Since late November 2011, eight ILE students in the class of 12-01 have held seminar discussions and worked on MMAS theses on the subject of the “Local Dynamics of War.” The premise of the seminar, which falls under the ILE Scholars rubric, is:
Top military and civilian leaders expect military professionals to operate amidst a range of non-military, political factors. A graduate of ILE may help plan a security-cooperation strategy for a combatant commander. She may advise the commander of a joint task force fighting a counterinsurgency. He may plan or execute a humanitarian-assistance mission, a rule-of-law line of effort, or a heavy tank battle. In each of these cases, the military professional–to fully understand and smartly intervene in the environment–will need to know how lethal power, governance, economics, culture, religion, identity, and ethics combine to form tough planning and execution challenges in a JIIM environment. Yet such comprehensive knowledge is now a PME shortfall. This seminar will apply military planning methodologies and state-of-the art civilian scholarship to impart a fuller, deeper appreciation of the political factors inherent in all military operations.
One might argue that the non-military or political dynamics in our areas of operation only really matter during stability or counterinsurgency operations. Of course, given that troopers will always occupy those moments of transition from war or instability to peace and stability, there is no avoiding the fact that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will serve as either lubricants or abrasives in such transitions. Moreover, our success–which entails not only the imposition of our will on the enemy but also the attainment of our strategic/political objectives–will vary with how well we understand and intervene amidst the tangled mix of political variables.
Not long ago I came across a volume, originally published in 1964 by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, that traced the debate about, preparation for, and conduct of what at the time was called military governance (when governing conquered areas) and civil affairs (when governing liberated areas) starting in 1942 and tracing the U.S. military’s steps, misteps, and hesitations in Italy, France, and northwest Europe. The volume, entitled Civil Affairs: Soldiers Become Governors, collects countless original documents and correspondence tracing the difficult decisions related to dealing with “the political.”
The authors, Harry Coles and Albert Weinberg, begin:
The story of civil affairs in World War II as it emerges from the documents reveals the effort to perform a mission unprecedented in complexity and size. The mission called for military, political, and economic activity on every level–from the job of rebuilding a village bakery to that of rooting out and replacing Fascist and Nazi ideology and institutions. The impact and interplay of these activities are highlighted in General Eisenhower’s letter to General Marshall a few weeks after the opening of the North African campaign in 1942: “The sooner I can get rid of these questions that are outside the military in scope, the happier I will be! Sometimes I think I live ten years each week, of which at least nine are absorbed in political and economic matters.” They are highlighted, on a lower plane, in an officer’s problems on first entering a Sicilian town: “And what a lot of headaches I found. Water supply damaged. No power. No food. No fuel, and corpses all over town to bury” (3).
The CMH volume is worth leafing through, and many of the arguments the reader will encounter will sound eerily familiar, especially as we think through how to develop more robust relations with our interagency and interorganizational partners.
But there are other eery familiarities. For example, from the “we fight, we don’t do politics and economics” camp there is the following:
What We Would Do If Cold-Bloodedly Logical [Memo, Somerville, CG, ASF, for McCloy, 13 April 43, ABC files, 014 (11-27-42), sec. I]
For instance, how ruthless are we going to be in moving into enemy countries? We are speaking now of relief and rehabilitation. Certainly, an Italian Army being driven from Italy will be more effective if it knows that the United States is taking care of the families which it has left behind. Equally certainly would it be more effective if it can force the responsibility for feeding larger portions of its population on us, saving its own resources for its military personnel. Perhaps, if we are really going to be ruthless, we should force populations in large numbers to retire with its armies, making the problem of feeding those armies a more difficult one. German success in France received a great support from the difficulties in supply and movement occasioned to the French Army by the large number of Belgian and French refugees flying before the advancing German forces. Such a policy will not sound pleasing to American ears. It is the policy required by total war…
Don’t be that guy. Indeed, a more “logical” and fuller consideration of the political factors in various time scales would likely complicate such a view.
Here is a more balanced, but perhaps still too naive, view:
Military Government’s Two Objectives [Statement of Hildering before Subcomm. of the House Comm. on Appropriations, 10 May 44, ASF, ID, Hist of Civ Sup, DS-203]
General Hilldring: We have felt for some time that in modern war, particularly when we storm the fortress of Europe, we would have to do some advance planning about what we were going to do with the civilian populations when we go ashore, so that we might accomplish several objectives. One of these objectives is to secure the civilian populations to the maximum extent possible, which is an obligation under international law; and second, to see that the civilian populations do not interfere with military operations in any important particular; and that they are so treated that they will be able to assist the forward movement of our troops to the greatest extent possible. That is the begining and the end of our involvement in this business.//When neither of those two objectives any longer obtains, in other words, when the battle has gotten far enough ahead so that we can lay down our obligation under international law and so that the populations can no longer interfere with the military’s purposes of the operation, we intend to turn this work over to such civilian agencies as are designed to take it…
Of course, the foregoing 1944 sentiment for a fugitive “lets turn it over to the civilian agencies” plan sounds good, but it’s not exactly the way things played out a while later in the story. It seems that the battle never really gets sufficiently “far ahead” quite soon enough to please us and simplify our missions. The question now is how much the growth of traditional media, social media, putative hybrid threats, and the ethical sensibility toward indigenous populations honed over the last ten years will make even more requisite the need to consider “the political” in our tactical-, operational-, and strategic-level planning?
Celestino Perez, Jr., Ph.D.
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Strategist
Seminar Lead: ILE Scholars/The Local Dynamics of War