Friday, March 21, 2008

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.

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