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The Marine Corps’ Combined Action Program and Modern Peace
Operations - Common Themes and Lessons
Major William W. Go, USMC
The Marine Corps' Combined Action Program and Modern Peace
Operations - Common Themes and Lessons
Major William W. Go, United States Marine Corps
The mixed performance of U.S. forces in recent low intensity
conflicts or "small wars", i.e. Vietnam (counterinsurgency) and Somalia
(peace operation), has been due in part to a failure to understand the
political, economic, social, and cultural factors at work in the area of
operations. The Combined Action Program (CAP) of the Vietnam War has
been frequently cited by military historians as an example of a
successful small wars operation, this because the CAP did have cultural
aspect. The U.S. Marine Corps-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF) portion of
the 1992-1995 UN operation in Somalia was successful partly because it
applied lessons learned from Marine Corps small wars experience from the
Central American "Banana Wars" of the 1930's and the CAP in Vietnam.
Discussion: Counterinsurgency and peace operations are
similar in that they both involve adversaries often indistinguishable
from noncombatants and that operations frequently occur in an
environment totally unfamiliar to Americans. Even more than conventional
operations, they are characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty, and
friction. In both cases, success depends on a well defined mission,
properly trained and equipped forces, intelligently designed Rules of
Engagement, and an in depth knowledge of the political, economic,
social, and cultural aspects of the target area. As in conventional
warfare, successful resolution of the conflict will depend on a
political, not a military, solution.
Combined Action Program in Vietnam and UNITAF in Somalia both
demonstrated that well trained and well led conventional forces can be
successfully adapted to some unconventional roles. Both cases also
demonstrated that military might, no matter how skillfully or how
massively applied, cannot solve the underlying political cause of a
conflict. Political problems require political solutions and the
viability any political solution is wholly dependent on the
characteristics of the native population.
there is much that the U.S. military can do to improve the ways that it
prepares forces for participation in peace operations. Too much emphasis
is currently placed on tactics, techniques, and procedures and not
enough is placed on cultural appreciation of the target area. A common
failing of virtually all of our recent small wars experience has been
that our forces have deployed "culturally under armed."
Peace operations preparation of forces should include, in addition
to conventional tactics, technique, and procedures, intensive cultural
indoctrination of the target country down to the lowest level. In
addition, commanders and staffs should receive an thorough orientation
on UN organization and functions as well as civilian agencies, NGO's,
and PVO's likely to be encountered. All sources of "cultural
intelligence" should be exploited, to include the contracting of
civilian area experts and linguists.
performance of the U.S. military in peace operations is at best mixed.
Despite its participation in a number of these operations, the U.S.
military is only now beginning to develop comprehensive doctrine,
tactics, techniques, and procedures for the conduct of these operations.
There are many similarities between counter-insurgency and peace
operations, such as the difficulty in distinguishing friend from foe and
the need for a thorough understanding of the cultural, economic, and
political factors at work in the area of operations. The U.S. Marine
Corps' Combined Action Program (CAP) from the U.S.-Vietnam War
(1965-1973) is frequently cited by military historians as an example of
a successful counter-insurgency operation. In fact, the limited
successes of the CAP have caused the program to achieve an almost
mythological reputation. This paper will examine the CAP as an example
of recent U.S. counter-insurgency experience and will use this program
as a framework to analyze the 1992-1993 U.S.-led peace operation in
Somalia, called Operation Restore Hope.
will begin with a historical overview of the CAP, from its roots in U.S.
Marine actions in Central America circa 1935 up to the termination of
the program in Vietnam in 1971. The successes and failures of the
program will be examined in detail. The CAP will then be compared and
contrasted with Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, also known as Unified
Task Force (UNITAF). Operation Restore Hope, Dec 1992- May 1993, was the
generally successful U.S.-led portion of the UN intervention is Somalia
that preceded the ill-fated United Nations Operations in Somalia II (UNOSOM
II). Also examined are the lessons of the CAP that were successfully
applied in Somalia. Finally, the paper will conclude with a survey of
current U.S. doctrine on peace operations and will suggest additions and
improvements to the ways that U.S. forces are prepared for participation
in such operations.
II. The Combined Action Program: A Historical Overview
Combined Action Program was the child of Marine Corps experience in the
"Banana Wars" of Central America, specifically action against Augusto
Sandino's guerrillas in Nicaragua circa 1925-1933. Through this
experience, the Marines gained an early appreciation of insurgent
guerrilla warfare and its socioeconomic and political dimensions.
Operations were characterized by aggressive small unit patrolling,
independent units operating well away from heavy logistical support, and
close association with indigenous constabulary forces. The latter
included the employment of combined units made up of a mix of U.S. and
local forces. In addition to military operations, the Marines also
provided public works, health, and education services.
published their lessons learned in their Small Wars Manual (SWM),
first printed in 1940. Almost fifty years later, the SWM is still
an excellent primer on low intensity conflict. The Manual
defines small wars as "operations undertaken under executive authority,
wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the
internal or external affairs of another state whose government is
unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and
of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our
SWM also enunciates the significance of economic, political, and
social factors and the desirability of minimum application of force.
These ideas were the precursors of current doctrine on Low Intensity
Conflict (LIC), or, as it is know more currently, Military Operations
Other Than War (MOOTW).
beginnings of the CAP were completely ad hoc. In July 1965, 3d
Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, under the command of LtCol William W.
Taylor, was responsible for the security of the Marine air base at Phu
Bai, Republic of Vietnam. Assigned a large area to defend with a
shortage of manpower, LtCol Taylor was able to supplement his forces
with six local militia platoons, known as Popular Forces or PF's. His
intent was to form the PF's into a security force that would augment his
Marines and operate from villages around the air base. To organize and
train the new unit, LtCol Taylor secured the services of 1stLt Paul R.
Ek, a Vietnamese-speaking Marine officer. 1stLt Ek drew volunteers from
the infantry line companies and formed them into rifle squads, each
consisting of a squad leader (NCO), an assistant squad leader, three
four-man fireteams, and a Navy corpsman. Each of these squads was
integrated into a PF platoon to form what Ek called a "joint action
platoon." These were the first combined action units. These elements
were in turn formed into "joint action companies."
also started a combined action school, a week long crash course in
Vietnamese political structure and culture. Notably absent from the
syllabus was any sort of language training, a weakness of the program
that would continue throughout its existence. Even at this early stage
of development, three distinguishing characteristics of the CAP, the
basic unit consisting of a Marine squad combined with a PF platoon,
specialized training for Marines prior to duty with the CAP's, and the
volunteer nature of the program, were established.
1stLt Ek's experiment was successful. Security in the villages improved
to the point that officials began sleeping in their homes again instead
of at fortified positions. Villagers began to provide valuable tactical
intelligence on the Viet Cong (VC) to the Marines, and VC tax collection
and propaganda activity decreased markedly.
Soon, other Marine units throughout the I Corps Tactical Zone began to
form similar units; from the beginning, CAP was a bottom up phenomena.
CAP enjoyed considerable support from the senior Marine leadership,
notably LtGen Lewis Walt, the Commanding General of III Marine
Amphibious Force (III MAF). This was despite resistance from General
Westmoreland, the Commander of Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV),
who was more interested in engaging the VC in conventional set piece
battles. The Program, still functioning on an informal basis, expanded
throughout 1966, ending the year with 57 operational CAP's.
On 17 July
1967, LtGen Walt formally inaugurated the CAP with III MAF Force Order
3121.4A. The CAP got its own Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E)
and operational control of the CAP platoons was removed from their
parent infantry battalions and taken over by III MAF. The Combined
Action Platoons were reorganized into Combined Action Companies (CAC's)
and these into Combined Action Groups (CAG's).
The program expanded throughout 1967 and 1968, reaching its peak in
August of 1969 with 114 CAP platoons organized in four CAG's. With the
winding down of the American presence in Vietnam, the Program was
disestablished in May 1971.
mythology of the CAP originates from the fact that by the quantitative
measures of effectiveness used during the war, it was successful. The
enemy/friendly kill ratio of the CAP platoons varied from 4:1 to 14:1.
By the MACV Revolutionary Development Scale, almost two-thirds of CAP
villages had reached an eighty percent level of pacification, compared
to less than one-sixth of non-CAP villages.
In addition, morale in the CAP units was high. Despite much higher
casualty rates than conventional line companies, there were no
desertions recorded during the period 1966-1970.
More than half of CAP participants volunteered to extend their tours in
Much of the CAP legend derives from the exploits of CAP L-6 at Binh
Nghia during 1966-1967, described in Francis West's book The Village.
L-6 demonstrated the potential of the CAP. After a period of
adjustment, the Marines there were accepted by the Vietnamese villagers
and were able to organize an effective combined Marine/PF defense force.
After fighting a series of pitched battles with the Marines throughout
1966-1967, the VC eventually abandoned their efforts to control the
village. When the Marines were reassigned in October 1967, they left
behind a functional Vietnamese self-defense force.
legend, the reality is that the CAP never amounted to more than a very
minor sideshow of the war. Even at its peak, total CAP strength never
exceeded two thousand Marines. At one rifle squad per village, the CAP
was extremely manpower intensive and did not lend itself to widespread
application. For example, in the I Corps Tactical Zone alone, there were
in excess of one thousand villages. To put a CAP unit in each would have
required more Marine infantry than was available in the entire theater.
effectiveness of CAP units was largely inconsistent, partly because VC
activity varied greatly from area to area. Some CAP's made contact on an
almost daily basis whereas others saw virtually no action.
Another factor was inconsistency in the quality of CAP participants and
their training. Many of the "volunteers" were not true volunteers. Some,
in fact, were Marines who had effectively been kicked out of their
previous units and many had no combat experience.
Even in its longest version, the formal CAP school was only two weeks in
duration and tended to focus on military skills, omitting, because of
its short length, much needed cultural and language training. The
improvisational nature of the Program persisted throughout its
existence, being created "out of hide" and existing at the expense of
conventional line units, who constantly competed for limited resources.
As such, CAP units were chronically underequipped and undermanned.
contrast to West's account of CAP L-6 at Binh Nghia are the Edward F.
Palm's memoirs of his participation as a member of CAP P-3 at Thon Vinh
Dai in 1967.
Unlike West's CAP at Binh Nghia, Palm's unit never succeeded in winning
the trust of the Vietnamese. In the five month period described by Palm,
the relationship between the villagers and the Marines was distant at
best. The PF's refused to patrol certain areas because, according to
Palm, they had probably reached an accommodation with the VC, which
constantly strained the relationship between the Marines and the
Vietnamese. Therefore, the mutual trust and respect that was key to the
success of the Binh Nghia unit never developed at Thon Vinh. In
addition, the Americans were, in Palm's words, tactically incompetent.
Unit discipline and basic infantry skills were lax and, in five months,
contact with the VC occurred only once. In Palm's experience, the CAP
was a noble but failed experiment because the cultural gap between the
Americans and the Vietnamese was "unbridgeable."
inconsistent results of the CAP can best be summed up by the statement
of Col. John E. Greenwood, former CO of 4th CAG, that "Almost anything
that you can say about CAP is true."
Yet despite accounts like Palm's and others criticizing the efficacy of
the CAP, the fact remains that some CAP units were successful in
countering the VC. What features distinguished effective units, like
West's CAP unit at Binh Nghia from ineffective ones like Palm's?
most critical factor was the will of the Vietnamese to resist the VC.
Clausewitz wrote that war is a clash of wills.Where
there is no will there can be no victory. Some Vietnamese leaders such
as the Police Chiefs and the District Chief described by West were at
least as ruthless as their VC counterparts, not being above resorting to
torture or summary action to achieve their ends.
In addition, there were civilian villagers who were openly defiant of
the VC. The Marines at Binh Nghia were also able to bridge the culture
gap, eventually winning the respect and trust of the Vietnamese through
their efforts in attempting to understand village culture and their
demonstrated determination to face the VC on their own ground. West
mentions that Marines were frequently invited into homes for meals and
children did not avoid them as they did non-CAP Americans.
As such, the Marines became part of the social and political structure
of the village.
unit, unlike Palm's, was well trained and well led. They benefited from
having consistently high quality leaders and from receiving only first
class volunteers. Their military skills were good, as seen in their
aggressive patrolling which kept the VC off balance. They were
physically and mentally tough and self-reliant. In nine months of some
of the fiercest village fighting in Vietnam, the CAP unit never called
in a single air strike for fear of causing collateral damage, another
sign of their respect for Vietnamese culture. They were a professional
model for the PF's to emulate.
September 1966, Binh Nghia was attacked by a large main force VC unit,
killing all but one of the Marines in the stronghold, but the PF's
successfully held the position. The unit was soon rebuilt and continued
to wage successful small unit actions against the VC, and, in March
1967, again successfully defended the village from a VC battalion.
This was the high water mark of the Binh Nghia unit, in terms of
acceptance of the Marines by the Vietnamese and also of the viability
of the PF's as a credible fighting force. By the summer of 1967, the VC
had resigned themselves to the persistence of the Binh Nghia unit and
began to avoid it. In October 1967, the Marines were pulled out and
reassigned, leaving behind a capable, self-sustaining PF defense force.
the Binh Nghia CAP unit was successful because, first and foremost, the
Vietnamese possessed the political will to resist the VC. This, coupled
with a credible military capability, allowed them to be successful. In
addition, the Marines were a disciplined, competent unit. In Binh Nghia
at least, the Marines did win the "hearts and minds" of the villagers,
being accepted first as big brothers and later as equal partners in the
struggle. The combined unit provided the basic physical security that
made initial pacification possible, but long term pacification was
achieved only because the villagers wanted it to be. The enduring lesson
of Binh Nghia is that security without political effort is useless and
that if political action is not employed, victory is impossible
regardless of the scope and intensity of military operations.
III. Somalia: Operation Restore Hope
Nations (UN) intervention in Somalia (Sept 1993 - May 1994) can be
divided into four phases, the minimalist and ineffective United Nations
Operations in Somalia I (UNOSOM I, Sept 92- Dec 92), the generally
effective U.S.-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF, Dec 92-May 93), the
overstretched, coercive and failed UNOSOM II (May 93-Oct 93), and the
final revised, scaled back UNOSOM II (Oct 93-Mar 95). The U.S.
participation in UNITAF was code named Operation Restore Hope.
President Siad Barre, a past client of both the former Soviet Union and
the United States, was overthrown in January 1991 by an alliance of
factional clans. Afterwards, the clans attempted to form an interim
government in Mogadishu. This effort failed and fighting broke out
between two dominant factions of the United Somali Congress (USC). These
were the forces of General Mohamed Farah Aideed's Habar Gedir clan and
those of Ali Mahdi's Abhal clan. Both of these factions were subclans of
the Hawiye clan.
The fighting caused widespread starvation and the collapse of all
On 24 April
1992, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 751,
authorizing the dispatch of unarmed UN peacekeepers to Somalia to
monitor a UN brokered cease fire.
U.S. involvement in Somalia started with Operation Provide Relief, which
in August 1992 began to airlift supplies and the first UN peacekeepers
into Somalia. Eventually, a force of 500 Pakistani peacekeepers were
deployed to Mogadishu. Inadequately staffed, trained, and equipped, they
were unable to take control of the airfield and port and were totally
ineffective. In the absence of a legitimate government, fighting soon
resumed between clan forces and was heaviest in and around Mogadishu.
Even with the fighting, food poured into Somalia from relief agencies
and countries worldwide. However, despite an ever increasing amount of
food arriving in country, the actual amount of food reaching the
population decreased due to widespread looting.
The situation on the ground continued to deteriorate and by November of
1992 half a million Somalis had died as a result of fighting and
starvation in two years of civil war. In addition, General Aideed and
Ali Mahdi had ceased negotiations with the UN.
December 1992, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 794 which
endorsed military action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to
establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in
Somalia as soon as possible.
On 9 December 1992, U.S. Marines landed in Mogadishu as the lead
elements of Operation Restore Hope.
The operation was conducted by the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). The
principal U.S. units involved were the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I
MEF) and the Army's 10th Mountain Division. The Commanding General of I
MEF, LtGen Robert B. Johnston, was appointed the Joint Task Force
Commander by the Commander in Chief, CENTCOM.
Major Coalition force contributors were Australia, Belgium, Canada,
France, Italy, Morocco, and Pakistan. Minor contingents were sent by
Botswana, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tunisia, United
Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe.
The U.S. and Coalition forces together comprised the Unified Task Force
(UNITAF) which operated under LtGen Johnston's command.
UNITAF operated under a strict interpretation of UNSCR 794 which
sanctioned UN action to establish a secure environment for relief
operations. The UNITAF staff focused on the achievement of clearly
identifiable and measurable military, political, and humanitarian
Despite wide disparities in languages, cultures, and capabilities,
UNITAF, through extensive exchange of liaison teams, was able to achieve
a high degree of cohesion and a sense of common purpose.
pacification operations were successful. By February - March 1993,
UNITAF had accomplished the humanitarian mission. In excess of forty
thousand tons of relief supplies had passed through Mogadishu and
Humanitarian Operations Centers were established in all major population
centers. UNITAF forces conducted extensive and highly visible
patrolling operations in their respective areas. Though sporadic
fighting in Mogadishu continued into January 1993, UNITAF was militarily
and politically credible enough to withstand confrontation with the
clans and did not allow itself to be dragged into the factional
By the end of January, an air of normalcy began to return to Mogadishu.
The vehicularly mounted heavy weapons, known as "technicals", were taken
off of the streets and stored outside of the city by their clan owners.
No light weapons, except those authorized by registration with UNITAF,
were visible on the streets. Shops and schools began to reopen. With
U.S. advisory assistance, the Somalis established an interim police
force. Units were patrolling the streets of Mogadishu by mid-January. At
the time of the UNITAF-UN hand off on 4 May 1993, the police force was
three thousand strong and operating in all of Mogadishu's eighteen
casualty figures, especially those due to gunshot wounds, dropped
UNITAF troops demonstrated remarkable discipline and restraint. Despite
numerous incidents ranging from stone throwing to minor firefights,
UNITAF forces for the most part followed their own strict rules of
engagement. The Somalis recognized the UNITAF restraint and responded in
result, Somali casualties during the five month UNITAF deployment were
low, estimated at fifty to one hundred. UNITAF casualties for the same
period were eight killed and twenty-four wounded.
UNITAF handed off operations to UNOSOM II on 04 May 1993.
From the outset, UNOSOM II was ill equipped and understaffed to assume
control of peacekeeping and peacemaking operations. Neither the UN
Security Council nor the Secretary General provided precise guidance on
how UNOSOM II was to operate. No effective command and control apparatus
was in place at the time of the handoff. The UNOSOM II staff, what
little there was of one, was incapable of coordinating military and
political functions, a particularly difficult task given the diversity
of Coalition forces. For example, UNOSOM II Command never succeeded in
establishing a uniform set of Rules of Engagement (ROE).
lack of detailed guidance for UNOSOM II operations, the relatively easy
success of UNITAF, and Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's vision
of the UN as a nationbuilder, the stage was set for mission creep. On
26 March 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 814.
Coercive in its wording (many provisions beginning with "demands that
..."), 814 was a mandate for a UN nationbuilding operation in Somalia.
In addition, UNITAF and UNOSOM II differed fundamentally in style.
UNOSOM II did not make the effort to engage the Somali people that
UNITAF did. UNOSOM II tended to be aloof. UNOSOM II forces adopted a
fortress mentality and were given to isolating themselves in their
compounds. Thinking that it was no longer necessary, UNOSOM II closed
the Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC), effectively severing vital
communications channels with the Somalis and relief organizations. UNSCR
814 marked a major turning point of the UN presence in Somalia. The
passage of Resolution 814 alienated the Somali people, who began to
perceive the UN presence as neocolonialist. Relations between UNOSOM II
and the Somalis thus began a downward spiral. This caused a series of
escalating confrontations with the factions that eventually lead to the
5 Jun 1993 massacre of twenty-four Pakistani peacekeepers at the hands
of General Aideed's forces.
On 6 June
1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 837 which placed a
bounty on General Aideed.
Through its heavy handedness, UNOSOM II had in short order succeeded in
alienating the Somali population and marginalizing their most prominent
clan leader. Now, with the bounty on Aideed, the UN personalized the
conflict and in the process elevated Aideed to the status of a folk
hero. The U.S. was a willing participant in all of this. American
Admiral Jonathan Howe, UN special envoy to Somalia, requested and
received both Rangers and Delta Force commandos to hunt for Aideed. This
special operations task force, known as Task Force Ranger, operated at
the direction of Admiral Howe and outside of the UN chain of command.
Its sole function was to find and apprehend Aideed.
This operation culminated in the disastrous 3 October 93 raid in
Mogadishu that resulted in the death of eighteen Americans.
This fiasco, which highlighted the Clinton administration's lack of a
coherent policy in Somalia, caused a rapid collapse of American public
support for the mission. In March 1994, U.S. forces were withdrawn from
Somalia. By this time, the Somalis still had not succeeded in
establishing a national government or a permanent police force. By July,
widespread fighting between armed factions had resumed in Mogadishu.
In March 1995, the UN, under protection of U.S. forces (Operation United
Shield), withdrew completely from Somalia.
At the very
beginning of the UN involvement in Somalia, the Bush administration and
the UN Secretary General had very different visions of the UN mission.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali advocated an aggressive role. He envisioned the UN
as a nationbuilder.
Early on, he pressed for an aggressive clan disarmament program.
President Bush, on the other hand, harbored no illusions regarding the
difficulties in rebuilding a country where the government had completely
failed. Bush saw Operation Restore Hope as a narrowly defined and
achievable military mission, to provide a secure environment for relief
operations and then to get out. This was the literal interpretation of
UNSCR 794. Bush continually resisted UN pressure (much of it at the
behest of the Secretary General) to expand the mission beyond what 794
called for. In contrast, the Clinton administration, perhaps out of
naiveté, did not. This critical difference between the Clinton and Bush
administrations was central to the very different outcomes of UNITAF
(perceived as an easy and quick success) and UNOSOM II (total failure).
successful because its mission, to establish a secure environment for
humanitarian relief operations, was well defined, achievable and
limited. From the beginning, the UNITAF command aggressively pursued a
dialogue with Coalition contributors, relief agencies, and most
importantly, the Somali people. This entailed the formation of a joint
security committee and regular town meetings involving UNITAF officers
and community leaders.
UNITAF forces, especially the Americans, patrolled extensively. The
Marines, perhaps taking a page from their Small Wars Manual, were
especially active inside Mogadishu. This served to maintain a high level
of visibility and military credibility. The importance of the latter
within the context of Somalia's clan based society can not be
overstated. UNITAF's relationship with the clans was based on
persuasion backed by firmness. The mere presence of military might was
not enough. The clans' perception of UNITAF's strength was based on both
capability and the demonstrated will to use it.
In other words, UNITAF was assertive, and was respected for it. In
contrast, UNOSOM II, because of its obvious lack of organization and
direction, was perceived as weak despite obvious and significant
as a result of competent staff organization, a clear understanding of
what was possible and what was not. The UNITAF Command was well aware of
their limitations. For instance, Boutros Boutros-Ghali favored an
aggressive disarmament program as part of the relief operation. However,
LtGen Johnston, UNITAF Commander, saw such an effort as completely
unrealistic and unworkable. In addition, UNITAF, through its pursuit of
dialogue with clan leaders, went to great pains to avoid being
associated with a particular faction.
UNOSOM II failed because it attempted to do something (nationbuilding)
that was far beyond its and probably any nation's capability. Seduced by
the relatively easy success of UNITAF, UNOSOM II became preoccupied with
military solutions to political problems (i.e. the hunt for Aideed).
UNOSOM II completely failed to appreciate the scope and difficulty of
rebuilding Somalia. It lacked a clear strategy and was totally
inadequate to the task of nationbuilding in virtually every respect.
for peace operations covered only two extremes regarding the use of
military force. At the low end of the spectrum was the traditional
peacekeeping mission conducted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter which
involved the diplomatic use of military forces. In these cases, UN
troops were inserted between parties that had mutually agreed to stop
fighting. The UN forces acted as guarantors of the armistice; they were
effectively armed referees. At the high end of the scale were peace
enforcement missions, which were authorized under Article 42 of the UN
Charter. These involved large scale military operations against an
obvious aggressor. The Gulf War, although ultimately authorized under
Chapter VII of the UN Charter, used the language of Article 42 without
specifically referring to it.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in pushing for a nationbuilding effort in
Somalia, wanted the UN to experiment in a new form of peace enforcement
mission, one that would bridge the gap between the use of lightly armed
referees and large scale medium to high intensity military operations.
With no previous experience in a project of this sort, the rebuilding of
Somalia looked possible, especially in light of the early success of
UNITAF. As a result of this perception, UNOSOM II became dominated by
military operations as it attempted to impose military solutions on
personified in Boutros Boutros-Ghali, failed to appreciate the
political landscape in Somalia. His two track strategy of national
reconstruction, military pacification accompanied by political
resurrection, was based on a number of faulty assumptions. These were
the existence of a Somali political "center" around which the factions
would rally, the previous existence of a viable national government, and
that western democratic ideals of government could be successfully
applied in Somalia.
of Somalia was exactly the opposite of these assumptions. In fact, there
was no such thing as a collective Somali consciousness or national
Anarchy, that is the absence of a central government, was the principal
characteristic of Somali social organization prior to colonization. The
basic social units were the clans which existed in a rough state of
primitively armed equilibrium. Their behavior was governed by a code of
conduct called the Xeer. The Xeer was a set of rules and norms that
provided the basis for order in the nomadic Somali communities.
colonization by and independence from Britain and Italy, Siad Barre
became the President (dictator) of Somalia in 1969. Siad Barre quickly
proved himself a ruthless and corrupt despot. Although his regime was
roughly organized along clan lines, it did not consider itself bound by
Through the Cold War years of the seventies and eighties, Siad Barre was
first a client of the former Soviet Union and later of the United
States. During this period, a huge quantity of weapons was poured into
the country by both sides. In reaction to the blatant corruption of
Barre's rule, opposition factions emerged. Although these too were
loosely based on clan affiliations, expediency, as in the case of the
Barre regime, took precedence over familial relations. In time, the
armed faction came to replace the clan as the fundamental unit of Somali
The major change from pre-Barre times was that none of these
organizations considered itself bound by the Xeer or any other set of
overthrow of Siad Barre by the United Somali Congress (USC), a Hawiye-dominated
faction led by Mohamed Farah Aideed, marked the beginning of the
complete collapse of the last vestiges of Somali social organization.
With the common enemy (Barre) vanquished, the opposition factions soon
turned on one another in an intense competition to control territory and
resources. The power of the mob had replaced the tyranny of the dictator
and, in the absence of the rule of law, the gun had supplanted the Xeer
as the Somali social fabric.
subtleties and complexities of Somali clan/faction structure were lost
on Boutros Boutros-Ghali. For example, in advocating an aggressive
program to disarm the factions, he saw the weapons as the root cause of
the absence of social and political order. Besides failing to appreciate
the futility of such a venture,
he failed to realize that the weapons were only a symptom and not the
cause of lawlessness.
UNITAF's accomplishment of the limited humanitarian operation in early
1993, Boutros-Ghali continued to press for the expansion of the UN
mission. In a report dated 3 March 1993, he stated that, despite
improvements in humanitarian conditions, a secure environment still had
not been established in Somalia. He concluded that UNOSOM II should be
granted authority under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and endowed with
The result of this was the passage of Security Council Resolution 814,
the mandate for nationbuilding. This precipitated the downward spiral of
events seen in the massacre of the Pakistanis, the hunt for Aideed, and
the Ranger debacle that ultimately led to the UN pullout in March 1995.
greatest error of UNOSOM II was that it failed to see that political
reconciliation between the factions could only have been accomplished
with a radical transformation of the factional political landscape from
one of armed competition for territory and resources to one of mutual
respect and cooperation. To have expected such an event to occur was
totally unrealistic given that the Somalis had no culture of national
unity and that their only past experience with centralized authority,
Siad Barre, had been overwhelmingly negative.
many lessons to be learned from Somalia for future humanitarian relief
operations. First, an ad hoc approach will not work. The overall
objective of the operation must be clearly defined at the outset. Vague
objectives are an invitation to mission creep. It may be just as useful
to explicitly state what the objective is not as it to state what it is.
Detailed planning is essential given the wide variety of players likely
to be involved in any peace operation.
Joint Force Commander must establish early on the command relationships
not only between the coalition military forces but also with the
non-military participants such as the non-governmental organizations
(NGO's) and private volunteer organizations (PVO's). This will probably
entail the extensive use of liaison officers and the early establishment
and adequate staffing of a Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC), as
well as the recognition that civil affairs and psychological operations
are as important to the success of the such operations as direct
military action. Also, the inevitable transition of command from the
U.S. to the UN must be meticulously planned, and any gaps in the UN
capability, be it in staff planning, military forces, logistics or
otherwise, must be identified early and corrected well in advance of the
neutrality can be elusive in peace operations. Every humanitarian
intervention is inherently partisan. In helping the "victims" of
factional fighting, we are really helping the losing side, or else they
would not be victims in the first place.The
relief force may come to be seen as another faction or ally of an
existing faction, a factor which may be offset by the aggressive seeking
and maintenance of dialogue with all participants.
forces must arrive rapidly, in strength, and they must be credible,
meaning that the presence of capability must be accompanied by a
demonstrated will to use it. A rapid, credible deployment, as in the
UNITAF phase, can potentially win the confidence of the population who
will then come to regard the forces as an effective authority. In such
cases, the seizure of initiative and momentum can be just as useful in
peace operations as it is in conventional combat.
However, pacification will not be sustainable without a determined
effort of political reconciliation and reconstruction. This was the
critical element lacking in Somalia.
failed in Somalia, the "two track" approach of peace operations, that of
parallel efforts of military pacification and political reconciliation,
may still have applicability in other situations. This strategy failed
in Somalia because of the previously discussed traits of Somali culture
and because operations came to be dominated by the military aspect. A
more calculated and balanced approach may work in some future operation.
Before such an attempt in made, however, two things must be clearly
understood by the donor nations and organizations. First, they must
recognize that western values do not translate everywhere. The attempted
imposition of western democratic values on a decidedly nonwestern
culture was a crucial failure of UNOSOM II. The importance of what LtGen.
A.C. Zinni, USMC, current Deputy Commander in Chief, USCENTCOM, called
"cultural intelligence" cannot be overstated. Before we can go into
strange places and do good things, we need to know how people there
think. This is a lesson that we continue to relearn as seen in the cases
of Vietnam and Lebanon.
attempt at political resurrection is an open-ended mission where
deadlines do not apply. Such an effort will require a long term
commitment from both the assistance providers and the recipients. Open
ended military missions are extremely difficult to sell politically.
The current debate over the U.S. presence in the Balkans is but the
latest example of this. Also, relief operations, by their very nature,
tend to create relief based economies, much like the welfare morass that
has developed in major American cities. Assistance solves short term
needs but in doing so tends to retard the development of
self-sufficiency, which in turn tends to lengthen the duration of the
transition from relief operations to self-sufficiency is the essence of
nationbuilding. It will not be inexpensive nor will it be quick. Success
here will require the will on the part of the relief providers to commit
the time and resources necessary for the task. The single most important
factor to success will be the political will of the recipient society to
have a stable, self-reliant nation in the first place. In some cases,
such as Somalia, that aspect will be lacking.
IV. The Combined
Action Program and Somalia: Common Lessons
War, a counterinsugency operation, and Operation Restore Hope, a peace
operation, shared some common features of low intensity conflict. These
included: the lack of an easily identifiable enemy; an over reliance on
military solutions; a dual strategy consisting of pacification by
military means accompanied by political reconciliation/reconstruction;
operations in an environment alien to Americans; demonstration of the
potential strategic effects of media coverage; and finally, failure due
to the absence of a coherent political solution.
Vietnam and Somalia, enemy forces were virtually indistinguishable from
friendly civilians, which necessitated the implementation of rules of
engagement (ROE). Thus, the ROE were sometimes overly complex and
confusing, especially in Somalia. Both Vietnam and Somalia presented
American forces with an environment, where in many cases, western values
and norms of behavior did not apply, underscoring the importance of
cultural awareness. This is particularly applicable in peace operations,
where U.S. forces must not only understand the culture and capabilities
of the "recipient" nation or nations, but also those of coalition
partners with which they may operate.
The U.S. in
Vietnam and the UN in Somalia both used a two track strategy of
pacification by military force combined with efforts to rehabilitate
the political system. In both instances, this approach became unbalanced
as military operations ascended to a position of dominance in
policymaking, eventually causing attempts at political solutions to be
shortchanged. Over reliance on military means occurred because military
operations tended to present quick and tangible results. Military
operations produced results that lent themselves to measurement, such
as the body counts in Vietnam, which were often inaccurate, and the
tons of food delivered in
were pleasing to politicians and showed immediate results, creating in
the minds of leaders the illusion that resolution of all problems are
easily attainable if only the correct orders are given. This promise of
near instant gratification by military action distracted leaders from
seeing the larger picture and led them away from the much more difficult
work of statesmanship, diplomacy, and cultural understanding. In both
cases, leaders attempted to impose military solutions onto what were
fundamentally political problems.
CAP was but a minor sideshow of the Vietnam War, it was nevertheless
another example of the dominant military role in U.S. policy. The CAP
did have a political dimension, unlike the majority of military
operations in Vietnam. Nevertheless, it was still a military program,
although it did demonstrate the need for political action to go hand in
hand with military action. Where there was a political basis for
pacification, such as the will to resist the communists, CAP units, such
as the one at Binh Nghia, were effective in countering the VC. Where the
villagers collaborated with the VC, CAP units were ineffective. At a
strategic level, the preoccupation with things military prevented U.S.
policymakers from appreciating the ineffectiveness of the South
Vietnamese government. Likewise, the leaders of UNOSOM II, seduced by
the early success of UNITAF, failed to appreciate the intractable
nature of the clan/faction structure in Somalia as the tried to
"rebuild" the society. Ultimately, despite some successes at the
tactical level, such as the Binh Nghia CAP and UNITAF, both efforts
failed because political solutions to political problems were not
Vietnam and Somalia, American forces were committed without a clear
understanding of the social, economic and cultural factors at work. Had
American leaders had a better idea of how the people that they were
dealing with thought and perceived our actions, they might have been
able to develop more successful strategies. Blindness to cultural and
political issues prevented them from fully appreciating the problems at
hand. Better "cultural intelligence" might have enabled policymakers to
determine earlier what was or what was not possible and when the cause
was beyond saving. In Vietnam we perpetuated a failed government, only
delaying the inevitable collapse. In Somalia, UNOSOM II attempted to
rebuild a "society" that never existed in the first place.
Somalia also demonstrated the potential strategic effects of media
coverage. That is, the power of the media to shape popular support for
or against U.S. intervention. In Vietnam, adverse news coverage of such
events as My Lai and the Tet Offensive were instrumental to the collapse
of public support for the war. In the case of Somalia, the "CNN factor"
got us both into and out of the operation.
Pictures of starving Somalis on the television night after night (just
before Thanksgiving 1992) caused the media-inspired public outcry to do
"something". The media got the U.S. into Somalia against the informed
judgment of the CIA, which well before December 1992 correctly assessed
the situation as beyond simple remedy and sternly warned against
Likewise, the media got the U.S. out of Somalia with the pictures of a
dead American soldier being dragged through a Mogadishu street following
the failed Ranger raid in October 1993. Yet politicians, by their
nature, hate to be criticized in public, especially when they are
accused of doing nothing. They want to be perceived as men and women of
action. This tendency renders them vulnerable to making rash decisions
under media pressure. As attractive as a proactive course of action
might look and sound, the reality is that sometimes the best course of
action is to do nothing.
several common lessons to be learned for modern peace operations from
our involvement in Vietnam and Somalia. Some of these might include the
following: that mission clarity is essential; that command relationships
should be as simple as possible; that high quality conventional forces
are inherently flexible enough to do some unconventional roles;
that in-depth cultural awareness is essential; that the two track
military/political strategy, though not successfully used in either
Vietnam or Somalia, is still probably the approach with the most
potential for success; and most importantly, that an objective
determination of what is possible is essential in order to prevent
the commitment of forces to any peace operation, the mission must be
defined clearly. This should include, to the maximum extent possible,
clearly defined tasks and criteria for success and a clear mandate from
the UN. Such a mandate will not only define the mission, but will also
determine how U.S. forces go about accomplishing it. The mandate will be
used to shape political guidance to U.S. forces, and, as the U.S. is
likely to be the leader in any future peace operation, input from the
U.S. military may be useful in the crafting of the mandate through the
U.S. ambassador to the UN.
relationships should be as simple as possible and all participants
should have a clear idea of who they are responsible to. Even in
Vietnam, the CAP units did not have a workable command and control
apparatus until the program was formalized by III MAF. Before then, they
tended to be treated as outcasts caught between their parent infantry
battalions, III MAF and MACV. With formalization of the CAP, they were
brought under the control of a single headquarters.
operations, the need for clear command relationships is even more
important given the added complexity of these endeavors. Not only are
peace operations likely to be both joint (multiservice) and combined
(multinational), they will probably involve a host of non-military
non-government organizations (NGO's) and private volunteer organizations
Many of these players may have a hidden agenda. In the UNITAF phase of
Operation Restore Hope, I MEF was designated the Joint Task Force
Headquarters. This provided continuity of relationships and procedures
that was critical to the effective command and control of forces and
assets from more than twenty different countries.
In addition, UNITAF introduced the use of a Civil Military Operations
Center (CMOC) and the division of the country into Humanitarian Relief
Sectors (HRS's). The former greatly facilitated the coordination between
military and non-military organizations (NGO's and PVO's) and the
latter allowed the division of the country into military areas of
responsibility. The use of HRS's provided workable spans of control to
the various military contingents.
In both the
CAP and in the UNITAF phase of Operation Restore Hope, conventional
forces were pressed into unconventional roles and were successful. Both
operations demonstrated that well led and well trained main force
organizations are adaptable to some non-standard missions. What little
preparation that these forces had was ad hoc at best. There is much room
for improvement in this regard. For future peace operations, time and
resources permitting, every effort should be made to provide as much
predeployment training as possible not just in tactics, techniques and
procedures, but also in the culture and history of the target area. The
lack of such cultural preparation has been a long-standing weakness of
U.S. forces. The more our forces understand the motivations at work in
the target area, the greater their chances for success. Cultural
understanding will entail far more than simply understanding the
language. That said, some rudimentary language training will also be
useful. Linguists may have to be sourced from outside the military, as
in Somalia where contact linguists were hired, of whom many were Somali
nationals living in the U.S..
track strategy, military pacification combined with political
reconciliation/reconstructon , was not used to its fullest potential in
either Vietnam or Somalia. Despite this history, it is still the
strategy that holds the most promise for success in future peace
operations. The failures in Vietnam and Somalia (UNOSOM II) were caused
by an unbalanced approach where military operations came to dominate the
mission, causing the diminution of political efforts. In the future, we
must avoid the trap of overreliance on military means. The allure of
military operations is that they produce almost immediate results that
are usually quantifiable in some way. The quick results of such
operations, such as pacification by the application of overwhelming
force, though superficially effective, are deceptive. These results will
be short lived because they reflect treatment of the symptom, not the
disease. The temporary pacification achieved by UNITAF was an example
is just as applicable to peace operations as he is to conventional war.
The conflict will invariably be based in some political struggle and its
solution will likewise be political, not military, in nature. The
attainment of such a solution will obviously be much more difficult than
simply ordering in the troops. It will require much patience and an
intense effort to understand the motivations behind the conflict. The
conduct of the operation should be governed by the progress toward a
deliberately calculated endstate, not a rigid timetable, and our view
must be long term. Most importantly, a durable peace will require the
desire of the parties involved to reach an accommodation. Without the
native desire for peace, any effort by third parties will be futile, as
was the case in Somalia.
important lesson of Somalia is that it reminded us that, even as the
world's only superpower, we are not omnipotent. Future humanitarian
crises may be rooted in political, economic and/or social problems that
will defy solution or whose solution will involve unacceptable costs in
terms of treasure or lives. Our formidable military capability will in
almost all cases enable us to achieve favorable short term results, as
was done by UNITAF, but in and of themselves military forces alone will
not provide a long term solution.
We must be
painfully aware of the limits of our power. Sun Tzu said that "If
ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every
battle to be in peril."
Better that we realize our weaknesses ourselves before someone else
points them out to us on some third world street. We must also resist
the "CNN factor" if we cannot affect a real and lasting improvement in
the situation. Short term solutions by force in otherwise hopeless
situations may make for dramatic news stories and might cause us feel
good about ourselves for a while, but will otherwise be a waste of
American lives and money. The challenge of the future will be to
identify the crises where we can make a real difference and which ones
are beyond help, as the CIA warned about Somalia. Though it does not
lend itself to "sound-bite" style news coverage, sometime the best
course of action is to do nothing. There is a Somali proverb: "If you
sweep the earth with a broom, it is the broom that wears out."
The United States cannot afford to be the broom of the world nor should
Doctrine for Peace Operations
operations, a subcategory of operations variously known as small wars,
low intensity conflict (LIC), and Military Operations Other Than War
(MOOTW), are not new to the United States military. Despite this,
doctrine for these types of operations is sparse compared to that of
conventional warfare; small wars doctrine has been relatively static
since 1940. In contrast, doctrine for medium to high intensity conflict
has been the subject of a tremendous amount of research by the armed
services as result of the Cold War. Doctrine for peace/small wars
operations may be old, but this does not necessarily mean that it is
useless. For example, much of the Marine Corps' Small Wars Manual,
first published almost sixty years ago, is as relevant today as it was
during the 1920's.
the criteria for a useful doctrine for peace operations? Doctrine, in
the context of the U.S. military, is published material used to
prescribe a way to think rather than what to think. This point deserves
emphasis here because in peace operations, more so than in any other
type of military operation, there is no standard "school house" solution
to familiar problems. The problems that commanders are likely to
encounter in peace operations, in the words of the Small Wars Manual,
"seldom develop in accord with any stereotyped procedure."
Peacekeeping doctrine should emphasize, first and foremost, the need to
understand the nature of the conflict, and what the parties are fighting
about. This begins with a thorough knowledge of the target country, in
all of its cultural, social, economic and political dimensions. Ideally,
this doctrine should emphasize the point that in peace operations,
ambiguity and uncertainty are even more pronounced than they are in
conventional operations. The unique requirements involved in preparing
forces for peace operations should be addressed. For example, a
fundamentally different mindset is required, one that combines
compassion and flexibility with calculation and resolve. The doctrine
should also talk address the importance of perceptions, which can have
the same impact on events as reality. A case in point is UNOSOM II in
Somalia, where initial indecisiveness in the application of force was
quickly interpreted as weakness. The necessity of practical rules of
engagement (ROE) should be discussed, along with command relationships
and the unique problems of coalition operations. This should include
some discussion of the employment of liaison elements. The virtues of
simplicity with regard to command and control and ROE should be
stressed. Finally, peace operations doctrine should emphasize the
importance of informed and competent leadership down to the lowest
level. Given the expectation that each peace operation will be
different, it probably is not feasible to devise a definitive "how to"
manual as one might do with infantry tactics. The greatest utility of
peace operations doctrine will be to help future planners "wargame the
problem" and to attempt to anticipate the unique situations that they
will be most likely to encounter. With these criteria in mind, this
chapter will critique the primary doctrinal publications for peace
operations of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army, the Small Wars
Manual and FM 100-23 Peace Operations.
Small Wars Manual (SWM). First published in 1940, the
SWM is the compilation of U.S. Marine Corps experience in the
Central/South American "Banana Wars" of the 1920's and 1930's. Once one
disregards the more anachronistic portions, such as the chapters on
obsolete infantry weapons and organizations, the material is
surprisingly relevant to modern peace operations, particularly the
sections in Chapter One dealing with small wars characteristics,
strategy, and psychology. The SWM definition of small wars is as
applicable today as it was in 1940.
The SWM correctly states that such operations seldom follow any
established pattern and that our forces will most likely be dealing with
a numerically superior adversary operating on terrain favorable to him.
A statement that is almost prescient of UNOSOM II's experience is made
in the section on general characteristics: "Small wars are conceived in
uncertainty, are conducted often with precarious responsibility and
doubtful authority, under indiscriminate orders lacking specific
The vital importance of cultural understanding permeates the SWM,
along with the idea that the conflict will probably be rooted in
economic, social and/or political matters, that military force alone
will not restore peace and that the ultimate solution will most likely
be political and not military in nature.
of psychological factors, both on friendlies and adversaries is
discussed. The SWM states that friendly troops must adopt a
mindset fundamentally different from that of conventional combat forces,
one that is characterized by caution and steadiness rather than
belligerence. Small wars operations require the absolute minimum
application of force and the use of arms should be the exception rather
than the rule. The training challenge will be to instill in our troops a
temperament that is a mix of both peaceful and warlike tendencies.
cultural awareness issue is raised in the section of psychology. The
SWM again emphasizes that forces must be prepared to deal with
profound cultural differences and that this will require a serious study
of the people and their racial, political, religious, and mental
Our troops must understand how the natives think; only with this depth
of understanding will they be successful. The SWM enumerates
fundamental policies that are applicable to almost any small war
situation. These are recognition and respect for local customs, the
avoidance of any favoritism or appearance thereof, a thorough knowledge
of the political situation, and respect for religious beliefs. The
utility of psychological operations, what the SWM refers to as
the "indirect" approach, is also covered. Specific methods mentioned are
subtle inspiration, propaganda through suggestion, and the undermining
of selected leaders. The efficacy of such methods is wholly dependent of
a thorough understanding of the target audience.
cautions against the creation of a relief based society. It states that
some people are "too willing to shirk their individual responsibility
and are too ready to let others shoulder the full responsibility for
restoring and, still worse, maintaining order and normalcy." It goes on
to say that "as little local responsibility as possible to accomplish
the mission should be assumed" and that "any other procedure weakens the
sovereign state, complicating the relationship with the military forces
and prolonging the occupation."
In short, American forces should not allow themselves to be drawn into
taking over and running the country, as was done in Vietnam. The
psychology section closes with a discussion of perceptions and rules of
engagement (ROE). The early establishment of military credibility is
vital, as any indecisiveness in the use of force will likely be
interpreted as weakness, a point that was clearly illustrated in the
failure of UNOSOM II. ROE should be lawful, specific, and couched in
clear, simple language.
subjects just discussed are covered in the first thirty-two pages of the
SWM and are the most useful. In this short but densely packed
section, the SWM addresses most of the salient points of peace
operations. The dominant theme is the importance of cultural awareness.
The desirability of minimum use of force, indirect methods and a mindset
of tolerance and sympathy combined with firmness and strength is also
heavily emphasized. The remainder of the SWM is less useful,
particularly the obviously obsolete sections on chain of command
(Goldwater-Nichols was still forty-six years away.) and infantry
weapons. Some of the sections on tactics, such as the chapters on convoy
and riverine operations, may still be of some use, at least as
background reading. The most useful part of the SWM, however, remain the
first four sections. These fulfill the purpose of the manual in that
they instruct the reader in how, not what, to think about the conduct of
FM-100-23 Peace Operations. Published in December 1994,
this is the most current doctrinal publication concerning the planning
and conduct of peace operations. The introduction provides a history and
overview of peace operation concepts and explains that commanders are
obligated to set clear objectives, define the mission, firmly guide
operations, and measure progress and success. FM 100-23 states
that the peace operation environment will be less well defined than in
conventional war, that the identity of belligerents may be uncertain,
and that traditional elements of combat power may not apply. Echoing
ideas presented earlier in the SWM, FM-100-23 states that an
understanding of the political and cultural dimensions of the conflict
are critical and that an over-emphasis on firepower may be
counterproductive. In peace operations, the conflict itself, not the
belligerents, is the enemy.
covers the fundamentals of peace operations, explaining strategic
concept, types of peace operations, and their principles and variables.
Types of peace operations are split into support to diplomacy,
peacekeeping, and peace enforcement. This section is very useful as it
explains the differences between peace operations types in the context
of today's joint and combined world. Most interesting is the section
describing the differences between peacekeeping and peace enforcement.
Peacekeeping operations are undertaken with the consent of all major
belligerents; peacekeeping forces are put in place to monitor an
In contrast, peace enforcement operations are "the application of
military force, pursuant to international authority, to compel
compliance with generally accepted resolutions and sanctions."
Peace enforcement may include combat action. FM-100-23 states
that the differences between peacekeeping and peace enforcement are not
a continuum, that they occur under vastly different circumstances of
consent, force, and impartiality. For example, peacekeeping requires
high levels of consent (by the belligerents) and impartiality (by the
peacekeeping forces) whereas in peace enforcement this is not
A key point raised is that because of these profound differences, a
force trained for peacekeeping may be completely unsuitable for a peace
enforcement mission and vice versa.
covers describes the subjects of command and control, coordination, and
liaison. The importance of well defined command relationships, in the
context of UN/multinational ad hoc coalition operations is discussed in
some depth. The necessity of extensive liaison with civilian agencies,
coalition partners and non-governmental organizations is also covered.
Chapter Three describes planning considerations. This includes the
topics of mission analysis and the operational functions of
intelligence, maneuver, fire support, mobility/counter-mobility, combat
service support, C3, coordination, force protection, and information.
Considerations for rules of of engagement (ROE), such as intent and
multinational interpretation, are discussed briefly. Conspicuously
absent from this sections is any mention of the need for ROE to be
simple enough to be practical. Force training and tailoring is covered
only superficially. Taking up less than two pages, this section is
inadequate and needs much development. The discussion is dominated by
force structure and not enough attention is given to force training,
such as cultural indoctrination of ground troops. Little if any
discussion is devoted to the use of linguists and cultural subject
chapter is on logistics and discusses the need to appreciate the
capabilities and limitations of coalition partners and other agencies.
The most useful section in this chapter is the one covering special
considerations of UN operations, specifically the limited planning
capabilities of UN staffs. The manual closes with a number of useful
appendices on UN organizations and functions, international relief
organizations, training requirements, and a sample ROE. A listing of
references is also provided.
FM-100-23 is a useful primer on modern peace operations. The
sections of force tailoring and training need more development,
especially in the area of cultural indoctrination of forces. Like the
SWM before it, it succeeds in reminding the leader and planner about
the unpredictable nature and unique considerations of peace operations.
Its greatest usefulness derives from doing this in the modern context of
post Goldwater-Nichols, UN-sanctioned joint/combined operations.
conclusion, the U.S. military does have a functional doctrine for peace
operations, albeit one that has not attained the same prominence and
level of development of doctrine for conventional combat operations.
There is no standard "template" solution for the planning and conduct of
peace operations since each peace operation promises to be unique. The
only common characteristics of future peace operations will be an
unfamiliar environment and an abundance of friction, ambiguity and
uncertainty. The challenge for future leaders and planners will be to
properly prepare and equip our forces, especially in cultural matters,
and to define clear and achievable missions, straightforward command
relationships, and practical ROE. Despite our best efforts, it is
inevitable that future operations will severely test the judgment of
commanders at all levels. The purpose of doctrine is to remind leaders
of these common considerations and to approach each operation with an
open mind to innovative solutions. The SWM, particularly its
opening sections, does an excellent job of this. FM-100-23 does
this also but to a lesser degree. The ideal would be a combination of
these two publications, one that joins the well developed general
characteristics, psychology, and strategy sections of the SWM
with the modern planning considerations covered in FM-100-23.
Counterinsurgency and peace operations are similar in that they both
involve adversaries often indistinguishable from noncombatants. These
operations also frequently occur in an environment totally unfamiliar to
Americans. Even more than conventional operations, they are
characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty, and friction. In both cases,
success depends on a well defined mission, properly trained and equipped
forces, intelligently designed Rules of Engagement, and an in depth
knowledge of the political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of
the target area. As in conventional warfare, successful resolution of
the conflict will depend on a political, not a military, solution.
Combined Action Program in Vietnam and UNITAF in Somalia both
demonstrated that well trained and well led conventional forces can be
successfully adapted to some unconventional roles. Both cases also
demonstrated that military might, no matter how skillfully or how
massively applied, cannot solve the underlying political cause of a
conflict. Political problems demand political solutions and the
viability any political solution is wholly dependent on the
characteristics of the native population. Where there is no widespread
indigenous desire for victory (in counterinsurgency operations) or peace
(in peace operations), there will be no successful outcome. This was the
case in peace operations in Somalia, where the basic social "structure"
was anarchy. In such cases, the unpalatable truth is that peace
operations of any sort, short of a complete takeover and disarmament of
the country, are futile in the long run.
absence of a viable political solution to the root cause of the
conflict, foreign military intervention alone can provide short term
pacification but nothing more. Where intractable problems exist, the
U.S. must come to grips with the limitations of its national power and
accept the reality that despite its abundant wealth and military might,
some situations remain unsolvable or require a prohibitive price to be
paid. Future American participation in peace operations, limited by ever
shrinking military resources, will force our leaders to carefully choose
the areas of involvment. The future challenge will be to identify the
situations where we can make an meaningful, lasting contribution and
then to act decisively.
peace operation doctrine is fundamentally sound albeit immature. Efforts
to correct this are ongoing.
Presently, there is much that the U.S. military can do to improve the
ways that it prepares forces for participation in peace operations. Thus
far, training has concentrated in tactical skills. Peace operations
preparation should include, in addition to conventional tactics,
technique, and procedures, intensive cultural indoctrination of the
target country down to the lowest level. In addition, commanders and
staffs should receive a thorough orientation on UN organization and
functions as well as civilian agencies, NGO's, and PVO's likely to be
encountered. All sources of "cultural intelligence" should be exploited,
to include the contracting of civilian subject matter experts and
linguists. A common failing of virtually all of our recent small wars
experience has been that our forces have been deployed while "culturally
underarmed." The resources to correct this (for virtually any location
in the world) exist today within the U.S.. It is time that we started to
take advantage of them.
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