Academic Military Questions

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

A report released by the National Strategy Information Center (NSIC) attempts to shift the national security paradigm from nation-state conflict into the realm of “irregular threats,” with the U.S. military conducting three types of missions in weak or failing states around the globe.

“We see that there are some capabilities that we have been developing in a very ad hoc fashion in the United States and to some extent other countries but…they’re not systematically developed,” said Roy Godson, President of NSIC, at the Heritage Foundation, continuing, “we don’t have training programs in them, we don’t have the development of professionals who can utilize these capabilities in the way that we think the United States will need in the future and so we’d like to discuss those capabilities with you.”

“We see the five [capabilities] as integrated,” he said. “It’s a package.”  Godson argued that the five capabilities, listed in the report (pdf), “are not expensive in monetary terms” and wouldn’t “add much to a budget” but might “even save our budget in the long term.”

The report, coauthored with Tufts University professor Richard Shultz, lists the “highest priorities” as

1 “Reoriented and restructured military units whose primary mission is to prevail in these nontraditional irregular conflicts that the U.S. most likely will face,”

2 “Intelligence dominance…derived from local knowledge and operations in conflict zones,”

3 “Civilian and military stability units…”,

4 “Strategic communication principles…implemented by career specialists educated for this purpose,” and

5 “Political capabilities performed by small corps of trained professionals—military and civilian—with authorities, skills, and resources to forge coalitions among foreign state and nonstate actors.”

Godson, who is also an Emeritus professor at Georgetown University, writes in the report that “The U.S. would need resources and authority to develop the foreign capability in three types of political environments,” namely,

– “War zones where the U.S. is the principal military force, e.g., Iraq 2003-09, Afghanistan (now)”;

– “Non-war zones with significant U.S. presence (20-30 countries)”; and

– “Zones receiving security assistance with little U.S. presence (40-50 countries).”

“The minimum cost per country would be $20 million/year, maximum $100 million/year for four years,” he writes.

Professor Shultz said at Heritage that “…our argument is that a part of the existing force–so we’re not adding forces–but a part of the existing force, especially army and marine elements, need to be retrained and equipped with new skill sets to prosecute” these three missions, which he called small “advisory missions” in the first context. The second context, said Shultz, is “where armed conflict is taking place” and a “limited U.S. force deployment is needed.”

“And then, finally, the third contexts are the ones that, the ones that, of course, have captured all the headlines over the last number of years, and this is where the U.S. has a major force deployment in a war zone and serves as the main security force there,” said Shultz, who directs the International Security Program at Tufts University.

Godson argues in the report that “Armed group threats to fragile democracies can be largely neutralized and some eliminated by the development of intelligence dominance in these societies.”

He later adds,

“Achieving dominance means that host nations (HN) develop sufficient local knowledge to map the infrastructure of armed groups, and gather the evidence to arrest and neutralize the support structure and leadership of the groups.”

The report operates under the assumption that “[m]ore than 50% of the world’s population live in” failed/failing or “weak” states and that “A majority of states today are weak, including roughly one in five that are failing or failed.”

“To varying degrees, weak states—whether democratic or authoritarian—are unable to control all their territory, maintain a monopoly over the instruments of force or perform core functions beginning with providing security for significant sections of their populations,” it states. “When these conditions become severe, a state’s legitimacy seriously erodes, or even vanishes.”

A chart in the report categorizes “50 to 55” nation-states as “weak” democracies and “30 to 35” nation-states as “weak” authoritarian regimes. “35 to 40” were considered “failed/failing states.”

An NSIC employee said she would not comment on this aspect of the report or provide a list of which states land in each of these three categories.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.