Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? by Robert Perito
Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? by Robert Perito

Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? America’s Search for a Post-Conflict Stability Force

Mar 10, 2004

Perito argues the need for creating a new U.S. force that is trained to assist with post-conflict operations in places like the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq.


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I’m Joanne Myers, Director of Merrill House Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I’d like to welcome our members and guests to our Books for Breakfast program.

This morning we are very pleased to have with us Bob Perito, who will be discussing his book, Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? America’s Search for a Post-Conflict Stability Force.

This volume on managing post-conflict environments was published by the Washington-based U.S. Institute for Peace. As the title implies, this is a book whose message could not be more timely given the prevailing criticisms that the Pentagon executed a brilliant military campaign but was unprepared for the challenges posed in stabilizing a society suddenly freed of dictatorial authority.

But how does one restore law and order when a regime is overthrown? What does it take to institute the rule of law? These are just a few of the issues which will shortly be addressed by our guest this morning.

But our speaker is not alone in his thinking about this topic, for in New York Rachel Bronson has been working on this issue as well. She will introduce Bob and his topic to you, but first I would just like to say a word about her. Rachel is the Owen Senior Fellow and Director of Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she is currently researching a book on Saudi Arabia.

No stranger to the subject herself on post-conflict environments, she co-directed the January 2003 report, Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq. This was co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

In addition, she has testified before Congress on the topic of Iraq’s reconstruction and has written on this subject as well, with her articles appearing in Foreign Affairs, the International Herald Tribune, and the Brown Journal of International Affairs.

Before going to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rachel served as a consultant to the Center for Naval Analysis as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and as a Fellow at Harvard Center for Science and International Affairs.

She is also the recipient of the Carnegie Corporation’s 2003 Carnegie Scholars Award.

I would like to ask you to join me in welcoming both Rachel and Bob to the Carnegie Council.


RACHEL BRONSON: Thank you. I am delighted to be here to introduce Bob Perito. He spent about 30 years in the Foreign Service before joining the Clinton Administration as Deputy Director in the Justice Department for International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). It’s probably the worst acronym of any department in Washington.

ICITAP is generally unknown, but under the Clinton Administration, it became the way for the United States to get around some legal obstacles we had put on ourselves to help militaries abroad prepare for building sustainable security. At the head of the ICITAP, Bob was involved in these security issues in Bosnia, East Timor, Haiti and Kosovo.

At a time when we’re looking at Afghanistan and Iraq, there is probably no issue more important than this post-conflict environment, and Bob brings a special knowledge to the problem.

The silver lining of all the challenges that we face in Afghanistan and Iraq is that, afterwards, no one will be saying that we don’t nation-build. Until the Bush Administration engaged in these countries, it was largely the constituency saying that the military and the United States do not participate in this kind of activity. The current situation will move the debate from not whether we should be involved in post-conflict environments but how we should be involved.

The controversial part of what Bob will tell us is that the military does have a role in the post-conflict environment.

He will also explain that work in the post-conflict environment is not a sequential task, that we don’t move from conflict to something else to peace, but rather, if the United States plans strategically and correctly, we need to decide how to establish post-conflict stability operations in a conflict situation, so that some force is working in tandem with the military to establish sustainable security.

I’m pleased to introduce Robert Perito from the U.S. Institute of Peace.

ROBERT PERITO: Good morning. I thank Carnegie for making this venue available and Joanne for all of her excellent arrangements.

I started writing Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? America’s Search for a Post-Conflict Stability Force right after 9/11, and at the time people asked me, “Why are you wasting your time with this topic? Why don’t you write about terrorism?” But after the events of last spring, particularly those that occurred after April 9 when the first U.S.military forces entered and captured the center of Baghdad, the answer now is obvious to us all.

What we saw on television last April was the arrival of some 4,000 U.S. troops into the center of the city, a brilliant military strategy. The unit that went charging into the center of the city, defied all of the usual rules of warfare, looked around, and said, “We’re here, and we’re not leaving,” which was an extraordinarily brave thing to do.

The problem was that that unit was in no way, shape or form able to take on the next challenge—looting. Almost immediately, tens of thousands, maybe millions of Iraqis came out of their homes and, first, in a haphazard way but then very meticulously over time, began to destroy all of those institutions that the U.S. Air Force had been so careful to preserve during the bombing campaign—all of the ministries, hospitals, universities, museums, libraries.

I had a conversation with General Garner, the head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) which was created in the Pentagon almost at the last minute to take over the responsibilities for post-conflict planning and peace implementation. General Garner planned to bring in ministry teams which were to roll up in front of the ministries for which they were responsible.

He envisioned that these buildings would be intact, with their staffs in place, humming along. The U.S. ministry teams would go in, take the elevator up to the executive suite, announce their arrival, call a meeting of all the technocrats, get organized, and go on.

But for 14 days he was unable to get permission to go in because of the chaos after the military got there, and by the time he did, those ministries had simply disappeared. The buildings had been systematically looted, walls broken out, plumbing and wiring stripped, and then the hulks of the buildings had been burned. In two or three weeks of looting, the looters did more damage than all of the combat operations.

That might be forgiven if it had been the first time that that had ever happened to us. But that is not the case. If you go back to Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1990, the U.S. military fought for three days, defeated the Panamanian Defense Force, and then looters came into the streets of Panama City and for a number of days did more damage to the Panamanian economy and to the city than all of the previous fighting.

In Haiti, on the second day of the U.S. intervention, United States soldiers stood by and watched as demonstrators came into the streets to celebrate their arrival, and as Haitian police beat to death demonstrators who were there to welcome us.

In Bosnia we sat through weeks and weeks of the burning of the Sarajevo suburbs, where once again the U.S. military, smartly organized, well armed, but with no orders to intervene, watched the destruction of towns and cities that had survived the conflict.

When NATO forces went into Kosovo after the war, they found the place fairly intact. Then we witnessed two years of unbridled lawlessness that saw more deaths and conflict, the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs and other ethnic minorities. And then fast-forward to Iraq.

The question arises, Why weren’t we ready? Why do we have this blind spot? The U.S. military has conducted itself brilliantly in military campaigns. But then when the fighting stops and we have to make the transition to peace implementation or post-combat operations, we don’t know what to do, or want to do it. As one colonel said, “We’re like children who get up in the morning and refuse to get dressed to go to school. We just don’t want to bother with that stuff.”

The answer to that question is somewhat complicated. But it requires a rethinking and re-understanding of the whole enterprise in which we’re involved.

We have a basic misunderstanding of the nature of peacekeeping or peace operations. Peacekeeping is not linear. If you look at Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali’s famous piece on Agenda for Peace in 1992, he laid out for the Security Council a three-part transition for peace operations: peacemaking, which diplomats do; peacekeeping or peace enforcement, which the military does; and then peace-building, which is what the aid and reconstruction people do.

That was modernized by the Pentagon, which came along with the idea that, first of all, we have combat, then post-combat or stabilization, and then reconstruction.

When you think back to the last Presidential campaign, we remember President Bush saying, “We fight the wars but we don’t do peacekeeping,” and Charles Krauthammer’s famous op-ed piece, “Real Men Don’t Peace-Keep.”

And you have the U.S. Congress voting yes for military forces for Bosnia but no for reconstruction money. People believe that somehow you can pick and choose among these various pieces.

The peacemaking and the diplomatic negotiations go on as the conflict continues, maybe not in an outright military sense; but in Iraq we’ve seen the famous George Bush speech on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, saying “Major combat operations have ceased,” and then we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve suffered many more casualties in the post-major combat phase than we ever did in the combat phase.

And then we have reconstruction, where Afghanistan is the classic example. We have a UN peace force in Kabul, a U.S. military force conducting active military operations on the Pakistan border, provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) from various nations spotted about the country doing a combination of security and development work, and all going on at once.

Meanwhile, we have the Loya Jirga [Afghan Grand Assembly] going forward with a new constitution, and diplomatic efforts to create a new government.

We have also misunderstood the real nature of the states where we’ve intervened. We’ve been misled by the concept of the failed state. If you look at where the United States has intervened, those states that are so vital to our national security that we had to put the U.S. Army or Marines on the ground to deal with them, we find that these are really not failed states. They’re not Somalia. Somalia was an exception, with no government and just chaos, and the chaos goes on to this day, long after we left.

The other countries where we have intervened—Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti (twice), Iraq, Kosovo and Liberia—were not failed states. They were rogue governments engaged in massive human rights abuses. And they were governments that on the surface appeared to be police states. But they were kleptocracies. They were organized criminal enterprises that engaged in a multitude of criminal activities. The revenue from these criminal activities was used to keep the regime in power and to pay off the security services and key individuals.

The way this worked in Iraq was that Saddam got control of the UN Oil for Food program. An article in The New York Times sketched out in detail that what Saddam was able to do through the UN Oil for Food program was to decide who got the contracts for Iraqi oil exports and who got the contracts for import of foodstuffs and materiel and supplies for the petroleum industry in Iraq.

The medium of exchange here was the kickback, and the GAO [Government Accounting Office]estimates that between 1997 and 2001 or 2002 the regime in Iraq earned almost $7 billion through kickbacks with this scheme.

The Taliban exercised a tax on opium production. They took 20 percent of the crop. We all remember that famous year when the Taliban banned opium production in Afghanistan, and on pain of death the farmers stopped producing. What the Taliban then did was to put its stockpile of opium on the market. The price skyrocketed and they made a fortune.

The Milosevic regime in the former Yugoslavia was again a criminal enterprise. Charles Taylor in Liberia ran a government which was engaged in the smuggling of diamonds, timber and rubber in exchange for weapons and money.

When we intervened in these kleptocracies, two or three things happened:

1) The security services had been totally corrupted and therefore were either unavailable—they just dissipated—or inappropriate to do law enforcement and public order in the after-intervention phase.2) Lawlessness broke out. And in every one of these situations, there was an outbreak of violence which ran for a period of days, months, in some cases years.3) Almost immediately we saw the re-emergence of organized crime. Almost immediately, the oil smuggling began again in Iraq. Almost immediately, these same kinds of phenomena began to appear again in Bosnia and Kosovo.

When we went into these operations, we weren’t looking for organized crime. We thought that there were ethnic or religious conflicts, and we were deterred by the rhetoric of the parties couched in those terms. But that was not the case.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, who is the current UN high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the most senior international official in Bosnia, said, “In Bosnia we thought that democracy was the highest priority, and we measured it by the number of elections we could organize. In hindsight, we should have put the establishment of the rule of law first, for everything else depends on it—a functioning economy, a free and fair political system, the development of civil society, and public confidence in the police and courts.” Lord Ashdown has repeatedly referred to Bosnia now as a “criminalized state.”

We also failed to appreciate the capabilities of the forces that we deployed to deal with these operations. During the last Presidential campaign, President Bush and his advisors, Condoleeza Rice and Secretary Powell, said repeatedly that the United States was going to stop relying on the U.S. military in these kinds of interventions, and we would use the full panoply of U.S. power to deal with this. What have we done? We’ve relied on the military even more than ever.

The problem with relying on the military in the post-major combat phases of these operations is that the opponents—the “spoilers”—are out to block the peace process. These spoilers are not armies, they’re civilians, and military forces are not trained to deal with civilians.

When Wesley Clark was the commanding general sending his troops into Kosovo, he said, “Experience in peace operations has proven that good soldiers, no matter how well equipped, trained, and led, cannot perform police duties among civilian populations.” Military forces are not trained to do policing. In the press reports out of Iraq in the very early days, our soldiers were quoted as saying, “Hey, we’re not cops.” In the first few days of the intervention in Haiti, the Marines were saying, “Hey, we’re not police officers.” Military forces are trained to mass materiel, men, and firepower and to destroy the enemy. They’re not trained to preserve and protect as police officers are.

You will remember the Rodney King riots in the 1990s. The police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury. Nine days of the worst riots in the United States in the 20th century ensued, completely overwhelming the L.A. Police Department. The California National Guard was activated, and then finally President Bush sent in the 82nd Airborne and the U.S. Marines.

It was common to have mixed patrols, police and Army. In one case a mixed patrol was going down a street when they heard shots fired within a building. The police and soldiers crouched down. The senior police officer present turned to his military counterpart and said, “Cover me, I’m going in.” The officer took about half a step and froze because the Marines did just that: They laid down a barrage of covering fire and blew the front off the building, because, to the soldiers. “Cover me” meant suppress the opposition.

When you send in soldiers to deal with a civilian population, the soldiers first have to relearn all of their training, and to figure out how to deal with people who are not the enemy and who are people that you have to be careful about but whom you don’t want to alienate.

Even though the military has performed brilliantly and has been able to learn on the job, this is a misuse of military forces. If somebody breaks into my house in Maryland, I don’t call the 82nd Airborne. I call the Montgomery County Police Department and a civilian officer comes out. In a situation where we are trying to establish democracy based on our own values, it’s misleading to have U.S. military police patrolling the city as we have in Baghdad today.

The next thing that we have gotten wrong is that Washington is structured in a way that does not allow us to deal with these situations in an educated and thoughtful manner.

The RAND Corporation has just completed a study in which they looked at the progression of U.S. peace operations starting at the end of World War II and up to Iraq. They concluded that the U.S. military has over time learned the lessons of these operations. It has spent millions of man-hours and millions of dollars learning, training, incorporating into its practices the lessons learned in fighting these various conflicts. The result is that the U.S. military can fight wars with fewer people in less time with lower casualties than ever before.

This has not been the case on the part of civilian agencies. As someone who has served in such agencies in the U.S. Government my whole career, I can speak with authority about this. U.S. civilian agencies have behaved as if every time we come into a post-combat intervention, this is the first and last time we’re going to do this, so we’re going to work through it, get it over with, and then hope it will never happen again.

There is no department of government in Washington that’s responsible for post-conflict security. The Department of State has the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau (INL) with responsibility for providing only police officers to post-conflict interventions.

Since we have no national police force in the United States, but rather 18,000 individual, independent law enforcement agencies, the INL was assigned the task in 1994, when we were going into Haiti, of standing up an American contingent for an international police force.

At the time we outsourced this to DynCorp. The United States is the only country in the world today that uses civilian contractors as police in international interventions. The State Department just signed a $1.7 billion contract with DynCorp to provide civilian police to Iraq.

What kinds of folks do we get when we send out a private U.S. corporation to hire police to go to foreign countries? Largely retirees, and a lot of people who need to get out of town.

The first contingent to Bosnia was rounded up very quickly, flown up to New York as a group, and then put through a three-day orientation program while the company conducted background checks. At the end of the three-day period, 50 percent of the people had failed the checks.

The current training program is going to raise 1,500 police officers to go to Iraq. One of the women who participated in the training came back and said, “They’re really sweet people. They have a lot of gray hair. The women look like bingo grannies.” They were probably police officers at some point in their career but are no longer serving in that capacity.

If I told you that the United States needed a military contingent to go to Sierra Leone tomorrow and the U.S. military was stretched a bit thin, and so I was going to go out and advertise for guys who used to be soldiers to show up, put them in uniform and give them M-16s, license to kill and pack them off to Sierra Leone as the U.S. military contingent, you would think, “You’re nuts.” But we do that with police every day.

Today in Kosovo we have 550 United States police officers serving in the UN police force. They wear U.S.-provided uniforms. They carry weapons provided by the U.S. Government. They wear a U.S. flag patch on their shoulder. They have authorization to shoot to kill, and they’re independent subcontractors of a commercial firm in the United States. That makes no sense.

In writing this book, I talked to military officers and civilian law enforcement people, because it struck me as very strange that during the Clinton Administration the U.S. Government had repeatedly asked the Europeans to provide constabulary. These are forces like the Italian Caribinieri, the French Gendarmerie, the Guardia Civile in Spain. They are police forces with military characteristics, or military forces with police characteristics.

Starting in the Clinton Administration, we began to put the screws on the Europeans to deploy constabulary to Bosnia and Kosovo, and indeed, in Kosovo today there are not only military constabulary but ten units of civilian constabulary as well. In Liberia there are now six units.

I began to ask, “Why does the United States want other countries to contribute these forces, and why don’t we have these forces in the United States?” Blank looks.

I discovered that the United States, maybe unique among countries in the world, has a very troubled history in the area of post-conflict, postwar intervention, and particularly in areas which deals with policing.

First of all, it’s not true that the United States has never had constabulary forces and that it’s not in our tradition. In fact it’s very much in our tradition. It’s in the tradition of the United States Army on the frontier where, in many cases, it was both a military and a police force. It did law and order and it fought Native American tribes.

The Texas Rangers are the quintessential constabulary force. They fought in the U.S. Army in the Mexican War, in the army of the Confederacy in the Civil War. They were a force that fought Native American tribes on the frontier, they policed the U.S.-Mexico border, and they were the quintessential law enforcement agents in the Old West, shooting it out with some of the most famous outlaws. So constabulary and this dual-purpose organization is very much in our history.

Secondly, when we got into the business of policing states in the Caribbean at the turn of the 20th century, our solution to the problem of how to maintain stability in these cases was almost every time to create a constabulary force.

In 1898 in Cuba after the Spanish-American War, in the Province of Santiago, there was general chaos, a typical post-conflict environment. U.S. troops were still there, but there was tremendous pressure on the part of the Congress and the public to bring the American army home.

A Marine Corps general named Leonard Wood came up with the idea of organizing a Cuban constabulary with U.S. officers and Cubans who would be both a police and military force to police Cuba. And then, in turn, we created the same kinds of institutions in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua.

The sad and tragic fact is that in almost every case these organizations, which were supposed to protect democracy, turned into forces of autocracy, and the people that came out of there—Somoza, Trujillo, Noriega—were dictators that we subsequently took down.

We also have the problem of post-World War II. At the end of the Second World War in Germany the United States created a constabulary force to police the U.S. sector of Germany. They took U.S. mechanized infantry divisions, got rid of the heavy weapons, put them in Jeeps, motorcycles, and horses, retrained them, changed their uniforms, and they were the police in Germany from 1946 to 1952. They did such a good job of taking care of business and phasing themselves out and handing off to the German police that nobody remembers this episode.

What is remembered is what happened in the Pacific, where they tried to do the same thing in Japan. The tragedy was that when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, the closest U.S. forces who were grabbed and thrown into the fight were constabulary forces from Japan, and these men were annihilated.

The first group to go in was a task force under a Colonel Smith, and from that day forward the cry of the Pentagon has been, “No more Task Force Smiths,” which means that we don’t have U.S. military forces that are not capable of conducting themselves in combat.

And finally in the 1970s, we had the Office of Public Safety. During the Kennedy Administration we created in AID [U.S. Agency for International Development] an office to train foreign police forces. That office got very much involved in the Vietnam War. It trained people who conducted torture. It ended up with the Phoenix Program, which probably resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspected Viet Cong.

Congress passed a law in 1994 which banned U.S. police assistance to foreign police forces, and it made my life much more interesting to know that every day that I went to work for the U.S. Department of Justice and did foreign police assistance programs, I was violating U.S. law and operating under all of the exemptions to the law.

What is the solution?

  • That the U.S. Government must take responsibility and create at a federal level a force that can go in with our military and establish the rule of law. This force should have constabulary police, legal teams, and corrections officials.
  • That if we don’t establish the rule of law first, then our experience tells us that nothing else happens. We don’t get economic reconstruction, we don’t get political reconciliation. We get what we have in Iraq and Afghanistan: chaos.
  • We need to take responsibility. We have a unique issue of public policy in the U.S. We know what the problem is. We have a solution. We have the capacity to solve the problem, but we don’t do it. The problem is a lack of political will.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: You are not alone in the focus that you bring to a need for a more holistic approach to peace operations. Over the last 18 months in the international community, particularly in the context of the tenth anniversary of the Peacekeeping Operations in the UN, we have focused on the need to have one part of the process relate to another more thoroughly. The failings of the U.S. Government have been failings by the international community more generally as well. The UN and the Security Council haven’t covered themselves with glory in this respect either.

The problem with ORHA [Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance established by the Department of Defence to assist in post-war Iraq] was not that there wasn’t quite a lot of work done before the military operation in Iraq, but that many of us engaged in what was then called Phase IV operations. Some countries found it very difficult to deal with the U.S. Government because of an insufficient focus in the bureaucracy in Washington.

Your idea of a constabulary is all the more essential because we are staring down the road towards a dramatic increase in peacekeeping operations worldwide. By the end of 2004, peacekeeping at the UN will increase from 50,000 to 80,000 peacekeepers. The bill will go from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, and all of those new operations will require a very substantial number of police.

Americans do see that part as being something which others have to do.

The shortcomings of U.S. police internationally are very well documented. I don’t know how we can impress on the administration the need to play a bigger role.

ROBERT PERITO: Australia is very good at this. They did an excellent job in East Timor, where they went in on the basis of the fourth Geneva Convention. They’ve taken the responsibilities under the Conventions to administer the territory, and in Somalia they brought along police, judges, the whole panoply of rule of law. In this sense we could learn from Australia.

What’s happening in Washington? Post-conflict has been described as the flavor of the month in Washington.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings recently on Senate Bill 2127, introduced by Senators Lugar and Biden. It calls for the creation in the Department of State of an Office of Stability Operations, but it doesn’t do all that it should do. They have put forward legislation that would create the office, provide authorities, personnel, and then let the State Department figure out how to do it.

The down side of this is that the people who know about Congress tell me that the legislation is very unlikely to pass, and there’s no counterpart bill in the House right now, so it would be very difficult to get this done before Congress recesses for the campaign. But there is movement in Washington on this issue.

QUESTION: You have explained why it’s difficult for the military to perform a constabulary function. You’ve argued for a special force, trained to perform this particular function. The problem is that if these are national officials, then they’re only occasionally on constabulary duty abroad; and therefore, at home in a country which doesn’t have that function, they have nothing to do. So doesn’t that argue for a permanent international constabulary force?

My second question is about your definition of failed states, which seemed so broad as to include many states in that category.

ROBERT PERITO: At a recent USIP [U.S. Institute of Peace] conference, we brought in leaders of the European constabulary forces, including the senior police officer in charge of the police force for the European Union, a member of the Caribinieri, to explain what they are doing. We also brought representatives from NATO and the UN. We asked the EU to talk about what it’s doing.

The UN is creating a post-conflict intervention force which is both military and police. A large segment of that police force is constabulary. They are working on a joint doctrine with the EU military so that the EU military, constabulary and police go in together.

In terms of failed states, it’s very important for the United States to be aware that when we go into these operations, we focus on where the problem lies. To the extent that the problem is organized criminal enterprises, this is again an inappropriate job for the U.S. military, not that we haven’t asked the U.S. military to do this, but it’s not their job to investigate organized crime. That’s the job of police officers.

QUESTION: When Ray Kelly went into Haiti, did that work? And if the United States has MPs, why don’t they just enlarge the MPs and call them the military police?

ROBERT PERITO: Ray Kelly was the Commissioner of Police in New York City and then commissioner of the International Police Monitors, the first international police force to go to Haiti.

We pre-staged this force of 920 men from 20 countries, put them through a pre-deployment training program, and they went in three days after the U.S. military went in to Haiti in 1994.

That force and its follow-on UN civilian police force were very successful. They went in immediately with weapons and police authority. They worked very closely with the U.S. military. We had a concept which we called four men in a Jeep. The Jeep was really a Humvee, and the driver was a U.S. military police officer in an American military vehicle with a radio to call for assistance and backup.

Sitting next to him was a Haitian police officer who had local police authority. In the backseat was an international police officer who was armed and had authority. The fourth person in the jeep was an interpreter who could make sure that everybody could talk to each other and talk to the locals. But in that vehicle were all the authority you needed, and generally behind the vehicle was a truck with a squad of marines or infantry.

That worked very well for the first six months. There was a very smooth handoff to the UN CIVPOL [UN Civilian International Police]. That worked great for another year or so and then the UN changed the mandate and the mission started to go astray.

If you asked military police officers in the U.S. Army, “Can you do this stuff?” they’ll say yes. And then they get frustrated and turn red, smoke comes out their ears, because U.S. military doctrine at this point, which may change now that we’ve had this experience in Iraq, is that the roles of MPs are the following:

  • To police military bases in the U.S.
  • To investigate crimes by U.S. forces committed on military bases.
  • And then, in combat, to police the battlefield. The MPs stay back from the front lines, direct traffic, make sure the convoys move in the right place and take care of prisoners of war.

MPs are trained to do the full range of police functions. They are also trained as light infantry. If you become an MP in the U.S. Army, you go through light infantry school, and then you go through police school for six months.

The problem with the MPs in the U.S. military today is that after the Vietnam War, General Abrams put the MPs, civil affairs people, and all the others that we need in these operations into the Reserves. Based on the Vietnam experience, he said, “If we have to do this again, we’ll make sure that the Reserves get activated, that the American people get involved. We’re not going to have professional soldiers doing these things.”

Today there is only one active-duty company of military police. The rest of the police are in the Reserves, and that’s why the Reserves are being called up.

We saw recently that the Army is going to increase its size by 30,000, and most of those 30,000 will be in these areas.

QUESTION: Given that there would be huge fluctuations in the demand for such constables, isn’t it difficult to imagine that it would be possible to create a career structure for such a separate force? You’re making a case for precisely what you just described, where there could be fairly substantial reserve forces in the military in these areas that could be activated as needed.

ROBERT PERITO: After we wrote the book, USIP put up some money and three of us did a study to find if we could do this in the U.S. Government. What would it take and how would we do it?

We discovered that all of the skill sets that we need exist in the federal agencies in Washington. The Marshals Service, for example, has a Special Operations Division which does heliborne assaults, high-risk arrests. The U.S. Park Police has a Special Operations Division which does crowd control and other derring-do.

Our recommendations have gone to the National Security Council. We would create a standing office in the Department of State which would have a coordinating function, and serve to create ready rosters. We would have a surge capability in which we would train people whose names would go on a roster to serve abroad.

If you look at our current demands, we have over 500 police in Kosovo. We have police in other operations, plus we’re deploying 1,500 police into Iraq. So we have a standing requirement, active duty, for over 2,000 police officers now.

The same is true and would be true for all the other components of this force. We are heavily engaged enough to know that this is an ongoing concern. We would have a lot of people in the field at all times.

We would not have a standing capacity but we would have a trained surge capacity much in the way that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) works in which people do this as their regular job and then are called up as needed. We can do this intelligently so that we don’t create standing forces that we don’t need, and don’t waste tax dollars.

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"Atlantic" staff writer Tom Nichols returns to "The Doorstep" in its penultimate episode to discuss the lead-up to the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

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MAY 15, 2024 Article

Forecasting Scenarios from the Use of AI in Diplomacy

Read through six scenarios and expert commentaries that explore potential impacts of AI on diplomacy.

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