Small Wars Journal

The Future of Stability Operations: Can the U.S. Do Better?

The Future of Stability Operations: Can the U.S. Do Better? By Alicia Chavy - Georgetown Security Studies Review

Over the past two decades, the U.S. has led or participated in an array of civilian and military efforts in unstable and conflict-ridden nations around the world, to rectify human rights abuses, restore peace, security, governance, and stability. The U.S. has been officially involved in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq.[i] However, deeply rooted strategic and operational issues surround the U.S. approach to stabilization, which, if not addressed promptly, could undermine the sustained success of future stability operations. While there has already been a response to some of these issues in an inter-agency report released on June 19, 2018, the “Stabilization Assistance Review” (SAR), it has been met with some resistance in the National Defense Strategy (NDS). The new report may not be enough for the U.S. government to see a return of investment and success in future stability operations.

Due to its strong military capabilities, rapid mobility of resources, quick access and ability to jump-start critical operations, the U.S. has often focused on a military solution when executing or spearheading security and humanitarian relief tasks.[ii] Regrettably, most cases, for example, Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan, have increased conflict or instability. For instance, the 1991 security intervention in Somalia became an iconic example of what to avoid in stability operations. By 1993, the situation culminated into clashes with Somali factions, and led to the infamous Blackhawk down crisis in October 1993 when the U.S. employed decisive force to counter the rising security threat. After a combination of failed diplomacy and military intervention, Somalia has remained a failed state, with no effective central government, an ongoing humanitarian crisis, and continued factional fighting. [iii]

Past U.S. stability endeavors have not succeeded due to issues about the legitimacy and scope of its mandates, and to political and operational constraints. U.S. intervention forces carried over distinct mistakes, undermining their overall efforts and the endurance of its stability efforts. Such mistakes include the limited planning and clarification of the U.S. government’s intended scale of commitments; the inadequate scope and objectives in a mandate; the lack or scarcity of resources and support, and of distinct timelines, approaches and capabilities connecting the U.S. agencies and organizations have all weakened the impetus of stability operations…

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