Bringing in the locals

Modern warfare is an environment were civilians may turn against us for a variety of reasons, becoming motivated to directly or indirectly attack our national security. These attacks may be against our homeland, our overseas assets, or our forces. Indirect attacks may include passive or active financial, physical, moral, and social support of those were move up the spear to the tip, or attacks against the same support of American policies. It also includes failure to notify our troops of IEDs or insurgents because they’ve become disinclined to do so. Seems like basic stuff, but for some, you just need to remind them of certain realities.

Local populations may feel disenfranchised by the recent history by a previous regime or by the toppling of their benefactor. They may also feel a lack of empowerment in basic needs, such as providing for their family or participating in socio-political-economic processes. By bringing in the locals, empowering them to take ownership in their rebuilding process, notably in the security realm but also in the political-economic areas as well, success increases. James Dobbins highlights this, as does virtually all the state-building, and nation, literature, as well as common sense. A people that does not participate in their state does not value it or see it as their own.

To this end, when operating in conflict/post-conflict environments were the host state needs to be rebuilt, certain tools are missing from our tooklit that demonstrates our commitment to the mission to the host, facilitates capacity building, and deepens host nation commitment, and capability, to the mission, and perhaps most importantly, enlists the locals into their own success. John Nagl posts paper he authored on the Small Wars Journal Blog about one these tools. In a paper titled Institutionalizing Adaptation: It’s Time for an Army Advisor Corps, published by the Center for a New American Security, John Nagl (of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife) writes:

The most important military component of the Long War will not be the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable and empower our allies to fight with us. After describing the many complicated, interrelated, and simultaneous tasks that must be conducted to defeat an insurgency, the new Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual notes “Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation (HN) security force.” Indeed, it has been argued that foreign forces cannot defeat an insurgency; the best they can hope for is to create the conditions that will enable local forces to win for them.

Nagl recommends processes that demonstrate American commitment and rebuild security infrastructure from the inside out. Working with host nation forces who

offer significant cultural awareness and linguistic advantages over US forces, and also are likely to be far more acceptable to the local public whose support is essential to victory in any counterinsurgency campaign.

The short paper is a framework of operations and a stepping stone for expanding our capabilities in future conflicts. Unlike Post-World War II reconstruction that included years of prep work and yet encountered missteps and failure, yet had time to recover over years of effort, future conflicts will have ever shrinking time windows for success with the brighter light of formal and informal media shining on failures.

As this expands to fill the necessary posts beyond the military, say in State and Commerce, we should encourage more academies, such as DHS’s new academy, to educate those who commit to serve in a Civilian Response Corps-like entity.