Monday, March 24, 2008

The Modern State, Core & Gap

In a comment, Wiggins at Opposed Systems Design asked how the CRS report on US interventions abroad from 1798-2007 would make one reconsider the Core/Gap concept. Stealing this from my answer in his comments, I'd say that I didn’t mean "reconsider" in the sense of “thinking about discarding”, more like “think about again in broader/historical context”.

The Map was made as an extrapolation of data for US military deployed man-days 1990-2003; in the CRS report we have data for a rough cut for a historicized version. One would, of course, to make this systemically useful have to add up the (other) great powers’ deployments and interventions … and you would wind up describing hard-end trends in the colonial spread of the modern, industrial state. And thus, looking at the different interventions, you would get some perhaps interesting trends in the relative size and frequency of industrial vs. colonial (or big vs. small) wars), in the vein of - or supplementing - Rupert Smith’s great The Utility of Force.

That kind of reconsidering. The (problems related to) spread (and models) of the modern state is really at the heart of almost all security related politics. So historical trends and discussions hereof are interesting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Marine Corps Humanitarian Task Forces

The need for military capabilities other than the perceived essential task of warfighting is evident - indeed it has been central to e.g. what the Marine Corps and the US Army have been doing in practice since at least the mid 19th century.
This is something that the Navy and Marine Corps has always done,. LeFevre said, "and now we’re planning doing it."
Indeed, the Marine Corps is now counting on putting together battalion size humanitarian task forces (from
Marines and sailors are not diplomats and they can’t make foreign policy. But at sea and in foreign ports they can and have practiced a kind of diplomacy that has benefited the United States in peace and war.

And now the Corps is incorporating those kinds of missions into its mission planning with the creation of Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, built around the standard infantry-battalion unit but tweaked to emphasize humanitarian aid, medical and civil operations. (...) As envisioned, the new MAGTFs sometimes would be deployed for emergencies, and sometimes when there is no urgency but where its presence can do good and generate good will for the United States, said Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski deputy commandant of plans, policies and operations, during a discussion on strategic engagement and maritime diplomacy March 19 at the annual Sea Air Space Exposition in Washington, D.C. The SC MAGTF would be manned and equipped to carry out anything from military training of foreign forces to humanitarian, civil and medical operations, he said.

These kinds of missions have paid diplomatic and strategic dividends in the past, Natonski argued, including in the period building up for the invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. and, later, Iraq. Rear Adm. Michael LeFevre, director of military personnel, plans and policy division, said the cooperation the U.S. got for staging or moving forces through a number of Middle Eastern countries near or bordering those countries was due in part of relationships built between the sea services’ leadership and senior officials in the various governments.

On general level, this is both a welcome development as the US military is the only organization with global reach and since it therefore always gets these kinds of assignments (in disaster response e.g.) it makes sense to formalize what has for a long time been part of tasking. Moreover, the Barcelona Report (pdf) called for the development of humanitarian brigades in the European context, aimed at fulfilling somewhat comparable tasks - an example of the sense of utility. Of course, these were envisaged more like deployable PRTs with large constituent of civilians. But as these have been in short supply and less forthcoming in e.g. Afghanistan - and as the military, as said, will always be the organization of last resort - then it makes sense to plan for what will inevitably come their way anyway.

Of course, there's in principle and in operational terms a huge difference between preparing for disaster response and fighting a counterinsurgency campaign. But a the strategic level, it seems of obvious importance that the US military has a continuous experience with warfighting in the context of everything else - to borrow Tom Barnett's term - and so an institutionalized understanding of the strategic connection between military operations and the political situation to which they pertain.

Friday, March 21, 2008

JFCOM: Shaping Ambition (Sort of) Implodes II

(This post is a follow up to yesterday's post, found here).

Why do I think that the apparent change in ambitions regarding the Shaping/CSE JOC is a missed opportunity?

First, a rehash of events. 1) Iraq: Invasion goes fine. Phase IV/Stabilization and Reconstruction plus handover does not. 2) December 2005, Gordon England signs DoD Directive 3000.05 which puts S&R on par with major combat operations inside US military. 3) The NSPD44 (National Security Presidential Directive) is issued. It hands ultimate responsibility for S&R/Phase IV to State. 4) State is not given substantial additional means and still has about half as many employees as Pentagon has lawyers, but does get the S/CRS: the Office of the COORDINATOR of reconstruction and stabilization. 5) S&R, which in the meantime has become SSTR gets its own JOC, which defines them as 'Military SUPPORT to Stabilization, Security, Transitioning and Reconstruction Ops'.

Why is this relevant for Shaping/CSE JOC question? Because, where Phase IV is the handover from military to civilian agencies (ours or host nation) and marks the beginning of the transition from war to peace (or regular politics) and from conflict to mere confrontation ... there Phase Zero is where prevention can happen; where initiatives are made in order to avert a conflict cycle. It is hence of crucial interest to the military. It furthermore contains many of the same civil-military dynamics and paradoxes as Phase IV. These are again the same dynamics that are in play within the COIN and interagency paradigm: How do you enable, plan for and execute a whole of government approach to issues that consist of a mix of political confrontation and possible conflict (often inside 'host nation')?

The problem is that when SSTR or Shaping/CSE doctrinally is defined as 'military support to', then the military is not the lead actor. And that makes it unlikely that the 3000.05 will get to function properly. Or that CSE will become a priority in Pentagon proper (notwithstanding the effect of the new presidency on the OSD).

There are therefore two reasons why the apparent change of ambition concerning Shaping/CSE is a missed opportunity: Mass and strategic attention. The two are related, in the sense of structured attention: If just a bit of Pentagon's structured attention gets diverted to political conflict prevention issues, then a lot will be gained. Pentagon has a budget of a size which means that a relatively small bit may equate a complete budget for other, related agencies. Only Pentagon has global logistical reach, extensive planning and analysis capability, and sufficient operational and executive mass.

The recurrent argument against dealing with the entire conflict cycle - as described in the Capstone document - is that, after all, war is about warfighting? Alas, not just. Given the means available in the Pentagon budget (again relative to State, CIA, USAid, NSC, etc) it will, in practice, be the military, which is left with the responsibility when things go awry. Just look at this chart from the great Crane/Terrill analysis from February 2003 (whole file here, pdf):

The US military - and the NATO armed forces as well - will in fact be asked to be able to if not formally manage then at least very substantially support whole conflict cycles. Or rather: They will be asked to deal extensively with the Phase IV things, as in Afghanistan, and not many civilian organizations will be there to help. Hence the PRTs.

But exactly this means that the military organizations should see an immediate self-centered interest in getting Shaping/CSE right. This not just conceptually, but also institutionally as an assured part of any two- or three-star's mindset. Shaping/CSE needs strategic attention. And a few bucks. But investing in systematic prevention planning and analysis capabilities will not be expensive.

Coming from a NATO country perspective the change in ambition for the Shaping/CSE JOC is therefore a disappointment. This kind of stuff will not emanate from NATO (SAC(T)). JFCOM needs to show intellectual leadership on this account. But, of course, I have no clue how the change played out - if there was involvement from elsewhere in the process once the scale of the ambition came clear.

And so, nonetheless, it will still be very interesting to the see the final text of the coming CS JOC.

It would be logical if Tom Barnett picked up on this, but he's busy writing the next book (and going to Springsteen concerts).

JFCOM: Shaping Ambition (Sort of) Implodes

(NB! There's a follow up to this post, here.)
The US Defense establishment does not want to do development any more. Or maybe a bit anyway. Those are the signals coming out from JFCOM concerning the - still - coming JOC on 'Shaping'.* Except for the the fact that it will no longer be called 'Shaping' but the much less ambitious 'Military Support to Cooperative Security'. In principle the ambition moves from managing fair statebuilding processes that actively helps popular inclusion into the state project (i.e. development) to security sector reform in various guises. That may be deplorable, as in a missed chance. As I wrote over a year ago:
The creation of African Command (AFRICOM) is accompanied by a the development of a new Joint Operating Concept (JOC) with potentially huge ramifications for the continent and for the whole development sector -- including the largest non-American partners, from the national development agencies (DfID, Danida, etc) over the EU and especially the UN to of course the 'host nations' in particularly Africa. This new JOC is called Shaping.
The initial JFCOM ambitions for Shaping were described as:
Scope: This JOC will focus on the actions a joint force commander might take in the context of unified action to advance US interests by:
  • building partnership capacity
  • influencing non-partners and potential adversaries
  • mitigating the underlying causes of conflict and extremism; and
  • setting the conditions that enable rapid action when military intervention is required
Proposed Solution: The Joint Force, as a part of a larger multinational and interagency effort, conducts continuous, anticipatory shaping operations that build partnerships with governmental, nongovernmental, regional and international organizations and reduce the drivers of conflict and instability in order to prevent or mitigate conflict or other crises and set the conditions for success in other operations—all aimed at a secure global environment favorable to US interests.
My ensuing conclusion was:
How do you '[mitigate] the underlying causes of conflict and extremism', and 'mitigate conflict and other crises'? Well, this is exactly the work of the aggregate development organisations: from the UKs PCRU and USAID plus international NGOs like the ICG to more long-term development organisations like UNDP. Mitigating underlying causes of conflict means addressing grievances before they turn into rebellion ... it means strengthening the local state so that it delivers to its citizens: from basic infrastructure, a working, stable and sustainable economy that provides jobs, rule of law and a decent political system.

The Pentagon will have their hands full -- and it is extremely important that they get the conceptual thinking right here. I hope the drafters will consult leading civilian development and political science experts and the extensive social science insights inside the CIA. (...)

On the civilian side, including the whole of the development universe: You better wake up and follow this development closely. The Pentagon has so much logistical and funding clout that if the Shaping concept does indeed get feet, then there will be some very real opportunities to move the development agenda forward.
And now, it seems, JFCOM has somewhat cold feet. Look at the JFCOM slide (ppt) below and then a quote from a testimony to the House Armed Services Committee (pdf) definition of the work on the Shaping (i.e. CS/CSE) JOC by Rear Admiral Dan Davenport:

- Draft Military Support to Cooperative Security, (CS JOC) focuses on how the Joint Force Commander contributes to fostering a security environment favorable to U.S. interests as well as establishing a base for effective crisis response. It addresses the full range of military support to a comprehensive, whole of government approach. “CS is defined as the set of continuous, long-term integrated, comprehensive actions among a broad spectrum of U.S. and international governmental and non-governmental partners that maintains or enhances stability, prevents or mitigates crises, and enables other operations when crises occur.”
As is visible the ambitions are curtailed a bit. Mostly, the military role will be either supporting or in the shape of defense reform.

Nevertheless, the notion of prevention and whole of government enabling still seems to smell a bit of converging the security and development agendas - so that the aggregate US foreign policy elements might get to play together in a kind of preventive COIN operation at the strategic level in given countries.

Managing the successful integration of the people into the state is the surest way to achieve stability. That is so because then the third element of the Clausewitzian trinity (state, people/nation, army) - the armed forces - will not be challenged from the inside but answer to a state that is legitimate because it deals with its citizens in a way that corresponds to their make up - in terms of both relative quantity (population mix) and quality (culture(s)).

The focus on interagency in the testimony is completely right. But I just hope that the NSPD44 does not become an excuse for not developing advanced strategic understanding of the anthropological and political scientific underpinnings of conflict prevention and state failure at the top of the US military. These insights are the most cost effective way for the US defense to deal with the conflicts that are not related to the big power and technological warfare paradigm, i.e. not least (for AFRICOM) in Africa.

NB! There's a follow up to this post, here.

* = A JOC or Joint Operating Concept, is a kind of generalized Field Manual, a pure and joint doctrine. The hierarchy of the JFCOM concepts can be seen here. The former Shaping JOC is number 6 in the left column:

NB! There's a follow up to this post, here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The New UK Security Strategy: Thin, Somewhat Timid

The text is finally out, here. It is fairly brief, and structured this way:
This strategy (...) sets out the guiding principles of our approach (Chapter Two); our assessment of the major security challenges and drivers of insecurity (Chapter Three); our responses to them (Chapter Four); and how we will work together in taking the strategy forward (Chapter Five).
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Guiding principles
Chapter Three: Security challenges
Chapter Four: The United Kingdom’s response
Chapter Five: Working together
It was expected that the strategy would emphasize interagency capability. It does. The initiative is sound: in principle, this would enable the UK government to combine and converge the three D's - diplomacy, development and defense. As such this makes for more effective counterinsurgency - or statebuilding within conflict - campaigns. As development and security converges in and around failing states the most cost-effective form of development in the long run is contested statebuilding.
5.8 This National Security Strategy shows that the Government is committed to working with the whole of society, to build confidence in our core values, our shared approach, and our strong security capabilities. It sets out a new and clearer understanding of what security means and how we need to work together in an integrated and coherent national and international effort. That will enable us to work together to manage risks, harness the opportunities of globalisation, and achieve the single overarching national security objective set out at the beginning of this strategy: protecting the United Kingdom and its interests, enabling its people to go about their daily lives freely and with confidence, in a more secure, stable, just and prosperous world.
The contextual process to the UK National Security Strategy involves a yearly report on progress on challenges and solutions. But the strategy does not - as I suggested should be the case in the previous post - contain inside its concomitant process a systematic role of overview for Parliament. Such a role is being merely being looked into:
5.7 We will publish an annual update on the challenges we face and progress on implementing this strategy. We will consult all Parties and the Parliamentary authorities about how Parliament can play a stronger role in overseeing the development and implementation of this strategy. We have recently concluded a consultation to consider the ways in which Parliament should be involved in decisions relating to the deployment of the Armed Forces into conflict.
The process as envisaged is at least a credible wish list:
Priorities include:
• consulting on a joint Parliamentary National Security Committee to help monitor the implementation and development of this strategy;
• strengthening the work of horizonscanning and forward planning;
• strengthening the capability to offer a strategic perspective on security priorities and improve connections between defence, development, foreign and domestic security strategies;
• creating a national security forum, including representatives from government, politics, academia and others, to discuss strategy and exchange ideas; and
• publishing the National Risk Register (as set out in Chapter Four) and an annual update on the security challenges facing the United Kingdom and progress on implementing the strategy.
That is disappointing. Since the process is not yet formalized at the launch the ship risks being taken over by bureaucratic pirates of e.g. the Foreign Office. Consulting (viz. the 'joint Parliamentary National Security Committee') can mean anything and nothing. And neither that committee nor the 'national security forum' are really given any role that would constitute checks and/or balances. Who will bang together the heads of DfID, Foreign Office and Whitehall?

Finally, the strategic vision itself seems pretty thin. Not much text compared to the number of themes.

UK's New NSS and NSC: Lessons for Scandinavia

The brilliant and insightful Charlie Edwards at GlobalDashboard Monday told us all about today's announcement (not, its not out as of yet) of the new UK National Security Strategy:
This Wednesday the British Government will publish the UK’s first ever National Security Strategy. This is a big moment for Gordon Brown and comes with great expectations. Don’t be surprised if there is no Minister on the Today Programme discussing the strategy’s pros and cons on Wednesday morning - this will be Gordon Brown’s opportunity to kill lots of birds with one mighty strategic stone (so lets hope he does wait and announce it in Parliament).

Dignity and gravitas will ooze from every pore of the front bench as Brown steps up to the dispatch box and announces the strategy. MPs from all sides of the House will nod and mouth their agreement. In the gallery sketch writers will pen columns for Thursday’s newspapers about how important Parliament is. For a brief moment the Government will look in complete control of its destiny - polls will even show the Labour party jump ahead of the Conservatives.

Some British newspapers are already trailing the announcement. The Telegraph suggests that ‘a national security council will be created, staffed by senior politicians including, potentially, individuals from other parties, intelligence and military chiefs, and scientific experts.. and that Paddy Ashdown has been suggested as a possible leading opposition figure with the experience to be invited to serve alongside senior Government ministers’.
The National Security Council bit is the perhaps most interesting part. The process more than the actual documents all clearly the most inventive parts intended with the Dutch and Canadian security strategies and the French Defense White Paper. Process is here to be understood not only as a process of creation (of the document) but also a process of evaluation (of its priorities).

Together these things will make possible a more thoroughly democratic debate on what is essentially political choices in international security (the 'wars of choice' in Iraq and Afghanistan; global warming as strategic challenge; the Arctic, etc); and a more stringent political leadership in the executive - not by civil servants. In sum, they should enable governments more effectively to face the challenges of security in a globalized world, including operational challenges such as a the interagency challenge in COIN and SSTR.

The Scandinavian countries, with their development legacy and 'moral foreign policies', more than other countries must go down this road as they need strive to conceptually converge the morality and national interest of global politics. And, in Denmark's case especially, deal with Afghanistan as war-fighting and as development.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Air Force Snubs Boeing, Shows Maturity

Amazingly, USAF actually awarded its huge ($40 bn) air tanker contract to the Northrop/EADS consortium. According to the Economist, the best man won then. Except that McCain might actually take a beating according to the above analysis - for standing up for US taxpayers:

Republican Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was an early and fierce critic of Boeing's lease scheme. McCain, who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested as recently as December that the current fleet might have a longer life than the Air Force claims.

For McCain the decision is a mixed blessing. He has taken on defense contractors in the U.S. Senate and was instrumental in ending Boeing's lock on the tanker business during investigatory hearings in 2003. "He's going to have to tout this right away as a thing he handled for the benefit of American taxpayers," says University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. "The Democrats are going to jump all over this as an example of how he helped move jobs overseas." The decision also could hurt McCain in Washington, Oregon, Texas, and Kansas, all of which have a heavy Boeing presence.

That must really hurt at Boeing - first losing out to Lockheed on the JSF, then to Sikorsky and Lockheed on the new search-and-rescue helicopter, and then now, the tanker deal to Northrop/EADS.

But instead of feeling sorry for a private company (even covered in patriotic paint) this decision should be celebrated as an expression of the strength of American democracy - and the correlate soundness (in this case) of the resulting administrative system. It must have taken guts to choose what is essentially a European (technology) solution. Because now the USAF top brass has to listen to all the coming unverifiable squabble about 'longterm strategic security' as expressed through 'a sound national defense industry'.

Problem for that argument is: Tankers are not hitech. Low-end aerospace capabilities have become commoditized. That is why the civilian world has a thing called no-frills airlines which compete on shaving costs such as coffee and and roll rather than new engines or tail fin designs.

Even so: Following the Druyun scandal, in political terms, the only recommended way forward for USAF was to stick to a fair and open competition based on merit. Kudos for doing so.