Small Wars Journal

Military Interventions We Don't Plan For

The Military Interventions We Don't Plan For - Those to Protect Civilians by Sarah Sewall and Anthony Zinni, Washington Post. BLUF: "No intervention is simple. Yet part of the reason political leaders face such difficult choices is that our armed forces - and those of our allies - resist thinking about or planning for these kinds of contingencies."


CJR (not verified)

Sat, 04/23/2011 - 7:17pm

Bill C:

If you replaced "West" with "Functional" and "Rest" with "Dysfunctional", your post would be more accurate. To wit, the current wording is the excuse disfunctional states use to explain their disfunctionality.

Bill C. (not verified)

Fri, 04/22/2011 - 12:03pm

Could the following be the answer:

With the "Rise of the East" (or, possibly more correctly, the "Rise of the Rest"), it appears that the West feels that it must now -- as part of its national security strategy -- take such drastic measures, to wit:

a. To use the opportunities -- the openings -- presented by natural disasters, humanitarian crisis, insurgencies and other state/societal difficulties,

b. As excuses to intervene -- so as to specifically transform states and societies -- such that they might be better ordered and aligned with Western interests.

c. This, using the tenuous concept of "root causes," to wit: state/society is not enough like us and/or not adequately alligned with our (Western) system; this being the overall cause of these problems (see "a" above) and/or the reason why states/societies are unable to adequately deal with these problems themselves.

This approach would seem to suggest that the West -- re: the rise of the East/the Rest -- is so scared and so insecure that it feels it might act in this much more aggressive and dangerous manner because:

(1) We (the West) have such little faith in the value and allure of our own system, own way of life and the example that it provides,

(2) That we have determined that we must intervene; so as to secure these alligments with our Western interests and system -- and to preclude such allignment with elements of the Rest.

Or, as an alternative idea: Because of our present posture (biggest guy on the block) we have decided we are going to act now and not take the chance of having states/societies align with the "Rest" somewhere down the line.

And, considering the adapatations, modifications and transformations re: our instruments of power (DoD, DoS, etc.) and today's emphasis on stability and support operations (to achieve the "Western" transformation and incorporation goals noted above) can we really say that there has been no planning?

Ken White (not verified)

Fri, 04/22/2011 - 2:21am

I suggest there's a reason we do not plan for them. They are essentially a recent phenomenon and they are rarely very effective. The Authors state there is no formula for such missions and that is certainly correct. They further write:<blockquote>"Unfortunately, there is no doctrine for planning and conducting mass-atrocity response operations. Nor is there a guide to how the rules of engagement change or why military tactics differ when the priority is stopping civilian killing instead of destroying an opposing force or occupying a country. Intervening to halt mass atrocities is not even something the military considers when training forces or writing standing operational plans."</blockquote>That is of course true and mostly due to the relative recent establishment of the questionable "Responsibility to Protect" mantra of the World Federalist Movement and the fact that the Armed Forces of the world see such missions as potentially quite dangerous for the Nation they serve. They naturally and sensibly wish to avoid them for myriad reasons. Would that their civilian masters could be as wise. If World Federalism were a fact instead of a wish on the part of some, things might be different. It is not a fact and things are not different...

As the Authors honestly admit, such interventions invariably entail choosing sides and often, neither side is a crowd with which one wants to be allied -- or even seen.

Further, they ask:<blockquote>"Once interveners stop the killing, must they address the root causes of the violence before they can claim victory?"</blockquote>I suggest there will be no 'victory' in such operations nor will an acceptable outcome, the norm in FID / COIN efforts, really be achieved often if at all.

The answer is that unless the interveners correct the root causes, they will have done a great deal of damage for small return -- as is true today in the Balkans they cite. If the root causes are to be corrected, a long term presence will be required and in most cases, the military is not, should not be and will never be the ideal instrument for such efforts. The Authors do not address that aspect. It is all very well to accuse the Forces of not planning for interventions to prevent genocide but the Nations those forces serve will have to do some serious planning and paying themselves. Armed force will not be enough. Advocating the use of force for humanitarian purposes approaches an oxymoron; going in and breaking things, almost inevitable if an Armed Force is used will leave a mess for someone to clean up.

Not to forget the aforementioned root causes...

They also note: <blockquote>"Its time we recognize that the West conducts military action to prevent civilian slaughter -- but refuses to plan systematically for that possibility. Military planners like to say that hope is not a strategy. Neither is denial."</blockquote>Catchy phrasing. Also interesting -- note it is 'the West' that does this sort of thing. Perhaps 'the West' should ask the rest of the world whether such interventions are desirable -- or 'the West' could just continue to attempt the imposition of its mores and ideals on others...

I question who is really in denial here...