"Napoleonic Know-How" in an Age of Persistent Engagement

"Napoleonic Know-How" in an Age of Persistent Engagement

by Douglas Batson, Al Di Leonardo, Christopher K. Tucker

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A bevy of prominent national security thinkers have suggested that the US has entered an era of persistent engagement with troubled regions of the world. From this perspective, failing or failed states are likely to lure the US into counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, foreign internal defense, and other modes of irregular warfare for decades to come. The sources of these difficult situations will inevitably vary greatly, from ethnic conflicts to natural resource grabs; predatory kleptocracies to narco-terrorist regimes; proxy wars to religious extremism; and more. Yet all of these situations owe their origins in large part to the absence of the same governance infrastructures that have enabled successful modern states since the days of Napoleon.

Kinetic operations will almost always play a role in achieving conflict termina-tion and establishing some measure of stability. But, too often, field commanders and national security policymakers fail to understand the administrative underpinnings needed to find and fix an elusive enemy, to achieve post conflict "stability, development, peace, and effective local sovereignty," and to keep insurgencies and the like from forming in the first place.

This paper asserts that a suite of administrative capabilities first mastered by Napoleon, what we call "Napoleonic Know-how," should be elevated in the considerations of commanders and national security policymakers as they wrestle with courses of action in the engagement of nations and regions of special interest. Only when the US prioritizes the preemptive establishment of such administrative capabilities over post-crisis kinetic action will we know that US foreign policy community is truly interested in conflict prevention and long term stability during this era of persistent engagement.

Download the Full Article: "Napoleonic Know-How" in an Age of Persistent Engagement

Douglas Batson joined the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in 2004. A German and Turkish linguist, he is also a staff member to the Foreign Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. He previously worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Justice, and is retired from the U.S. Army Reserve. He holds a Bachelor of Science in geography from Excelsior College, a Master of Education degree from Boston University, and is the author of Registering the Human Terrain: a Valuation of Cadastre, National Defense Intelligence College Press, 2008 (www.ndic.edu/press/10279.htm).

Lieutenant Colonel Di Leonardo is a decorated combat veteran of US Special Operations. He has spent the last five years leading small groups of innovators within US Special Operations Command, providing intelligence data-driven solutions to the challenges in human, social, and cultural behavioral problems and building innovative technology solutions for counterterrorism. Many of his innovation cell's tools and ideas have been adopted throughout the DoD and the Intelligence Community.

Dr. Christopher K. Tucker thinks and works at the intersection of technology, strategy, geography, and national security. Dr. Tucker manages, Yale House Ventures, a portfolio of technology companies and social ventures across the domains of international affairs, defense/intelligence, and academe. Dr. Tucker serves on a variety of government, private sector, and non-profit boards including the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and the Intelligence Task Force of the Defense Science Board.

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This sentence is priceless in its irony:

"Only when the US prioritizes the preemptive establishment of such administrative capabilities over post-crisis kinetic action will we know that US foreign policy community is truly interested in conflict prevention and long term stability during this era of persistent engagement."

Shades of 'burn the village in order to save it'...

The authors devote much attention to nations in Africa -- one of the areas that Secretary of Defense Gates noted his successors should not advise the President to contemplate as destinations for large US Forces.

They also state:

"...the International Community, has failed to heed his example and instead pours billions of dollars, and millions of military and civilian personnel, into foreign aid and counterinsurgency operations that achieve far too little of the desired aims of peace and stability."

It is noteworthy that lately, the US does the majority of such pouring. It is quite possible -- even probable -- that the reasons for no success in achieving desired aims is that the academic concept of counterinsurgency operations is deeply flawed.

The authors say this early in the paper:

"From this perspective, failing or failed states are likely to lure the US into counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, foreign internal defense, and other modes of irregular warfare for decades to come."

Preferably we would not be lured into playing to our weakness and would instead employ our strength wisely. Why should we let others determine the rules of play?

Far better to ascertain the existence of problem potentiality prior to an eruption and assist with well targeted aid and limited military or paramilitary training to preclude such an event. We should have the capability to mount strategic raids and retaliatory strikes globally but we should also realize that the commitment of large land forces to another nation is an indication of a failure in intelligence gathering, diplomacy and sensible foreign assistance aimed at allowing others to address their own problems.

This effort strikes me as a solution in search of a problem -- or some of Robert C. Jones 'cold war thinking' that should be relegated to the bin of history...

Certainly useful information and an innovative construct and presentation.

This is an excellent template for _OCCUPATION_ and _PACIFICATION_. Another name for these are population and resources control measures. These should be the repsonsibilities of the indigenous government. For US forces or US government personnel to implement these makes the US at least de facto an occupying power and undercuts the legtimacy of the indigenous government.

Acknowledged that these techniques may have had application in Afghanistan and Iraq and MAY have helped to mitigate many of the issues that arose from our occupation there. But per the SECDEF's speech do we really anticipate doing more Iraqs and Afghanistans again?