SysAdmin Role and Counterinsurgency
Counterinsurgency is work better suited to a police force than a military one. Military forces — by tradition, organization, equipment and training — are best at killing people and breaking things. Police organizations, on the other hand, operate with minimum force. They know their job can’t be done from miles away by technology. They are accustomed to face-to-face contact with their adversaries, and they know how to draw street-level information and support from the populace. The police don’t threaten the governments they work under, because they don’t have the firepower to stage coups.
The United States needs a professional police organization specifically for creating and keeping public order in cooperation with American or foreign troops during international peacekeeping operations. It must be able to help the military control indigenous populations in failing states like Haiti or during insurgencies like the one in Falluja.
The force should include light armored cavalry and air cavalry paramilitary patrol units to deal with armed guerillas, as well as linguistically trained and culturally attuned experts for developing and running informants. It should be skilled and professional at screening and debriefing detainees, and at conducting public information and psychological operations. It must be completely transportable by air and accustomed to working effectively with American and local military forces.
Barnett has seen this idea before:
I call the 100 percent solution set System Administration, and in that solution set, as I argued in BFA (p. 52), “the SysAdmin force will be roughly one-half military, one-quarter civilian uniformed police, and one-quarter civilian government workers with expertise in disaster relief, nation building, and economic development.”
I also wrote that total US participation “should hover in the 10 to 20 percent range.”
I’ve been arguing since the 1992 Somalia op that the Defense Department needed to radically upgrade its linguist, civil affairs, psyop, and Special Forces capability for what were then called “Operations Other than War” and have since been variously called many things, most lately “Stability Operations.” Counterinsurgency calls for essentially the same skill set but, as Daly notes, a lethal edge as well.
The problem with civilianizing this task, however, is manifold. Most obviously, civilians can simply quit rather than risk assignment to hostile fire zones. For unpopular and/or drawn out operations like that in Iraq, it’s far from clear that we could get these civilian super-cops to deploy.
Further, as the current attempt to cobble together an peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon demonstrates once again, having 80-90 percent of the force for these sorts of operations peformed by non-Americans is a fantasy. Barnett is no doubt right in saying that it’s ideal from a mission accomplishment perspective but, realistically, getting a combination of willingness and competency on the part of a significant number of other countries on a regular basis is just not going to happen.