Last week, the U.S. Army released its new field manual on stability and reconstruction operations, FM 3-07, the 10-month interagency brainchild of the Army, State Department, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Some have hailed the doctrine as a fundamental shift in Army policy that recognizes the significance of non-military threats to U.S. national security, while others have criticized it as a missed opportunity to critically re-examine notions of what constitutes security.
The new doctrine aims to shift the burden of fostering stability in fragile states from the Army to the State Department and USAID, which are better prepared to address non-military threats. To paraphrase Lieutenant General William Caldwell IV at an October 8, 2008, event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies: The Army is up against non-military threats that can cause widespread destabilization—such as, access to basic necessities like food, water, and shelter—and with its traditional mandate to win wars with overwhelming military force, the Army does not have the expertise to address these threats.
Instead, a new Civilian Response Corps under the State Department and USAID will receive crisis training from the Army to prepare for managing conflict scenarios. The Army hopes that this interagency effort will expand civilian agencies’ capacity to prevent instability from devolving into state failure, which increases the chances of the Army being deployed. Sustainability and human security are clearly viewed as ways to achieve stability and prevent costly military deployments, not as goals in and of themselves.
According to Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program, it is important “to distinguish whether addressing sustainability needs is a tactic or a goal or both. It can be both for militaries but at times it is merely a tactic to achieve stability rather than a fundamental rethink of how security should be defined.”
Tad Davis, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety, and occupational health, recently said, with respect to military operations and access to water in Iraq, “You can get out there…and deploy to an area for conducting operations, but if water’s not there for drinking purposes and for cooking, showering, laundry, things like that, then you’re not going to be able to sustain the force.” Clearly, Davis views environmental sustainability as key to the Army’s operations, but not necessarily as a critical component of a lasting peace.
Yet others argue that the Army would be wise to adopt long-term environmental sustainability and human security as immediate goals, as they would reduce the frequency with which the Army is dragged into conflicts. Dabelko wonders whether the War on Terror might be more successful “if part of a diversified response to the attacks of 9/11 would have included an aggressive effort to address poverty as an underlying source of grievances around the world rather than having just a uni-dimensional strategy of use of force. The symbolic and the real impact of such a strategy might have been quite tangible.” Nonetheless, the Army’s recognition that security is broader than military force is a laudable step—hopefully not the last—in the right direction.
Photo: Two Iraqi girls from Al Buaytha, Iraq, pump water from a U.S. Army-supplied portable water tank. Courtesy of flickr user James Gordon.