Small Wars Journal

Tool of Peace and War: Save the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

Tool of Peace and War: Save the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute by Tammy S. Schultz - Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. military is currently at war with itself, and a casualty may be a valuable Army institution that protects not only U.S. interests, but also the lives of U.S. service members. Since its establishment in 1993, the Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) has led the development of capabilities across the U.S. government and international organizations to support peace and stability activities and missions. But, according to various sources in the Pentagon, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper recommended eliminating PKSOI, in spite of much of the Army Staff’s objections. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has to make a decision on or around August 15, 2018. Although there is not much time, PKSOI can yet be saved.

Secretary Esper’s reportedly objects to having an Army organization with “peacekeeping” in its title, as the Army is a place for warriors. The same fight occurred in 2002, when the Army decided to close the then-named Peacekeeping Institute (PKI) for similar reasons. After media reports were published lamenting the Army’s decision, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ultimately reversed the decision.

The battle over PKSOI illustrates a larger debate within the Pentagon. One camp is what I call the “Fulda Gap” camp (a reference to the German town that was a famous Cold War potential flashpoint), those who want or predict a return to peer competition using largely conventional ways and means, versus the “COINdinistas” (a nickname given for counterinsurgency, or COIN, experts and proponents in the mid-2000s), those who want or predict that future warfare will always include some form of irregular warfare. As with any complex endeavor like warfare, such binary thinking will prove to be the wrong approach—and could spell the end to a valuable Army institution…

Read on.