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Thread: MCOs and SSOs in the 2008 edition of FM 3-0 Operations

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  1. #1
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    Oct 2007

    Default MCOs and SSOs in the 2008 edition of FM 3-0 Operations

    Political leaders, not Military leaders, set foreign policy and decide what wars to wage and what operations to engage in. This is as it must be, despite the fact that political leaders may err in their decisions and assign the Military to missions that it may either not be suitable for, or become overcommitted to, to the general detriment of its principle mission, fighting and winning wars. In such cases, all the Military can do is deal with things as best it can. But make no mistake, in such cases, this is a misuse of the Military, which potentially serious consequences for its operational capabilities and institutional morale and mindset.

    That said, Military Doctrine should not acquiesce to this state of affairs. Of course it must be capable of successfully performing SSOs, and it must have the leadership, training, and doctrine etc. to perform such tasks as necessary. It is one thing to include, as is proper and necessary, SSOs into one's Military Doctrine, and to do so comprehensively; it is quite another to consider and to recognize SSOs as missions of principle importance to the Military, directly comparable to Operations of War. The former are Police Operations in which the Military may assist; the latter are Military Operations in which other, non-military agencies may assist. We do not expect the U.S. Marshals or USAID to be fighting alongside the Military on the front-lines in Operations of War; neither should it be formal Military Doctrine that the Military should perform Aid to the Civil Power tasks as its primary mission over Operations of War, unless circumstances are so extraordinary as to leave no other reasonable option (as in Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion or Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion).

    The elevation of Stability and Support Operations to equal status with Conventional Military Operations in the 2008 edition of FM 3-0 Operations is unsettling. There are many who, quite logically, argue that since SSOs make of the bulk of the U.S. Army's present operational tasking and missions it is therefore natural that such operations be accorded equality of status to MCOs. Certainly there has been both a recognition and a rectification (more or less) of the U.S. Army's longstanding deficiencies with regards to Operations Other Than War, and this has culminated in the complete integration of SSOs with MCOs in the newest edition of FM 3-0.

    This is a mistake, nonetheless. There is a difference between Military Operations, in which agencies other than the Military may participate and assist the Military in the event of War, and Operations in Aid to the Civil Power, in which the Military is perhaps one of many agencies that may participate and assist in such operations in support to the Civil Power. In the former, Operations are not only performed by the Military, but indeed the Military is the principal agent, assisted where required by secondary agents. In the latter, the Military is a secondary agent, assisting a principle agent, the Civil Authorities, in their efforts to establish and maintain peace, order, and safety.

    That the Civil Power may, through its principle means of establishing and maintaining peace, order, and safety - namely the Police - be inadequate or even largely incapable, thus requiring the Military to take on the principle agent role in these matters does not resolve the matter of deficiencies in the Police. Rather it is more an act of desperation in that the failure or inability of the Police to perform their principle agent role in Aid to the Civil Power thus requires the intervention of an agent probably even more unsuited for the task.

    The record of Military-led and -based COIN and even SSO operations is not a happy one in general; Algeria, the Congo, Vietnam, Rhodesia, and Somalia amongst others, most such COIN and SSO operations meet with failure. Those in which the Police and similar Civil agencies possess the requisite capability and competence in Aid to the Civil Power Operations (from IS, CT, SSO, and COIN, etc.,) and retain Operational control most of the time, including over Military forces assigned to Aid to the Civil Power tasks, do tend to enjoy rather more success; British and post-colonial India, Malaya, Borneo, and perhaps even Oman lend credence to this.

    As such, while it would be proper for the 2008 edition of FM 3-0 Operations to include Aid to the Civil Power Operations (IS, CT, SSO, COIN, etc.), it should do so whilst defining them as operations that are adjuncts to the Military's Operations of War (Offence, Defence, Delay, Transistion, Special, etc.). As things stand, FM 3-0 Operations, in its present form, almost seems to treat Operations of War as also-rans; they are nearly overwhelmed by the mass of treatment accorded to Aid to the Civil Power Operations. It would have been much better for FM 3-0 to concentrate on Operations of War while according Aid to the Civil Power Operations much more modest, and secondary, treatment; the new Operations FM seems almost more appropriate as Operational doctrine for a Gendarmerie than it does for a Military.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 03-16-2008 at 02:32 AM.


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