David M. Last


David M. Last


Grey Zones and Modern War

This is a book project for the Working Group on War Studies of the ISMS,  led by Marzena Zakowska of the War Studies University, for which I am a co-editor. Most security professionals in most countries will not spend their careers on the battlefield. We pursue security in complex grey zones of fluctuating threats and risks that fall below the threshold of outright war. We cannot control climate change, space-based assets, the cyber environment, or non-state actors, but they affect our security. We must develop policies and strategies, manage strategic intelligence, logistics and periodic crises with the limited resources of small states and careful use of international cooperation. We have difficult choices to make about alliances, alignments, and national autonomy. As security professionals, we will be judged by our ability to deter and manage violence below the threshold of war in difficult neighbourhoods of state and non-state actors, often influenced by major powers and coalitions. And our states themselves are changing, at risk of eroding social cohesion and facing new tensions between identities, genders, and generations as the world around us changes. This book for mid-career professionals introduces novel challenges and provides exercises to design strategies and solutions for the grey zone and contemporary conflicts.

Springer Handbook of Military Sciences

The Springer Handbook of Military Sciences was launched in 2017 and is supported by the International Society of Military Sciences, a consortium of defence universities in small democratic countries. My responsibility is for Section VII on the Military Profession.  Funded by the Norwegian Defence University College it is a free full-text online major reference work aimed at mid-career officers undertaking professional research, usually in the context of staff college.  Chapters are posted continuously, and can be accessed here.

Security Education Working Group (ISMS)

Working Group 9 of the International Society of Military Sciences was established in 2011. Further details can be found on ISMS Web Site.  Current projects include the Handbook on Field Studies in Peace and Conflict aimed at cadets and young officers, and an effort to re-establish a web 2.0 site for sharing information for educational institutions. Links have been established with European Security and Defence College (ESCD), NATO Defence Education Enhancement Project (DEEP), the International Symposium on Development of Military Academies (ISoDoMA) and the recently formed International Association of Military Academies (IAMA) which addresses pre-commissioning institutions.  We are collecting contributions for a special issue on higher military education.

ERGOMAS Military and Police Relations Working Group

I have been involved in this working group since it was founded in 2009, and currently co-chair it with Marina Caparini of the United Nations University. The ERGOMAS web site can be found here.  Military, paramilitary, and police forces can be conceived as a continuum for the management of violence, with culturally specific rules and legal frameworks.  Bringing military forces under rule of law in international peace support operations makes them more like a constabulary force. Conversely, the militarization of police using targeting to deal with domestic enemies can escalate violence. I am studying mixed military and police roles in international political economy. What do security professionals need to understand about political economy in order to execute their roles effectively given the changing nature of the state and its competitors - corporations and organized crime?

The next ERGOMAS biennial conference will be held in Krakow, Poland in June 2024. The Working Group theme will be: ““The Grey Zone: Policing Transnational Crime in conflict affected and high risk areas.”  The Grey Zone is the ambiguous area between unequivocal war and positive peace. Here crime and violence are used by state and non-state actors alike. Military, paramilitary, and police organizations responsive to state governments and international organizations increasingly operate in this grey zone, where money-laundering, mercenaries, drugs, guns, people-smuggling, slavery, survival migration, environmental crime, and corporate collusion may work to advance state, corporate, and criminal interests. The Grey Zone is familiar to us from the Cold War and the post-Cold War stabilization operations but in the new era of rivalry with Russia and China, longstanding Western corporate and criminal transgressions are recast as national security liabilities.  

This is a privately hosted personal website. RMC, DND, and Government of Canada are not responsible for its content.  Last updated June 2023.

David Last, CD, PhD

Associate Professor, Political Science

Royal Military College of Canada

Call: +1(613)532-3002

David M. Last

Phone: +1 1234 5678