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ICG Risk Blog - [ The Warfighter Insurgency: Focus on kinetics, coupled with resistance to stability ops, threatens US success in future war ]

The Warfighter Insurgency: Focus on kinetics, coupled with resistance to stability ops, threatens US success in future war


Kinetics is what the military does. Iraq is a quagmire because kinetics is all we planned for. [Thomas P.M. Barnett]

Unintended consequences of "Go Kinetic"

Army assets cannot satisfy their "other" doctrinal responsibility "to conduct Civil-Military Operations" - which in terms of Iraq is to make any lasting progress in the Siamese twins of counterinsurgency and stability operations - when the last words they hear departing the Joint Readiness Training Command (JRTC) are "Go Kinetic" first, last and always. (Broadly speaking, kinetics are weapons and munitions.)

There is a movement within the US Army called the "Warfighter Insurgency" that continues to espouse a preference for kinetic operations. If US ground assets are unable to perform Post Conflict Stability Operations because they are neither trained in, or believe in, Civil Military Operations, they cannot hope to stabilize Iraq themselves or teach Iraqi assets to do it themselves. (Anecdotal evidence shows marines performing better than the army in this regard.)

I have long felt that good counterinsurgency (COIN) was indistinguishable from post combat operations (PCO), and that the boundary line had much to do with the diminishing K-factor (Kinetics). (Big-K being reserved for Combat Operations while a diminishing-K feathers out through COIN and PCO.) In Best Practices in Counterinsurgency, Sepp defines "Successful and Unsuccessful Counterinsurgency Practices":

  • Successful
    • Emphasis on intelligence.
    • Focus on population, their needs, and security.
    • Secure areas established, expanded.
    • Insurgents isolated from population (population control).
    • Single authority (charismatic/dynamic leader).
    • Effective, pervasive psychological operations (PSYOP) campaigns.
    • Amnesty and rehabilitation for insurgents.
    • Police in lead; military supporting.
    • Police force expanded, diversified.
    • Conventional military forces reoriented for counterinsurgency.
    • Special Forces, advisers embedded with indigenous forces.
    • Insurgent sanctuaries denied.
  • Unsuccessful
    • Primacy of military direction of counterinsurgency.
    • Priority to "kill-capture" enemy, not on engaging population.
    • Battalion-size operations as the norm.
    • Military units concentrated on large bases for protection.
    • Special Forces focused on raiding.
    • Adviser effort a low priority in personnel assignment.
    • Building, training indigenous army in image of U.S. Army.
    • Peacetime government processes.
    • Open borders, airspace, coastlines.

The observations of a colleague, Stephen Henthorne, a Post Conflict Stability and Humanitarian Assistance expert, on the warfighters' prioritization for successful counterinsurgency ops virtually insure our failure in Iraq or any future combat theater that demands solutions other than massive applications of firepower:

[The] ground truth remains that the "Warfighters," that control the bulk of the Army, decided shortly after 9-11 to rearrange the categories [to] look like the following":

  • Successful K Counterinsurgency Practices.
    • Primacy of military direction of counterinsurgency.
    • Emphasis on intelligence, IO. EBO [Effects-based Operations] to better target, kill-capture the enemy.
    • Effective, pervasive psychological operations (PSYOP) campaigns, but only to assist Intel gain.
    • Priority to "kill-capture" enemy, not on engaging population except when necessary to gain Intel.
    • Battalion-size operations as the norm.
    • Military units concentrated on large bases for protection.
    • Special Forces focused on raiding.
    • Adviser effort a low priority in personnel assignment.
    • Building, training indigenous army in image of U.S. Army, but only in kinetic ops.
    • No concern about Peacetime government processes.
    • Open borders, airspace, coastlines only if beneficial to the kinetic mission.
    • Military in lead; Police supporting, but minimized.
    • The Warrior ethos perpetuated and passed on to the native units being trained.

The only forces in the middle East that seem to be conducting successful combat and stability ops at present are the enemy...

[The] actual ground truth [is] that the C2, if not the entire Army planning process is broken. This has serious consequences for not only the conflicts we are in now--but future conflicts as well. [personal emails]

UK leads the US in stabilization ops

Warfighters, please pay attention; even the machismo Columbians are attempting Stability Operations and Civil Military Affairs in FARC country while New York City reduces gang violence with social resources. Surely you can do far better. The RUSI Land Warfare Conference on 5 June, 2007 in London illustrated the breadth of opinion between the US and other attendees on stability:

Present and speaking on Day 1 were --in order---Gen Dannett UK CGS, Gen. Wallace, French, German, Italian, Canadian and Swedish CGS or Deputies. They all addressed Stability Ops except Gen. Wallace [CG United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)], who listed it as a number 7 priority on one of his ending slides. [personal email]

Here the head of the UK's Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit, Richard Teuten, defined Stabilization and Post-Conflict Reconstruction for the British:

In both [Basra and Helmand], the international community is seeking to establish stability in a country emerging from a violent conflict, where the state is unable to deliver its basic responsibilities, and is faced by widespread armed opposition that requires the presence of an international peace enforcement force. "Stabilisation" is a more appropriate description. I mean by this, "the process by which underlying tensions that might lead to resurgence in violence and a break-down in law and order are managed and reduced, whilst efforts are made to support the preconditions for successful longer-term development". Whilst there is no internationally agreed definition, this interpretation is equivalent to the term "stabilisation and transformation" used jointly by the UN and World Bank in their Post-Conflict Needs Assessment, and "stabilisation, security, transition and reconstruction used by the US Government. [Directive 3000.05]

Stabilisation operations combine military, political and development actions. Military intervention seeks to assist in the disarmament and demobilisation of armed opposition, to start the process of building effective security forces and to provide the security needed for the efforts of other actors. Political engagement, both internally and externally, seeks to ensure that there is a workable inclusive settlement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict and promotes reconciliation. Capacity building support seeks to enable the government to extend its authority. This means laying the foundations for the rule of law and basic economic governance. It also means putting in place the building blocks for sustainable development through supporting basic infrastructure and service delivery, and a framework for the private sector. Underpinning all these must be effective strategic communication, both in the country concerned and at home, to avoid unrealistic expectations and sustain support. All these lines of operation are, of course, interdependent. As in the oft cited analogy, the intertwined strands of a piece of rope are stronger than the individual strands themselves. We can only win by taking a comprehensive approach.

From an exchange between myself and Henthorne:

I have found 1992 General Officer (GO) traffic on areas needing focus and there was stability ops front and center. I began to wonder if this was like the RUSI presentation where stability ops were seventh on the list but that the presenter was not bought in. Once thrown away as part of the Viet Nam debacle, did it become the perpetual bridesmaid, always in the picture but never receiving central focus?"

Absolutely spot on. Never in Central Focus, and later--never felt to be Warrior like. Many of the key GOs today are old Armor Officers whose hearts and minds are still waiting for that last big Fulda Gap battle. For at least a decade they were trained for nothing else.

I think but I cannot prove (or have not researched enough) that the general military dislike for Spec Ops that rose against Kennedy's creation of the Special Forces has never really gone away. It is a nagging feeling but do not yet have the proof in hand. Your comments on COIN being seen as part of a failed enterprise was interesting.

Absolutely spot on again. Things got worse when Spec Ops became an independent entity within the Army, and then was seen to basically run the Army when Gen. Schoomaker was brought out of retirement to be CAS. The regular Army has always resented the Spec Ops side. That's why the Black Beret was taken away from the Rangers and issued Army wide. The silent message being "The whole Army is Elite." This remains the really hidden conflict within the Army--Spec Ops Vs. Everyone Else.

I sometimes wonder if the shift the COIN/Stability is seen by regular army as making them into the very model that they spent so many years attempting to dismantle.

Absolutely spot on again. Three home runs in one e-mail…. The Army is in crisis, very serious crisis. How it weather's this crisis will determine this nation's national security in the future. [The] bright hope for this country is the USMC, Navy and Air Force. All who have the desire to do it right, just lacking the manpower and money. [personal email]

It is especially sad to read the GAO's recent Actions Needed to Improve DOD's Stability Operations Approach and Enhance Interagency Planning. Having participated in responses to GAO reports, I know that you have to read the interim responses of affected units to GAO recommendations as well as the report itself. The analysis and recommendations completely miss the central failure that there is resistance within the army to genuinely integrate and adopt stability operations.

It is my understanding from conversations with other colleagues that Wallace returned from London chastened and for the moment possessed of a new attention to Stability Ops. Henthorne's comment would appear to bear that out:

[Wallace] drafted "Training and Development Command Tasking Order IN501709," dated 15 June, 2007, and currently marked [FOUO]… General Wallace returned from London recognizing that "there is a recognized need to provide the Geographical Combatant Commanders (GCCs) with flexible, scalable, tailorable forces and cadres of theater specialists that have language, cultural, social, operational and historical acumen that can be tapped for building partnership capacity, in crisis, and for planning and execution of deliberate operations. These organizations will serve to establish, engage in, reinforce, and ensure the functions of building partnership capacity and aiding in the establishment of persistent security. They will also serve to assist Genera Purpose Forces in performing tasks previously in the sole realm of Special Operations Forces in the past. Personnel involved with the missions inherent to these types of organizations and functions must understand the cultural, historical, political, religious, and language aspects of the diverse societies in which our Soldiers and other Service members or citizens will potentially operate."

What he is referring to here is reforming the current Civil-Affairs units, presently conducting Civil-Military Operations, into "Future Theater Military Advisory and Assistance Group (TMAAG-F);" and he has tasked his subordinate commanders to seriously study the concept, and come up with courses of action for his approval no later than 01 December, 2007.

These studies are "to address the feasibility of establishing organizations assigned to each Geographic Combatant Commander that will coordinate, conduct, support, and sustain initial and steady-state security assistance, and building partnership capacity operations. This organization, called a Future Theater Military Advisory and Assistance Group (TMAAG-F), would ensure the availability and readiness of all military service assets required to support these missions; like foreign area officers or specialists; Individual Ready Reserve Soldier specialists; or military doctors, nurses, dentists, or veterinarians); or inter-agency or contract specialists like Foreign Service Officers, economists, agricultural specialists, law enforcement specialists, telecommunications or information technology specialists, firefighters, major construction specialists, or business developers."… [personal email]

Henthorne and I agree that Wallace's plan appears to rename and enhance Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations to perform the role that they should be doing today. Henthorne and I have long memories; There is a vague resemblance of Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam (MACV), and before that the Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Indochina (MAAG-Indochina) to the Future Theater Military Advisory and Assistance Group (TMAAG-F). Henthorne believes that "all roads still lead to the Fulda Gap somewhere in this process." [personal email]

Trying to remake the army; lone voices

With the hindsight of thirty years of Civil-Military Operations (CMO), Henthorne addressed an excruciatingly detailed 2004 critique of the Army’s ability "to conduct long-term stability/civil-military operations" to then CAS Peter Schoomaker. Its salient point was that Schoomaker's goal to "make an all out effort to improve [the Army's] capacity to conduct Stability/Civil-Military Operations, and to bring the Army into compliance with [SecDef's instruction to] adjust their doctrine, organizations, training, and exercise plans to ensure that U.S. forces develop a core competency in stability operations capabilities," was, however "laudable and truly necessary," "doomed to failure; at least in our lifetime":

You might well say that such training is currently being conducted at our various national training centers, the NTC/JRTC, around the country. Unfortunately, setting aside the fact that neither the quality, nor quantity, of that type of training is really happening, there are three main reasons why the current initiative to ensure that U.S. Forces, in this case the U.S. Army, develop a core competency in stability operations capabilities will fail, as it has failed repeatedly through at least the last three administrations, i.e.:

  1. The inability, or unwillingness, of the maneuver leadership of the U.S. Army to truly embrace Stability/Civil-Military Operations as the major military mission of the 21st. Century.
  2. The fog of tons of conflicting doctrine which increasingly bogs the U.S. Army down.
  3. The fact that the training system of the U.S. Army is seriously divided, diverted, and just plain broken; especially at our national training centers (CTCs).

Henthorne's primary point is that:

[We] are not winning the Peace in Iraq because we are not training to do that task, as a result we can't stabilize Iraq, nor can we train the Iraqis to do it either. This lack of training is due to a "Warfighter Insurgency" within the US Army, which still espouses, although subtle, kinetic operations as their preferred method… Finally, truly no one is listening."...

"Warfighter Insurgency"… is an insurgency against the expressed mandate of [DOD Directive] 3000.5 to enhance [the] Army's ability to conduct post conflict stability ops, it is done with malice a forethought, in secret where possible, and with the intent to maintain the Army's kinetic mission as paramount… [Henthorne amply describes warfighter insurgency in this Petraeus draft]

[It] is possible for the Army to successfully transition to Phase 4 Operations [post combat operations], if properly trained, and the operation properly planned. The "Warfighter Insurgency" is preventing that from happening. [personal emails]

The upshot is that we are getting soldiers killed needlessly. Henthorne has redefined victory appropriate to a 4GW environment, whereas the majority of US forces are still being trained to fight a 3GW effort. As shown in Iraq, when warfighters carry those 3GW tools and mindset into a 4GW environment, they get manhandled. If warfighters were executing a 4GW effort they could more easily and safely perform their primary combat mission while reasonably having more resources for noncombat operations.

Henthorne's assessment to Schoomaker is the best statement of the Stability Operations problem that I have seen to date; I recommend it without reservation, along with his May 2007 reply to Petraeus describing current conditions at the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) level, to those who want to understand what needs to be fixed in order to address future wars, not to mention improving the diplomatic maneuver of the US. Yes, it is monstrously hard to configure an entire army to deal with both 3GW and 4GW threats simultaneously. It is even more difficult when a political elite is attempting to preserve itself at the expense of said military by pushing them into the fray. Unfortunately, the Chinese and Russians are listening as are the 4GW insurgents.

Today's inability to deal with Iraq, or Afghanistan for that matter, by kinetics alone has a long history of institutional resistance. From Paul Yingling's A failure in generalship:

America's defeat in Vietnam is the most egregious failure in the history of American arms. [The jury on Iraq is still out.] America's general officer corps refused to prepare the Army to fight unconventional wars, despite ample indications that such preparations were in order. Having failed to prepare for such wars, America's generals sent our forces into battle without a coherent plan for victory. Unprepared for war and lacking a coherent strategy, America lost the war and the lives of more than 58,000 service members.

Following World War II, there were ample indicators that America's enemies would turn to insurgency to negate our advantages in firepower and mobility. The French experiences in Indochina and Algeria offered object lessons to Western armies facing unconventional foes... In 1961, President Kennedy warned of "another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin — war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by evading and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him."

Despite the experience of their allies and the urging of their president, America's generals failed to prepare their forces for counterinsurgency... the Army viewed the conflict in Vietnam in conventional terms... While the Army made minor organizational adjustments at the urging of the president, the generals clung to what Andrew Krepinevich has called "the Army concept," a vision of warfare focused on the destruction of the enemy's forces.

Having failed to visualize accurately the conditions of combat in Vietnam, America's generals prosecuted the war in conventional terms. The U.S. military embarked on a graduated attrition strategy intended to compel North Vietnam to accept a negotiated peace... America's generals not only failed to develop a strategy for victory in Vietnam, but also remained largely silent while the strategy developed by civilian politicians led to defeat.

As the Iron Majors sought to rebuild a disgraced force to best a Soviet adversary, they built an army that forgot the lessons of Viet Nam as those lessons would not apply to a Soviet threat. The analogy I use is rods and cones, as in the black/white and color vision receptors of the human eye. The iron majors built a superb force tuned only to rods to better see their Soviet counterpart (and all established forces look for an opposing peer rather than a difficult to identify asymmetric). Deprived of cones, they do not see, cannot see, the colored nuances of COIN/PCO/Stability. In other words, their sensor network is partially blinded, their feedback loop see PCO/Stability as bad/erroneous data as opposed to merely different data, and their processor logic does not assign equal weight to anything akin to PCO/Stability ops.

Henthorne's response:

Great analogy, with one tiny missing part. the Army just didn't forget the lessons learned in Vietnam, they made a concentrated effort to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The mindset was "Vietnam was a defeat, therefore everything related to Vietnam was bad ju ju, and should be cast out. We had good stability ops programs in Vietnam--and other programs of value--but they were considered part of a failed strategy.

The Iron Curtain had really been in existence since March 5, 1946, and planning for confrontation with Russia had been ongoing since as early as 1920. However I like your Rods and Cones because after Vietnam the Army had only the Fulda Gap and Russia to prepare for----or so they thought. [personal email]

The long tail of Fulda Gap

Fulda Gap and the Wetterau Corridor describes the shortest route from the former DDR to Frankfurt and the Rhine River. Just as it was the path of the US Third Army "from its Rhine bridgehead near Frankfurt onward to Leipzig and the heart of Germany," it was assumed to be the preferred Soviet/Warsaw Pact transit in reverse in the event of a US/NATO/Soviet encounter. (The North German Plain alternate "is traversed by two major rivers and a maze of shipping canals with steep banks… is about twice as long as the Fulda Gap and... reaches the Rhine where it is about twice as wide as in the Frankfurt - Wiesbaden sector.")

Fulda Gap "was in broad use all the way up to NATO" by 1980. I submit that Fulda still captivates much of US military thinking today, notably in the General Officer (GO) ranks whereas many sergeants, lieutenants and captains are now shaped by Iraq:

[The] Fulda Gap scenario was not as much about fighting in the Fulda Gap as it was about providing a model for fighting a significant modern armored threat on short notice in a mature theater. U.S. forces were forward deployed with little or no asymmetric threat. At a strategic level, the intent was to deter attack and if attacked, successfully defend while being prepared to escalate to tactical nuclear or strategic nuclear warfare. During the Cold War, the Army trained other scenarios, but the Fulda Gap scenario represented the clear priority for training the heavy force. The National Training Center and professional development courses used the Fulda Gap template adapted to local terrain to train. The Gulf War, in many ways, conformed to the Fulda Gap scenario.

Fulda Gap's long tail was evident in 2003, when the likelihood of a massed Russian tank attack against the west was moot, TRADOC could still describe the new primary planning scenario, Caspian Sea, as "the next most dangerous situation" facing the US: 

The Caspian Sea scenario is not about fighting in the Caspian Sea area, but is all about the next most dangerous situation U.S. forces are likely to face. In many ways, it follows the 1950-53 Korean War scenario. Country A (South Korea) is attacked by Country B (North Korea). The U.S. comes to the assistance of Country A. The thrust of the scenario is how does the U.S. enter the battle area and build-up sufficient forces to achieve its national goals. The scenario is further complicated by Country C (China), which threatens to enter the conflict, especially during the buildup phase when the U.S. is most vulnerable.

The Korean scenario provides national decisionmakers with significant geopolitical issues. The situation becomes more complicated when adding an asymmetric threat like we saw during Vietnam. The Caspian Sea scenario is about getting credible force into the area of operations and deterring aggression by Country C. In the scenario, the arrival of U.S. heavy forces represents endgame. At this point, we dominate the battlefield. After heavy forces arrive in the area, they must be prepared to conduct combat operations against the heavy threat presented by Country C while providing self-protection against an asymmetric threat that specifically targets U.S. vulnerabilities.

The failure of warfighter kinetics in complex political-military operations

Kinetics (weapons and their munitions) are increasingly insufficient to address and satisfactorily conclude combat operations without blowback and sever unintended consequences:

Most of the generals and politicians did not think through the consequences of compelling American soldiers with no knowledge of Arabic or Arab culture to implement intrusive measures inside an Islamic society. We arrested people in front of their families, dragging them away in handcuffs with bags over their heads, and then provided no information to the families of those we incarcerated. In the end, our soldiers killed, maimed and incarcerated thousands of Arabs, 90 percent of whom were not the enemy. But they are now. [Douglas Macgregor]...

Analysis begins by determining why our forces in Iraq are ill equipped. One senior government official faults the Cold War and an opponent that was easy to find but hard to kill. That resultant preference for platforms and weapons still drives the defense budget. Regrettably, this priority on kinetics caused a reduction in funds for technologies and tactics essential to "find and fix" an elusive adversary.

Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has turned that force model on its head. Adversaries in this asymmetric conflict are easy to kill—a single 19-cent bullet is sufficient, noted one senior military officer—but insurgents who meld into the population are hard to find and even harder to keep fixed until engaged [Alan D. Campen]...

And from the superb 2004 Fourth Generation Warfare & OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency previously cited in this weblog. (See CENTCOM Indications & Warning (I&W) validate Iraqi civil war: Indications without limit but warning politically ignored and Indications and Warning (I&W):

Iraqi insurgents have an affinity for dense urban terrain and populations offering enhanced media opportunities. Areas we must address are:

  • Separating insurgents, especially in cyberspace via media, from the population that provides passive and active support
  • Trumping insurgents’ media exposure
  • Influencing the population against the insurgents
  • Coordinating counterinsurgency actions over a wide area and for a long time

The above require an extremely capable intelligence infrastructure and strategic communications. Both are key in getting beyond just kinetics. There must be an investment in human resources, IO, cultural intelligence, and strategic communications...

Kinetics attract attention … media centric events
Potential for collateral damage and media exploitation always present, especially in urban areas even with precision strikes.
Kinetic effects compounded by collateral damage or appearance thereof, tends to underwrite and/ or license further violence against "occupying" forces … kinetics include torture and other abuses...

While important, there is frequently fixation with the physical or kinetic level of war—to the virtual exclusion of the more powerful mental & moral levels.
What we do at the physical or kinetic level can work against us at the mental & moral levels.
At the mental level, there needs to be a more effective use of IO. Of the moral level of war, which John Boyd argued is the most powerful level, there remains little appreciation of its power. In fourth generation war what wins at the physical level tends to lead to defeat at the moral level...

Integrate all aspects of political, economic, military power, to act (not react) intelligently.
Share combat information and intelligence more effectively.
IO: War of ideas … battle for the mind
Recognize the moral-mental aspects of Iraqi War.
Integrate kinetics with nonkinetic at all levels.
De-escalation vs. escalation with regards to kinetics
High tempo of mind numbing actions; force the insurgents to react!

Ignored, the monomaniacal focus on kinetics that resulted in the speedy initial fall of Baghdad turned into the proverbial tar baby:

[All] of the Iraqis we had worked with said: "Number one: civil order and security. Number two: power restoration. Number three: jobs." They sang that particular song day in and day out for months. From the time that we even got close to the border with Iraq, they said, "Those are your top three priorities." If you address those early on; in other words, you arrive with a civil order, new rules of engagement, psy-ops teams driving down the street, speaking Arabic, saying: "Go back to your homes. Police, stay on duty. If you are seen on the streets and are carrying a weapon, you will be shot. If you loot or commit acts of criminality, you will be shot."

But for whatever reason, that didn't happen. The generals did not plan any of that. And I think that it might be useful to ask them why they didn't. But to say that they didn't because they weren't told to do it doesn't resonate strongly with me. ... If you look at counterinsurgencies, counterinsurgencies are successfully dealt with when you make it very clear that you are not there to conquer; you are not there to occupy. What you really want to do is create conditions of stability and order. To do that, you need the support of the population. That means that they need to look to their police; they need to look to their military. But you can provide the invincible fist that is behind them...

Ultimately, we ended [up] behaving, I'm afraid, a lot like the British soldiers in Ulster in the early1970s, where they incarcerated thousands of Irish Catholics without trial, held them for long periods. And about the only thing that the British army managed to do in the early '70s when they intervened in Ulster was to recruit for the IRA [Irish Republican Army]. In the Arab world, you shoot one person, you've now alienated a hundred people in the man's family and tribe. If shoot several, if you injure several, if you incarcerate several, you run terrible risks of alienating large numbers of people. Now, some would argue we didn't have any choice. I'm not sure that's true. We were trying, we thought, to deal with an insurgency effectively, and I think what we did is make it worse. We incarcerated, it's estimated, over 46,000 people. And it's been made clear that less 10 percent of that number is really guilty of anything that justified incarceration. And in the meantime, their families were told nothing. Imagine the consequences in our country for that kind of behavior. [Douglas Macgregor]...

Iraq: Where are we now?

Deprived of appropriate doctrine, the training to use it and the force structure to implement it, too many US commanders are left in the position that Zinni identified in 2003:

On one hand, you have to shoot and kill somebody; on the other hand, you have to feed somebody. On the other hand, you have to build an economy, restructure the infrastructure, build the political system. And there's some poor lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier general down there, stuck in some province with all that saddled onto him, with NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and political wannabes running around, with factions and a culture he doesn't understand. These are now culture wars that we're involved in. We don't understand that culture.

The warfighter focus on Soviet era Fulda Gap kinetics to the exclusion of low-no kinetic approaches has left us unable to compete in modern unconventional war:

Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War… The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population… Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

With a revised but belated counterinsurgency strategy, Petraeus is attempting to recover the gap, but politics, the 'September review,' and the 2008 election may overtake the issue.

Petraeus may be undermined as much from the inside as by external events, by colleagues who feel that they are also doing the right thing. On its face the new Stability Ops plan moving through General Officer review is sound in content but leaves too much discretion in enforcement. Henthorne:

DOD Policy Section says nothing specific about how the Army, or Joint Forces, are to train to conduct and support post conflict ops as a "core competency." Throughout the document the word "Develop" is used almost ten to one to the word "Train(ed)." "Develop" leaves a lot of latitude and both takes time to develop, and gives time to Warfighters to stall. Bottom line there are a lot of "Catch 22's" in this document and it has no enforcement teeth.

My belief of almost five years now remains the same. Unless someone has the authority and balls to say---"You will develop post conflict training, on all levels, according to the following guidelines,", and there are plenty of talented folks who truly know what those guidelines are, and within the following time frame," once again this isn't rocket science--so it truly shouldn't take long at all, this document, like others, will die a slow death executed by the Warfighter insurgency. [private email]

The warfighters' low-kinetics stepchildren: Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW), Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Stability Operations (SO)

I have long felt that MOOTW, COIN and Stability Ops intersected. (Henthorne has already taken to calling SO "the other side of the COIN" [private correspondence]). COIN and Stability Ops as concluding steps in major war share much with 'standalone' Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW). Whereas "war encompasses large-scale, sustained combat operations to achieve national objectives or to protect national interests," the focus of MOOTW is to deter war and promote peace. COIN and SO merge with the needs of MOOTW to be "more sensitive to political considerations and often the military may not be the primary player. [While MOOTW principles are an extension of warfighting doctrine] more restrictive rules of engagement and a hierarchy of national objectives are followed":

  1. Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective.
  2. Unity of effort in every operation ensures all means are directed to a common purpose.
  3. Security is always important and depends on never permitting hostile factions to acquire a military, political, or informational advantage.
  4. MOOTW may require restraint in order to apply appropriate military capabilities prudently.
  5. Perseverance allows for measured, protracted application of military capability in support of strategic aims.
  6. Committed forces must sustain the legitimacy of the operation and the host government, where applicable...

[MOOTW] operations include: arms control; combatting terrorism; Department of Defense support to counterdrug operations; enforcement of sanctions/maritime intercept operations; enforcing exclusion zones; ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight; humanitarian assistance; military support to civil authorities; nation assistance/support to counterinsurgency; noncombatant evacuation operations; peace operations; protection of shipping; recovery operations; show of force operations; strikes and raids; and support to insurgency.

Mental and organizational difficulties in shifting from kinetics to low-no kinetics

MOOTW and Stability Ops, even COIN, share common problems. Taw and Vick write in late 1997:

Typical [MOOTW deployments] are large-scale peace operations that tend to be operationally complex, protracted and politically volatile. Thus, U.S. forces have found themselves in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia [and] other places to enforce no-fly zones, to protect humanitarian aid workers from bandits, to act as a buffer between previously or potentially warring parties and otherwise to help provide relief to populations in crisis.

Until recently [but I think nothing has fundamentally changed], the Department of Defense (DoD) has argued that [MOOTW] operations are "lesser-included cases" that can be effectively conducted by forces structured and trained for large-scale combat. But MOOTW are qualitatively different from combat operations, [and] the military can no longer ignore the fundamental issues they raise: whether trade-offs may have to be made between readiness for operations other than war and readiness for a major conflict; which services, and within them which types of units, are best suited to such operations; and whether to shift some defense resources away from big wars and toward these traditionally lesser-included cases...

Organizational problems are just the tip of the iceberg. Again, remember this was 1997; How little has changed:

While the organization of the Army maximizes its capabilities for big wars, it is less appropriate for some other kinds of operations. For example, in peace operations and disaster relief efforts, engineering capabilities may be required that are not available at the division level. Rather than reach into higher echelons, the Army's inclination will be to rely on division-level combat engineers who are trained and equipped to tear down obstacles rather than to build infrastructure.

[The] bulk of the Army's support capabilities resides in the reserve components. Without a presidential call-up, the limited capabilities in active-duty units will be augmented only by volunteers, who may show up either in inadequate numbers or in inappropriate mixes of capabilities and specialties. Thus, although civil affairs personnel were plentiful in Somalia (where a formal call-up of reservists was not authorized), they did not represent the most useful combination of skills and languages.

[Even] if the right forces show up in the right place at the right time, there is evidence from recent operations that combat commanders are not sufficiently trained or prepared to employ support and special forces units appropriately.

Henthorne offered a more telling anecdote to my 2005 pair, Civil war within the pentagon; tampering with the ‘tipfid,’ part 1 and part 2:

Of greater significance to me was the fact that the US Army War College Archives in Carlisle, PA., is the largest repository of Post WWII Stability Ops information. Yet no one from DOD, DA the Congress or the White House ever requested any back ground info from those archives. The only effort that was made was a phone call that I took one day from OSD, asking how many military police we used in Post War Germany. When the answer was supplied the OSD response was "Far too many-it smacks of long term commitment, we need to be on our way home in 6 months."

Selling reality in a post-Iraq political-military landscape

Advocates of Stability Ops, COIN and MOOTW would be wise to read the witty 1995 The Selling Of Military Operations Other Than War by a marine, James Jamison, as it is likely that 'the well has been poisoned' for the foreseeable future in securing easy sanctioning of needed COIN, SO and MOOTW operations. Compared to the presumed speed of major war:

Military Operations Other Than War can take years to accomplish. The support of the American people is key to their successful completion. In the past, the selling of those operations to the public, particularly the effort at the national level, has been inadequate… Unlike war, MOOTW rarely generates the national will required to stay engaged in the expenditure of human and monetary resources. The American people have the power to grant patience and persistence to U.S. military forces, who are often the major players in providing presence in the MOOTW area of operations… At the national level, poor presentation of the cost-to-benefit ratio has resulted in the public's lukewarm embrace of MOOTW.

It is clear that Iraq, for example, failed to secure the Three "P's":

Successful MOOTW require presence, persistence, and patience. These so called "three P's," are strongly affected by public opinion. The National Command Authority can order a military presence, but the American people must be sold on the value of the operation for the last two P's, persistence and patience, to be granted. [The] object (end state) of a military operation must be agreed upon prior to the commitment of forces. The value of that objective must then be determined. Next, the costs, both practical and moral, must be calculated and compared to that value. An operation should only be joined if the benefits exceed the costs.

Jamison's PUBLIC RELATIONS PRINCIPLES are as timely and as cautionary as they were in 1995 They should be headed in earnest now:

    • The Government Does Advertise
    • Advertising Is Part of American Life
  • Advertising-based Public Relations Techniques
    • Find the Need and Fill It
    • Positioning the Operation Positively
    • Create the Right Image
    • Be Sensitive to Your Audience
    • Spread Your Story First
    • Know The Product
    • Clear Message By The Right Spokesperson
  • Not All Operations Other Than War Can Be Sold
    • Vacillation Blurs The Message
    • 1,2,3,4, What The Hell Are We MOOTW-ing For?

The Not All Operations Other Than War Can Be Sold section bears careful reading for future MOOTW, COIN and SO efforts.

Warfighters need social scientists

Social scientists can keep warfighters alive just as effectively as body armor. Here are two examples, the first being a virtual demand for Stability Operations:

1. Target compliance is essential, otherwise extraordinary and unexpected brute force is required for victory.

Warfighters - and their political elites - overestimate their kinetic effect. While probability of victory can be indicated by key variables such as Primary Political Objective, Troop Commitment, Local Government Ally, Regime Type, Relative military capabilities, Distance and Time, the "most important factor influencing whether the more powerful nation is successful is whether its strategic objective can be accomplished with brute force alone or requires the cooperation of the adversary."

Defining "foreign military intervention as the foreign deployment of at least 500 combat-ready, regular military troops (ground, air, or naval) with the intent to participate in hostile action against a target government or sub-state group for the purpose of achieving immediate-term political objectives," Sullivan studied the 122 "foreign military intervention by the five major powers, Britain, China, France, the U.S., and the U.S.S.R/Russia, during the period between 1945 and 2001":

[There] is a human tendency to overconfidence that is likely to be a particularly common trait among political leaders and an especially acute problem in crisis decisionmaking. According to [Dominic Johnson], a "fog of hope and wishful thinking" is often present at the initiation of violent conflicts… [Because] one or both sides lack complete information, fully rational leaders could come to different conclusions about the probable outcome of a war between them…

Unfortunately, predicting war outcomes is much more complicated than arriving at an accurate measure of relative military capabilities. In fact, the relative balance of military capabilities is not likely to be the primary source of pre-war uncertainty and even complete information about the distribution of warfighting capacity is unlikely to translate directly into accurate predictions about the cost and outcome of many wars…

States almost always prefer to attain their objectives without having to physically destroy their adversary. [A] state that is strong enough can seize territory, overthrow a foreign regime, or defend an ally’s borders by completely destroying or disarming the target’s armed forces regardless of the strength of the target’s will to resist or its tolerance for costs. In contrast, a state can only achieve coercive objectives if it can gain target compliance.

If a state seeks a change in an adversary’s behavior, rather than the elimination of that adversary, the state must persuade the adversary to comply by manipulating the costs and benefits of compliance versus noncompliance. Just as a prisoner cannot be forcibly compelled to provide intelligence, a regime cannot be physically forced to change its policies toward ethnic minorities within its borders or compelled to stop sponsoring international terrorism. Like the prisoner, the target government must be convinced that compliance is less costly than resistance. When a state seeks to maintain the political authority of its own colonial regime, or that of an ally in a foreign territory, the objective falls somewhere in the middle of the continuum because it has both brute force and coercive components. The state can attempt to erode the insurgent’s capacity to fight, but the population of that territory must eventually be persuaded to withhold or terminate its support for the insurgency because elimination of the insurgent threat is not possible as long as popular support is sufficiently strong.

Sullivan's model "predicted a seven percent chance of success for the Soviets in the 1979 to 1988 war in Afghanistan and a 93 percent chance of success for the U.S. in the 1991 Gulf War." However, in Operation Iraqi freedom (OIF), her model said "that if the population was not supportive of whatever new regime we put in power and the American strategic objective shifted from regime removal to maintaining the authority of a new government, the likelihood of a successful outcome would drop from almost 70 percent to just under 26 percent… with an estimated duration of 10 years."

2. Issues internal to the target greatly affect, or deflect, the forces applied by an external state.

Studying a diverse set of civil wars, including Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Guatemala, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, East Timor and West Papua, Kirschner identified five conditions that "affect security fears and commitment problems in ethnic civil wars, increasing conflict duration" completely independent of actions of an external force such as US troops:

  • Discrimination
  • Historically hostile inter-group relations
  • Atrocities
  • Segregation
  • Distinctiveness of group members

These variables undermine combatants’ belief that their adversary will not renege on a post-war settlement, and in some cases, also create information problems that increase uncertainty about the outcome of peacefully negotiated settlement…

Those focused on Iraq will see the resonance of opposing militias using names, residency, locales, methods of prayer and head gear to identify Sunni from Shia:

[Kirschner's] results indicate that fears deriving from specific patterns of inter-ethnic relations increase commitment problems and make some ethnic wars more difficult to resolve. Specifically, pre-war discrimination against members of the ethnic group rebelling, the distinct identifiability of rebels, and atrocities all substantially increase the length of ethnic civil wars. Discrimination and atrocities exhibit a u-shaped relationship, with very high levels of both variables decreasing conflict duration. However, segregation and past conflict do not affect duration… Case studies also suggest that in some instances, specific forms of discrimination are especially significant, for instance, in resource-rich regions that do not enjoy the wealth of these resources...

Distinct and easily identifiable combatants experience longer wars. However, it is possible that the opposite mechanism operates in some conflicts. In other words, if members of a rebelling ethnic group are indistinguishable from other groups, the war might be longer because their adversaries cannot find them to kill them. In some conflicts where this might be the case, local knowledge could substitute for physical features, language, or religion. For instance, in Sri Lankan riots, Sinhalese thugs have used multiple strategies to target Tamils, including census lists, neighbors’ testimony, ear piercing, and inability to recite Buddhist verses...

The excruciatingly overdue integration of the warfighter and the social scientist

It is increasingly likely that Clausewitz's "fog of war" will be resolved as much or more by psycho-social warfare (controlling if not winning hearts and minds) than by an ability "to see, sense and kill anything that moved about the battlefield." 'Post combat operations' in Iraq have seen "effects-based and net-centric operations" fall short of victory whereas a timely and legitimate human outreach program would have reduced the number of insurgents, sympathizers and enablers, thereby making our targeting networks more effective.

Scales cites Alan Beyerchen's use of "amplifiers" whose effects in war are nonlinear, i.e., that redefine the nature of war rather than merely act as a force multiplier. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) has commenced World War IV in earnest, and we are, at a minimum, doing more poorly than expected:

  • Chemists' war - World War I
  • Physicists' war - World War II
  • Information researchers' war - Cold War or "World War III"
  • Social scientists' war - World War IV

Beyerchen surprises by placing the transformation event "at the end rather than the beginning of an epoch." Using the information war as an example, "the value of net-centrism as an amplifier — a factor that fundamentally shapes the nature of conflict — has passed; its formative influence on the course of war is over. Al-Qaida's success in Iraq simply drives the last nail in its coffin."

See Sidebar: Beyerchen on disruptive innovation (amplification)

Scales defines a very new world, one alien, almost unrecognizable, to today's technology intoxicated military:

World War IV will cause a shift in classical centers of gravity from the will of governments and armies to the perceptions of populations. Victory will be defined more in terms of capturing the psycho-cultural rather than the geographical high ground. Understanding and empathy will be important weapons of war. Soldier conduct will be as important as skill at arms. Culture awareness and the ability to build ties of trust will offer protection to our troops more effectively than body armor. Leaders will seek wisdom and quick but reflective thought rather than operational and planning skills as essential intellectual tools for guaranteeing future victories.

As in all past world wars, clashes of arms will occur. But future combat will be tactical, isolated, precise and most likely geographically remote, unexpected and often terribly brutal and intimate. Strategic success will come not from grand sweeping maneuvers but rather from a stacking of local successes, the sum of which will be a shift in the perceptual advantage the tactical schwerpunkt, the point of decision, will be very difficult to see and especially to predict. As seems to be happening in Iraq, for a time the enemy may well own the psycho-cultural high ground and hold it effectively against American technological dominance. Perceptions and trust are built among people, and people live on the ground. Thus, future wars will be decided principally by ground forces, specifically the Army, Marine Corps, Special Forces and the various reserve formations that support them…

To win World War IV, the military must be culturally knowledgeable enough to thrive in an alien environment. Victory will be defined more in terms of capturing the psycho-cultural rather than the geographical high ground. Understanding and empathy will be important weapons of war…

The evidence [from Iraq] thus far is that we have been intellectually, culturally, sociologically and psychologically unprepared for this kind of war. To me, the bottom line is clear: If the single most important objective for the first three world wars was to make better machines, then surely the fourth world war corollary will be to make better soldiers, more effective humans. To do so, soldiers need improved social science in nine areas:

  • Cultural awareness
  • Building alien armies and alliances
  • Perception shaping as art, not science
  • Inculcate knowledge and teach wisdom
  • Tactical intelligence
  • Psychological and physiological tuning
  • Develop high performing soldiers and small units
  • Leadership and decision-making
  • Intuitive battle command

Bumpy road ahead

Beyerchen's amplifiers do not disappear; they retain influence but diminish over time. The problem is that armies and their contractors tend to spend on these diminishing amplifiers with only marginal gains, while missing the emerging amplifier.

Scales feels that social sciences won't attract much interest as amplifiers "until the military intellectual community acknowledges that virtually all failures in Afghanistan and Iraq were human rather than technological." It is going to take a searing After Action Report and Lessons Learned to begin to document the causal conditions.

At the moment, "Technocentric solutions are in our strategic cultural DNA." It will be hard to shift to a soft solution. Military contractors and their senators and representatives will fight it unless it can be turned into plants and jobs. Beyond that, Chantrill thinks that the necessary cooperation between warfighter and social scientist will be a "tall order":

The military mistrusts the practitioners of the social sciences and the feeling among most social scientists is mutual. Over the last century the social sciences have been deployed to amplify the power of government in domestic policy. And the social scientists loved the power and the prestige they obtained. But now we are talking about research and development to amplify and support US foreign policy. Can generals talk to social science professors? Will social scientists agree to work for the Pentagon?

Things change, sometimes they come full circle. Steve Henthorne, meet Bob Scales.

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Annex (Action Plan for Army Stability Operations) to Army Campaign Plan
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April 27, 2007

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Journeys in World Politics 2007 Workshop
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Petraeus letter response to Henthorne
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"Warfighter insurgency" letter to Gen David Petraeus
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29 March, 2007

Note: Contains more insight into Warfighter Insurgency cause & effect. Omitted from Petraeus letter (above) as no education needed

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Aid Workers With Guns
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March 4, 2007

By Richard Teuten, Head Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit
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January 2007

United States Army, Europe and 7th Army (USAREUR/7A) Training Strategy and Guidance, FY 07-08
David D. Mckiernan, Commanding General USA

FM 3-24
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15 December 2006

A Strategic Amplifier for World War IV
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Towards a Foreign Policy That Works
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Clausewitz and World War IV
BY Maj. Gen. ROBERT H. SCALES (ret.)
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July 2006

Counterinsurgency (Final Draft - June 2006)
FM 3-24
June 2006

Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations
Department of Defense
November 28, 2005

Best Practices in Counterinsurgency
Kalev I. Sepp
May -June 2005

Getting Out Right
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April 2005

TRADOC Regulation 71-4
Department of the Army
Headquarters, United States Army
Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, VA
24 March 2005

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Jan. 28, 2005

Scenario, ATW IV
APPENDIX C, Pages 31-34
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Fourth Generation Warfare & OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency
G.I. Wilson, Greg Wilcox, Chet Richards
December 2004

Henthorne letter to Senator Carl Levin
REF: Capability to conduct long-term stability operations
1 November, 2004

INTERVIEW Douglas Macgregor
Rumsfeld's War
Oct. 26, 2004

Stability Operations
A Common Perspective
US Joint Forces Command Joint Warfighting Center
Doctrine and Education Group's Newsletter
Volume 12, No. 2, October 2004

Assessing and enhancing the Army’s capabilities to conduct long-term stability/civil-military operations
Letter to General Peter J. Schoomaker CSA
From Stephen Henthorne
Joint Readiness Training Center
18 October, 2004

Stability Operations
A Common Perspective
US Joint Forces Command Joint Warfighting Center
Doctrine and Education Group's Newsletter
Volume 12, No. 2, October 2004

Practical Guide to Multilateral Needs Assessments in Post-Conflict Situations
A Joint Project of The United Nations Development Programme, World Bank, United Nations Development Group
August 2004

4GW & Zinni's Question: What is Nature of Victory?
Address by General Anthony Zinni, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
Naval Institute Forum 2003
4 Sept 2003, posted 20 Sept

Other Expeditionary Operations
Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities
Marine Corps Warfighting Lab
11 June 2003

By Bryon E. Greenwald
Ohio State University
NOTE: If asked what app to read the item, select PDF

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by Clyde T. Wilson
Jan-Feb, 2003

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By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 29, 2002

Henthorne letter to RUSI journal
REF Sir Michael Howard's 'Mistake to Declare This A "War"'
February 2002

Those Who Live by The Littorals, Could Easily Die by The Littorals.
The Emerging Role of The United States Marine Corps In Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations For Operations Other Than War
By Stephen E. Henthorne
U.S. Army War College

Network Centric Warfare
Report to Congress
Department of Defense
27 July 2001

Thinking About Innovation
by Williamson Murray
Naval War College Review
Spring, 2001

Effects-Based Operations (EBO)
A Grand Challenge for the Analytical Community
By: Paul K. Davis
ISBN: 0-8330-3108-2

Stability Operations and Support Operations, Chapter 9
Department of the Army
31 October 2000

From Sideshow to Center Stage: Military Operations Other Than War
RAND Research Review
Volume XXI, Number 2
Fall 1997

Lessons from Somalia: The DILEMMA OF Peace Enforcement
Major Robert D. Allen
CSC 1997

From Radio To Radar: Interwar Military Adaptation to Technological Change in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States
By Alan Beyerchen
Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, eds.
Cambridge University Press, 1996

Operation Just Cause: Lessons for Operations Other Than War
By: Jennifer Taw
ISBN: 0-8330-2405-1

PEACEKEEPING: A Selected Bibliography
Compiled by Virginia Shope
US Army War College
February 1996

The Selling Of Military Operations Other Than War
Major James F. Jamison, United States Marine Corps
CSC 1995

Joint Doctrine for Military Operations Other Than War
Joint Pub 3-07
16 June 1995

U.S. Intervention in Ethnic Conflict
Fred Wehling, John Steinbruner, George Kenney, Michael Klare, Michael Mazarr
Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation
May 1995

Peace Support Operations and the U.S. Military
Dennis J. Quinn, ed.
National Defense University Press

Updated 18 July 2007

Gordon Housworth

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