New US Army doctrine culls lessons from RP

Posted at 10/10/2008 6:28 PM | Updated as of 10/14/2008 12:40 PM

WASHINGTON D.C. - The United States Army has unveiled a new doctrine that aims to expand its arsenal in the global war on terror and playing the role as the world’s policeman – a strategy culled from experiences fighting in a host of countries, including the Philippines.

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, described by some as the army’s top intellectual, discussed the salient points of the US Army’s newly-minted “Field Manual 3-07 Stability Operations” with foreign reporters at the National Press Club here.

For the US military, a field manual is the closest thing to a soldier’s bible. It is a manifestation of doctrine which defines strategy and tactics, sets norms of conduct and goals in an ever-changing conflict environment.

“This manual on stability operations is driving a wave of unprecedented change,” Caldwell declared.

It’s geared towards changing mind-sets, emphasizing the inherent advantages of “soft power” vis-a-vis “hard power”, shifting the onus of victory from war-fighting to winning hearts and minds.

Winning the peace

Not surprisingly, this manual is intended for use by field commanders including middle-grade and senior officers. Caldwell said the manual can also be used by civilian agencies such as the State Department, US Agency for International Development (USAID) and non-government agencies (NGOs) that may be working overseas in proximity of US military forces.

“The US Army can fight and win any conflict in which we’re engaged,” he said, but also acknowledged that “military force alone is never going to be sufficient. The military will never win the peace.”

This new field manual, Caldwell says, codifies lessons learned from over 200 years-worth of conflicts, more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. The manual includes references to the Philippine insurgency against American occupation at the turn of the century.

Caldwell is commander of the US Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, the premier military institution for higher learning. Passing through Fort Leavenworth has become a veritable rite of passage for many Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) brass.

Lessons from the Philippines

Caldwell himself served for a time in the Philippines when he was assigned with the US Pacific Command. Responding to a question from ABS-CBN News, Caldwell proudly proclaimed that his first assignment after the 9/11 terror attack was in the Philippines.

“It was a key, critical area. And we think it’s so important out at Fort Leavenworth that we currently have a key member of my personal staff deployed to the Philippines for a year to capture the lessons learned and understand how, in fact, your country is dealing with rebel forces that you have there,” Caldwell said.

He said Lt. Col. Chet Clark is assigned to the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) in Mindanao. Clark is one of only two “special operators” dispatched from Fort Leavenworth to observe and report on how US forces are faring under the new stability strategy. The other officer was sent to Colombia.

The tenets of Field Manual 3-07 strikes some resemblance to the AFP’s circa 1990s Lambat Bitag Campaign that itself was culled from the experience and insights of former communist New People’s Army (NPA) chieftain (and now Maryland resident) Victor Corpus.

Lambat Bitag identified three stages of counter-insurgency -- clear infested areas of NPA rebels, hold the area by organizing and training local militia and addressing the root causes of rebellion by coordinating and protecting civilian agencies delivering needed basic services.

US forces in Mindanao are already employing the same tactics, shifting part of the focus of security operations to civil-military operations (CMO). Over the past several years, for instance, the emphasis of the annual RP-US Balikatan “war games” has gradually moved from an imaginary external aggressor to CMO activities – working with the local populace, building roads and schools and honing nation-building skills rather than prowess at waging conventional warfare.

Caldwell said the Philippines has a “very successful story and one that we can all learn from, with actually minimal amount of military force but rather working much more powerfully with the softer elements to solve the challenges that you’ve had.”

“Congratulations to what your nation has been doing and we hope to continue to learn more from you in that process,” he added.

Apprehension

Enjoying a headstart in the Philippines can also give the US the opportunity to look further down the road. Some US aid workers have expressed apprehension at working so close to soldiers in strife-torn areas of Mindanao.

“There’s a real clear distinction between what the NGOs do and what we do,” said Caldwell.

The terminology they have asked us to use is they don’t want to be our partners, they just want to be friends. They don’t want to collaborate with us, but rather they’ll be cooperative with us. Those are real clear distinctions because they do not want people to ever think that they are working in support of, or alongside of the United States military,” he explained.

“They’re independent. They have their own agendas. They will be prioritizing as they so direct and they will do what they want to do. What we have asked is if we can share what we’re doing so they’re aware of it and then ensure there’s enough inherent security wherever they’re operating – very far external to them – so they can operate safely is real important to us,” he added.

Addressing the human condition

There is also the danger of US forces getting embroiled in local intramurals. One lesson the AFP learned in Lambat Bitag is that working too closely with the people can draw them into deeper personal, political or cultural conflicts.

But Caldwell stressed the US Army doctrine is founded on five principles – building partner capacity, strengthening institutions of legitimate governments, establishing and maintaining the rule of law, fostering economic growth, and helping forge a strong sense of national unity.

“It’s building the intellectual foundation for leveraging the soft-power capabilities our military has in support of other instruments of national and international power – something very vital to an effective strategy...foundation rooted in the human dimension. So long as conflict is fundamental to human nature, any approach has to begin by addressing the human condition,” he explained.

As the US Army tries to imbibe this new mind-set, Caldwell said their core competency will remain waging conventional warfare. But this added arsenal will allow them to find the right mix of “soft” and “hard” power in responding to specific challenges. 

“This doctrine,” Caldwell stressed, “is a powerful force for change.”