Rumblings across the Civil-Military Divide
Gerard Bradford, III
As we mark Ghazi Yawar’s appointment to interim President of Iraq and anticipate an Iraqi transitional government’s emergence on June 30, there are as many questions as answers about the military’s role in promoting a secure and prosperous Iraqi society. How events in Iraq and Afghanistan will impact the international relief community over the long haul also remains to be seen. Recent violent events in Kosovo and Haiti, places thought to be in successful transition after substantial investment of blood and treasure, remind us that the recovery process ahead will be long, uneven, unpredictable
Reflecting on recent trends, many who pay attention to the nature and evolution of civil-military relations, as they concern NGOs, are seriously worried. This pessimism appears to have begun with the military’s first simultaneous combat and relief operations in Afghan-istan and then in Iraq where, in both cases, Clauswitz’s notion of war as ‘an extension of politics by other means’ seemed to be turned on its head. So many decades after the Marshall Plan, and with Bosnia and Kosovo still fresh memories, civil politics and political action seem again rediscovered as critical extensions of combat operations in efforts toward sustainable peace. In these conflicts and the broader global war on terrorism, politics (and humanitarian action) have now become ‘an extension of war by other means.’
Some humanitarians, observing behaviors around reconstruction projects in Basra and Herat, express concern about the direction civil-military relations already seem to have taken. At the same time, they recognize their views of current events as mere snapshots in a much bigger dynamic (Jurisic). Others lament their lack of success in efforts to inform decision makers about the constructive role humanitarian agencies can play in transition before our recent military interventions began. They also worry how effective education of the military will be accomplished in the future (Bishop, Jurisic). Another dimension of concern, one strongly shared by military leaders, is the civil-military relationship between combat forces and those in whose interests they fight. To roughly quote one relief worker in Afghanistan, “the military does not have its finger on the pulse of local communities, even though they think they do.” Perhaps this problem is less attributable to our military culture than our North American culture.
The humanitarian community is understandably asking “What now?” Animated discussion and focused research are well underway to address these issues (Bishop). The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the US Institute for Peace, and other institutions have raised the importance of civil-military relations in emergencies where combat and nation building must occur simultaneously. Even the US Congress is getting into the act, literally, through its Stabilization and Reconstruction Civilian Management Act, introduced by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and now under debate. The legislation proposes to develop a comprehensive plan for the U.S. to carry out nation building in a more systematic fashion. As currently designed, the U.S. Department of State would take the lead in implementation, rather than the U.S. Department of Defense, no doubt in recognition of the key role others in the international community must play to achieve success.
Nation building, in the words of Senator Lugar, is the hope against terrorism. Replacing one relatively stable regime, however reprehensible, with another relatively stable regime, however benign, requires the coordinated efforts of the full range of U.S. civil and military capabilities, in concert with diverse appendages of many other nation-states, the United Nations and many other institutions. It also requires that these states and institutions are aware and competent enough to perform synchronously the myriad of diverse tasks essential for sustainable peace.
Not long ago, a highly experienced senior officer from a nation in the Asia Pacific, after many years of involvement in the kinetic aspects of warfare, made an observation that was striking. Speaking of our collective effort in the global war on terrorism he said “our success will not be measured in how many terrorists we kill, but how many come over to our side.” Whatever their role in controlled violence for political means, a significant group and perhaps even a majority of our colleagues in uniform recognize the critical importance of clean water, jobs, schools and a judicial system in attaining sustainable peace. Engaged civilian agencies and militaries share the challenge of sorting out roles and adjusting to this reality. Implicit are the decisions that must be made about levels of support and the division of labor by nations and their armies, non-state actors such as non-governmental organizations and nations acting collectively within the UN system. COE places special importance in its role to promote more effective means to achieve this unity of purpose by bringing significant contributors to the process together. We will continue to do so.
As we go to press, competencies are already being improved within the US Department of Defense and other defense related organizations at the strategic, operational and tactical levels. Within the past few months, COE has been working with the Marine Force Pacific staff in an initiative to develop measures of effectiveness in conflict transition, specifically for use by their deployed forces in Iraq. The Marines want to know how to measure their success in supporting transition from war to peace in Iraq. Their design allows for the input of independent observers in a “reach-back” capability to non-military organizations (essentially non-governmental organizations). Our Marines understand that reliable feedback will help them adjust their activities to maximize progress toward stability and their own demobilization. At the policy level, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness published a strategic plan to transform training within the department as far back as March 2002. It emphasized, “dynamic, capabilities-based training…across the full spectrum of service, joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational operations.” An implementation plan was published in June 2003, and a series of conferences, symposia and workshops that address various aspects are being held at the National Defense University, all part of the build-up to the development of joint training doctrine that meets new challenges.
We at COE take heart in the debate and quality of all of these efforts. We hope the
discussion will continue.