Academic journal article Military Review

Preparing for Economics in Stability Operations

Academic journal article Military Review

Preparing for Economics in Stability Operations

Article excerpt

STABILITY OPERATIONS have played a significant role in U.S. foreign policy since the 1800s, and the 2006 National security Strategy (NSS) reiterated their importance to current U.S. global interests. During such operations, actions to spur economic development are as important as military actions. The U.S., however, despite history and the NSS, still has no formal political or military structure tasked with facilitating the planning and execution of economic-development programs in stability operations. Instead, it has tried to make do with ad hoc arrangements planned and executed by the military.

Lessons learned from current stability operations point to the benefits of using a broad strategy that structurally integrates planning for governance, economics, and security. In testimony to Congress about the inadequate planning for stability operations in Iraq, Air Force Chief of Staff General John Jumper said the solution "calls for an interagency, deliberate planning process much like the deliberate planning process we have in the military, where formal assignments are made within the interagency to get upfront commitment to what the post-major combat operations requirements will be."1 Past stability operations, too, suggest that a coordinated interagency effort and a deliberate process would have produced faster progress in Iraq. By examining some of those operations, we can discern the significance that economics has for post-kinetic operations, as well as its implications for cooperative interagency processes in general.

Historical Examples

The 1948-1960 British campaign in Malaysia underscored the importance of economics to counterinsurgency (COIN) as well as the need for a coordinated economic plan within stability operations. In writing about the campaign, British COIN expert Sir Robert Thompson identified three forces influencing the Malaysian population: nationalism, religion and culture, and economic well-being.2 Of the three, he gave primacy to economic well-being, stating that "however powerful nationalist or religious forces may be, that of material well-being is as strong if not stronger."3 Thompson also claimed that an insurgency needs an issue it can exploit to open up a seam between the people and the government, and economic inequality, either perceived or real, is one such issue. To combat an insurgency seeking to exploit economic inequality, then, requires a broad strategy that incorporates the various elements of civilian society equipped to address the problem and thereby influence the population.4

We can glean additional information about the role of economics in stability operations by looking at two U.S.-led missions generally considered successes: the reconstruction efforts in Japan and Germany after World War II. In both cases, the United States clearly understood how important economic development was to the recovery and democratization of its former enemies. Leaders even went beyond executive authority, the doctrinal norm prior to World War II, to establish economic policy. These cases represent successes in overcoming institutional structural deficiencies.

In Japan, State War Navy Coordinating Committee memorandum 150/4, Politico-Military Problems in the Far East: United States Initial Post-Defeat Policy Relating to Japan, gave General Douglas Mac Arthur this guidance:

Those forms of economic activity, organization and leadership shall be favored that are deemed likely to strengthen the peaceful disposition of the Japanese people, and to make it difficult to command or direct economic activity in support of military ends. To this end it shall be the policy of the Supreme Commander: (a) To prohibit the retention in or selection for places of importance in the economic field of individuals who do not direct future Japanese economic effort solely towards peaceful ends; and (b) To favor a program for the dissolution of the large industrial and banking combinations which have exercised control of a great part of Japan's trade and industry. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.