U.S. Military Observers and Comprehensive Engagement

U.S. Military Observers and Comprehensive Engagement

by Christopher Holshek

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Since the turn of the century, U.S. policies have emphasized greater integrated power to engage a full range of threats, challenges, and opportunities largely concerned with the fragility of civil society and the seams within and between nation-states in a globalized world. This is not only due to well-known transforming strategic and operational environments, but more as of late because of increasing resource constraints for statesman and commanders, nationally and internationally. Moreover, the context for such engagements for the U.S. military, beyond being more joint and interagency, is increasingly multinational, with greater balance and synergy between "soft" and "hard" power, smaller military footprints, as much to prevent future conflicts as to respond to them, and involving greater cooperation with civilian interagency and non-governmental partners.

Yet, the U.S. military in general and the Army in particular have been overwhelmingly focused on large-scale counterinsurgency and other U.S-led stability operations over the past decade. Once those operations wind down, they may discover they are less well-suited to operate in truly multinational environments where the U.S. is neither the lead nor dominant player or where a large U.S. military footprint is neither feasible nor desirable, such as in Africa. No better example exists of how the U.S. military can perform a quiet, low-cost, yet influential role in multinational, comprehensive engagement, while "strengthening its capacity to partner with foreign counterparts" , than in the tiny group of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who serve worldwide as U.S. military observers in United Nations field missions.

Download The Full Article: U.S. Military Observers and Comprehensive Engagement

Christopher Holshek, a retired U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Officer, served as Senior U.S. Military Observer and Chief, Civil-Military Coordination at UNMIL from January 2008 to July 2009. He has also served with United Nations field missions as a civilian -- with the UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia from 1996 to 1998 as a logistics officer and the UN Mission in Kosovo from 2000 to 2001 as a political reporting officer.

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Comments

As I read through the PDF essay of COL Holshek, linked to this introduction, I could not help but think about the possibilities lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and elsewhere by not having this special operations capability of active observers dispatched by the U.S. military to international missions sponsored by various U.N. agencies. Internally to the United States government, these specialists could affiliate directly with the Office of the Secrectary of Defense and, perhaps, to a future U.S. Office of contingency Operations.

As a man who identifies himself as ‘American’, I find it difficult to adapt my mind to situations that lie outside the nation-state world-view (e.g., Afghanistan); these places test or defy the traditional paradigm. These U.S. special operations ‘blue-helmets’, drawn from those with the widest life experience within the military and not solely kinetic specialists, not only enable but extend the reach of development workers, diplomats, police trainers, etc., they act institutional go-betweens bridging that which we eschew (i.e., U.N.-led missions) with that which we can no longer afford (unilateral interventions).

Thank you Chris Holshek!