WASHINGTON – The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines “fragile states” that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security.
The doctrine, which has generated intense debate in the U.S. military establishment and government, holds that American troops likely will not engage in major ground combat as they have in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead frequently be called upon to operate in lawless areas to safeguard populations and rebuild countries.
Such “stability operations” will last longer and ultimately contribute more to the military’s success than “traditional combat operations,” according to the Army’s new Stability Operations Field Manual.
“This is the document that bridges from conflict to peace,” said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where the manual was drafted over the past 10 months. The U.S. military “will never secure the peace until we can conduct stability operations in a collaborative manner” with civilian government and private entities at home and abroad, he said.
The stability operations doctrine is an engine that will drive Army resources, organization and training for years to come, Caldwell said, and Army officials have detailed plans to execute it. The operations directive underpinning the manual “elevated stability operations to a status equal to that of the offense and defense,” the manual reads, describing the move as a “fundamental change in emphasis” for the Army.
Yet the concept has drawn fire from all sides: Military critics say it will weaken heavy war-fighting skills – using tanks and artillery – that have atrophied during years of counterinsurgency campaigns. For their part, civilian officials and nongovernmental groups with scarce resources say armed forces are filling the gap, but at the cost of encroaching upon their traditional overseas missions.
Military advocates argue the Army has long been called upon for peacekeeping and rebuilding in unstable areas, but it has conducted those operations in an ad hoc fashion because of an excessive focus on combat. “Contrary to popular belief, the military history of the United States is characterized by stability operations, interrupted by distinct episodes of major combat,” the manual states.