I always feel a sense of satisfaction when the mainstream press catches up to a story that WPR has been out ahead of, like the scaling back of AFRICOM (here from a few weeks back in the CSM, and here from today in the WaPo and over at Phil Carter’s Intel Dump). It’s a fascinating story that combines a novel vision of an interagency military command with some highminded operational objectives, and throws them headlong into the wall of Africa’s political realities, both historical and contemporary.
There’s a lot going on here, and while AFRICOM is being downgraded to a more modest enterprise for now, I’ve got a hunch we’ll be hearing more about it, if only as a prototype for the hybrid model of the future. What I find most concerning is that after initial efforts to create a truly interagency command structure, the final version features a military command with integrated, but apparently subordinate, civil components. That seems to represent less a desire of the Pentagon’s civilian leadership than of the civilian branches that prioritize funding.
Most of the pushback against the Army’s newly minted COIN doctrine has centered around its impact on classical warfighting capabilities. My own qualms have more to do with the way they militarize what in essence are civilian humanitarian functions, either outright or by appropriation. The more our humanitarian operational resources get fitted with military camo, the more likely we’ll be to seek out warzones to stabilize, while ignoring other humanitarian priorities that don’t require up-armored vehicles and interagency PRT’s.