Academic journal article Parameters

Intervention, Stabilization, and Transformation Operations: The Role of Landpower in the New Strategic Environment

Academic journal article Parameters

Intervention, Stabilization, and Transformation Operations: The Role of Landpower in the New Strategic Environment

Article excerpt

A historic shift has taken place in the strategic environment as globalization and interconnectedness propel the concept of security in new, unforeseen directions. Sovereignty is no longer sacrosanct; security is no longer purely national. Now what takes place within states is of intense concern to those outside them. This shatters long-standing historical patterns in which even horrific internal conflicts were usually contained. In the past, great civil wars in America, Russia, and China, as well as dozens of smaller ones, raged with minimal outside intervention. (1) External powers sometimes meddled in internal wars, but could and often did resist.

Today, interconnectedness between states, their permeability, the globalization of economies, the transparency arising from information technology, and the intermixing of people around the world give every conflict regional and global repercussions. (2) "In an increasingly interconnected world," states the National Security Strategy of the United States, "regional crisis can strain our alliances, rekindle rivalries among the major powers, and create horrifying affronts to human dignity." (3) Internal conflicts create refugee flows which destabilize neighboring states. They often spawn organized crime as rebels turn to Smuggling to raise capital and acquire weaponry. As the images of internal war are broadcast or emailed around the world, awareness rises and, with it, demands for action or intervention--the days are gone when tens of millions could die in civil wars with barely a whisper to the outside. And internal conflicts and the weak states or ungoverned areas they create often serve as breeding grounds for terrorism. (4) What this means is that internal conflict or intense repression is now the common concern of the world community. Security is holistic rather than atomized.

American strategy is still adjusting to this new reality. In the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton relied on international organizations, particularly the United Nations, and multinational coalitions to restore order in failed states or those facing internal conflict. Outside of the Western Hemisphere, the United States was unwilling to intervene in an internal conflict or even play a dominant role without UN approval and multinational support. But after the attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States recognized that internal conflicts and the persistence of radical regimes which waged proxy conflict via terrorism were simply too dangerous to ignore.

In this new strategic environment, instability and indirect aggression must be ameliorated, not simply contained. If the root cause of instability or proxy aggression is not addressed, the thinking goes, the problem will eventually reemerge. In discussing the Middle East, for instance, President George W. Bush stated, "As long as that region is a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends. We seek the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons: because democracies do not support terrorists or threaten the world with weapons of mass murder." (5) Aggression flowing from internal instability thus demands the actual transformation of an unstable or aggressive state into one which is both stable and willing to adhere to the norms of the international community. This is a revolutionary idea.

Landpower is crucial for this new grand strategy since it is the tool by which aggressive or conflict-ridden states can be transformed into stable ones. What is now needed are strategic concepts to implement the larger vision and to provide a basis for force, leader, and operational concept development. Existing strategic and operational concepts--major theater war, rapid decisive operations, peace support operations, counterinsurgency operations, and so forth--provide part of the solution. …

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