By Rana Athar Javed
For centuries, the application of overwhelming military force and psychological management of ultra-offensive operations has transformed the current definition of doctrine of war. The principle of objectivity and effectiveness of planning have now become challenging because it entails risky and speculative undertaking as a conflict gradually advances to impact the sociopolitical format in a war-affected country. Since defining war doctrine is a vast task, it is important to consider the “inherent contradictions in a doctrine,” especially when trying to formulate or implement it. Importantly, toward the end of a war, the hasty and disorderly strategy could cause more inconsistencies in application of a doctrine.
In practice, a sustainable approach primarily persuades the creation of a suitable character of ending wars, which in turn would require acceptable and neutral connotations in its knowledge and thinking. “The purpose of doctrine is to provide a cohesive body of thinking to approach the business of war. The expression ‘military doctrine’ can also provoke a vision of intellectual rigidity where the firm foundation of experience can represent an unhelpful ossification of past military practice…” (Dr. Latawski). NATO’s definition – also being used by many member states, is, “fundamental principles by which the military forces guide their actions in support of objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgment in application”. Overall, the credibility and concept of “judgment” still remain unknown articles of NATO doctrine of war because the methods in which both wars initiated contained strategic re-designs, rather than the assessment of post-invasion scenarios.
However, the US glossary expands the scope of doctrine, and also “includes separate entries for multinational, joint and multi-service doctrine. Curiously ‘multi-service’ doctrine is a cross-reference under the US glossary’s doctrine entry but is not defined anywhere in the document”. In fleshing out the “joint” and “multi-services”, its operational approach classically hints at impacting international environment, while for practical purposes additional resources both in terms of military and financial proposes variations on the basic concept of retaining tasks of training, society building and permanent outposts to monitor and react to tactical changes in peace time. The potential cost to such approach would force the multi-national forces and other stakeholders to pay a compound “price constrains” of withdrawal and the impact of subsequent development of doctrine.
Although any case study can never be a perfect model to be practiced in future doctrines of war and peace, but, the biggest issue, which remains unresolved relates to not knowing full ramifications of a counterinsurgency doctrine, as it requires popular decision-making to end war. By all accounts, and preferably, opinion curbs focus on domestic arena, and thereby pressures and obligations to “new” strategic thinking including taking major initiative, if considerations of doctrine changes.
On the other hand, in asymmetrical warfare, doctrine of war can be used as “general descriptor” in order to deflate enemy’s pressure for an immediate or sustainable operational approach. Still, such pressures can produce heavy causalities and can cause a potential need for redeployment of combat forces. Hence, adoption of a cohesive body of knowledge and final assessment of withdrawal or application of doctrine of peace should be realistic and according to ground realities. The peace support doctrine therefore requires policy inputs of national security establishment, and abiding by conventional sociopolitical environment and economic considerations of local population, because peace cannot be implemented without looking two steps forward. In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq the US and allied forces missed several opportunities to establish peace support doctrine.
The fundamental question is what the US gained after a decade in two wars? Whether movement behind current doctrine of war has severely deteriorated international standing of the US/NATO is a separate question, the growing counterinsurgency fatigue is deeply affecting the psychological conditions of troops and generating domestic social friction within the families in the US and in other Western capitals. Also, the expensive policy of trying to win hearts-and-minds, building roads, schools and preparing to handover Afghanistan to the new government in 2014 – Ironically, this roadmap continue to abet terrorism and thwarted all efforts to contain local hostilities against the occupying militaries. It is this aspect of modern doctrine of war, which has far-reaching consequences, especially in terms of preserving stability in the time of peace.
According to Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program, the United States gained “not much,” from two wars [Afghan & Iraq]…“certainly not worth the effort.” In the case of Afghanistan, the military doctrine became an intricate guide to counterinsurgency and ideological threat to both domestic and international security, but, the cost and risks of dual nature of conflict was underestimated. As a result, several different tasks were assigned to the regional partners and combat troops.
The doctrine of war in Iraq was remarkably based on faulty and “cooked up” intelligence assessment, and the consequences of which remain deadly, especially in terms of loss of human life, societal construction and international border control. Operationally, this means that future doctrine of wars will be more controversial, and would eventually be treated as unprepared and unplanned exercise of military engagement. Nonetheless, the most noteworthy component of today’s doctrine constitutes the ways and means to gain access to zones that are strategically crucial, especially in terms of trade routes, natural and water resources.
The new conflict and al-Qaeda phenomenon in East/West/North Africa and Maghreb has opened up yet another front in doctrine of preemption. The French military is stepping up its attacks on so-called Islamists’ hideouts in Mali – Somalia is almost lost to rebels, which is causing further rise in migration to European countries. The whole concept of military doctrine will require additional discussion about insurgency and hunting down the terrorists in different parts of the world, and where the consensus will be narrow, again heavy presence of force in urban areas will cause further violence. In seeking to explain the faulty doctrine of war, a debate about leaving a stable Afghanistan behind should be central to the peace support doctrine of the US and NATO.