After the Cold War: The Impact of Economic and Financial Warfare on Civilians

A former Visiting Research Fellow with CCW has published a blog article with CCW’s Changing Character of Conflict Platform. Chris Holloway worked with CCW during 2018 and has now returned to the Australian Department of Defence.

This blog article compares two examples of indirect coercion, namely, economic and financial warfare, and shows a crucial role of informal authorities, such as banks, and non-physical space in current conflicts.

The Centenary of the Anglo-French Treaty, 1919-2019 by Rob Johnson

The Anglo-French Treaty was signed by Lloyd George and Clemenceau on June 28th, 1919, the same day as the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. The two were regarded as inextricably linked. For France, it represented the fulfilment of an important bond in its security in Europe, and for Britain, it was the logical conclusion to its wartime relationship.

Dr Robert Johnson is the Director of CCW

The Changing Actor Dynamics in the Philippines’ Moro conflict by Fausto Belo Ximenes

The Changing Actor Dynamics in the Philippines’ Moro conflict

Fausto Belo Ximenes, University of Oxford

A new article has been added to the Changing Character of Conflict Platform blog.  This blog article presents the latest actor dynamics in the Philippines' Moro conflict where two previously contentious separatist groups, namely MILF and MNLF, are now willing to cooperate. This is a momentum that should be carefully and timely seized by the Philippine government to bring some measure of peace to the country's troubled south.

Eat, Pray, Fight: One Man’s Journey in and out of Al-Qaeda - Florence Gaub

Book review of: Aimen Dean: Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside Al-Qaeda. London: One World Publications, 2018. pp.480. Hb. ISBN: 9781786073280. RRP: £18.99

Dr Florence Gaub

There is more than one aspect of this jihadi account that resembles Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous story of a woman on a spiritual journey around the world, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Just as Gilbert, Dean sets out from his hometown in Bahrain because of a profound spiritual questioning. But where she heads to Italy and India, he heads to Bosnia and the Philippines. Although Gilbert seeks meaning through meditation and Dean through combat, the two books are both ultimately a thorough reflection on values, and how far we are willing to go to live true to them. Both do not just detail the often harsh living reality in remote places, they take the reader on a very intimate journey of the mind (even though they also, at times, read like Lonely Planet travel guides).

Dean’s account is more than the story of a Generation X traveller lost in a post-modern world – it is a gripping description of his trajectory from a young Mujahedeen overlooking Sarajevo to an early joiner of Al-Qaeda and ultimately informer for Britain’s intelligence services that makes this book a worthy and touching read.

Dr Gaub is Deputy Director of the European Institute for Security Studies. Her most recent book is The Cauldron: NATO’s Libya Operation. London: Hurst, 2018.

The People’s Republic of China: What Can the UK and its Allies Learn from Competitors and Rising Powers? by Dr Samantha Hoffman

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) development of military power is guided by the clearly defined strategic objective that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) position in power be protected. The objective is described in the CCP’s rhetoric as ensuring “state security”. To maintain state security requires a constant consolidation and expansion of the CCP’s power. The CCP’s processes for modernising the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are never detached from this political objective. An important lens for understanding how the PRC turns a strategic concept into actual capabilities is the “People’s War” concept, which is a concept describing a form of mass mobilization. This Maoist political-military strategy is applied in the present-day through the Party-state leadership’s construction of a national defence mobilisation (国防动员) mechanism, which relies on military-civil fusion. The United Kingdom cannot replicate China’s approach because the UK is not guided by the CCP’s Leninist ideology. Instead, understanding the Chinese approach can inform better decision-making and development of long-term strategies for managing relations with China.

Dr Hoffman is Visiting Academic Fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies and Non-Resident Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Changing Character of War Centre, or of the University of Oxford. © 2018 Changing Character of War Centre. All Rights Reserved. Material in this publication is copyrighted under UK law. Individual authors reserve all rights to their work and material should not be reproduced without their prior permission. 

Henry Plater-Zyberk's book review of "Elite Warriors: Special Operations Forces from Around the World" by Pukhov and Marsh

by Henry Plater-Zyberk

“Elite Warriors” is an unusual book. It is a product of a respected Russian think-tank, Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), and published in English in the US. The book’s authors cover 14 countries: Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Iran, Israel, Jordan Turkey, China Singapore, Columbia and Algeria.

Commentary: The Terror Problem from Pakistan by Melissa Skorka & Rahmatullah Nabil

Commentary: The Terror Problem from Pakistan by Melissa Skorka & Rahmatullah Nabil

With the Trump administration considering how to break the stalemate between Taliban-allied groups and the government of Afghanistan, terrorists detonated a car bomb in Kabul on May 31, killing more than 150. Afghan intelligence blamed the violence on Haqqani, a terror network with close ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence...

'What would be the Ten Main Characteristics of a War between the United States and North Korea?' by Dr Rob Johnson

'What would be the Ten Main Characteristics of a War between the United States and North Korea?' by Dr Rob Johnson

What would be the Eight Main Characteristics of a War between the United States and North Korea?

A great deal of attention is currently focussed on the possibility of a conflict between the United States and North Korea, but what would be the character of a war between these powers if it actually broke out?  Recent conflicts and current military preparedness would only be a guide to the very early stages, and there are much more significant implications to consider. Here are ten possible characteristics for analysts to think through...

Securing Peace In The Borderlands: A Post-Agreement Strategy For Colombia


August 2016

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other violent non-state groups are deeply entrenched in Colombia’s border areas. If a durable peace is to be achieved following the peace agreement, uncertainty over what happens in these border regions must be addressed. A comprehensive post-agreement strategy for Colombia requires a particular focus on the country’s borderlands where it will need to move: • From state neglect to sustainable development; • From insecurity produced by multiple violent non-state groups to citizen security which is focused on people; • From transnational organised crime to lawful economic cross-border opportunities. This policy briefing sets out the challenges and actions in these three key areas. The management of risks and uncertainty over civilian security, particularly in border areas in the period immediately following a peace agreement, is critical to long term stability. This briefing is based on a multi-year study of Colombia’s border areas carried out between 2010 and 2016.

The New Biafrans: Discussing Discontent

The New Biafrans: Discussing Discontent

On March 8, 2016, Olly Owen’s public lecture for Changing Character of War (CCW) of drew unexpected attention. Owen, an anthropologist with Oxford’s Department of International Development, intended his discussion, The New Biafrans: Historical Imagination and Structure Conflict in Nigeria’s Separatist Revival, to be an exploration of history, memory, economics and politics in Nigeria’s southeast. The hope, Owen told CCW, was to prompt further investigation into the roots of the Nigerian independence movement, which has waxed and waned since the 1960s. 

New Strategist Journal

The New Strategist is a collaborative journal between the CCW Programme and the UK MOD's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre. The journal aims to acquaint readers with excellent and innovative multi- and inter-disciplinary scholarship in strategic studies that address the pressing concerns of strategic leaders in the fields of defence and security. The journal does not present or reflect UK Ministry of Defence policy, opinions or beliefs: every article independently stands or falls on its intellectual merit.


Soft Power in Theory and Practice 
Graeme P. Auton and Robert J. Jackson

Making Sense of Strategy’s Relational Nature
Lukas Milevski

Fighting Complexity With Complexity: Recognising the New Science in NSS
William Rushworth

Uncertainty in National Security Strategy: ‘What the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street could teach the old men of Whitehall.’
James Sladden

Education and the General: Educating Military Executives
Randall Wakelam

Space Security and Strategic Stability
Jing Zhong


Collateral Damage, Covert Operations and American Exceptionalism: An Interview with Chris Woods
Roderick McKenzie

Drones and the RAF: An Interview with Sqn Ldr Keith Dear
James Fergus Rosie

On the Ethics of Drone Strikes, Optimism and Obscuring Language: A Conversation with an Anonymous Academic
Christiana Spens


Ramsay, Gilbert (2013), Jihadi Culture on the World Wide Web (Bloomsbury: New York)
Roderick McKenzie

Gary J. Bass (2014), The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide (Hurst & Co: London)
Christiana Spens

Violent Non-State Actors and Complementary Governance: What ISIS, Hizballah and FARC Have in Common

Violent Non-State Actors and Complementary Governance: What ISIS, Hizballah and FARC Have in Common

In the absence of a strong state, insurgents, traffickers or tribal warlords may provide political and socioeconomic goods through arrangements we characterize as ‘complementary governance.’ When formulating an effective response to this security challenge, policymakers and researchers must account for the complex connections and interactions between multiple non-state governing entities.

In Conversation with Elizabeth Joyce

In Conversation with Elizabeth Joyce

Elizabeth Joyce is the Chief of Section, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee. She has worked for the UN since 1999, where she started as a Money Laundering Advisor to the UNODC. From there she moved into counter-terrorism via her work on countering terrorist financing. Her talk was mostly concerned with the evolution of the UN’s role in countering terrorism, beginning in the 1990s and the reaction to the 1998 US Embassy Bombings and going up until the modern day. Her focus was technical, describing the UN’s expanding role via pieces of core legislation, as well as outlining the role and activities of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. This CCW interview expands on that latter point, attempting to understand the specifics of the Committee’s activity and how counter-terrorism functions on the global level.

In Conversation with Rob Wainwright

Rob Wainwright has been the Director of Europol since 2009. Prior to joining Europol, Wainwright worked with a number of national agencies in the UK including MI5, where he specifically focused on issues of terrorism. Wainwright’s presentation, just weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris by suspected Islamic State extremists, touched on the organizational roles and responsibilities of Europol, particularly relating to counterterrorism; the fluid and fluctuating nature of the international terrorist threat; and the troubling (or confounding) issues relating to terrorist and criminal organizations’ use of the “dark web.” This CCW interview expands on these central themes. 

In Conversation with Kai Htang Lashi

In Conversation with Kai Htang Lashi

Kai Htang Lashi is the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Kachin National Organisation (KNO), an organisation established to be the Kachin people’s international representation. Her presentation spanned a wide range of subjects relating to the armed struggle for greater autonomy from Burma and ethnic minority rights conducted by the Kachin Independence Organisation/Army. Topics covered both the history of the conflict and modern concerns, such as the KIO/A’s refusal to participate in the October 2015 ceasefire. They spanned many issues, such as the relationship between the KIO/A and Kachin society, the relationships between the KIO/A and other ethnonationalist insurgent movements in Burma, and the difficulties of promoting the Kachin cause abroad. Given Kai Htang Lashi’s role as one of the chief conduits of knowledge on life in Kachin state, CCW delves into what that life is like and what being Kachin means.

The Maritime Dimension of Britain's New Strategy

The Maritime Dimension of Britain's New Strategy

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), presented by Prime Minister David Cameron to the British Parliament on Monday, signifies a welcome return to strategic maritime thought by the government of the United Kingdom. The new strategic document seeks to align ends, ways, and means while also considering risks identified in the National Security Risk assessment. It charts a clear course to develop credible carrier strike capability, improve anti-submarine warfare capability, and continue to provide a credible nuclear deterrent. Although it has some shortfalls, this shift signals the United Kingdom’s intent to reclaim a position of global naval leadership and will undoubtedly present new opportunities for enhanced U.S.-U.K. bilateral cooperation.