Small Wars Journal

World Politics Review Tuesday Twofer

Two items posted today at World Politics Review (always a good read) that Small Wars Journal readers should find of interest.

Future Face of Conflict: The U.S. Army's Doctrinal Renaissance by Jack Kem

This month's release of Field Manual 3-07, "Stability Operations," marks a milestone for the United States Army. With it, the Army acknowledges and codifies a dramatic change in thinking: No longer does the mission of the military stop at winning wars; now it must also help "win the peace." ...

Stability operations have a precise doctrinal definition, and differ from traditional warfighting concepts of offensive and defensive operations, which emphasize the use of lethal combat power against an enemy force. Stability operations instead focus on providing a foundation for conflict transformation. The emphasis is on reestablishing security and control so as to enable other instruments of national power (diplomatic, information, and economic means) to facilitate transition to civilian control by the host nation. They involve a variety of military missions and tasks, and are conducted in coordination with civil instruments of national power to "maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief."

For the Army, offensive and defensive operations rely on the destructive capabilities of military forces; stability operations rely on the constructive capabilities of the military. The reality of today's operational environment is that these actions take place simultaneously; what you break and destroy today, you may have to rebuild tomorrow...

Future Face of Conflict: Human Terrain Teams by Paul McLeary

... For a variety of reasons -- cultural, political, and economic -- the American armed forces have become all things to all people in the prosecution of American foreign policy. There is the obvious deterrent component that a globally-dispersed American force projects. But even when it comes to humanitarian missions, reconstruction projects, and low-level cultural outreach in the more dangerous corners of the world, you'll likely find a mix of soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen working on the problem before you'll find a member of the State Department.

And this is where the Human Terrain Teams come in. Or at least that's the long-term plan. Right now, the teams are wholly focused on extricating American forces from the tribal stews of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Montgomery McFate, one of the architects of the $130 million program and senior social science adviser to the Army Human Terrain System (HTS), says that in the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "nobody was looking" at cultural issues. When units rotated out, there would be a tremendous loss of knowledge concerning the complex tribal and cultural webs these societies represent. "People would come back with information in their head and shoe boxes full of CDs, Power Point slides, sticky note cards, and they really [had] nobody to give that information to," McFate explained. "And so much of it was tacit, it was in their head."

This loss of knowledge upon unit rotation meant that the unit rotating in "knew they needed to know something but they didn't know what they needed to know, so they'd get close to an answer but they couldn't find the answer."

The HTTs -- which were stood up in Afghanistan in February 2007 and in Iraq in August of the same year -- are tasked out at brigade level, meaning that they're out in the field with the grunts and the young lieutenants, captains and lieutenant colonels...