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Toward a usable peace : United States civil affairs in post-conflict environments Guttieri, Karen Rochelle


United States military interventions commonly attempt to generate a post-conflict political order congenial to American national interest, that is, to shape a usable peace. The Clausewitzian imperative, that the use of force must serve policy, points to the strategic significance of the postconflict environment. The civil dimension is the arena where US policy succeeds or fails. This study examines US military doctrine and practice of civil affairs in order to address a strategic problem: how to translate the use of force into a usable peace? Civil affairs or civil military operations cope with civilians during operations, control populations and facilitate US military exit. This study offers theoretical, historical, and policy analysis of US civil affairs. Theoretically, if war is a continuation of policy by other means, civil affairs effect a transition back to a mode of policy. Over time, US doctrine adjusted to different conflict environments and policy imperatives provided by civilian leadership, shifting emphasis to military government, civic action, counterinsurgency, and finally, to peace operations. Because US military culture disdains involvement of soldiers in governance, and in order to expedite transitions, two principles are consistent features of the US approach: civilianization, to transfer authority to civilian agencies; and indirect rule, to nurture friendly indigenous regimes. Civil affairs implements policy. US interventions in the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) imperfectly translated political goals into military objectives; suffered from inconsistent goals from Washington; and failed to plan adequately for the civil dimension. The study identifies a number of factors that influenced the American approach to civil affairs in these cases, including analogical reasoning behind the US interventions, orientation toward low-intensity conflict at the time of the intervention, the impact of combat operations during interventions, and the availability of local resources for reconstruction after intervention. The civil dimension of military operations has become more prominent in last decade of intervention in internal conflicts, under limited rules of engagement, in the service of humanitarian objectives. As operations have become more multilateral and multi-agency, cultural tensions have become more pronounced. This study provides a basis for further exploration of the fundamental, but increasingly complex strategic imperative for US military forces, to shape a usable peace.

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