Tuesday, April 16, 2013

But What Can You Do for Us? The flaws of America’s “new” security assistance policy

The article below is an important critique of the the new policy on security sector assistance.  I did not notice this when the new White House policy came out but Dr. Simons brings this to light in number two below: "Promote partner support for US interests."  This was part of the early concept of Security Force Assistance (SFA) , e.g., the idea that we were going to build partner capacity so that partners could conduct operations in their country or as part of a coalition in other counties in support of US objectives.  We really should think that through.  Do countries really want us to train their military forces so that they can act to accomplish US objectives?  Yes of course we are going to training them because it supports our interests to do so and we should not conduct any operations that do not support US interests.  But do countries want it advertised publicly that the training they receive from US forces is so they can conduct operations to support our interests?  With all our talk about host nation legitimacy what kind of message do we think that sends to a country's political opposition when it is made public that their country's military is being trained to support US interests.   This was initially in the context of counterterrorism – we wanted to build partner capacity so that other forces could support our efforts in the War on Terrorism.  This idea (along with training host nation forces to defend against external threats) was the idea behind Security Force Assistance and the reason why many argued for the establishment of SFA in addition to Foreign Internal Defense (and only  few of us argued against it for these very reasons).  However, the Joint Doctrine writers have somewhat toned down the idea of training forces to support our interests and correctly changed it to supporting shared interests as in this excerpt from Joint Pub 3-22 Foreign Internal Defense (and keep in mind  there is no Joint Pub for SFA, it is part of the FID manual):

(b) Security Force Assistance (SFA). SFA is DOD’s contribution to aunified action effort to support and augment the development of the capacity andcapability of foreign security forces (FSF) and their supporting institutions to facilitate the achievement of specific objectives shared by the USG.

Despite toning it down I am sure that the idea still exists that we will be train them to do our bidding and it appears that whomever wrote the White House policy kept the original intent which could cause some countries to say we do not want US training to support US objectives but to support our own objectives.  To me there is a potential strategic communications problem with that aspect of the White House policy.  Dr. Simons goes on to detail the flaws in the policy.

Most importantly I think that Dr. Simon's concept of three types of "partnering" is very important and one that we should truly understand so that we do not "chase the shiny thing" of building partner capacity.

April 11, 2013
But What Can You Do for Us?
The flaws of America’s “new” security assistance policy
ate last week the White House issued a new policy on security sector assistance. According to the White House press release, the aims of security sector assistance are to:

1) Help partner nations build the sustainable capacity to address common security challenges
2) Promote partner support for U.S. interests
3) Promote universal values, and
4) Strengthen collective security and multinational defense arrangements and organizations.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that “universal values” don’t exist. The Administration’s approach is questionable for more prosaic reasons. Take goal number 2: What kind of partners are going to sign up to look out for our interests when we don’t even pay lip service to helping them with their security concerns?

I remember not long after 9/11, at the Naval Postgraduate School, where I teach, one of our African army officers decided to write his master’s thesis on the cattle raiders plaguing the northwest corner of his country. Why? Because cross-border raids posed a major problem to his military. A couple of years later, one of his colleagues focused on water rights in Lake Victoria. Neither officer was worried about what most concerned Washington at the time: anti-Western Islamists. Instead, both officers tackled topics of pressing local concern. Had those in senior positions beyond the Naval Postgraduate School known about these choices, they probably would have considered them wastes of time and money.
They weren’t, and they aren’t. It beggars the imagination that we don’t see more benefit in helping other militaries in areas where they know they need security assistance. Not only would this be our best shot for helping them improve their capabilities overall, but the better they can handle the threats that matter to them, the better they will be able to handle threats, period. So what that an automatic-weapon-wielding cattle raider somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa might never threaten us.

I see at least four flaws with Washington’s current approach for security assistance. First, it is all about “us” and our needs, thereby ignoring or takings for granted others’ needs. Second, it shows no understanding of what “partnering” really means. Third, it suggests we will be pursuing the same old strategies that have served us so poorly in the past (think of Mali). Finally, it diverts us from what should be our main goal: the development of incorruptible, apolitical security services—a goal that is an either/or proposition, and not something, as many Washington insiders contend, that takes decades to achieve.

Let me elaborate these points, taking the last one first.

When security services are incorruptible, states hang together. Look at India. No country these days has more sectarian divisions, not to mention multiple insurgencies. Yet India’s armed forces remain apolitical and professional. Nor is this just a legacy of British imperialism; it is a lived reality, requiring real work and commitment to meritocratic principles. (To be fair the threats beyond India’s borders, as well as within them, no doubt force this issue too.)

Now, imagine other countries in which most politicians aren’t just corrupt but also manage to stay in power through intimidation. How are they able to do so? The answer: Members of the security services are at their service, not the service of their country. Men in uniform, whether hailing from  the army, the police, the gendarmerie, or a praetorian guard, act as the muscle. It’s not hard to see that if members of the security services refused to behave like thugs, venal politicians would have a hard time mustering protection for their abuses of power. The significance of apolitical, incorruptible security services thus cannot be overstated. And although developing a professional force is a harder task than most in Washington seem to realize, it is also more straightforward.

It is harder in the sense that building such a force requires a leader who is nationalist enough to want to make this happen. Such individuals tend to be rare. Ramon Magsaysay, Minister of Defense and then President of the Philippines in the 1950s, was one such individual. Magsaysay helped turn the Filipino army around with assistance from a small team of Americans under Colonel Edward Lansdale. This effort required neither decades nor thousands of U.S. advisers.

Lansdale took pride in introducing the term “civic action” to the U.S. military. What he meant by this is that the Philippine military needed to prove to Filipinos that it existed to protect rather than to prey on them. As a concept, “civic action” has morphed over time, but it still provides the easiest proof there is of who has what it takes to be a worthwhile partner. Anytime we find ourselves having to cajole a leader into wanting to fulfill any semblance of a social contract, we should recognize the effort as a lost cause. (Today’s most vivid exemplar: Hamid Karzai.)

Determining whether a leader has the potential to become more “legitimate” doesn’t have to be complicated. In the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq, most U.S. policymakers (finally) agree that getting in bed with a government that shows no interest in its population makes no sense. Thus we should ask two litmus test questions before proffering assistance: Does the country we’re considering as a partner already possess a civic action capability? If not, is it willing to develop one? Governments that don’t want their militaries to develop a civic action capability are governments we can’t help—nor should we want to.

In this sense, civic action represents the ideal canary in the coalmine. Even better, by returning to the idea that they do the heavy lifting (while we do the assisting), we would extricate our military from the business of digging wells, building schools, setting up clinics and performing all sorts of other aid-like functions. By making all such tasks the responsibilities of partner militaries (and their governments), we wouldn’t just arrest the corruption we inevitably fuel whenever we send taxpayer-funded projects, money and stuff abroad; we would also force governments to have to remain responsive to their citizenries, thus yielding “partners” worthy of the name.

The U.S. military should consider only three types of partnerships viable:

In Partnership no. 1, you are my equal. We are interchangeable, and our forces can be fully integrated.

In Partnership no. 2, I trust you implicitly. We can agree on a division of labor. I’ll be responsible for Sectors A, B, and C; you’ll be responsible for Sectors D, E, and F.

In Partnership no. 3, we are complementary. You have skills and capabilities I lack, and vice versa. I’ll defer to you for intelligence and local knowledge; you can rely on me for logistics and medevac.)
(Continued at the link below)

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