Bombs, Then Bandages

By Gray-Briggs, Abigail; MacIver, Michael | Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Bombs, Then Bandages


Gray-Briggs, Abigail, MacIver, Michael, Air & Space Power Journal


Preparing the War Fighter for the Sojourn to Peacekeeping

Henceforth the adequacy of any military establishment will be tested by its ability to preserve the peace.

-Henry Kissinger

IN 1787, attendees at the Constitutional Convention first defined the purpose of the United States armed forces. This definition has undergone significant clarification and redefinition over the course of history. What began as the requirement to "provide for the common Defence" has led, most recently, in the National Military Strategy of the United States of America to that of "fight[ing] and win[ning] our Nation's wars whenever and wherever called upon."

To most people, that might not seem like such a large leap. There is little question that the writers of the Constitution foresaw that "Defence" would inevitably lead to fighting wars. But what they may not have envisioned is the ever-growing handful of noncombat actions that the United States armed forces are currently being called upon to undertake on shores far distant from those of the original 13 states.

In recent history, US military might has advanced in what some would argue is a direction diametrically opposed to that of war fighting. This new direction is known as "military operations other than war" (MOOTW).2 Admittedly, the division between MOOTW and war becomes difficult to delineate at times; but generally speaking, such operations focus on deterring war and promoting peace, while war encompasses large-scale, sustained combat operations to achieve national objectives or to protect national interests.3 MOOTW are more politically sensitive, the military may not be the primary player, and they are almost always conducted outside the United States.

In The Professionalization of Peacekeeping: A Study Group Report, David Wurmser and Nancy Dyke observe that although the end of the cold war has quelled our thoughts of military force against military force, the use of military forces in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping roles is growing significantly.4 The current administration demonstrates selectivity5 when determining whether or not to participate in UN peace operations; however, the fact remains that US forces do participate in more and more of these deployments.6

It can be argued that this participatory trend reflects a further clarification of the role of the US military in the face of changing history. As early as 1976, Charles Moskos observed that "the very military establishments which are most liable for peacekeeping duties are often the same ones which are undergoing institutional redefinition in the wake of eroding traditional support of military legitimacy."7 In light of the end of the cold war and ever-increasing budget pressures, his observation gains even more legitimacy.

It can also be argued that this participatory trend is indicative of an opportunistic society. During peacetime, why not exercise the opportunity to utilize the military instrument of power for military operations other than war? As noted in a recent Defense Analytical Study, "Our willingness to serve may have indeed created unreasonable expectations of those we serve . . . the increasing tempo of OOTW [operations other than war] clouds our individual and collective focus on fighting and winning our nation's wars-providing for her defense! . . [and we succumb to the] temptation to use military operations as a means to at least `do something."8

A healthy segment of defense commentators contends that war fighters lose their edge when called upon to perform operations that require a completely different set of behaviors. They argue that military organizations are formed for purposes other than peacekeeping and that those original purposes are not served while a nation's military units are deployed and engaged in peacekeeping tasks.9 In remarks to the American Defense Preparedness Association Symposium in December 1994, the chief of staff of the United States Air Force cautioned that "operations other than war, if sustained without recognition that they do take a toll on the force, will begin to erode our ability to perform our fundamental mission. …

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