White House Decisionmaking Involving Paramilitary Forces

By Pious, Richard M. | Journal of National Security Law & Policy, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

White House Decisionmaking Involving Paramilitary Forces


Pious, Richard M., Journal of National Security Law & Policy


The standard framework for understanding presidential decisionmaking in projecting American power and influence into other countries is to assume that the Administration develops diplomatic, military or covert options which the President then assigns to State, Defense or the CIA (sometimes in combination). This framework is incomplete, because diplomacy is carried on not only by officers of the United States but also by an "invisible presidency" of informal emissaries.1 Military operations are conducted not only by members of the U.S. Armed Forces - whether conventional or special operations forces - but also by others with arms (paramilitaries) with whom American armed forces or intelligence agents propose to have (or already have) a formal or informal working arrangement.2 Covert operations are supplied, financed and conducted not only by the CIA (and recently the Pentagon),3 but also by private organizations with ties to the government, such as in the Iran-Contra Affair, when arms dealers were granted extraordinary access to intelligence resources and stocks of military weapons.

White House decisionmaking involving the use of force is not just about which combination of diplomatic signaling, military campaigning, or covert operating Presidents should authorize, but also whether they should authorize the paramilitary option, and if so, by which official or unofficial organization. But even this statement of presidential decisionmaking is incomplete, because it assumes that: (a) the President knows all the options in advance of a decision and chooses from among them; and (b) policy is decided at the top, in the Oval Office and the National Security Council. These assumptions are often incorrect because there are systemic dysfunctions in presidential decisionmaking.

Some are well known, and involve questions I will not treat here: Did the President know about the operation? Was the President duped by a "rogue elephant" intelligence agency? Did the Administration follow the letter and spirit of framework legislation? Did the President, in relying on prerogative power, transgress the Constitution? Instead, I want to begin with prior questions: What kind of transactions might occur between the leaders of paramilitaries and the U.S. government? What risks might these pose for the White House? How would the Administration attempt to manage these risks? And finally, circling back to questions of constitutionality and legality: How might White House risk management affect the authority and legitimacy of covert operations relying on paramilitary forces?

I. THE PRIOR QUESTIONS

At some point in the government's attempt to project influence in another country, the President will be presented with the option of using an indigenous paramilitary force for the purposes of what international relations theorists call compellence - raising the costs of continuing with policies that go against American interests. National security managers usually present the option to the President in terms of costs and benefits to adversaries: How much damage might a paramilitary force do? Can it do sufficient damage to alter adversaries' calculations, and therefore induce them to change their behavior?

But there are prior questions involving the paramilitary force itself (and its likely behavior) that turn out to be important in making a prognosis about success or failure, yet these tend to be considered operational details that are not to be dealt with at the presidential level. Military and thinktank publications gloss over the questions of what kind of people, organized in what kind of groups, are likely to join a paramilitary effort, and instead deal with paramilitaries as an abstract concept to be fitted into a larger doctrine of force projection.4 But there are two questions that must be answered before attempting to multiply force and accelerate its use in a contested area: Who are the paramilitaries, and what makes them capable of projecting force domestically? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

White House Decisionmaking Involving Paramilitary Forces
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

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

    Oops!

    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.