Operational experiences in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Libya have driven NATO to evolve first the concept of Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) and later the much broader Comprehensive Approach. As the Alliance implements the Comprehensive Approach, it must take care to link doctrinally the nascent concept of Civil-Military Interaction (CMI) to a new understanding of CIMIC, whereby NATO focuses on its core business of ensuring security while pursuing necessary civil-military interaction in an open and flexible process that spans the politico-strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
The first of these three aspects [of war] mainly concerns the people; the second the commander and his army; the third the government. The passions that are to be kindled in war must already be inherent in the people; the scope which the play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the commander and the army; but the political aims are the business of government alone.
—Carl von Clausewitz1
Discussions about the most effective, efficient, and sustainable approach to resolving complex crisis situations have a long historical tradition, even if ongoing debates among politicians and researchers may suggest otherwise.2 The discussions about developments in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Afghanistan, as well as evaluations of the disasters in Haiti and Pakistan, call for all participants to find new solutions in response to obvious deficits and the looming prospect of failure. This holds especially true with regard to the question of when, where, and how the military instrument should be integrated with the activities of all the other actors involved in the resolution of complex crisis situations based on an overall political rationale.
However, an analysis of relevant publications in military and security policy or social science over the last few years clearly shows that different perspectives prevail. From a military viewpoint, the focus is typically on determining the right tactical approach, and the broader debates are only tangentially helpful. By contrast, the civilian side emphasizes that the resolution of complex crisis situations should primarily be obtained through civilian tools.
Of course, these rather different perceptions of the same reality are easily explained in terms of the observer’s particular expertise and interests—the situation is analyzed and best resolved with the help of the tools available to his or her particular field of expertise. However, such one-sided approaches have not passed the litmus test of reality. They are ill suited to capture and explain the interdependencies of complex crisis situations and combine them into a synergistic whole; most importantly, they do not address the vital issue of sustainability. As a result, efforts to provide incentives seep away, capabilities cannot be pooled and focused, and the main target audience—the population in need—looks upon all this activity with increasing caution or even outright rejection.
In the form of civil-military cooperation (CIMIC), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has created both a concept and capability to meet such challenges in the field of civil-military interaction (CMI). The following paragraphs examine this tool for its viability against the backdrop of changing conditions and lessons learned. The assessment criterion is the optimization of effects of deployed armed forces at the international level in a broader political context and their ability to make effective contributions. As a first step, the current key elements of CIMIC are outlined and assessed to illustrate the need for transformational change. An extended conceptual approach to CIMIC as a military necessity and capability to resolve complex crisis situations is then offered, against the backdrop of NATO’s comprehensive approach and Germany’s principle of networked security. This is to be achieved particularly by interlinking CIMIC with the CMI approach currently being discussed within NATO.
Description and Transformational Assessment
Civil-military cooperation, as a military capability and as a theoretical idea, was conceptualized,3 developed, and applied for the first time in its present form by NATO in the context of its commitment in the Balkans. This development was originally triggered by an operational-level reorientation of the deployment of forces in significantly changing conflict scenarios after the end of the Cold War. The main objective was the creation of a military tool for analysis and action that would integrate the “civil dimension”4 in an effort to meet the challenges posed by unclear confrontation patterns between opposing forces, changing geographical conditions, political and ethnic considerations, and domestic and international factors. It was also rational to take into account, at the operational level, the entire spectrum of civil actors and their interaction and effects regarding military mission accomplishment.5 NATO’s current CIMIC concept6 and the corresponding national approaches7 developed by most NATO countries provide for three main lines of effort.
Liaison. First, the military is enabled to liaise with relevant civil actors, including the civilian population, which creates the preconditions for an integration of the civil element into the conduct of military operations. Essentially, the aim is to establish communication channels. This improves the security situation of all participants, which entails greater stability in the theater of operations and, at the same time, reduces the risk of attacks against all parties.8
Support. Secondly, military capabilities can support the civil environment directly on a subsidiary basis or in the event of an ethical-moral obligation. This can be achieved through civil-military cooperation in the implementation of projects and measures, but also as direct assistance administered by available military forces. There are multiple possibilities, as military contingents usually have capabilities in their force posture that can be adjusted to support civilians in an emergency. Examples include medical support for the population, logistic transportation support, and the use of military engineering equipment for civilian purposes. The main focus here is on the direct and immediate involvement of the local administration and government institutions, as well as the integration of the population. Overall, the “primacy of the military mission” and the integration of this type of CIMIC activity into military effects clearly take priority. The benefits include, among other things, improved security in the operating environment (force protection) and increased acceptance (hearts and minds) with respect to military action (support to the civil environment).
Deconfliction and Coordination. Thirdly, deployed contingents rely on the civil environment for support. Here, the emphasis is initially on deconflicting military operations and events and measures taking place in the civil environment. But this spectrum of activities also includes the coordination of access to available civil resources with due consideration for the requirements of the civilian population. Thus, at the tactical level, CIMIC forces are a permanently visible factor of everyday life in the conflict region. Given their continuous presence throughout the theater, they also serve as points of contact for the population’s concerns, complaints, needs, and fears. This makes them an important source of information9 on the civil environment, which is then included in the general operating picture. Essentially, this monitoring of relevant civil factors and influences is reflected in the planning and conduct of operations at all levels of NATO.10
Need for Transformational Change
The CIMIC concept in all its facets illustrates the great importance the Alliance attaches to the civil dimension and its impact on military operations. However, the concentration on the military mission with regard to effects, while logical from a military perspective, is cause for a gravely misleading perception among civil actors. CIMIC is perceived as being synonymous with the co-optation of the civil environment by military planners or as the domination of long-term development contexts by the constraints of security policy. Though often misunderstood by civil partners, the term coordination by definition solely refers to the configuration of intramilitary processes and is not related to requirements for the level of ambition for civil-military interaction. For this purpose, the CIMIC approach relies on a basic understanding, which varies significantly in scope and depth depending on the situation and may in no case be assumed to be constant. The potential spectrum ranges from merely taking notice of the presence of civil actors to a fully harmonized approach. To resolve this apparent deficit of CIMIC, it will be essential to articulate this open and flexible approach to civil-military interaction more clearly, especially with civilian counterparts.
The use of the concept as a tool to support the civil environment during stabilization operations, up to and including direct involvement of the armed forces in the implementation of development work, is met with categorical disapproval by most humanitarian organizations or at least is considered to be limited to subsidiarity and complementarity. The requirements for CIMIC projects, which may considerably differ from NATO’s CIMIC concept depending on national guidelines and political objectives, are subject to considerable scrutiny if they are not related to any long-term development objectives. This applies in particular to primarily humanitarian projects—so-called quick impact projects carried out in support of winning hearts and minds effects.11 In hostile environments such as Afghanistan, the proximity of such measures to the activities of the civil sector means they are considered a direct threat to the security of the civil actors.12 Neither does the affected civilian population understand why CIMIC projects are based on different national objectives. For them it is difficult to see why individual national contingents in a joint operations area take different approaches to address the same issues. This conflict of interests, intrinsic to civil-military cooperation, can only be resolved through a harmonization of the approaches in NATO’s multinational CIMIC concept and, in particular, through transparency in civil-military interaction. In this context, military expertise should be used to discourage, above all, short-sighted politically motivated attempts to use CIMIC activities with a humanitarian hue to shore up political legitimacy for military operations.
Polish soldier with CIMIC team inspects local projects in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, May 2008
U.S. Air Force (Matthew Plew)
While the concept generally calls for consistent integration across all echelons from the political to the tactical level,13 its practical use as an effective tool is almost exclusively limited to the tactical, and in the operational-level context, it is solely conceived as a land-based concept. In the long-term readjustment of CIMIC, this basic understanding, which to some extent has been shaped by the dominance of the Afghanistan mission, can only be dissolved through the political integration of top-down civil-military interaction across all echelons as part of the coherent CIMIC planning approach. The joint nature of CIMIC as designed at NATO’s operational planning level is also of crucial importance in this process. In light of the operations conducted to address the conflict in Somalia and the assessment of the disaster in Haiti, CIMIC’s maritime dimension should lead to a change in the “joint perspective” of CIMIC. The same applies to the integration of the airspace due to the success of NATO during the Libya mission.
The implementation of the CIMIC concept within the military sector, too, still suffers from considerable deficits. The basic principles of CIMIC are still not reflected in many cases in the general understanding of command and control of armed forces. Military personnel at the operational level lack an appreciation for the vital importance of the civil dimension for an effective military contribution to the resolution of complex crisis situations. As a result, this dimension is often regarded in practice as a separable chore, which can be delegated to the CIMIC specialist. Addressing this deficit calls for a change in awareness in the military sector that can only be achieved through the enhanced operational-level integration of CIMIC as a principle of action in the planning and conduct of operations.
Comprehensive Approach: Political Framework Concept
In a global world order, approaches to the resolution of complex crisis situations will only be successful if they address the complexity of the underlying causes as well as the international context. This applies in particular to long-term development contexts in order to guarantee that causes of conflict are thoroughly mitigated. Lessons learned by the Alliance, in particular in Afghanistan, have also clearly shown that isolated military action against opponents did not even meet the requirement for a sustainable secure or at least low-risk environment. In addition, the Alliance had to deal with different national approaches and especially with the parallel and rather uncoordinated activities of numerous organizations around it.
This assessment of the situation led NATO to realize that new approaches to cooperation with all actors involved need to be identified and pursued in order to attain sustainable, permanent solutions for its commitment in complex crisis situations. The Alliance responded by readjusting its policy conceptually through a comprehensive approach and linking its activities in the “security” dimension with its “development” activities in an overall algorithm. This approach was chosen with foresight since the term in itself already suggests that the Alliance neither owns nor directs the approach. It is one actor among equals who all work together to achieve a desired endstate. Differences among the various actors are accepted and taken into account. This approach mainly focuses on achievable objectives rather than trying to standardize procedures or assume leadership responsibility. In essence, a comprehensive approach is therefore rather a kind of awareness or concept with a long-term political intent to optimize cooperation among all actors involved in sustainably resolving complex crisis situations in a neutral environment of consensus.14
Developments to Date. NATO’s comprehensive approach dates back to a Danish initiative launched in 2004. Initially only referring to a reorientation of the approach taken by the Danish armed forces, it was elevated to the international level. At the 2006 NATO summit in Riga, the Comprehensive Political Guidance, which had been commissioned in 2004, was adopted; it already called for transformational efforts to improve cooperation with other actors.15 In this context, the increased integration of the member states’ nonmilitary instruments of power was initially discussed.16 The summit’s communiqué stated the need for the international community to adopt a comprehensive approach in order to integrate the efforts of all actors.17
NATO then commissioned proposals for the implementation of the Alliance’s contribution within a comprehensive approach.18 The resulting action plan was adopted at the 2008 summit in Bucharest and has since been used to direct transformational projects and measures for the operationalization of the political guiding principle. One focus area is NATO’s own capabilities via the integration of a comprehensive approach into the planning and conduct of operations, lessons learned processes, the whole spectrum of training, and the planning and conduct of exercises. Another focal point is the integration of NATO efforts with outside actors through newly developed patterns of civil-military interaction and by raising awareness more generally.
Challenges. At a minimum, the successful implementation of NATO’s comprehensive approach requires political coordination and decisionmaking on the part of the actors involved in providing solutions for complex crisis situations. It calls on them to develop effective procedures based on agreed-upon objectives and desired effects. However, since the approach taken by NATO complements or even competes with those of other international actors19 or nation-states,20 it can only be implemented through congruent design at the process level and an essential willingness to cooperate. This is especially true since the political objectives of an Alliance optimized for the security dimension do not correspond with those of organizations designed to provide humanitarian assistance or engage in long-term development cooperation. A NATO capability to participate across the whole spectrum of complex crisis situations in a comprehensive approach can thus only be achieved by means of pragmatic CMI patterns and agreements21 with the principal actors concerned. Hence, it will be a matter of activating a network that is optimized in terms of effect at the respective political level, with gradual implementation at the practical level, so it can be accessed on a case-by-case basis. As far as implementation is concerned, NATO, especially in its cooperation with humanitarian aid organizations, has come up against clear boundaries both in terms of the basic willingness and the limited resources available to these organizations. A longer and more complex process is thus required. It should be designed for the areas of concerted planning, procedural transparency, capability for cooperation, creation of awareness, and consensus-building.22
To face the new challenges associated with the coherent implementation of a comprehensive approach in all civil-military relations, including within NATO, major adaptation is required in terms of concepts, capabilities, and administration. To achieve the desired optimization of cooperation in complex crisis situations, it is necessary to break the isolation of CIMIC at the tactical implementation level, which, as a rule, consists of national troop contingents assigned to NATO. Capabilities must be provided cohesively in a top-down approach at all levels ranging from the politico-strategic level, through the crucial planning conducted at the operational level, to the theater.
However, lessons learned and newly developed tools from NATO’s previous CIMIC approach—primarily located at the tactical level—have so far not been utilized in a targeted and comprehensive manner. The same holds for NATO’s efforts to operationalize and implement a comprehensive approach and integrate and link the existing capabilities in conceptual and structural terms across all levels. In addition, NATO has so far failed to provide a common international denominator to resolve the contradictions highlighted above between different national approaches to CIMIC, especially with regard to their controversial proximity to humanitarian aid or to the deployment of armed forces in a development context. If the Alliance does not succeed in finding an internationally viable consensus that links national interests, it will be impossible to implement a comprehensive approach through declaration of intent at the political level, particularly in the regions affected by complex crisis situations. Furthermore, its effects, which in themselves are positive, will be countered by different national courses of action, especially at the tactical level.
Another reason for the restraint shown toward NATO’s comprehensive approach, particularly on the part of civil aid organizations, is the requirement stated in the stabilization and reconstruction operations concept for the development of capabilities, albeit moderate, for the performance of development tasks by armed forces under their own responsibility in originally civilian fields of competence. This is dismissed as the potential instrumentalization of development cooperation or development aid for military purposes. Thus, the prospects for acceptance of a comprehensive approach will also depend on demonstrating the limitations of these capabilities vis-à-vis civil responsibilities by highlighting their subsidiary and complementary nature. However, this is made all the more difficult by current developments in Afghanistan since NATO and the nations committed to that country stand accused of “securitizing development” in order to accomplish the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.23
The mere adaptation of concepts and procedures for improved interaction with civilian actors alone is insufficient. The process of changing military mindsets requires patience since a move away from the classic military focus on kinetics and isolated military thinking is indeed an educational and sometimes even generational issue.
With the principle of networked security, the Federal Republic of Germany is pursuing a course that other partners and allies have already chosen at an earlier stage.25 The key element is the interministerial pursuit of interests intended to safeguard the long-term security of Germany. The emphasis is on the early identification of problems, common risk analysis, and the orchestrated conduct of measures. Security risks should preferably be countered outside the territory of Germany to prevent a direct negative impact on the population.
Members of Camp Malmar CIMIC team inspect site of new primary school located just outside perimeter of base, September 2008
ISAF (Laura K. Smith)
This draft is holistic in nature and comprises, so to speak, as the first stage of networking, the harmonization of all state institutions of relevance in case of crises and conflicts. What they also have in common is openness in the second stage of networking, namely the integration of the national civil society concerned and nonstate actors both inside and outside the respective sphere of state action. This second stage is thus comparable with the external dimension of NATO’s comprehensive approach.
Developments to Date. The Overall Concept for Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Peace-Building adopted by the German federal government in April 2000, and the related Action Plan of May 2004, are key elements of the developments that lead to our current understanding of what networked security entails. This is supplemented by the Cross-sectorial Concept for Crisis Prevention, Conflict Management and Post-Conflict Peace-Building in German Development Cooperation of June 2005, formulated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the 2006 white paper issued by the Federal Ministry of Defense (FMoD). The latter in particular is of great relevance since the term networked security was used there for the first time. It is presumably due to the understanding that networked security extends far beyond the FMoD area of responsibility that the term has been left undefined. Yet the detailed description of this approach reflects its intended proximity to a comprehensive approach.26 The ministries concerned, however, have so far been unable to agree on a common understanding.27
Challenges. As far as the orientation and implementation of governmental action in the provision of assistance in complex crisis situations are concerned, the categorization of the principle of networked security in terms of security policy leads to security-centered thinking and ultimately to the “militarization of development policy,” which tends to be the subject of criticism. In particular, the fact that nonstate actors, as required by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, are also integrated through the conditional award of public funds for development aid through development cooperation in the context of this approach has led to sharp criticism.28 Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in particular feel pressured to cooperate with the Bundeswehr with fatal consequences for their own commitments.29
The lack of benchmarks for good conduct to judge NGO eligibility, however, will probably make it impossible to enforce this requirement in any case. Indeed, the German government does not even have the structural capability for interministerial situational assessments to facilitate coordinated action, let alone mechanisms for institutionalized implementation involving all relevant agencies and departments.As with the necessary developments pertaining to a comprehensive approach, it will thus be more a question of creating sufficient awareness to form a consensus among all key state and nonstate actors. This should at least lead to adequate and continuous coordination between key interfaces. A more far-reaching solution would necessitate an intensive strategy debate on national action in complex crisis situations, which would require clear long-term foreign policy objectives to facilitate integration in NATO’s comprehensive approach and other comparable supranational organizations at the international level.
Conceptual Approach to Civil-Military Relations Across Levels of War
Although CIMIC, as indicated, is well developed across all levels of responsibility of the Alliance, the priority is on the tactical implementation and operational command levels. So far, it has proved difficult to achieve a coherent and uniform development, shaping, and conduct of CIMIC activities at the political and strategic levels. Due to these circumstances, a new avenue is being pursued with regard to shaping civil-military interaction with the supplementary conceptual CMI approach, which, however, still needs to be categorized and integrated in doctrines within the Alliance and, above all, by member states. It is designed to link the respective levels of responsibility via the holistic shaping of CMI processes for the implementation of the political requirements of a comprehensive approach.
In the approach developed for the implementation of CMI, civilian personnel from the strategic level of responsibility have already been identified who, below the political level of the Alliance, are to liaise with civil management organizations, coordinate arrangements, and ensure harmonization procedures.30 Ultimately, it is a matter of coordinating effects in the common sphere of action while at the same time retaining autonomous decisionmaking and implementation of decisions. In addition, these personnel are to achieve basic agreement on future joint efforts regarding common training as well as exchange of information and consultation. At the top end of the target spectrum for civil-military interaction, efforts aimed at ensuring common generic preparations for complex future crises via situation analysis, planning preparations, planning implementation, and operational deployment of forces will be made. To enable the CMI approach, numerous communication mechanisms and principles are to be established. As the minimum requirement, they can ensure the continuous, knowledge-enhancing exchange of information.
New Conceptual Approach to CIMIC
The comparison of the approaches described and discussed above inevitably leads to a new conceptual approach to CIMIC as a military capability for resolving complex crisis situations. The basic outline of this approach follows.
There can be no doubt as to the political and pragmatic necessity of integrating military effects and the possibilities for supporting civil actors via NATO’s comprehensive approach. Regardless of the national orientation and capability for participation, national approaches such as the principle of networked security can only be defined in these international contexts. The linking and integration of all the actors involved in resolving complex crisis situations, including nonstate actors and even the civilian population, can only be ensured by building a common consensus. It must clearly communicate from the outset that NATO’s military commitment will also be integrated via long-term development contexts for the purposes of sustainable conflict resolution. In addition to creating basic awareness, this requires the integration at the process and, if appropriate, structural levels of required civil-military interactions to design comprehensive and coherent cooperation. However, to achieve common effects, the implementation of this approach among the respective actors outside NATO is also a basic prerequisite.
Key to its implementation in NATO is also the development of a conceptual approach to civil-military interaction on the basis of and in coordination with NATO’s current CIMIC concept.31 In it, the CMI approach describes the environment of consensus and action of civil-military relations arising via a comprehensive approach pursued by various actors involved in resolving complex crisis situations. NATO’s CIMIC concept remains relevant by maintaining its orientation toward the joint planning and conduct of operations, especially for enhancing its coherent, cross-level capability to participate in shaping the environment of civil-military consensus and action.32 The guiding principle of this CIMIC concept, which is also extended in terms of the orientation of the military dimension within a comprehensive approach, will then be the optimization of military effects in long-term development contexts.
The initially envisaged doctrinal autonomy of CIMIC and CMI thus needs not be pursued any further. Such an approach would not resolve the challenges for NATO’s CIMIC concept discussed above, nor would the potential civil actors understand the juxtaposition. In addition, this would lead to NATO taking a separate course, which then could no longer be harmonized with, for example, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations CIMIC policy or the European Union CIMIC concept, which feature identical approaches in many areas. Furthermore, its procedural and structural implementation within NATO would not be feasible due to the numerous redundancies in a time of scarce resources. Moreover, a separate NATO CMI concept with a purely internal doctrinal basis would send the wrong signal to the exact civil actors at which a comprehensive approach is aimed in the first place, since this would intensify the negative perceptions held by the civil sector, such as military dominance or even NATO ownership, as already discussed in the context of a comprehensive approach.
Overall, it is a matter of reestablishing and integrating the proven military tool of CIMIC within NATO based on the broader basic understanding outlined above. NATO will require patience in shaping the civil-military interactions called for by a comprehensive approach. The Alliance, together with potential civilian partners, will be more successful in achieving sustainable solutions to complex crisis situations the more it concentrates on the core of its founding purpose—ensuring security in an international context—while pursuing necessary civil-military interaction in an open and flexible process. PRISM