Journal of Strategic Security

Call for Papers 2023

Special Issue: Urban Security

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres pointed out at a recent Security Council meeting, that “50 million people currently face the dire consequences of urban warfare” and that “when explosive weapons are used in cities, 90 percent of those affected are civilians.”[1] Urban warfare has long been minimized in insurgency and counterinsurgency (COIN) studies with a focus on the rural environment, despite the historical significance of urban insurgency in the 20th century, e.g. the Tupamaros and Marighella.[2] The emphasis on rural COIN may have been based upon the US experience in Vietnam and Afghanistan, the rise of Mao in China, its implications, and 20th century demographics.[3] However, as the global population increases, there are myriad reasons why conventional and unconventional conflict will tend toward the urban.

Scholar-practitioners such as David Kilcullen,[4] Anthony King,[5] Jamison Medby and Russell Glenn,[6] have pointed out the presence of megatrends which increase the likelihood the world will face more urban conflict. These mega-trends include population growth, increased urbanization, increased growth of cities on coasts, and the advantages urban environments have for connectivity. As Kilcullen points out, rising sea levels due to climate change endanger the cities where growth is likely to occur. Further, in many urban settings, “ungoverned spaces” are really “alternatively authority and [places of] softened sovereignty;”[7] be they governed by warlords, insurgencies, militias, pirates, or profit-seeking criminal groups in forms of ‘synergistic violence.’[8] The security community has also increasingly recognized that mega-cities, defined as cities of more than 10 million people, are increasingly likely to be the sites of urban conflict.[9]

Scholars such as Medby and Glenn (2002) have long pointed to the importance of urban intelligence in conflict and the role of “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” (IPB), an analytical approach to understanding how an urban adversary might react in various situations given terrain and other contingent factors.[10] In a testament to the growing interest in urban security there have been numerous anthologies, edited volumes, and collections published on the subject in recent years. For example, scholars such as Glass, Seybolt, and Williams (2022) focused an edited volume on the importance of urban violence resilience with a focus on the global south.[11] The Small Wars Journal recently published an anthology on urban warfare and its consequences entitled Blood and Concrete which anthologized many of the key pieces from the famous Small Wars Journal website.[12]

The conflict in Ukraine has opened the world’s eyes to the horrors of urban warfare. Urban warfare will be a part of the return of great power conflict, be it in the form of revanchist/irredentist powers such as a Russia and China, or in the defense of national sovereignty by democracies such as Ukraine and the West. Scholar practitioners such as John Spencer have written urban warfare guides and handbooks which have been distributed to urban defenders in recent urban warfare in Ukraine. His website contains a Ukrainian translation in addition to an English version of his Mini-Manual for the Urban Defender.[13] The uptake of the manual from US personal computer to social media, to the battlefield, demonstrates the real-world implications of scholar-practitioner activity in urban security. This special issue of the Journal of Strategic Security hopes to add to the important literature on Urban Security by receiving and peer reviewing high quality submissions in accordance with the Journal’s high publishing standards.

Below is a list of urban security issues the special issue editors would like to see submissions on:

  • Conflict in Megacities (10 million or more)
  • Police-Military Intelligence interface in urban conflict
  • Insurrection
  • Urban-littoral nexus
  • Information warfare in support of urban conflict
  • Urban insurgency
  • Urban Terrorism
  • Criminal governance in cities (Slums/Favelas)
  • Criminal Armed Groups (CAGs) in cities
  • Social Media and Urban Conflict
  • Climate Conflict in Cities (Urban-Climate Conflict Nexus)
  • Urban counterterrorism
  • Urban counterinsurgency (COIN)
  • Urban Riots and Public Order
  • Intelligence for Urban Operations (e.g., GeoINT)
  • Urban policing
  • Urban critical infrastructure protection including urban cyber security
  • Humanitarian operations and protection of civilians in urban conflict
  • Medical and humanitarian response to urban crises and disasters

Please follow manuscript submission guidelines for drafts.


Special Issue Editors
John P. Sullivan globalwarning1@gmail.com
Nathan P. Jones: nxj008@shsu.edu
Daniel Weisz Argomedo

Key Dates
Abstract submissions to special issue editors February 1, 2023 (250-word maximum)
Draft submissions for blind peer review June 1, 2023
Projected Special Issue Publication Fall 2023


[1] “Urban Warfare Devastates 50 Million People Worldwide, Speakers Tell Security Council, Calling for Effective Tools to End Impunity, Improve Humanitarian Response,” (Security Council, January 25, 2022), https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14775.doc.htm.
[2] John P. Sullivan and Nathan P. Jones, “Bandits, Urban Guerrillas, and Criminal Insurgents: Crime and Resistance in Latin America,” in The Routledge Handbook of Latin America and the Caribbean (Twentieth and Twenty-First Century)ed. Pablo Baisotti (New York: Routledge, 2021).
[3] David Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015); Mao Tse-tung, Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare, trans. Samuel B. Griffith, FMFRP 12-18 (Washington, DC: U.S. Marine Corps, 1989), https://www.marines.mil/Portals/1/Publications/FMFRP%2012-18%20%20Mao%20Tse-tung%20on%20Guerrilla%20Warfare.pdf.
[4] Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.
[5] Anthony King, Urban Warfare in the Twenty-First Century (Medford: Polity, 2021).
[6] Jamison Jo. Medby and Russell W. Glenn, Street Smart: Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield for Urban Operations (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2002), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA411686.pdf.
[7] Anne L. Clunan and Harold A. Trinkunas, Ungoverned Spaces: Alternatives to State Authority in an Era of Softened Sovereignty (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), 19.
[8] Howard Campbell, “Downtown Juárez,” in Downtown Juárez: Underworlds of Violence and Abuse (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2022), 19.
[9] Dave Dillege, Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, and Anna Keshavarz., eds., Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities, A Small Wars Journal Anthology (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2019), https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Concrete-Conflict-Megacities-Anthology/dp/1984573756.
[10] Jamison Jo. Medby and Russell W. Glenn, Street Smart: Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield for Urban Operations (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2002), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA411686.pdf.
[11] Michael R. Glass, Taylor B. Seybolt, and Phil Williams, “Introduction to Urban Violence, Resilience and Security,” in Urban Violence, Resilience and Security: Governance Responses in the Global South (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022).
[12] Dave Dillege, Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, and Anna Keshavarz., eds., Blood and Concrete.
[13] John Spencer, The Mini-Manual for the Urban Defender: A Guide to Strategies and Tactics for Defending a City, Fourth Version, April 3, 2022, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/622cbafd4ab19b7c0966d469/t/624b0fcc746c1e4ec5984cd6/1649086413544/Mini_Manual_Spencerv4_English_03APR22v2.pdf; John Spencer, “John Spencer Online,” Professional, John Spencer, 2022, https://www.johnspenceronline.com/urban-warfare.