Once exclusively the purview of unconventional warfare and special operations forces, by, with, and through has gone mainstream, but it is not yet found in joint doctrine for conventional warfare. The evolution of the phrase and its individual elements has increased the lack of clarity because of inconsistencies in messaging and understanding of the definitions, responsibilities, progression, and ultimate goal of the approach.
The U.K. government should look closely at the Niger incident report. The U.S. looks set to engage in a frank discussion about what went wrong, and more generally raise a number of concerns about the deployment of U.S. special forces to West Africa. It is indicative of a recognition within the U.S., as among many of the U.K.’s allies, that greater openness is not inherently incompatible with the operational security or utility of special forces. The U.K. government should consider its own options. Its no-comment policy is not risk free and presents a number of dangers to the effectiveness of U.K. military engagement abroad.
Instead of simply meeting budgetary recommendations, an analysis of small state security potential and funding of smarter, more cost-effective contributions to the alliance is needed. Furthermore, using a few of NATO’s “minnows” as examples of how to make limited means count in the face of an expansionist Russia, it becomes apparent that the continued existence of the alliance is of paramount importance. Ultimately, conventional “hard power” alone is not an effective strategy for combating current Russian security challenge facing Europe. For the small, frontline states on NATO’s eastern flank, a focus on special operations forces and intelligence are a better use of limited resources.
Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the effects-focused approach is that it conceives of surrogates as being more like weapon systems than moral agents. In addition to the strict ethical and legal responsibilities regarding the use of surrogates, there is also a general responsibility to evaluate the risk of working with (and thus potentially enabling) prospective surrogates.
I want to start this piece with a slight preface. In my last, and first, post I discussed the relative value of contributions made by the NATO assets involved in Operation Unified Protector. I discussed the relative values of their contributions in relation to the formation of the NTC. It occurs to me now that I wasn’t upfront about the manner in which I assessed relative contributions. When I rated the contributions of NATO’s combined airpower and the small but effective band of elite special operators on the ground I used the word significant. When seeking to emphasize the importance of the NTC’s establishment I used the word decisive.
A fortnight ago, the Libyan rebels swept into the capital city of Tripoli and have since begun to assert control over territory it seemed only weeks ago they would never lay claim to. The side that spent months teetering on the brink of imminent demise has now become the mortal lock. Now that they’ve reached this position of unrivaled dominance it seems the world is ready to start talking in past tense about the conflict.