Revisited: A 2011 SWJ Discussion with Dr. Nadia Schadlow

Revisted: A 2011 SWJ Discussion with Dr. Nadia Schadlow, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Strategy

Dr. Nadia Schadlow has been named Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Strategy. She was a senior program officer in the International Security and Foreign Policy of the Smith Richardson Foundation. Her book War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory has just been published by Georgetown University Press.

Below is the transcript of a short discussion with Nadia Schadlow hosted by SWJ in May 2011.

Why should the local providing of governance be a concern for the U.S. military? Why should the U.S. military be in the business of providing local governance? An iconic image of the latest book by Bing West (The Wrong War, Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan) is that of Lt Colonel McCollough who had to assume and perform the role of the governor, police chief, school principal, and banker, in Nawa.

The United States military does not have a choice when it comes to establishing a baseline of governance and stability in wartime. It never has and it never will. If the United States wants its military to avoid having to "concern" itself with governance, then it needs to get out of the business of fighting wars. Wars fought by democratic and decent countries have, and will continue to involve, efforts to achieve a baseline of stability and order, setting the stage for a desired departure. While there are certainly many legitimate political reasons why the United States might not want to intervene in a particular country or region, to dismiss history -- virtually every war in which the United States has fought has involved the military's conduct of governance -- is to continue to keep the policy community ill-informed about the nature of war, adding to the likelihood of poor decisions by civilian leaders in the future. Libya is but the latest, starkest example of the viewpoint that somehow we can deploy military force absent an operational political strategy on the ground.

The debates that have unfolded over the past decade about the appropriate missions of the American military have not focused on the character of war. Rather, they have conflated various arguments, producing a picture of what we hope for, rather than helping us prepare for what the United States is actually getting into when it commits its military to fight. One way to reduce the chances of messy, protracted interventions is to, from the outset, acknowledge that war will virtually always involve the need to stabilize territory. If we have no will, no means, no plan, or no money to finish up that key challenge in war, then we should not commit troops in the first place. Why should our soldiers bear the brunt of this ignorance?

Another frequently heard argument against the "military being in the business of governance" is that we don't know what the future holds, thus, we shouldn't invest much in preparing to do governance better. This view essentially maintains that since we can't predict the future, why worry too much about absorbing the lessons of the past? This is shortsighted. Such a view ignores that responsible planners are in fact, trying to assess the current and future environment and make tough decisions about what to plan for, and how. They are examining key empirical trends: the unfolding of powerful political movements; the emergence of new technologies; demographic shifts; the development of new forms of war; and the volatility of strategically important states. It is hard to imagine how any situation of future danger either within America's borders or outside of them, will NOT involve a potent mix of violence and politics. In a disordered, violent world the ability to restore order will remain a critical requirement.

The United States military is the only operational actor in war that can broker between a basic political settlement, the drawdown of forces, and the transition to local governance. And while bullets are flying, it is still war. Why would we rely, predominantly, on civilians -- who are not trained to operate under fire -- in a warzone?

The debates today would be more productive if we focused on developing the right operational approaches to establishing baseline governance and security; the best way to organize a transition, the correct mix of military and civilian actors to set the stage for local rule. This would lead to victory, and peace, sooner.

Beginning in 2007, ―You can‘t kill your way out to victory― became the hallmark of a military organization that until then was perceived as being too conventionally minded, too kinetic and enemy-centric focused. Has the U.S. Military succeeded in overcoming its Jominian culture of being too enemy-centric and becoming more comfortable with the drinking-tea and doing windows side of the spectrum? Able to successfully manage both the governance building and war-fighting skills? Or is it in the danger of going too much to the other side of the spectrum, of becoming too focused on drinking-tea and doing windows (projects, shuras, economic development), and so neglecting its war fighting core duties? Is this after all an impossible balancing act? And too confusing for a soldier trained as warrior?

The U.S. military remains enemy centric: in the past it has fought enemies that employed capable conventional forces such as tanks and infantry divisions on the fields of Europe or in the deserts of North Africa and Iraq. Today, it is fighting insurgent organizations that are hiding amongst the people, operating in the mountainous terrain, and maintaining headquarters in and initiating operations from dense urban areas.

The strength of the American military has been and will continue to be its operational flexibility and the adaptability of its leaders. Obviously the battles to defeat defending insurgent organizations in Fallujah, Tall Afar, or Ramadi didn‘t involve much tea drinking or ―window washing.‖ Nor did the initial battles for Musa Qala, Afghanistan or the recently concluded Operation Strong Eagle along the Pakistan border in Kunar, Afghanistan. In these intense heated battles U.S. soldiers conducted combined arms, joint operations, and they employed firepower with discipline and discrimination. The same units that fought in these battles shifted to population centric area security operations and build relationships that permitted them to consolidate gains as they defeated the enemy. It is not an impossible balancing act: the U.S. military has been ―balancing‖ for close to a decade now, oftentimes forced improvise to make up for the lack of strategic, operational and tactical preparation for this type of war.

COIN, and its attention to the details of politics and reconstruction, is a corrective to the overwhelming focus on so-called conventional war — which, in the past, tended to ignore the political dimensions of war and define war as we might like it to be. The Army‘s overall approach over the past several years has been to build and train a force capable of fighting across the full spectrum of operations.

The Army has not made COIN ascendant: rather, it has adopted two important operational concepts that give meaning to the concept of full-spectrum operations and of the need to be flexible — that is, to be both soldiers and diplomats as circumstances require. Wide-area security involves both fighting and stabilizing — a consistent feature of the operational level of war. It is about consolidating tactical and operational successes so that they can be built upon and translated into strategic successes. Successful wide-area security makes it harder for insurgents to emerge and to operate. Combined-arms maneuver establishes the conditions necessary for attack and defense over extended distances. Both of these concepts involve skills necessary to fight and to stabilize. They provide the kind of flexibility, at the operational level, that will allow forces to gain and maintain contact with the enemy and overwhelm the enemy in tactical engagements. Moreover, the Army‘s long standing concept of mission command recognizes that it is small unit leaders on the ground who will have to make the judgments about use of force based on the need to destroy the enemy while also protecting innocents. The Army is not shifting too much in one direction for another, but is acknowledging that there are political and military skills required along the entire spectrum of war, and it is preparing for them.

The ability to fight will always require the integration of fire and maneuver and appropriate combinations of infantry, mobile protected firepower, offensive and defensive fires. In close combat, Army units are still expected to throw enemy forces off balance, follow up rapidly to prevent recovery, and continue operations that destroy the enemy‘s will to fight.

Overall, the question of whether or not the U.S. military - mainly the Army‘s ―conventional‖ combat skills have atrophied is one that has gained considerable attention over the past few years and it is one that can probably be answered with much more empirical precision than it has been. Resources should be put toward empirically based studies that examine how and what specific skills are being lost.

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As we revisit this 2011 SWJ discussion with Dr. Nadia Schadlow, let me point, first, to the following (accurately attributed to Clausewitz?) and, thereafter, to a quote from Dr. Schadlow's interview above:

BEGIN QUOTE RE: CLAUSEWITZ:

The object in war is to impose our will on our enemy. The means to this end is the organized application or threat of violence by military force. The target of that violence may be limited to hostile combatant forces, or it may extend to the enemy population at large. War may range from intense clashes between large military forces—sometimes backed by an official declaration of war—to subtler, unconventional hostilities that barely reach the threshold of violence.

END QUOTE

https://www.clausewitz.com/readings/mcdp1.pdf (See Page 4.)

BEGIN QUOTE FROM DR. SCHADLOW'S INTERVIEW ABOVE

The United States military does not have a choice when it comes to establishing a baseline of governance and stability in wartime.

END QUOTE

Question No. 1: At the end of major combat operations -- and upon "establishing of a baseline of governance and stability" (Schadlow) -- can we say that we have "imposed our will" on our enemy? (The answer here would seem to be "no.")

Question No. 2: This being the case, then should we not understand that -- re: post-major combat operations military "governance" requirements -- these, quite obviously, must extend well beyond:

a. Simply providing "baseline governance and stability" and to

b. Further efforts and activities which actually lend themselves to our successfully "imposing our will" upon our enemy -- whatever this "will" (ex: transformation and incorporation) might be? (The answer here seems to be "yes.)

Bottom Line Thought/Question:

As per Clausewitz above, a war would not seem to be successfully concluded until such time as we had "imposed our will" upon our opponent.

Given, as we certainly know now, that neither (a) the successful completion of major combat operations nor (b) the implementation of a "baseline of governance and stability" -- in and of themselves -- actually provide for this requirement (again, the "imposition of our will" upon our opponent),

Then does this not suggest that a military governor, and significant other military forces/assets also, should stay in the lead; this:

a. Well beyond the simple implementation of a "baseline of governance and stability" and, indeed,

b. Until such time as the "imposition of our will" has actually been achieved?

("Imposition," after all, being primarily as military function -- as per Clausewitz above: "The means to this end is the organized application or threat of violence by military force.") -

This interview is from May, 2011.

From the second paragraph of our article above:

BEGIN QUOTE

While there are certainly many legitimate political reasons why the United States might not want to intervene in a particular country or region, to dismiss history -- virtually every war in which the United States has fought has involved the military's conduct of governance -- is to continue to keep the policy community ill-informed about the nature of war, adding to the likelihood of poor decisions by civilian leaders in the future.

END QUOTE

Question: Are Dr. Nadia Schadlow's thoughts here -- and elsewhere -- generally that:

a. If you are going to go war,

b. Then you must expect to this is because you have decided that you must IMPOSE, for example, your political, economic, social and value institutions and norms on the state -- and/or societies -- that you have decided that you must go to war against? (Dr. Schadlow's "governance" thoughts, thus, to be understood more in such "imposition" terms?)

"Imposition" (and the "governance" needed to achieve same), thus, being (a) the job for militaries and not civilians, (b) a job that, obviously, can extend well beyond the "major combat operations" phase(s) of war and (c) a job which, thus by its very nature, often requires a long-term occupation and/or rule-through-proxy?

Thus, "imposition," in fact, being the true "nature of war" (and, thus, the true nature of war-related "governance?") that Dr. Schadlow is talking about?

Stated another way:

In your contemplation as to whether you should go to war or no re: a certain state and/or society, one must logically factor in that, re: this such conflict -- and, for example, as per your political objective of transforming these states and societies more along one's, alien and profane, political, economic, social and value lines --

a. The populations will be "against you;" this,

b. Rather than "with you." (As the now-defunct, and continuously proven as false, concepts of "universal western values," "the overwhelming appeal of our way of life" and "the end of history" once suggested?)

(These erroneous "universal western values," etc., concepts -- noted at item "b" immediately above -- being the former "baseline assumption" upon which the "nature of war" was contemplated post-the Old Cold War. And, thus, the erroneous "baseline assumption" upon which all our recent conflicts were [mistakenly] undertaken. These are the erroneous/dis-proven post-Cold War "baseline assumptions" that Dr. Schadlow, thus, wants us to get away from.)

Bottom Line:

Dr. Schadlow's "the nature of war" (and war-related governance?) construct, thus, to be more easily understood:

a. Not as per the erroneous and dis-proven post-Cold War "liberation"/"to free the oppressed"/ "facilitation"/"short-term occupation" thoughts. But, rather,

b. More as per the valid, and indeed timeless, "subjugation"/"to oppress the free"/"imposition" and related "long-term occupation" and/or "rule-through-proxy" concepts?

("Subjugation"/"to oppress the free"/"imposition"/"long-term occupation" and/or "rule-through-proxy" concepts being more consistent with the true "nature of war" -- yesterday and today?)

Or, it may just be that:

a. If you are going to go war,

b. Then you must expect that during and potentially some period after armed conflict, you must provide the authority and control -- governance -- to facilitate an orderly return to civilian control and restoration or establishment of peacetime institutions, depending on the nature of the conflict. (Dr. Schadlow's "governance" thoughts, thus, to be understood more in such "keep the lights and water going, and the looting to a minimum, and create conditions where the civilians will come in and take over" terms?)

Thus, maintaining order in the post-combat vacuum, in fact, being a necessary activity in war that Dr. Schadlow is talking about?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar....

Warlock:

Let me suggest that it is your "the nature of the conflict" caveat that tends to cause your such ideas above -- and those of Dr. Schadlow's also if they are similar -- to fall somewhat short. Thus, it is this "nature of the conflict" that, I suggest, we must better address.

In this regard consider that, for decades now, the requirements of post-major combat operations governance (a window into "the nature of the conflict?") -- for the U.S./the West -- has consistently been:

a. Not only to "keep the lights and water going, the looting to a minimum and to create conditions where the civilians will come in and take over." But, also,

b. To facilitate the transformation of the subject states, and their societies, more along our, often alien and profane, political, economic, social and value lines.

Herein it is generally believed, yesterday as today, that it is (a) the lack of our political, economic, social and value institutions and norms that (b) form the basis, the "root cause," of our conflicts.

Thus, for the U.S./the West, it is considered to be:

a. Not only morally wrong not to (a) use the opportunity presented by the conflict to (b) transform these outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines. But, in certain circumstance,

b. Potentially suicidal.

And, herein, as they say, lies the rub. This being that:

a. While "keeping the lights and water going, the looting to a minimum and creating the conditions where the civilians will come in and take over" might, indeed, be (a) the much easier task and (b) the one less-likely to be contested, such

b. Does not solve the U.S./the West's national security problem -- outlined and explained immediately above.

The requirements of post-major combat operations governance, thus for the U.S./the West unfortunately but understandably, extending (a) well beyond the "keeping the lights and and water running," etc., jobs to (b) the much more difficult, the much more entailed and the much more likely to be contested task of (from my earlier comment) "imposing" our political, economic, social and value institutions and norms on other states and societies.

Bottom Line:

Your thoughts above -- and those of Dr. Schadlow's also if they are similar -- these are devoid of a U.S./Western political objective and, specifically, the political objective that has driven U.S./Western foreign and national security policy for decades.

This is grave error as:

a. Only by understanding "the nature of the conflict" (your caveat above) -- to wit: our political objective and that of our enemies -- can one

b. Hope to understand and define the post-major combat operations "governance" requirements (for example, the need for the military to stay in the lead?) of same.

Make sense?

Bill -- were your sweeping assessment correct that all post-Cold War U.S. security policy is driven by a goal of transforming foreign societies, then yes, it makes sense. Since you're basing your assessment largely off of your interpretation of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, where we deliberately displaced the Taliban in favor of the Northern Alliance, and Iraq, where we displaced Saddam in favor of a vacuum, then, no, it doesn't. Far from being part of a deliberate strategy for hands-on transformation, our strategy was to throw the bums out, and then assume the aftermath would take care of itself. Everything after that was made up on the fly, and what you see as deliberate effort to transform societies has been our all-too-common habit of Doing Things Our Way simply because when you're trying to do things quickly, you revert to what you know.

Unfortunately, "occupation" is something of a dirty word in the Army and Marines, and civil affairs is a neglected career field. Instead, they give a hand-wave to wide-area security, and hand the rest off to the mystical civilian "interagency", who are even less well equipped and trained for the job. Hence Dr Schadlow's well-considered advice that we actually start planning for the aftermath, rather than just letting it happen to us.