Standard Warfare May Be Eclipsed By Nation-Building

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By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security.

The doctrine, which has generated intense debate in the U.S. military establishment and government, holds that in coming years, American troops are not likely to engage in major ground combat against hostile states as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead will frequently be called upon to operate in lawless areas to safeguard populations and rebuild countries.

Such "stability operations" will last longer and ultimately contribute more to the military's success than "traditional combat operations," according to the Army's new Stability Operations Field Manual, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

"This is the document that bridges from conflict to peace," said Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where the manual was drafted over the past 10 months. The U.S. military "will never secure the peace until we can conduct stability operations in a collaborative manner" with civilian government and private entities at home and abroad, he said.

The stability operations doctrine is an engine that will drive Army resources, organization and training for years to come, Caldwell said, and Army officials already have detailed plans to execute it. The operations directive underpinning the manual "elevated stability operations to a status equal to that of the offense and defense," the manual reads, describing the move as a "fundamental change in emphasis" for the Army.

Yet the concept has drawn fire from all sides: Military critics say it will weaken heavy war-fighting skills -- using tanks and artillery -- that have already atrophied during years of counterinsurgency campaigns. For their part, civilian officials and nongovernmental groups with scarce resources say armed forces are filling the gap, but at the cost of encroaching upon their traditional overseas missions.

Military advocates argue that the Army has long been called upon for peacekeeping and rebuilding in unstable areas, but that it has conducted those operations an ad hoc fashion because of an excessive focus on combat. "Contrary to popular belief, the military history of the United States is characterized by stability operations, interrupted by distinct episodes of major combat," states the manual, saying that, out of hundreds of U.S. military operations since the American Revolution, only 11 were conventional wars.

From Panama in 1989 to Haiti to the 1991 Persian Gulf War to Iraq in 2003, Caldwell said he has seen the Army "confronted with having to conduct stability operations woefully unprepared."

In 1989, for example, Caldwell was the chief of a military planning team preparing for the 82nd Airborne Division's role in the invasion of Panama. "We never once talked about once we took down [Gen. Manuel] Noriega, what then," he said. "We only thought about the clenched fist, and someone else would get the trash picked up and get the water plants working." After Noriega's power structure fell, Caldwell's superiors ordered him to put police back on the streets. "We all panicked," Caldwell recalled.

Today, such fragile states, if neglected, will pose mounting risks for the United States, according to Lt. Col. Steve Leonard, the manual's lead author. Weak states "create vast ungoverned areas that are breeding grounds for the threats that we fear the most, criminal networks, international terrorists, ethnic strife, genocide," he said. "The argument against it is: Forget all that; you still have . . . near peer competitors who are on the verge of closing the superpower gap."

The new manual aims to orchestrate and plan for a range of military tasks to stabilize ungoverned nations: protecting the people; aiding reconstruction; providing aid and public services; building institutions and security forces; and, in severe cases, forming transitional U.S. military-led governments.

In doing so, the manual adds to a growing body of doctrine focused on the military's nontraditional skills, most notably the Army's 2006 counterinsurgency manual, overseen by Gen. David H. Petraeus, Caldwell's predecessor at the Fort Leavenworth command. "It's certainly going to shape how we will allocate resources and how we direct training," said Col. Mike Redmond, director of the Army's stability operations division, who is executing an action plan to implement the doctrine with 157 different initiatives, such as directing the Army's medical command to develop plans advising foreign health ministries.


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