Peacekeeping: October 19, 2003

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The US (and other nations as well) should raise several brigades worth of constabulary units specifically for peacekeeping missions. We should use units specifically trained for the job, rather than conventional units who are run through the training cycle like its a washing machine. It is wasteful and inefficient to be constantly training, un-training, and retraining troops the way we have been. Dedicated constabulary troops would be a more efficient and more effective use of resources. 

These constabulary troops may be recruited from existing sources, with military-style but slightly longer enlistment terms and contracts. There will be a noticeable point in time during a military operation, where the conventional units are overkill and unsuited to police duty. That is when the Constabulary unit should take over. The constabulary brigades ought to rotate in and out on regularly scheduled multi-year deployment (say two or three years). This allows enough time for a rapport to be built up between the natives and the troops. The quantity of these constabulary units also places a de facto limit on peacekeeping commitments. When you run out, more hard decisions have to be made, forcing the powers-that-be to examine more closely potential peacekeeping situations.

Forming dedicated constabulary units would also provide a focus for experiments and research on the subject. This is different from current efforts, that are focused more towards converting units from warfighting to peacekeeping, and back again. The existence of constabulary units will also reassure conventional warriors that they will not be used up on peacekeeping missions, which are demonstrably not popular (to the point of discouraging re-enlistment) for a variety of reasons. The conventional military may then confidently return to focus on its core mission, while the constabulary provides an outlet for the peacekeeping mission.

The constabulary force should be organized as the opposite of a traditional heavy armored formation, for reasons of cost and of effectiveness. Trucks, Stryker-type APCs, and the like are preferred. The costs both to transport and support lighter units, in a region where logistics and support are all long-distance issues, will be lower. The US military has already noticed the strain repeated peacekeeping deployments place on its operations budget (not to forget the strain on individual servicemen) Second, technology-heavy units such as tanks and high-performance aircraft are not an appropriate weapon for use in the problems confronting a peacekeeping force. A squadron of high-performance aircraft is of little use when trying to control an unruly crowd. Also, that aircraft must land sometime, and when it does, a spear or rock up the engine intake will ground it as effectively as the latest air-to-air-missile might. 

Specifically trained, recruited, and equipped, light infantry are the tool of choice in a peacekeeping mission. We need specifically trained troops on the ground, visible and accessible to the natives. We also want our constabulary unit to be present long enough to build a rapport with the natives, which the current rotation policy doesnt allow. A unit of infantry that hides behind tanks, big guns, and fortifications, is counterproductive. Then, youre just another scary soldier, and there is an oversupply of those people already. Our troops have to stand out from that crowd by making themselves not scary to the people we are trying to help. 

The constabulary unit needs personnel, who are trained at primarily police work rather than infantry work, but who could fight as light infantry if needed. These are the people who are out, on foot, every day, being seen and seeing the natives. They need the best peacekeeping training and support we can give them. These are the people, who when confronted with a hostile crowd of natives, can keep their own wits about them, and proceed to calm down the crowd. The old method of shoot early, shoot often, shoot to kill is unacceptable and often counterproductive on a peacekeeping mission.

The Special Forces troops (who were probably there first anyway) will know the area, and keep the local troublemakers from getting out of hand, freeing the constabulary unit to maintain order on a day-to-day basis, and helping rebuild the country in question. A Civil Affairs (CA) unit, with as many CA personnel as can be obtained, should be integral to the constabulary unit. The CA people will help get infrastructure rebuilt to solve immediate problems-food, water, sanitation, electricity and so on. This is a powerful but subtle weapon, one that the US has experience with (from domestic emergencies such as hurricanes, to name one example). Once the people realize the benefits of cooperation-working utilities safe streets, and the like, they will then have more of an interest in making the peacekeeping work. Concurrently, they will develop less and less motivation towards keeping the war (or revolution) going.

The USAF (for example) should not really be involved in a constabulary unit because their equipment does not have appropriate weapons for a "nation building" mission, and are entirely too expensive for the situation. The current generation of high-performance USAF aircraft are designed for nation destroying missions, and thus, wont work the other way. Constabulary troops may find it useful to have a few light aircraft or helicopters (or UAVs), for reconnaissance and troop mobility. Front-line Navy units raise similar issues of cost and utility. A Carrier Battle Group should only be present when combat operations demand it. That is to say, not very often. An Amphibious Ready Group, though, might be the kind of subtle-but-effective offshore backup necessary to help get over tough spots.

One of our goals will be to help the natives to set up a representative government of some kind, but not necessarily a carbon-copy of the US model. Some form of democratic representation is necessary but its too much to ask for people to switch instantly from anarchy to multi-party political sophistication. The goal is to make people believe they have a stake in making the system work, and the politicians have to understand that they are doing the job for their citizens benefit. Breaking the vicious cycles of the past-corruption, nepotism, internecine violence-is the hardest job facing a constabulary unit. 

After the constabulary unit rotates out, NGO personnel who arrive in the area should find their job considerably simplified; the beginnings of a working infrastructure, a reduced level of warfare, and local people who want to get on with their life. Other goals such as demining, human rights, religious tolerance, and other intangibles will follow easily once the locals have realized that there is another way besides violence.

 


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