Peacekeeping: The Israeli Mayor's Military Advisor

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October 26,2008:  Israel is now assigning civil affairs troops to work with local governments inside Israel, if the country undergoes more rocket attacks, like those that occurred on the Lebanese border during the Summer of 2006. These civil affairs officers would assist local officials in dealing with wartime conditions, and dealing with the effects of rockets falling in their territory.

Civil Affairs troops are the folks who deal with any civilians in the combat zone. This has always been a problem, or, as many commanders have noted, a necessary nuisance. Until the 19th century, a general would, at most, assign some officers and troops to go talk to the local civilian leadership to establish some ground rules so that the locals would not interfere with  military operations. This, as any competent general knew, was preferable to just allowing civilians to wander all over the place (often to be abused or looted by the troops, and to sometimes fight back.) But in the last century, dealing with civilians has become a specific military skill. Much of Napoleon's success in the 19th century was due to the attention he paid to civil affairs. During World War II, soldiers with foreign language or government administration skills were collected and used to work with the local civilians and avoid problems.

Current Civil Affairs operations were developed from experience U.S. troops had dealing with occupied Germany and Japan after World War II (1945-55), and "civic action" operations in the Vietnam war (1960-75). Since then, Civil Affairs troops have also been used to administer foreign aid and peacekeeping programs.

Israel studied their 2006 experience and realized that this was the first time Israeli civilians had been under sustained military attack for nearly half a century. Local civilian officials often didn't know how react, and many called on the military for help. So rather than expand the civil service bureaucracy, it seemed easier just to train a lot of reserve officers on what the needs to be done by civil officials during such attacks. These civil affairs officers would also act as a liaison with the military.

 


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