Small Wars Journal

On the Recommendation to Shut Down the Army's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

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Howard R. Lind President and Executive Director

1725 I Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006


November 29, 2018


The Honorable Mark Esper Secretary of the Army 1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301


Dear Secretary Esper,


I write to share the industry perspective of the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) regarding  the recent recommendation to shut down the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) division of the Army War College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. The bottom line up front is that ISOA opposes any reduction or closure of this vital organization. We believe the closing of this institution would have dire consequences for U.S. policies and efforts to assuage and end the world’s most dire conflicts. The United States has engaged in many stability operations throughout its history and inevitably our national interest will require further participation in these vital missions into the future. For American service members the closure will create unnecessary complications and significantly increase risks for those assigned to assist in these critical missions.


By way of introduction, ISOA is a global partnership of more than 110 private sector and nongovernmental organizational members providing critical services in support of U.S. military and stability operations missions in fragile and dangerous environments worldwide. ISOA members provide the full spectrum of stability operations support, from logistics and transportation, to governance and security. ISOA member companies collectively execute contracts, services, and programs to the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of State (DOS), and to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) missions totaling more than $50B annually. Many ISOA members are led and staffed by U.S. combat veterans who learned the tough lessons on doing stability operations while honorably serving the United States in the field, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.


As you are aware PKSOI was established in 1993, initially as the "Peacekeeping Institute." Today, however, national policy demands have led to a much broader operational focus. Considering its critical evolution to support the military’s increasingly complex missions, a more accurate name for the organization might be “Stability Operations Institute”.


As directed in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the United States military and support sectors are to “compete, deter, and win” in the complex environments in which we are engaged through “a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly improving Joint Force, combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners.” Such activities will require that today’s leaders, both on and off the battlefield, have ready access to specialized experts who preserve institutional memory of both mistakes and innovations, and to scholarly resources that can offer solutions in these complex missions. This is exactly why PKSOI is so indispensable—it is a vast repository of lessons-learned regarding stability operations, as well as a cadre of experts from across the interagency and academia standing ready to assist leadership with immediate advice, historical insights, policy options and strategic guidance.


When issues are not urgent but nonetheless imminent, PKSOI offers leaders the scholarly tools to translate lessons from the past into ideas for the future; an environment in which new strategies and approaches are beta tested so unnecessary tactical errors do not lead to strategic policy failure. PKSOI is renown as a Joint Force

“think tank” regarding strategic warfare—conventional and irregular—and is widely respected by policy makers and operators. Given the recent directives of the 2018 Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR), the interagency—DoD, DOS and USAID—are to realign stabilization activities to ensure that all foreign aid has an immediate and measurable payoff in terms of U.S. diplomatic and national security objectives. PKSOI must remain available and supported as it is an invaluable tool for the military and interagency as they work toward this new goal.


Although ISOA members are vital to supporting the military stability missions, the association is not privy to the rationale for shuttering PKSOI. Of note, however, is the financial argument stated in open letters and opinion pieces which emphasize that PKSOI is worth its price as it is the chief coordinating organization for doctrine, training, and education needed to effectively conduct complex missions in states and regions threatened by, or currently experiencing, conflict, terrorism, and other threats to security.


PKSOI has always been an invaluable resource and partner to our association and its members. American success in stability operations matters to our industry more than most. Every single day ISOA’s members are in the field, often in the most difficult and dangerous environments, supporting American service members and sharing their risks, and with sound policies, successes. On behalf of these dedicated men and women, we urge that the Army continue to support the Army’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute at the Army War College.


Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.





Howard R. Lind

President and Executive Director

International Stability Operations Association


About the Author(s)

The U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute promotes the collaborative development and integration of Peace and Stability capabilities across the US government and the international community in order to enable the success of future Peace and Stability activities and missions. Special Competencies include:

Security Sector Reform

  • Mass Atrocity Response
  • Village Stability Operations (VSO)

Governance & Participation

  • District Stability Framework
  • Demobilization Disarmament & Reintegration (DDR)

Rule of Law

  • Protection of Civilians (PoC) / CIVCAS Mitigation
  • Reposibility to Protect (R2P)
  • Stability Policing / Police Reform
  • UN Policing

Economic Stabilization & Infrastructure

  • Sewage, Water, Electricity, Academics, Trash, Medical, Safety and Other (SWEAT-MSO)
  • Reconstruction Planning (restoration of basic services) 

Humanitarian Assistance & Social Well-Being

  • Gender-Based Violence/ Gender Issues
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) /Refugee management
  • Disaster Relief and Reconstruction Planning


Deja vu, after the Vietnam War we enforced irregular warfare amnesia. We drew the wrong lessons from Desert Storm because we fought a fool and assumed all our future adversaries could just as easily be defeated with our superior conventional capabilities. However, post 9/11 and the subsequent failure to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan in the early phase of the post-conventional conflict resulted in a prolonged slug fest that so-far, and at great expense, has failed to achieve our strategic ends. Of course the right right response is close an institution designed to address those educational and doctrinal shortfalls. As a nation we shifted from the planning principle of not wishing problems away to embracing the easiest way to solve a hard problem is to simply wish it away.  

Our misleading conventional and irregular war paradigm results in muddled thinking. War is war, and it character always changes. Most wars are hybrid in character, and almost all if not all wars require varying degrees of stability operations to achieve the desired political outcomes. The ability to win battles is critical but insufficient, unless we think we got Libya right of course. Stability operations does not mean imposing democracy, it means establishing a culturally appropriate form of governance (especially in the early phases) that friendly to the U.S.  We didn't fight to establish regime hostile to us. 

It is so disappointing that post Vietnam we shifted to a conventional warfare paradigm  when the Cold War continued to be waged via irregular proxy wars. Then post 9/11 we shifted to an irregular warfare paradigm and to a large degree forgot how to wage conventional warfare. Now we're tired of irregular warfare, so we'll wish it away and seek to re-master conventional high end warfare for probable 21st Century wars.  Of course we must do with a sense of urgency, high end warfare is far from dead, but in doing so we shouldn't throw out our ability to wage irregular warfare.  We will be called upon to do both, failure in either will result in failure to achieve our strategic aims. War is war, this is what we need to prepare for, not simply the battle we prefer to wage. 

In consideration of the "advancing market-democracy" strategic framework -- which I provide in my comments below -- let us be brave enough to ask, and to answer, the fundamental question here; which would seem to be:

Exactly what "master" does "stability operations" -- actually and truthfully -- serve?

In this regard, consider the following:


Within the existing framework of international law, is it legitimate for an occupying power, in the name of creating the conditions for a more democratic and peaceful state, to introduce fundamental changes in the constitutional, social, economic, and legal order within an occupied territory? ...

These questions have arisen in various conflicts and occupations since 1945—including the tragic situation in Iraq since the United States–led invasion of March–April 2003. They have arisen because of the cautious, even restrictive assumption in the laws of war (also called international humanitarian law or, traditionally, jus in bello) that occupying powers should respect the existing laws and economic arrangements within the occupied territory, and should therefore, by implication, make as few changes as possible.  This conservationist principle in the laws of war stands in potential conflict with the transformative goals of certain occupations. ...

The assumption that, the occupant’s role being temporary, any alteration of the existing order in occupied territory should be minimal lies at the heart of the provisions on military occupation in the laws of war. ...

What are the rules under occupation law that govern the nature and extent of changes that can be introduced within occupied territory? On the face of it, they are straightforward. Their basics are enshrined in the much-quoted words of the 1907 Hague Regulations, which provide in Article 43: "The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country."


(From Sir Adam Roberts "Transformative Military Occupation: Applying the Laws of War and Human Rights."… )

Thus, to suggest that:

a. If "stability" -- actually and truthfully --  is the "master" that our "stability operations" serves, then the "do not change the political, economic, social and/or value order of other state and societies" requirements -- of international law above -- THIS would appear to be our guide.  (And, thus, "stability operations" need only be organized, ordered and oriented according to these such -- international law-reasoned and approved -- "non-interference" principles?)

b. If, however, "transformation" -- actually and truthfully -- is the "master" that our "stability operations" serves (transformation only more along our own unusual and unique -- and thus often grossly alien and profane -- political, economic, social and value lines), then THESE such massive "destructions and replacements" of the alternative ways of life, the alternatives ways of governance, and the alternative values, etc., of others becomes our "order of the day."   (And, thus, "stability operations" must be organized, ordered and oriented so as to achieve these such -- international law-disregarding and defying -- requirements?)

Note that:

a.  In the case of my item "a" above, "stability operations" might be very easy to do and, thus, a "U.S. Army  Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute" probably would not be needed.  Whereas:

b.  In the case of my item "b" above, "stability operations" (or should we just go ahead call these "transformative operations?"); these such operations (and for the reasons suggested in international law above?) might be very difficult to do, and, thus, might indeed require such things as a "U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute;" this, to help guide and facilitate these such amazingly difficult requirements?

(Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:  See my comments below -- for how all this got started.)

Note:  The link to the NSA Anthony Lake document-- that I refer to in my comment below -- can be found here:

From our article above:


As you are aware PKSOI was established in 1993, initially as the "Peacekeeping Institute." Today, however, national policy demands have led to a much broader operational focus. Considering its critical evolution to support the military’s increasingly complex missions, a more accurate name for the organization might be “Stability Operations Institute”.


Note that -- as to the issues that we discuss are discussing in this specific thread -- and, indeed, most of the issues that we discuss in Small Wars Journal generally -- the year 1993 looms exceptionally and amazingly  large; this given that it is (a) exactly as per this such date that (b) the grand strategy(ies) of the U.S./the West change from:

a.  "Containing communism" to

b.  "Advancing market-democracy."

From then-National Security Advisor Anthony Lake's letter -- introducing the concepts that would drive the  Clinton National Security Strategy of "Engagement and Enlargement:" 


Throughout the Cold War, we contained a global threat to market democracies; now we should seek to enlarge their reach, particularly in places of special significance to us.

The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement -- enlargement of the world's free community of market democracies.

During the Cold War, even children understood America's security mission; as they looked at those maps on their schoolroom walls, they knew we were trying to contain the creeping expansion of that big, red blob. Today, at great risk of oversimplification, we might visualize our security mission as promoting the enlargement of the "blue areas" of market democracies. The difference, of course, is that we do not seek to expand the reach of our institutions by force, subversion or repression.


(Of course, after 9/11, the gloves would come off, and the U.S./the West, thereafter, WOULD seek to expand the reach of our institutions; this, by more forceful means.)

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Given that:  

a.  It is EXACTLY in 1993 that the grand strategy(ies) of the U.S./the West change from "containment of communism" to "advancing market-democracy."  And that (in response to same?):

b.  It is EXACTLY in 1993 that the Army's "Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute" is established.

Given these such matters:

1.  Should we consider this (see my "a" and "b" immediately above) as simple a matter of innocent coincidence?  (If not, then what are the implications of these such "cause and effect" activities to our discussion here?)  And:

2.  Should we understand the thought (from my quoted item from our article above) "today, however, national policy demands have led to a much broader operational focus;" this, from the perspective of:

a.  Our post-Cold War grand strategy of advancing market-democracy; this:

b.  Now being challenged by "backsliding" and/or "disappointing" great powers?