Episode 53: Jack Watling: Special Forces in Great Power Competition


RUSI Land Warfare scholar Jack Watling talks to Peter Roberts about the conclusions from his paper on the challenges facing Special Forces over the coming two decades.

With the threat from state competitors now exceeding that of non-state actors, he explains that Special Forces will need to adapt their ways of operating, missions and tasking. This is backed with lessons from history and an analysis of alternative force models, offering new solutions to decision-makers.

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  • Moderator: Professor Peter Roberts
    Respondent: Dr Jack Watling

    Unedited Transcript

     

    Moderator: Welcome to the Western Way of War. This is a weekly podcast that tries to understand the issues around how to fight and succeed against adversaries in the 2020s, I'm Peter Roberts, Director of Military Sciences at the Royal United Services Institute on Whitehall, and every week I'll talk to a guest about the Western Way of War. Has it been successful? Is it fit for task today, and how might it need to adapt in the future? The podcast is only possible because of the kind sponsorship of the good people at Raytheon UK, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technology, a British company that creates jobs in England, Wales and Scotland, contributing over £700 million to the UK economy.

     

    Whether special forces or even special operations forces have been an intrinsic part of the Western Way of War since before or even after the Second World War is a matter of some debate. During the Cold War, their presence on the battlefield was never considered a decisive factor. Sure, they had impact in the rear areas or the enemies deep (ph 01.10). They could ferment insurgencies, assassinate leaders, make alliances, supply arms, do some training in sabotage, but they weren't the main effort. In terms of relative importance, their activities mattered less than logistics or engineers, and certainly less than armour or artillery. Since 9/11, perhaps even before, special forces and special operations forces took on completely different roles and thus, their importance changed markedly. No longer the cunning, clever dastardly Odysseus, able to do low footprint, high gain approach in ancient Greece mythology terms. These soldiers were now the Achilles of the modern battlefield, uber warriors, the specialist death dealers, fighters able to weld precision and accuracy like few before them and with morals and ethical standards higher than anyone else, their own sense of honour. Politicians and the public feted them. Film studios made movies and TV series about them. Books on their courage and sensitivity flew off the shelves, and we got selective about their titles, SF, not SOF. Tier 1 operators and team specialisations abounded.

     

    If anything characterised the global war on terrorism, it was the SF SOF contingent and their adventures. Yet, as some states turn their gaze to warfare against peers, not isolated terrorists, for the first time in two generations, some militaries are reconsidering the role of their special capability. To be sure, this is not a conversation being had everywhere, but it did happen in the US a few years ago, followed by a quite public reshaping of SOCOM missions, and whilst Russia never changed their SF missions, the doctrine and con ops of China's SOF troops are less than transparent. Other states are starting to think about whether they've pegged their specialists to the right missions. Here at RUSI, this has been on our agenda for a while. Great power competition and the role that others play in it might see renewed focus on armour and artillery, but SF and SOF retain a clear role. One of significant import if the Russian doctrine and operations are anything to go by. Given all of this, my colleague Jack Watling has written and will shortly launch a research paper on SF for the new age of warfare. I asked him to come on the show and give a sneak peek, but you should all want to know why Jack is talking here. I mean, what qualifies him to make an intervention on this topic?

     

    Well, Dr Jack Watling is a research fellow in land warfare at the institute. He's recently conducted research on deterrents against Russia, forced modernisation, partner force capacity building, the future of core operations, the future of fires, and Iranian strategic culture. Jack's PhD examined the evolution of Britain's policy responses to civil war in the earlier 20th Century. Prior to joining RUSI, Jack worked in Mali, Iraq, Rwanda, Brunei and further afield, often riding around the back of technicals, amongst other things. Originally a journalist, he congregated to Reuters, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, the Guardian, Jane's Intelligence Review and others. He was shortlisted for a European press prize, distinguished writing award in 2016, and won the Breakaway Award at the International Media Awards in 2017, so he's got the research expertise and he's also been embedded in many of the discussions about Allied SF and SOF for a couple of years amongst his other projects. Before we get into that exact conversation, we need to situate Jack in our discussion, so Jack Watling, what does the Western Way of War mean to you?

     

    Jack Watling: Thank you, Peter. It's great to be on the programme. I think you've had a number of very, very strong responses to that question already, so what I'm going to say today doesn't challenge or displace a lot of those answers but provides a different perspective to it. To my mind, I would say that there's a continual conversation or duality in our way of war, and it's a particular Anglo-American way of war, in my view, between rationality and romanticism and, I'd say that to start with the rational component. I would say, you can date it in UK policy as going back to about 1701, and in the US to about 1940. It really, kind of, comes into its own in 1940 and then it was implemented in 1941 onwards, and that is a logical judgement that we want to fight away rather than at home, that we will confront challenges at source, that we will be expeditionary, and that we will fight it on our adversary's turf so that the destruction and second-order effects don't challenge the home front.

     

    That leads you down a logic which means that you are highly expeditionary, that you are prepared to suffer the costs of having to project your forces over long distances. Therefore a demand for highly technical capabilities to be able to offset those logistical constraints, and an intrinsic dependence upon allies because you need those allies to allow your theatre access, otherwise it becomes almost insurmountable. Then, we have the romantic side, and I think that can be traced back to almost 1689 in the UK and to the founding of the US, you know, there's this perception that the US is a city on a hill, that England, as it was then, and then Britain, the United Kingdom, was fighting against European despotism and authoritarianism or absolutism as it was termed then. But, the tendency to frame foreign policy issues, not in terms of the national interest, but in terms of these, kind of, grand value judgements irrespective of whether we were actually upholding those values. Nonetheless, the way we justify policy has almost always been framed in these grandiose, kind of, moral terms. I think that that does have certain advantages if you frame your policy and your way of fighting around values, then those are things that other states can buy into and therefore, it assists significantly with the coalition-building that has been fundamental to the rational approach of fighting abroad.

     

    Similarly, it almost builds in a mad man theory to our policy, right? 'We will go to war even when it is not in our tactical national interest,' because it's a point of principle as demonstrated in the Falklands or, you know, arguably, some people would say in our entry into the First World War. If you looked at that in national interest terms, really narrowly, maybe you'd have made a different judgement, but the principle mattered. It can have advantages because that certainty that you will act allows your allies to have confidence that you will stand up and meet your commitments, but it also has some costs. I think the first cost is that it gets us bogged down, as Emma Sky spoke about in great detail. It gets us bogged down in missions that we feel we can't leave because we've signed up to this moral crusade, and to admit defeat wouldn't just be a battlefield defeat. It would be to surrender the principle. Hence why we wrap ourselves around the axel and stay in conflicts far longer than our national interest would dictate is important. The second problem, I think, is that it leads to really contradictory policy and a good example of that to lead into the question about special operations and their future is the difference between our grand strategy around the world at the moment, which is supposedly about stabilisation.

     

    We know how to stabilise states that are facing terrorism, you force non-state actors to reconcile with the government, but that requires give and take and a negotiated process. At the same time, because we prioritise fighting abroad in order to prevent threats hitting us, we want to decapitate and destroy these terrorist organisations, which means that they cannot reconcile with the government because a condition of reconciliation would be that you don't attack them. So, actually, we don't want stability in these places because stability would give a safe haven to allow projection of terrorism, therefore, our actions are actually to destabilise the places where we're spending a very great deal of money to try and stabilise. In other words, our actions are not in sync with our stated values and purposes or ends. One final thing, which may be a disadvantage, it may be an advantage is that it confuses the hell out of our adversaries. If you look at, you know, the statement by Nikolai Patrushev, the equivalent to the national security adviser in Russia, he's always talking about how there's this grand conspiracy by the West that uses hybrid tactics to merge our promotion of democracy with everything else, and essentially, he's crediting us with being far too consistent. There isn't a grand design to a lot of this stuff. It is genuinely contradictory.

     

    Moderator: It's the cock-up versus chaos theory, isn't it? Genuinely, we're not that smart to be able to plan something with the beautiful elegance that people sometimes expect, right?

     

    Jack Watling: Yes, on one hand, and yet, on the other hand, if you are able to advance along two contradictory axes simultaneously, then you present your opponent with some really difficult dilemmas, right, because they don't know which is the one that you really care about. I think the capacity (TC 00:10:00) to work along contradictory lines simultaneously can, sometimes, be highly advantageous, and it can certainly generate problems for your opponents, but it can also tie you into policy options that are conflicting and leading to conflicting outcomes.

     

    Moderator: Now, Jack, getting right back to the start. We talked about this expeditionary way of war that, you know, you think really encapsulates the Western way of war, the Anglo-American way of war, and you present this in the paper as well as it relates to special forces, really. Their mission has been the leading edge of that arm to do the expeditionary, to mow the lawn overseas, and you come to this point which you talk about the 2014 dichotomy?

     

    Jack Watling: Right, so I think, in 2014, and I remember it really clearly. Initially, with Fallujah falling, but then it was the point where Mosul fell, and everything stopped in the office, and everyone was looking up and going, 'What the hell has just happened? What do we do about this?' There was this shock factor, and I think, while people like myself, who was a journalist at the time, were shocked by what was happening, in the special operations community, there was a sense of, 'Hang on a minute, you know, this is a terrorist organisation that wants to have a conventional stand-up fight with the Western special operations community in the desert. Well, if that's what you're offering. I think we can probably oblige, you know, I think we can rise to the occasion. Happy days.' There was a very clear and rapid response that was almost pre-scripted. The results of which I don't need to go over, but what I would flag is that I think that that was also very convenient for policymakers because they didn't need the same level of scrutiny because it had a high level of assurance. Whereas, you could probably have deployed 16 Air Assault Brigade and the Apaches, and it would have had just as significant an effect, maybe, greater effect in terms of degrading and blunting Islamic State's advance.

     

    We used special operations forces because they were convenient, and there was something else that happened in 2014, which is, of course, the annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas, and there, Russia went to war with its special operations community. It used deniable troops, GRU Spetsnaz, infiltrated them into those positions, and it essentially, you know, used those to conduct an unconventional war. Now, historically, special operations would have been a response to that, right? If we want to impose a cost or give someone a bloody nose for fighting somewhere they shouldn't. Then, precisely because of the escalation implications, you would send deniable troops, and I would suggest that is an option that wasn't taken. I'm not suggesting that it should necessarily have been taken, but there's an interesting question, which is, could we have done it? Would we have been able? Would our special operations community have been able to rise to that challenge? I would suggest that for a small community that has been optimised for 20 years for the counter-terrorism role for which they are very, very comfortable, it would have been a very, very severe stretch.

     

    I would also flag that the Russians made the opposite choice. We now know that Major General Andrei Vladimirovich Averyanov, who is a senior officer in the GRU, personally went to Czechia to command a clandestine set of sabotage operations. This was the first in a long series of international operations by the Russians using their special forces to attack Ukrainian interests. It was very unusual that you would send a major general to conduct a tactical operation, but what it tells you is that this was the first time they'd done it, right? They wanted one of their old experienced officers who had done this before. The last time they operated in this way, and they made lots of mistakes, and I think the problem is in the West we, kind of, go, 'Ha ha ha, you know, you used really silly identities. You didn't change your first name as well as your second name in your passport,' and this, kind of thing. Actually, the Russians, okay, they've been burned, but their appetite hasn't diminished, and they are now likely to do it more competently. They are getting more proficient at it, and they are using their special forces in a confrontational way in a manner which suggests that they are making a very different choice in terms of the priorities that they're pursuing. I think that creates a dilemma for us because we talk about great power competition, but are we actually going to optimise for that, or are we going to stick with what we're comfortable with?

     

    Moderator: Back in 2014, effectively, we came up with this choice, both of which have pressers (ph 14.25) for SF missions, right? The Surkov war, North Africa, fighting in the desert, you know, taking people on using airpower precision, a huge amount of autonomy, not a huge amount of transparency, but going off and thwacking the bad guys. Then, you have the, sort of, Cold War missions that the Russians were executing, which was about sabotage and subterfuge about those missions from between the 1940s and the 1980s. That both the West and the Soviet Union really did well at in special operations terms. I mean, you know, both became professionally, extremely, competent in both those missions, so we had this choice, and for some reason, we just went with the World War II model. Why do you think that was, Jack? Was it a genuine decision, or did we not spot the Ukraine choice?

     

    Jack Watling: I would be surprised if the Ukraine option was presented or asked, and I think that reflects the fact that there would have been very significant nervousness about our ability to conduct that kind of operation, but also, a sense that we didn't necessarily have the appetite among policymakers to get stuck in, which is completely fair enough. I think the problem that we increasingly face is that the challenge that we would have confronted in Ukraine is increasingly one that will confront us, when we try and do the counter-terrorism activity in the desert, non-state actor stuff. In Syria, we have seen some of that, right? There have been significant numbers of exchanges of fire between Russian forces and Western forces in Syria, but the escalation on it has always been capped by the fact that the US has a massive conventional operation happening next door and therefore has overwhelming air support, and so that, essentially, means that the Russians can't push it too far. If we are talking in the Integrated Review about operating in Africa and in the Middle East to build up relationships and trade and gain influence, then you are going to run increasingly into Russians trying to do the same thing, and you will not have recourse to the same level of air support and deterrent effect.

     

    Therefore, actually, policymakers need to get their head around the risk calculus and how that is changing, especially if we are explicitly saying, 'We're in great power competition,' The Russians will hear that. Other powers will hear that, you know, you can't hit Qasem Soleimani, the former head of the Quds Force in Iran, and expect the Iranians to carry on as though it was business as normal. You now have adversaries who can plan at a tempo and bring capabilities to bear in those environments that were not present and not the case during the War on Terror, and so that requires a change in mindset, and it requires a change in risk tolerance, and probably a reduction in the tempo of operations. I think this is the real challenge is that special forces are quite adaptable by design, and they can get after these tasks, but they are a very finite resource. The skills that make someone a good special operator are actually often things that conventional forces try and beat out of people in training.

     

    If you are only drawing on personnel from your military, there is quite a small proportion of the force that will be appropriate to fulfil those roles, and that means that there is a very finite limit to the number of special forces that a country can genuinely generate. Therefore, what you assign them to do is a real strategic decision, and policymakers should ask themselves whether they are sending special forces to do something because it is convenient and easy, or whether it is genuinely something that SF can do that conventional forces cannot. I would say because of our risk tolerance because of the casualty intolerance and because of policy and permissions issues, we have preferred to throw SF at problems when, actually, conventional forces could probably have taken up some of that strain and will increasingly need to do so as there are harder demands put on special forces by virtue of the increasing threat in the operating environment.

     

    Moderator: I mean, it's interesting to think about the units post the UK's Integrated Review in the Defence Command Paper, and for those overseas listeners, you know, this is all of the latest policy in the UK, but it's a fairly good reflection of some of the stuff that has happened in the US and is going to happen in the rest of Europe, I think. This idea that we're seeing of British regular formations, 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3 Commando Brigade, who are all talking about moving into the hybrid space, the sub-threshold space, that has been worked pretty comprehensively by Russian SOF forces. Then, you have the SF, who perhaps, would contribute be better to this role but are disappearing elsewhere. We don't seem to have moved on from this discussion that, actually, we don't have a clear delineation at the moment in which forces are going which way, do we?

     

    Jack Watling: I think the devil is in the detail on that because if you accept my point that there are a very limited number of personnel within an army who are appropriate for some of the harder special forces activities, then that suggests, for example, that you don't actually want a lot of your force fixed to delivering partner force capacity building and short term training teams. It suggests that you do not want your special forces fixed to delivering JTAC functions, joint, essentially, calling in airstrikes for partner forces in a medium threat environment because those are (TC 00:20:00) things that the rest of the force can do if they have the wrap, the protection for their airhead and for their logistics and so forth, can take on. If this becomes a mechanism by which we can make better use and employ more widely the other parts of the force, and therefore allow SF to focus on really hard targets that require their particular skill set, then it's a good thing.

     

    If, on the other hand, everyone is special now, and everyone thinks that they are going to be an operator, and we have a situation in which candidates for selection, people who might otherwise have put themselves forward for special forces, end up going down these other routes because they're seen as the same thing. Then we will probably, quite quickly, run into a situation where units get into scraps over, you know, numbers, resourcing, they don't cooperate well, and a lot of units will end up being understrength. I think that the critical component here is we need leadership and direction and prioritisation at a fairly senior level to explain how these units cooperate, integrate as it were, as the flavour of the day is so that they don't end up walking over each other's turf.

     

    Moderator: Doesn't this come back to that question over what's special, hey, Jack? It's right back to that ancient Greek mythological stance, isn't it? Do you want them to be Achilles, or do you want them to be Odysseus, you know, and if your special forces are going back to be Odysseus, then you need to upskill big army, the rest of them to become more like the Myrmidons who worked for Achilles, you know, the ants who could deliver the fighting edge that you wanted at the high capability, but we need to make a deliberate decision in that case, to shift the SF contingent back to being the Odysseus, the cunning, the smart, the clever, the low footprint, the high impact that can outwit an adversary as well as outfight him. In fact, fighting forms a very small part of their (mw 22.05). Isn't that the way that the US, they had this debate a couple of years ago, right? They sort of moved in this direction? Am I right, or do you see something else?

     

    Jack Watling: I think the US has the advantage that it can wall off a part of its troops, and say 'They only pursue this task,' and that is the luxury that you have when you have mass. Right, so if you look at JSOC, they're, essentially, you know, Tier 1, SF capability. It is given very, very narrowed taskings, and it is only able to pursue a lot of those taskings because there is a wrap of special operations forces around it, and SOCOM and the wider community, an enablement that means they can specialise to that degree. I don't think Israel or the UK or France or other medium powers who make a lot of use of SF have that luxury, so I think we do need a little more ambiguity. In terms of what is special, before the Integrated Review came out, Nick Reynolds, my colleague and I were making the case that calling everything special is quite unhelpful. The original reason why special forces were usually designated as special is because they were special-purpose troops.

     

    They were troops that didn't fit onto the echelon structure and so could be tasked independently. It wasn't that they were specialists or that they were, particularly, special in terms of their capabilities, that has come to be part of it, and in that sense, for me, I think there are three things that, kind of, make them special, which the rest of the force struggles to deliver. The first is the ability to work alone and psychologically, be able to conduct operations alone because conventional forces focus very heavily on teamwork and the formation, delivering the effect. I think, when you look at the scale that special forces deploy in, you have to rely on the individual to deliver their bit of the mission unsupported, so that's the first thing. The second thing is covert and clandestine operations and the secrecy that allows them to operate in environments where the rest of the military wouldn't, and that, again, caps your size because you just can't keep large formations secret.

     

    The third thing is creativity, and I'm always a bit cautious about this because creativity is also important in conventional operations, but it's a different kind of creativity. In conventional operations, you draw unit boundaries, and your units are expected to be creative within those boundaries. Whereas I think special operations forces because of the tasks they're given, have to be creative in terms of how they draw the boundaries, and that includes things like moral boundaries because they will very often be in environments where they have to make pretty difficult ethical judgements about how they work with partners and this kind of thing that relies on strong contextual judgement, and those are different skills to what you train in the regular force. I don't necessarily think that it's just physical fitness that makes those forces special, and there are specialist skills there, but it doesn't make them better. It means that you should think of them as performing and optimised for different functions that the conventional force struggles to deliver.

     

    Moderator: If those are the choices that the UK has taken. We've also covered the US a little bit in there, and we've talked about Russia, you know, since 2014. What about the Chinese Special Forces? I mean, I don't get the feeling that we know that much about their special forces formations?

     

    Jack Watling: I mean, I'll say that right off the bat, I'm not a China specialist, so I would hesitate, but everything that I have seen about Chinese Special Forces would suggest that I have very little confidence that the way they are organised, trained and expected to function in Chinese doctrine is how they will actually fight because, if you look at the moment, you have special forces units generated by each service and under each regional command, so that you have this, kind of, proliferation of units with very narrow functions. While that means that everybody in each command echelon gets their own, kind of, special unit, I don't think that they are actually conducting very many operations, especially not conducting kinetic operations apart from, maybe, their maritime counter-piracy troops, they're actually doing stuff. I think when you actually start using these forces on operations, their shape, their doctrine, the command that sits behind them, the level of enablement is all very likely to change because it's pretty difficult to be good at this stuff without practising. There's a very long history of people setting up special forces units, and then it going disastrously wrong the first time they're employed and going much better the second time, so I'm wary of being too, like, specific and granular about how I think Chinese Special Forces will function because I don't think they have actually been performing a lot of those tasks yet.

     

    Moderator: Okay, so what about a state that has been using their special forces, and have a really good history of them, so let's take Israel and the RDF?

     

    Jack Watling: Yes, so a good comparison with the UK, I think because similar size, and actually quite a similar culture in some ways as well. One of the really interesting things is that, you know, through the War on Terror, the UK followed the JSOC model of night raiding, right? It was all about OODA Loop and tempo whereby you hit objectives, you got the information from the target, and then you exploited it faster than they could react to hit the next target. That way, you just whacked them all down, and it's a decapitation strategy. You worked from the top down. The Israelis pursue a really different model, they, against state adversaries, which they have routinely faced, will select about five operations a year, and they'll make sure they count, and they plan for, often, over a year to actually set them up because they know that actually getting away with it is really hard, especially when you're under, you know, significant levels of surveillance and observation by assets, databases etc.

     

    The tempo is completely detached from the rest of operational activity, and it is very calibrated towards what effect you want to have, which means that you can then integrate your information operations, your wrap, conventional operations and so forth with the planning process by virtue of the fact that you have time to do that, and you can do it in a way which doesn't breach the necessary security protocols around planning for that unit. I think, you know, the Israelis have really changed their approach because they used to do the high tempo activity thing, and they've recognised, I think, that when you deal with states as your opponents, that is a recipe for becoming predictable and either being exposed or killed, both of which they've experienced. Their entire targeted killing team was exposed in the UAE almost a decade ago now, but they learnt their lesson, and similarly, you know, Flotilla 13 did a raid into Lebanon in which they got hit on the beach and took multiple casualties because they got lazy by virtue of the fact that they were following a repetitive cycle.

     

    Moderator: What about Iran because whilst we talk about friendly nations being very professional but the adversary not being, Iran actually has been pretty impressive in its SF capability, right?

     

    Jack Watling: Yes, the interesting things about the Iranians is that they realise they can't win a conventional fight, so we have seen over the last decade, more and more resource be stripped from conventional forces and put into unconventional forces. For the Iranians, I think partnered operations are much more important than anything else, leveraging other people's mass, and what's interesting is that the way they build up is you do have a small number of elite commando-type personnel, but they will pull in media operators, school teachers, technicians, engineers that are part of the IRGC (TC 00:30:00) as a movement, and therefore have vetting, but are not actually soldiers. They will teach them in whatever skills are needed, and then they will embed them with that partner force and essentially build an inter-services task force or interdepartmental task force. They have a very, very heavy focus on enabling the partner to be able to replicate capabilities domestically so, for example, in Yemen, they helped set up the manufacturing and design of strike UAVs, but they helped get the CNC machines set up in Sanaa along with the moulds for the fibreglass so that the Houthis could build most of the components domestically, and then all they had to smuggle in were the electronic components.

     

    A few of them, like the guidance kits, and they didn't need to smuggle in whole drones, which massively increased both the volume that the Houthis could have, but it also allowed the Quds Force to focus on then training how to operate them and tactics, rather than just being fixed to this predictable cycle of trying to get things across the border. They embed people for a very long time, and they do have a pretty effective methodology. They operate much further afield than most people appreciate. They have an extensive presence in South America, a fairly extensive one they had in Europe, South East Asia, and you'll come across Iranian operators in a large part of Africa as well, so they are pretty active in a way that is not usually expected. I think people usually think of the Iranians as operating in their patch, but they're quite expeditionary.

     

    Moderator: Jack, brilliant articulation of the SF choices that are going on at the moment, they're facing the alternative models that are there. I think it's pretty clear that the greatest change is an intellectual one in terms of moving away from this comfortable area that they'd been in about, you know, almost the fighting in the desert, the World War II style of operation and moving into something that recognising that SF in great power competition against states is significantly different. Thanks very much.

     

    You can find more of Jack's publications at rusi.org/milsci, lots is free access there, but there's also more exclusive content that sits behind our members' paywall. RUSI is a charity and has a royal commission to grow the discussion and informed debate over the role of the three services. We've been serving our members since 1831, and claim our position as the oldest surviving think tank, as well as Prospect Magazine's think tank for the year. Yes, we have a heritage, but our thinking is as fresh as you like, and we are ranked right up there with the world's best. If you a member of the profession of arms or similarly interested in the defence and security discussions in an age of competition, constraint and conflict, you might also consider becoming a member.

     

    We have an agenda of free-thinking, stimulating intellectual curiosity and challenge given what the Duke of Wellington wanted when he set this up in 1831. We receive no core funding from the UK government, Ministry of Defence or military and we're a charity, so we can't make a profit. Our aim is to provide you with an opportunity to grow and improve as a member of the profession of arms. You can find details at rusi.org/membership. This show is available on all major podcasting platforms, including iTunes and Spotify. Your downloads regularly place us in the top 2.5% of nearly two million podcast shows globally. Check out some of the Season 1 shows. The one with James Heappey, UK Minister of the Armed Forces, makes for an interesting reflection. That episode titled Outwitted, Outgunned, and Outflanked was recorded before the Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper in the UK. There's plenty to challenge as a result. This show is produced by Peppi Vaananen and Keiron Yates and is sponsored by Raytheon UK. Thanks for listening.

Western Way of War Podcast Series

A collection of discussions with those in the Profession of Arms that tries to understand the issues around how to fight, and succeed, against adversaries in the 2020s.  We pose the questions as whether a single Western Way of Warfare (how Western militaries fight) has been successful, whether it remains fit for task today, and how it might need to adapt in the future? It is complemented by the ‘Adversarial Studies’ project that looks at how adversaries fight.


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