Small Wars Journal

The U.S. Military is Trying to Manage Foreign Conflicts - Not Resolve Them. Here’s Why.

The U.S. Military is Trying to Manage Foreign Conflicts - Not Resolve Them. Here’s Why. By Paul Staniland – Washington Post

In the wake of the Iraq “surge” from 2006 to 2008, it looked like the United States had cracked the code for defeating insurgencies overseas: putting boots on the ground to provide services and security that win cooperation from civilians and defecting militants.

This optimism has disappeared in the last decade. The successes of the surge in Iraq turned out to be tenuous, and the model largely failed from 2009 to 2011 in Afghanistan. Troops could secure villages, and development aid and governance programs might follow, but broader political forces — from factional rivalries within local governments to the interventions of external states — could easily unravel village-level gains.

The Obama administration (in 2012 and 2014) and the Trump administration (2017) abandoned this form of “population-centric” counterinsurgency. U.S. policy shifted toward a new kind of small war strategy that could avoid another Afghanistan or Iraq-style conflict while focusing more on great power competition.

America’s “violence management” strategy relies on light ground forces, airpower and loose partnerships with local armed actors. Its aim is to degrade and disrupt militant organizations within a chaotic, fractured political landscape, not to commit large numbers of forces and resources to building robust new governments…

Read on.