Irregular Warfare Podcast

John Amble

The Irregular Warfare Podcast explores an important component of war throughout history. Small wars, drone strikes, special operations forces, counterterrorism, proxies—this podcast covers the full range of topics related to irregular war and features in-depth conversations with guests from the military, academia, and the policy community. The podcast is a collaboration between the Modern War Institute at West Point and Princeton's Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.

  • 43 minutes 37 seconds
    Do we need a Cyber Force? Part 1: Arguments for a Seventh Service

    Episode 109 examines a recent report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on the arguments for a United States Cyber Force. This episode is a two part series of Project Cyber that looks at the arguments for and against a Cyber Force.


    Our guests delve into their long-standing experiences with U.S. Cyber Command and detail the current challenges in cyber force readiness, recruitment, training, and retention. They then discuss how despite significant funding, cyber force readiness hasn't progressed as expected, citing adversaries like Russia and China as examples of rapidly evolving cyber capabilities. They highlight the inadequacies of current service structures in cyber operations and suggest that a dedicated cyber force could better meet the demands of modern cyber warfare. The conversation also touches on the potential integration of existing units and the implications for relationships with organizations like the NSA and DISA.

    12 July 2024, 2:17 am
  • 1 hour
    Drones are Here to Stay: The Proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Systems Across the Spectrum of War

    Episode 108 examines the use of unmanned aerial systems across the spectrum of conflict. This episode is part of IWI’s special project, Project Air and Space Power.

    Our guests explore the use of the full range of UAS technology by both state and nonstate actors. They unpack the democratization of air power through the proliferation of small unmanned systems and address the race to find cheaper countermeasures for the technology. Finally, they address the advent of automation and the impact of private sector involvement.

    28 June 2024, 12:59 am
  • 54 minutes 15 seconds
    Paramilitaries Abroad: China’s Use of Nontraditional Security Forces

    Episode 107 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast examines how China uses its paramilitary and internal security forces to project power abroad and build global influence.


    Our guests begin by dissecting the Chinese security apparatus: contrasting the People’s Liberation Army with the CCP’s internal police forces and paramilitaries. They then explore how China uses these nontraditional security forces—which often aid foreign governments in maintaining regime stability—as an alternative to U.S. security assistance packages. Finally, our guests conclude by examining how the U.S. and its allies can compete with China more effectively in the realm of security cooperation.

    14 June 2024, 1:28 am
  • 51 minutes
    Drones, Automation, and how ARSOF is Adapting

    Episode 106 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast examines how drones, robotics, and automation are changing the battlefield in Ukraine and how ARSOF has adapted. 

    Our guests begin by outlining the significance of robotics and autonomous systems on the Ukrainian battlefield. From there, they delve into how US Special Operations formations are learning from Ukraine and changing their own formations. Finally, they end with a deep dive on how SOF forces have used drones in the past and how that compares to the modern fight and look at what changes SOF, industry and the US government may have to make to keep pace with the changing character of war.

    31 May 2024, 2:14 am
  • 53 minutes 38 seconds
    Lessons from the Eastern Front: Security Force Assistance in Ukraine

    Episode 105 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast contrasts security force assistance (SFA) efforts in Ukraine and Afghanistan.


    Our guests begin by outlining the significance of security force assistance and its pivotal role in Washington’s wider national security strategy. From there, they delve into a detailed analysis of SFA in both Afghanistan and Ukraine, extracting valuable lessons for policymakers and practitioners to inform future SFA policies. Finally, they end with a deep dive into SFA activities in Eastern Europe, shedding light on the socialization and transactional approaches needed to align incentives and enhance the combat capabilities of the United States’ international partners. 

    17 May 2024, 3:21 pm
  • 59 minutes 1 second
    Insiders, Outsiders and Enablers: Intelligence Support to Irregular Warfare

    Episode 104 examines the role of intelligence professionals and agencies at the tactical and operational levels of irregular warfare while diving deeply into the links between US SOF and the CIA. 

    Our guests begin with an overview of the history of the CIA and the development in intelligence capabilities throughout the Global War on Terror, and then they discuss ways that intelligence professionals can partner most effectively with other organizations. Finally, they close with a discussion about the future of intelligence collection.

    3 May 2024, 2:45 am
  • 50 minutes 55 seconds
    Cold War Lessons for a New Era: Connecting IW and Great Power Competition

    Episode 103 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast examines the role that irregular conflicts played during the Cold War to inform today’s era of strategic competition.


    Our guests begin by explaining how irregular conflicts and capabilities play a role in strategic competition, despite policy structures in Washington that often silo great power conflict from irregular warfare. They then discuss evidence from the Cold War that suggests small, local wars often become battlegrounds between great powers. Finally, our guests conclude with a discussion of the kinds of irregular warfare interventions policymakers should consider for today’s era of great power competition and make recommendations for removing bureaucratic hurdles that would better integrate policies and practice for IW and strategic competition.

    19 April 2024, 2:26 am
  • 51 minutes 51 seconds
    Strategic Disruption by Special Operations Forces

    Episode 102 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast examines how special operations forces can disrupt the strategic designs of Washington’s adversaries.

    Our guests begin with an in-depth discussion on civil-military relations, examining the relationship between SOL/IC and SOCOM. They then discuss the unique capabilities that special operations forces bring to the table, both during peacetime competition and large scale combat operations. Finally, they address the complexities of interagency cooperation, and how irregular warfare units can leverage their skills to deter adversaries, impose outsized costs, and create relative positions of advantage.

    5 April 2024, 3:04 am
  • 55 minutes 37 seconds
    Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants

    In today's episode, we delve into the topic of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants. Our guests explore the theoretical underpinnings of DDR, the motivations behind individuals joining armed groups, and effective strategies for reintegrating former combatants back into society.

    22 March 2024, 11:56 am
  • 54 minutes 30 seconds
    Secret Wars: Covert Action and Irregular Warfare

    In Episode 100 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast, we delve into the world of covert operations.

    Our guests begin by defining covert and clandestine operations, shedding light on their intricacies and historical significance. They then discuss the complexities of clandestine activities, and address the difficulties associated with translating irregular warfare and covert operations into tangible policies.

    8 March 2024, 2:53 am
  • 53 minutes 25 seconds
    The Fight for the Final Frontier: Irregular Warfare in Space

    Episode 99 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast takes us to the final frontier as we examine irregular warfare in space. 

    Our guests begin by explaining the importance of the space domain in the private and public spheres. They then give us multiple frameworks for thinking about space by using more familiar, terrestrial-based concepts to enhance our understanding of space competition. Finally, our guests conclude by contemplating how private industries could shape the space domain, and how U.S. policymakers should approach space-based deterrence.

    23 February 2024, 7:21 am
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