Thursday, May 13, 2010

See, it really IS possible to write a good paper about security assistance

Now that I've made critical remarks about one paper on the subject, let me point you to a really excellent, comprehensive article about military assistance (and seriously, I have nothing to do with it!): Derek S. Reveron's "Weak States and Security Assistance" (or here in pdf), from the June 2010 issue of Prism.

It's pretty basic stuff, but that's to Reveron's credit -- there are very few places where you'll find such a thorough explanation of the various mechanisms and authorities related to security assistance and (more broadly) security cooperation. The field tends to be loaded with jargon and acronyms, like most things in the military, and the bureaucracy can seem impenetrable and obscure even to people who work in the field. This article does a great job of simplifying and summing up, and it's going to be my go-to reference when people ask what to read to understand this business.

Dr. Reveron's apparently got a book coming out this year called Exporting Security: International Engagement, Security Cooperation, and the Changing Face of the U.S. Military. I'm normally a pretty tough critic of stuff like this that's written outside DoD (well, hell, let's be honest: the stuff written inside the Department mostly isn't very good, either), but I look forward to this title's publication.


  1. I'd agree that the Reveron article is more useful than Mihalka/Wilcox. However, a couple of Reveron's assertions jumped out at me as fairly debatable (after a quick scan, I admit):

    1. Assisting weak states is a new-ish thing. I'd observe that we've been doing more security cooperation, for longer, than many realize...Stillwell in China, Landsdale in the Philippines, the Nixon Doctrine, post-cold war engagement, etc. The broader policy elite may just be (re)discovering security cooperation, but it's been a central pillar of American foreign policy, often directed at stabilizing shaky regimes, for generations.

    2. "If done well, security assistance activities are coordinated with other interagency activities beginning at the national level where both the State Department and the Office of the Secretary of Defense derive priorities and guidance from the National Security Strategy, which in turn drives the military’s theater campaign plans and Embassies’ mission strategic plans." I'm rather old school, but I'd argue that effective planning proceeds in the opposite direction - starting with the country teams and bubbling up to Washington for resource prioritization.

    Nevertheless, it's a useful primer on a complex topic, particularly for those who have entered the field in the era of ASFF/ISF and the 12 series authorities. I'll certainly be sending it around to new colleagues.


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