Oct 2, 2007

Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept

The Combined Arms Research Library yesterday released the DOD Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept (100-page pdf).

Influencing foreign governments and populations is a complex and inherently political activity. This Joint Operating Concept (JOC) describes the military role in protracted IW campaigns; however, these campaigns will fail if waged by military means alone. The nature of IW requires the US Government (USG) to achieve the level of unified action necessary to integrate all available
instruments of national power to address irregular threats. The USG will have to develop “Whole of Government” approaches to waging IW at the political, strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Other government agencies must build their capacity to operate in unstable or hostile environments.

Irregular warfare is about people, not platforms. IW depends not just on our military prowess, but also our understanding of such social dynamics as tribal politics, social networks, religious influences, and cultural mores. People, not platforms and advanced technology, will be the key to IW success. The joint force will need patient, persistent, and culturally savvy people to build the local relationships and partnerships essential to executing IW. ...

What makes IW "irregular" is the focus of its operations – a relevant population – and its strategic purpose – to gain or maintain control or influence over, and the support of, that relevant population through political, psychological, and economic methods. Creating and maintaining an enduring, functioning state requires the government to be legitimate in the eyes of the population. On the other extreme, while a brutal dictatorship may control a population, it will eventually lead to frustration and dissatisfaction that can be exploited by an irregular adversary. Warfare that has the population as its "focus of operations" requires a different mindset and different capabilities than warfare that focuses on defeating an adversary militarily. ...

The foundation of IW activities are those that produce a positive psychological effect on the populace in order to gain their support and weaken their support of an adversary. Assessing psychological effects on contested populations must take into account existing cultural and social norms. Some planning considerations are:

• The people will desire a strong degree of security.

• The people must feel as if they can influence the social and political order.

• The people will want meaningful economic activity that enables them to provide a living for their families.

• The people will want to maintain a society that reinforces their cultural preferences and allows them to feel pride in their citizenship.

Without this focus on the will of the population, IW will degenerate into a struggle marked by brutal suppression and intimidation to force the people to submit to the will of the belligerents.

The paper recommends the creation of a global DOD strategic communications capability supported by a transformed DOD PSYOP force.

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