Small Wars Journal

The Void in Tactical Level Economic Doctrine

Mon, 08/01/2011 - 5:40pm

The Void in Tactical Level Economic Doctrine

by David Anderson and Jonathan Schaffner

Download the Full Article: The Void in Tactical Level Economic Doctrine

In light of experiences in the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, the Caribbean and on-going operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military made several revisions to its doctrine. Many of these revisions account for the complexities in counterinsurgency, stability and reconstruction operations, especially when these operations take place amongst ongoing kinetic activities. Some of the changes reflect a new found respect for operations conducted in Vietnam or, depending on the source, a thinly veiled reference to French actions in Algeria. These changes acknowledge the need for a whole of government approach, mention the word economy or economics as if it were permanently connected to social or political considerations, and even elevate the economy to an operational variable. However, they fail to fully expound on the tactical leader's involvement in economic activity and the necessity for achieving sustainable economic development in the operating environment. Using current Army Field Manuals (FM), a contracted research document and military source directives and instructions, this review will present the context in which these publications mention or address economics and the depth they venture to explain applications at the tactical level.

Download the Full Article: The Void in Tactical Level Economic Doctrine

Dr. David A. Anderson is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer. He is now a professor of Strategic Studies and Odom Chair of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he teaches strategic and operational studies, as well as economics. He is also an adjunct professor for Webster University, where he teaches various international relations courses including, International Political Economy and Globalization. He has published numerous articles on military, economics, and international relations related topics.

Major Jonathan K. Shaffner is a U.S. Army Major who holds a masters of business administration from Northeastern University and is a recent graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies. He is now on his fifth deployment in support of OIF/OEF as a planner with USFOR-A.

About the Author(s)


G Martin

Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:26pm

In reply to by Dayuhan

You mean the fact that we can't even fix our own economic issues right now doesn't convince you that we can fix other people's economic issues? ;)

The idea that "sustainable economic development" is a deliverable good that can be packaged and installed by an outside party coming to town with the correct doctrine seems grossly inconsistent with the history of economic development programs. The idea that "sustainable economic development" can be achieved in a time frame that would make it relevant to tactical concerns (as I understand the term at least)seems grossly inconsistent with the history of economic development programs. The idea that it's possible to have a "doctrine" or recipe for "sustainable economic development" seems to me to border on the absurd.

There are practical and reasonable ideas here. It is good to rebuild infrastructure, especially if we broke it. The rule of law - law dictated by local custom and preference, not by an occupying power - is essential to the restoration of economic activity, and has to be a priority. It is indeed important to recognize and try to mitigate the impact that the presence of an outside military force, especially one that spends like Americans, can have on a local economy. All of these things are legitimate considerations for "stability operations". The idea that an occupying army is in a position to define what "sustainable economic development" means for any given community, let alone to generate that development, let alone to generate it in a tactically relevant time frame, seems to me to exemplify hubris to the nth degree.

Do as little harm as possible, fix what's broke, restore order (on the most basic level, as in stop people from killing each other), and get it into the hands of local civil administration as fast as possible. They will mess it up, but so would you, and better it's their mess than yours.


Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:17am

Very good piece of work which details the rising importance of economic development as a major component of US Military practice and doctrine. And even more importantly begins the conversation related to where economic development doctrine fails at the tactical level. I do hope the authors continue with follow on recommendations as to how to address these shortcomings in doctrine.