Providing a Framework for Globally Integrated Operations: Lessons from Paul the Apostle

Author's Note: Any opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, or the Department of Defense.


Each of you should look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4


Protecting the United States and its allies from attack is a difficult task in and of itself. Throw in the additional requirement of providing security for the world and resources that are already stretched to their limits reach their breaking point. As if this global security task was not daunting enough, transnational dynamics that leverage globalization and technology across social, economic, political, and cultural boundaries add significant complexities that would challenge the U.S. even in the best of fiscal environments. With decreasing resources the reality for the Department of Defense, the need to collaborate with allies and partners has never been greater. These partnerships must take on a new tenor from past relationships—the U.S. must truly collaborate with partners leveraging common interests and viewpoints to share costs and responsibilities (Panetta, 2012). This collaborative approach to global challenges requires local or regional solutions that are acceptable to the U.S, its allies, and partners alike.

The complexity and dynamicity of these multiple challenges and stakeholders demands a creative approach. Creative solutions are often found using alternate domain perspectives to see in new ways and to enhance understanding (Vidal, 2009). With that in mind, this essay proposes using the historical example of the Apostle Paul, whose strategy and principles were instrumental in spreading and establishing the Early Christian Church, as an example of alternate domain knowledge to develop an approach for the Joint Force’s globally integrated operations concept. To support this proposal, a short review of the strategic environment and the Joint Force’s globally integrated operations concept is presented. Next an analysis of the First Century Roman world and Paul’s strategy for the Early Christian Church is discussed. Finally, Paul’s principles are applied to globally integrated operations providing insights into developing a strategic approach for operating in today’s global environment.    

The Strategic Environment and Globally Integrated Operations

Transnational dynamics that exacerbate U.S. security challenges characterize the global environment. These challenges, such as transnational criminal activity, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violent extremism, resource competition, the rise of modern competitor states, and global warming will globalize what were previously local or regional issues. In the globally integrated operations concept, the dynamics of each specific challenge are inherently unique requiring small Joint Force units capable of forming for a specific mission on short notice, adapting to environmental demands over time, disbanding upon mission completion, and capable of reforming again in a different structure for a potentially wholly different mission set (McCauley, 2012). “Globally integrated operations place a premium on partnering” (Dempsey, 2012a, 6), which requires the Joint Force to develop a partnering strategy with those nations and organizations they will work with most often. These strategies must be flexible enough to apply in multiple local contexts while maintaining core U.S. principles. Thus, the burden falls on the Joint Force to develop a clear global vision and guiding principles for the development of a strategic approach that spans global, regional, and local domains.     

The First Century Roman World and Paul’s Strategy for the Early Christian Church

To develop recommendations for globally integrated operations leveraging the Apostle Paul’s framework, an understanding of the method of analysis and the context within which he lived is essential. “Socio-rhetorical criticism is an approach to literature that focuses on values, convictions, and beliefs both in the texts that we read and the world in which we live” (Robbins, 1996, 2). One way to develop contextual understanding is to perform ideological analysis, which “extends beyond social and cultural location into particular ways in which people advance their own interests and well-being through action, emotion, and thought” (Robbins, 1996, 96). Given the small group focus that globally integrated operations advocates and the dependency on global partners for support and execution, the following analysis is limited to the role that groups play in the environment.    

There are seven types of groups that are a helpful guide to socio-cultural taxonomies: “cliques, gangs, action set, faction, corporate body, historic tradition, and multiple historic traditions throughout the world” (Robbins, 1996, 100). The three groups most applicable are the action set, which is “a group of people who join together as a coalition to coordinate their actions to achieve a particular goal;”  the faction, which is “a coalition of persons recruited personally according to structurally diverse principles by or on behalf of a person in conflict with another person or persons with whom he or she was formerly united;” and the corporate group, which is “a body with a permanent existence, a collection of people recruited on recognized principles, with common interests and rules fixing rights and duties of the members in relation to one another” (Robbins, 1996, 101).

The relevant historical context is the First Century Roman Empire that spanned parts of Europe, Asia Minor, the Mediterranean coastlands as far east as the upper Euphrates River and the Arabian Desert, and west to include North Africa (Curtis, 2011). The social-political situation was marked by a rigid hierarchical system with the emperor and his Roman rulers at the top of the social-economic pyramid. Although the Romans encouraged their own religion, they remained tolerant of other religions throughout the empire even leveraging the practices of other religions to advance their own interests (Porter, 2007).

The movement of people characterized the world in which Paul lived. Particularly germane to Paul’s mission strategy were the large Jewish communities dispersed throughout the civilized world. For example, the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans took Jewish captives to their respective nations. In addition, Jewish settlers voluntarily emigrated to countries bordering Palestine, and to all the major towns and cities of the civilized world, primarily for trade (Franklin, 2006).

Within the complexities of the First Century Roman world, Paul designed a strategy intended to produce a worldwide missionary movement. This strategy relied upon a universal vision that was simultaneously global and local, and addressed the traditional Jewish corporate body (as described in Acts Chapters 2, 3, and 4), and Gentiles outside the corporate body who had no familiarity with Jewish scriptures (as described in Acts Chapters 14 and 17) (DeSilva, 2004). Non-negotiable principles underpinned Paul’s approach, but application and execution of the approach was flexible providing mission teams the latitude necessary to adapt to the unique local conditions (Kanagaraj, 2008).

Given the expanse of the Roman Empire, Paul realized he could not shoulder the entire burden of mission work alone; he needed a faction of Christians within the resident corporate body of Judaism to facilitate the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Within the Christian faction, an action or missionary group was needed in the field to foster the establishment and sustainment of Christian churches. Paul, demonstrating a keen understanding of the operating environment, collaborated with and directed his action groups to leverage three key systems: the global economic, social, and political structures; the existing Jewish religious infrastructure; and local leadership.   

Paul’s strategy focused his efforts in those areas that would have the greatest effect and potential for growth. In hostile or even benign environments, speed matters and urban centers, as focal points for economic, social, and political activities, was a natural place to start. Cities were recognized as flashpoints from which the gospel could spread out to the surrounding rural areas. Paul established missions in cities and towns at every opportunity. He made a point to visit major metropolitan cities, such as Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Macedonia, and Rome, in each region of the known world. Each city was on a Roman road or next to a major seaport and these locations attracted immigrants from all over the world (Ugo, 2012). Paul leveraged this multilingual migrant and migratory population to radiate his message outward like spokes on a wheel to the countryside (Siemens, 1997).

Within each of the cities and towns, Paul deliberately leveraged the existing Jewish synagogues. The synagogues were recognized as legitimate centers of religious, social, economic, and political activity and thought. Paul knew the importance of these centers as they meant communication could spread quickly to the surrounding areas and beyond (Franklin, 2006). The use of the synagogues enabled Paul to address two audiences simultaneously: the Jewish community, or the established corporate body, as well as the non-traditional or Gentile populations, or the faction external to the establishment. For Gentiles, connection to the synagogues provided a historical link to antiquity and the legal status granted by Rome to Judaism. This idea of corporate inclusiveness also provided the external faction an internal sense of legitimacy, which is often more important than being regarded as legitimate by others (DeSilva, 2004).

The initial cadre of missionaries available to Paul were insufficient to resource his strategy with the speed necessary for success. Recognizing this shortfall as well as the legitimacy local leadership provides to a foreign actor, Paul realized that developing local leaders and teams were essential to his strategy. Paul understood that local cultural contexts or worldviews must be used to frame the principles of his broader, universal message. Contextualization built the bridge needed to connect the message to the local audience. By adjusting his message to fit the needs of his audience, Paul and his missionaries gained instant credibility by showing an understanding of the local belief system (Ugo, 2012). To ensure local leadership shared his vision, Paul appointed leaders and elders from local communities and helped to mentor them. He often invited them to travel with him on his journeys to develop understanding, intent, and trust (Kanagaraj, 2008).

Paul’s Principles Applied to Globally Integrated Operations

Paul was an independent thinker, and he exploited opportunities as they arose. He was not interested in uniformity of behavior in others and adapted his methods to match the challenges raised by new circumstances. His thinking and practice were contextual—shaped by and for each new situation (Strom, 2006). Paul’s thinking is an example of the creative thinking required of today’s Joint Force leaders: “adaptive, innovative, and critically thinking leaders capable of operating in complex and unstructured environments” (Dempsey, 2012b, 5). This type of thinking serves as the cornerstone for globally distributed operations.

Using Paul’s mission strategy as an example, the U.S. Joint Force serves as the faction within the corporate global security body that takes responsibility for underwriting global security (NSS, 2010). Operating as small, globally distributed forces, the Joint Force, in collaboration with global allies and partners, serve as the action groups implementing and enforcing corporate security interests. With the vision provided in the National Security Strategy (2010): “…a world in which individuals enjoy more freedom and opportunity, and nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not” (2) a framework for action can be developed. Underpinning this framework are the guiding principles outlined in the strategy: security, prosperity, values, and international order. With these principles as guides, globally integrated operations must incorporate the three pillars of Paul’s mission strategy:

1.     Understanding: an extensive understanding of the local and regional economic, social, political, and cultural systems to determine decisive mechanisms or flashpoints through which the Joint Force and local action teams can execute operations. This comprehensive understanding can leverage the systems’ synergistic effects to spread the U.S. vision rapidly as shaped by local conditions.  

2.     Legitimacy: the identification and use of legitimate local centers of religious, social, economic, cultural, and political activity and thought to appeal to groups internal and external to the current power structure.

3.     Local leadership: the identification and development of local leadership and action teams must be a primary focus of any effort to provide local credibility, to inform and educate decision makers, and to enhance shared understanding. In addition, local cultural systems and practices must inform the development of an operational approach.   


A new world order requires a new American strategic approach to promote its universal values. Gone are the days of “putting a local face” on American operations to promote American values—today’s world is multi-polar whose actors are not relegated to the simplistic choice of the “good versus evil” approach of the bygone Cold War era. This multi-polarity environment demands a creative approach—a strategic approach that is global and local—to implement the Joint Force’s globally integrated operations concept.

The historical example of the Apostle Paul is an example of alternate domain knowledge that can inform the development of strategic approaches to manage U.S. security challenges. Today’s globally integrated operations require a strategic approach that promotes American values molded by local or regional cultures. Paul’s approach relied upon a clear global vision supported by principles and executed through local leaders and teams. Paul leveraged existing infrastructure and systems (synagogues and Judaism), cities (major economic, social, and political thoroughfares), and local leadership to establish the Early Christian Church while maintaining sensitivity to local conditions, customs, and culture. The Joint Force must develop an equally flexible approach for implementing globally integrated operations.


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My concern is with the objective - which appears to be 'A new world order requires a new American strategic approach to promote its universal values'.

Maybe we need a new world order, what very few will agree with outside the USA is that 'it's universal values' are now universal. I do think that twice in recent history there was much common agreement, yes limited largely to the then 'developed world'; namely Wilson's Fourteen Points and post-1945 victory - The Atlantic Charter IIRC.

How about a major amendment: The USA must follow local cultural systems, practices and values when considering action, except when US national survival is in danger. This will always be the basis to develop an operational approach with local actors and others.

This article would read very differently if other ideologies than Christianity were considered. History shows ample evidence of competing religions and ideologies. The appeal to people and / or states of the "Chinese way" in parts of Africa, leftist movements in Latin America and socialism in Europe.

I see little evidence that this adaptation of Paul's approach is 'maintaining sensitivity to local conditions, customs, and culture'. Rather a new version of the "big stick" approach to international security.

Great points--your amendment would go a long way in setting the appropriate mindset for any planning or operational endeavor. I see Paul's approach as one example that falls into that category in that he maintained his overall vision but understood that local conditions would dictate success or failure and he adapted the applicatiion of his principles accordingly. His approach was a tactical-to-strategic view, or bottom up, as opposed to the opposite.

A more comprehensive paper would include the other six major religions--Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism--and would certainly provide a great starting point for understanding other cultures.

Given our current fiscal constraints, personnel drawdown, and identified need to rely more on operating with or through allies and partners to execute military operations, would it make sense to create a small, standing, coalition force (American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand - ABCANZ) in order to leverage the capabilties of each country, share the financial burden, & design a force that has the ability to quickly adapt to operations in various areas of the globe?

I've chosen the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis because they are the ones we routinely share information with, coordinate with, and have a history of operating with in a fairly integrated fashion.

Given our stated pivot to the Pacific area, partnering with the Aussies and Kiwis and following their lead in that area of operations (developing local leadership to provide local credibility) may be the preferred course of action. The Brits maintain links to areas in Africa, another region of growing concern that will likely draw in US and other forces (like low-level US assistance to French forces currently operating in Mali).

Does this idea align with the authors "framework for globally integrated operations"?

I believe such a framework is a great start and is one that would make information and intelligence sharing less burdensome. However, to be effective in the long term, the framework must be expanded beyond the usual suspects to include host nations and other regional partners that do not have their roots in the West. The JS J-7's recent Insights and Best Practices Focus Paper on "Mission Command and Cross-Domain Synergy" addresses the increased cultural aspects and the art of command necessary to address the challenges associated with the number, diversity, and capabilities of multiple mission partners around the globe.

Sharing the financial burdens will require collaborative goals and objectives, which as we know from the NATO example, can be cumbersome and less effective. It is, however, a necessity for many reasons.