the Marine Corps: The Counterinsurgency Campaign in Iraq examines how the U.S. Marine Corps was able to learn from and adapt to conditions on the ground in Anbar province from 2006–2008 and develop a three-dimensional strategy that resulted in stability. Dr. Richard Shultz views this success through the lens of organizational theory, arguing that the Marine Corps’ organizational culture underscores learning and embeds lessons from its history into the Corps memory.

(IWS/04 – Irregular Warfare Studies, book 4)

This case is about an insurgency that apparently had all the essentials for success but never transitioned beyond Phase One, the proto-insurgency phase. According to Daniel Byman, the success or failure of a proto-insurgency depends in large part on the reaction of the state. This case examines a wide range of issues that worked against the Honduran governments success at extirpating the insurgency, including institutional indifference and preoccupation with external threats on the part of the Honduran Army, bureaucratic inertia on the part of the American in- country entities, and turf sensitivity by U.S. intelligence. In spite of these obstacles, the Government of Honduras (GOH) eventually neutralized the insurgent threat. The prevailing question is: How was this threat recognized?

Maritime Irregular Warfare Studies

CIWAG’s Maritime Irregular Warfare Studies are a collection of case studies geared specifically towards the use of irregular warfare at sea and in a maritime environment. This includes a range of topics related to human and political competition taking place on or below the surface of the world’s harbors, rivers, seas, and oceans. This body of research contributes to the larger mission of the U.S. Naval War College to study, research and publish relevant materials related to sea power and the maritime environment. “Viribus Mari Victoria.”

Sea Shepherd: The Evolution of an Eco-Vigilante to Legitimized Maritime Capacity Builder

Claude Berube

(MIWS/03 – Maritime Irregular Warfare Studies, Book 3)

This case study focuses on the evolution and development of a non-state group, Sea Shepherd, in the maritime domain. While some might argue that this organization is too small to warrant the attention of the U.S. Navy, others, including the author, argue that its cross-jurisdictional activities and international reach provide important insight into how other groups, or even states, with small maritime capabilities, might challenge international maritime norms.

The Russian Maritime Arctic: Region of Great Change in the 21st Century

Lawson W. Brigham

(MIWS/02 – Maritime Irregular Warfare Studies, Book 2)

This case study focuses on the evolution and development of the critical maritime region of the Russian Arctic out into the future. It specifically considers what the Russian state may initiate in Arctic economic projects, and what aspects of this region Russia will seek to control, in what will most certainly become one of the vital ocean corridors of the world. The case highlights what factors may constitute the outlines of further development in a region that is not only important today and is emerging as a vital resource area and transport waterway, but also one that could evolve into a zone of competition, or even conflict, during this era of great power rivalry.The author explores important insights into how Russia may develop its Arctic maritime capabilities and use this region as a springboard to further Russian maritime power, as well as overall economic strength.

Water Wars: The Brahmaputra River and Sino-Indian Relations

Mark Christopher

(MIWS/07 – Maritime Irregular Warfare Studies, book 7)

Although we most often think of water conflicts in terms of access to drinking water, the reality is that most water is needed for industrial and agricultural purposes; when rivers run dry, crops fail and communities face famine and starvation even in some of the world’s dampest places. Moreover, in some countries, internal conflicts exacerbate the issue of who has access to water and, in others, state-to-state friction over dams and irrigation water has spilt over into armed clashes. The issue of access to and control of water becomes even more acute in states in which there is an ongoing conflict or in states that are trying to transition from conflict to stability.


Martin Murphy

(MIWS/05 – Maritime Irregular Warfare Studies, book 5)

Piracy, by Dr. Martin Murphy, examines the security challenges created by piracy around the Horn of Africa. Murphy examines the linkages between piracy and weak states, in addition to considering the threat piracy poses to shipping and global trade. In particular, he argues that Somali pirates have proved to be masters of adaptation, both strategically and tactically, as they exploit the chaos within Somalia and in the international maritime order. Moreover, Somali piracy cannot be seen in isolation from the wider geostrategic issues of free movement and safe passage to trade between Europe and Asia, and the shipment of oil from the Arabian Gulf to the rest of the world