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US Military Force and Operations Other Than War

R. A. Estilow, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC
1996, 30 pages
Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-3



Lt Col R. A. Estilow explores the possibility that much of operations other than war (00TW) may be incompatible with the use of US military force. He believes political leaders may properly focus the diplomatic, political, economic, and informational elements of power on OOTW; but, often place too little regard on the specific object of the military element of power. Colonel Estilow reviews the military missions compiled today under OOTW, and then assesses the acceptability, feasibility, and suitability of using military combat force to pursue those missions. He observes that the decision to commit US military force to OOTW is critically important today. First, future trends of a changing world point toward developing a strategy that demands nontraditional forms and uses of military force. Second, we have already moved in this direction by rejecting the Weinberger Doctrine, which provided traditional criteria for commitment of military force. Most importantly, we have adopted a National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, which relies heavily upon and even aggressively seeks the more active involvement of the US military in OOTW. Colonel Estilow’s close examination of these issues highlights the purpose and importance of establishing explicit criteria for employment of US military force (combat force in hostile environments). Such a commitment of combat force abroad may present critical differences from the use of (noncombat) military forces in benign environments; for example, military engineers providing disaster relief. Next, he develops specific, qualitative criteria for the strategic decision to commit combat force. These criteria could guide the decision-making process to test the acceptability, feasibility, and suitability of using US military force for the specific mission under consideration. In broad terms, the test seeks to answer the following questions: Will political leaders and ultimately the American people support the mission? Are mobilized and usable resources sufficient for implementing the mission? Will the mission (if properly executed) attain, promote, or protect the political aim? Colonel Estilow then examines doctrinal military missions of OOTW to determine the risk of combat. He notes that current doctrine embraces no less than 28 OOTW missions. His analysis breaks these missions into three categories: category I (high risk), clearly combat missions; category II (moderate risk), benign intent but significant combat potential; category III (low risk), clearly humanitarian missions. The missions of each category are then assessed against the acceptability, suitability, and feasibility criteria to determine if military force is an appropriate instrument of power for these mission groups. Finally, his paper draws conclusions and makes recommendations to guide the future use of US military force for OOTW.


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