Command Arrangements for Peace Operations

Tensions Between Principles of War and Peace Operations

Neither command arrangements nor C2 systems (including commanders, staffs, and the equipment they use to perform C2 functions) actually carry out military missions. Rather, they perform the functions that organize, direct, and enable others to carry them out. Hence, they have no intrinsic value; their role is instrumental - they facilitate mission accomplishment. Effective command arrangements result ineffective military operations. One way the quality (effectiveness)of military operations has traditionally been assessed has been in terms of the proper balancing of the "principles of war" that have been used as shorthand guidelines by generations of military leaders.

For a variety of reasons (ranging from the genuine complexity of military operations and the diversity of cultures within which the military art is practiced to simple egotism and the idiosyncracies of leading authors), no single list of principles of war has gained universal acceptance. An excellent concise summary of the candidates is included as an appendix to Hughes (1986). He compares lists from 350 BC (Sun Tsu) through 1976 (Gorshkov). A fairly standard list is found in the US Army's basic field manual of 1945, which identifies seven principles:

The principles of war are both interrelated (concentration of force depends on objective, simplicity, and unity of command) and somewhat contradictory. For example, concentration of force is always balanced against security; surprise almost always requires more complexity in the battle plan, etc. How- ever, effective C2 succeeds in balancing these different elements and making them mutually reinforcing. Similarly, effective command arrangements for peace operations must balance principles related to peace.

While they may involve the use of force, peace operations are not war-fighting operations. As a consequence, both of their different purposes and of the different environments in which they take place, peace operations often force commanders to violate principles of war, which both increases the short-term military risk to the peace forces and makes their military commanders very uncomfortable. These conditions are exacerbated when the operations in question become coalition operations.

The first principle of war that must be abandoned by peace operators is Surprise. Given that peace operations are intended to build trust and verify the continuation of an agreed set of physical conditions(a demilitarized zone, separation of forces, etc.), the peace forces themselves must be visible and prevent creating uncertainty on the"battlefield." Their physical security, as well as the stability of the peace arrangements, depends on the absence of surprises. As uncomfortable as the scene of US Marines landing at night on a Somali beach under television lights made the professional military feel, it was a correct peace operation event - the possibility of an accidental encounter with some party to the conflict there was minimized by advanced notice.

As soon as Surprise is abandoned, Security is compromised. More importantly, however, peace operators must accept much greater risk than war-fighting troops. One of the interesting issues the US has faced in peace operations is that the traditional peacekeeping countries, such as the Scandinavians, believe that US forces are poorly suited for this type of duty because they are unwilling to take enough risk. For example, when US forces were first sent to Macedonia to join the UN peace observers there, the local UN commander noted that he could not trust US troops to allow themselves to be captured by hostile parties, which might bean essential part of local success as peacekeepers. Field operations by US forces were delayed while local training and situation familiarization were accomplished.

No principle of war is more violated in peace operations than the Offensive. Peace operations are inherently reactive and passive. Even when one of the parties appears to be preparing to violate a peace agreement, the peace operators are usually con-strained to warning the parties and threatening action if a violation occurs. In some cases, where the perceived costs of renewed violence are more than the risks assessed, peace forces might be moved into positions that make the violation more difficult, more visible, or more dangerous for the violator. However, even these types of action will certainly be seen as provocative or destroying trust by some parties. As noted earlier, in simple peacekeeping operations, the UN has traditionally threatened withdrawal as its most aggressive proactive action.

Concentration of Superior Force can only be a last-resort tactic for peace operators and is often seen as provocative. Given that the peace forces do not want to become parties to the conflict, they must avoid creating threats to the belligerent parties. Moreover, assembly of major forces draws the attention of the parties and may cause them to concentrate their own forces, thereby creating a more dangerous situation. If anything, peace forces want to remain dispersed and ubiquitous in the areas they are responsible for monitoring.

The principles of war that ought, ideally, be preserved in peace operations are Unity of Command, Objective, and Simplicity. However, even these are very difficult to achieve in any coalition operation and have proven extremely difficult in coalition peace operations.

First, Unity of Command in a multinational force is virtually impossible. Neither the US nor any other power is likely to allow their forces to join a multinational peace operation and cut their ties to the national command structure and political agenda. The experience in Somalia, where national groups maintained dual chains of command and multiple agendas predominated, is mirrored by the independence of French behavior in Rwanda and the need for separate command arrangements for Arab forces in the Desert Storm coalition. Most authors now call for a conscious effort to achieve "Unity of Purpose" in peace operations. Even this is a very real challenge and depends as much or more on diplomatic relationships as on military ones. Moreover, even the military relationships must be more consultative than directive-driven.

The principle of the Objective is obviously influenced heavily by the lack of Unity of Command. However, the importance of clearly articulated objectives is magnified in multinational forces. Given the absence of common doctrine or language, both detailed review of specific military objectives and the exchange of liaison officers to ensure on-going dialogue and communication become essential for success.

Simplicity also becomes a watchword in coalition operations, but is inherently much more difficult to achieve. Not only are the forces involved often very different in the level of sophistication of their weapons, training, and communications equipment; they are also often unfamiliar with one another. In many cases they have serious communications problems - linguistic and technical. Attempts at complex operations are, therefore, fraught with peril. Commanders must rely on a combination of tools, such as assigning geographic and functional responsibilities to forces that have a history of working together effectively and using mission assignments that do not ask too much of forces with limited professionalism. These assignments must also be made in ways that are politically sensitive, so that home governments are receptive and the elements of the peace force perceive that they have appropriate roles. Making simple plans under these trying circumstances requires sophisticated and complex decision making and coordination.

All this having been said, however, forces with missions such as peace imposition may well be conducting classic military operations. They will be relying on traditional principles of war except where that reliance makes it more difficult to achieve their overall mission. Such forces may well need to concentrate superior forces, rely on surprise, take measures to ensure the security of their forces and operating bases, and seize the military initiative. However, the goals of their operations will typically be limited and their offensive operations designed to establish the credibility of their forces and induce the parties to make greater efforts to find political solutions. They are unlikely to include the destruction of major forces or the creation of dangerous situations in which military force will be continually required to ensure the peace.

The realistic principles for coalition peace operations therefore might best be stated as:

The first three of these principles are closely interrelated. Unity of Purpose is created and maintained by adopting Consensus Planning. This permits the interaction necessary both to "hear" the range of national agendas relevant to the operation and to build confidence within the coalition. At the same time, Simplicity is essential both to ensure that consensus can be built and to make it easy to maintain the clear objectives and procedures on which effective Unity of Purpose depends. The lack of mutual doctrine, linguistic barriers (both cultural and professional), and differential levels of capability and training within a multinational force make complex plans into recipes for defeat. Where sophisticated military operations are required, they need to be stated as simple functional elements of the plan and left to specific national forces with the requisite capabilities (US, NATO, or other modern military establishments). In many cases these burdens will fall on US forces.

Simplicity is the only principle that survives from the original list. In the context of coalition peace operations, however, its connotation shifts to both keeping the set of military plans simple and appropriate for the forces assigned and ensuring that directives are clear and perceived correctly by all the elements of the peacekeeping force and the other agencies and organizations who are supporting the peace effort or whose activities will be impacted by them. In this sense,"simplicity" requires enormous effort and is also related to transparency.

The other two principles are derived primarily from the nature of peace operations and the environments in which they are undertaken. The need for Adaptive Control is driven by the essentially passive and reactive nature of peace operations. It refers to understanding the situation well enough to specify the range of possible futures that can evolve, collecting and assimilating the information necessary to recognize which of those futures is emerging, and taking timely action to influence the course of events such that the mission or objective is achieved. Given that peace operations must be reactive, the only intelligent level of control to seek is adaptive, and the preparation of contingency plans to control major developments allows the maximum "pre-real time" planning. This also helps to keep plans simple and to allow consensus planning rather than reactive, ad hoc planning in a time-stressed environment.

Transparency of Operations is primarily desirable so that the parties to the conflict are not surprised by peace operator actions and are given minimal opportunity to misunderstand them. For example, regular patrolling designed to minimize the opportunity for mischief is preferable to irregular patrolling designed to catch violators red-handed. Announced convoys of supplies and prearranged evacuations allow the peace operators to accomplish important objectives without creating uncertainty about their cargoes, purposes, or movements. Trans-parent operations are also easier to keep simple and generate consensus about. Hence, they are most likely to preserve Unity of Purpose in the coalition.

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