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Peacekeeping Is Training For War

Peacekeeping Is Training For War


CSC 1993








Title: Peacekeeping is Training For War.



Author: Major Robert J. Heatly, Royal Marines



Thesis: Military support for national goals short of war does, in many cases, provide

realistic, practical and relevant training for combat.



Background: Many military officers and analysts argue that participation in certain forms

of low intensity conflict, such as peacekeeping, can be detrimental to the military's combat

effectiveness. Deployment on such missions can lead to a reduction in conventional

training excessive time spent away from the home base and a subsequent negative effect

on morale. On the other hand, these forms of military operations have, not only positive,

but training enhancing aspects to consider as well. The British counter-insurgency

experiences, gained through 25 years of peacekeeping operations in Northern Ireland, have

demonstrated that all the operational functions can be enhanced by relevant and realistic

training achieved on operations. Centralized planning and decentralized execution are

practiced daily with a resulting high standard of junior leadership and a coordinated

intelligence system. British military forces have not been found lacking over the past 25

years, having successfully participated in almost the full spectrum of conflict from general

war to humanitarian assistance. This success has been enhanced by their experiences of

peacekeeping rather than despite it.



Recommendations: Military officers and analysts should acknowledge the positive aspects

of peacekeeping operations.





Thesis: Rather than reducing effectiveness, military support for national goals short of war

does, in many cases, provide realistic, practical and relevant training for combat. Despite

certain disadvantages, experiences gained conducting peacekeeping operations enhance all

of the operational functions and provide commanders with sound practice in centralized

planning and decentralized execution.




I. Outline of the British Army's deployed forces


II. The counter argument

A. Reduction in training

B. Overstretch and the British military drawdown

C. Morale


III. How peacekeeping enhances the operational functions

A. Maneuver

B. Mobility

C. Tempo

D. Intelligence

E. Surprise

F. Logistics

G. Leadership


IV. Other recent British military experiences

A. General and limited war

B. Peacemaking, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance




by Major Robert J. Heatly, Royal Marines



Today, some 11,500 regular British troops and 6,200 members of the Royal Irish


Regiment are serving in support of the civil power in Northern Ireland. The young men of


all three British services continue the relentless battle against terrorism on the streets, in the


countryside, in the air and on the sea. This battle is a test of tolerance, nerves, endurance


and sound leadership.



The modern approach to defeating terrorism has changed much since the start of


the current round of problems in 1968. The arrogant and occasionally heavy-handed


techniques of the early days have given way to a subtle and calculated approach; the


modern way places more exacting demands on the peace keepers. The serviceman has to


take on the role of policeman, diplomat, social worker and customs officer as well as the


more conventional role of combatant.



For the Royal Marines the dilemma is similar to that of the infantry. We train our


recruits and young officers to be warriors who have the capability to deploy combat power


to achieve military aims by aggressive means. Do we then ask too much of these young


men by placing them under the microscope and demanding that they run the gauntlet of the


media and politicians every time there is a complex incident in Northern Ireland? Perhaps


more importantly, is it irresponsible of our leaders to allow warfighting skills to deteriorate


during the conduct of missions involving control, caution and compassion when these skills


could be called upon at any time to deal with a conventional contingency? These


arguments concentrate on the disadvantages of service in Northern Ireland and fail to


consider the overall benefits to be gained from operations in the province. Rather than


reducing effectiveness, military support for national goals short of war does, in many cases,


provide realistic, practical and relevant training for combat.




For the British Army and the Royal Marines there are three principal problem areas


associated with service in Northern Ireland. The length of time spent there, particularly for


infantrymen, leads to a reduction in conventional training and these two factors combine to


contribute to a subsequent reduction in morale.




At present there are six resident battalions in Northern Ireland, that is to say they


would be based there in normal circumstances. Four battalions serve six-month roulement


tours, normally based in the "harder areas," and there are seven battalions of the Royal


Irish Regiment (full-time and part-time members of the former Ulster Defence Regiment).


In addition there are presently two additional infantry battalions deployed for a shorter, but


as yet undermined, period.(1)




Although training time is allocated within the programs of the resident battalions,


in reality the main focus of the unit is on its primary mission. Leadership and individual


training does take place but normally very little in the way of collective training.




For the roulement battalions the situation is different. The unit's focus is entirely on


the job in hand and almost no conventional trail takes place during the six-month


deployment due to the high tempo of the patrolling program. Soldier's memories of rural


tours in the border areas of Fermanagh or South Armagh tend to comprise mainly of


battling with thorn hedges and bogs with little concrete evidence of success before


returning to their bases mentally irritable and physically drained. In addition, the number


of specialist skills required by the roulement unit forever increase. For 45 Commando


Royal Marines to deploy to South Armagh in 1991 it took 50 man-training days, the


majority spent away from the unit's home base location.



The British Army is reducing from 55 to 38 infantry battalions by 1998. (2) This


will include two Gurkha battalions who do not serve in Northern Ireland. The three Royal


Marines Commandos join the infantry battalions in the Emergency Tour Plot (ETP), which


is the program for deployment of units on roulement tours to Northern Ireland and Belize


(where one infantry battalion is deployed) as well as to Cyprus and the Falkland Islands


(where fully manned infantry battalions are not deployed.) The management of the ETP


has a requirement for a minimum interval of 24 months between emergency tours but this


is becoming harder to fulfill. The potentially long term British military involvement in the


former Yugoslavia can only add to this overstretch.



Morale is another problem area. If fighting terrorism was merely a case of shooting


gunmen, life would be simple. The complexities of the terrorist machine the British Army


faces are immense. The soldier has to endear himself to the local population one moment


and at the same time be equally prepared to open fire; these two facets do not provide an


environment which is tactically sound. The terrorists are well versed in manipulating


events, often via the media. Following an incident the press will cover controversial


statements by so-called "eye witnesses" to counter a legitimate action by the security forces.


As the matter is sub judice, the Army Information Service and the Police Press Desk are


unable to expand on short press releases, leading to much speculation. The soldiers


involved then see the national newspapers running dubious interpretations of events and, at


times, seriously questioning the integrity and actions of the soldiers concerned. It is


difficult for an 18-year-old soldier to understand why the press is making out that he is a


murderer and why his leaders do not appear to defend him in public.


It has been several years since there were more than 100 murders in Northern


Ireland in any single year. Irish American columnist Kevin Cullen of the Boston Daily


Globe noted that he was more at risk working at home because "there were almost twice as


many murders in Boston than in Northern Ireland last year, even though Boston has just


one third of the population." (3:87) Whilst it is true that terrorist tactics have tended to


avoid attacks on the general public within the province, the serviceman remains a "valid"


target. This creates a dilemma for soldiers and the stress of living and working in this


atmosphere can sometimes affect morale.




These problem areas evolving from the peacekeeping role are real and should not


be understated, however, a similar analysis is required of the more positive side of the


situation. Let us look at the role in the context of the operational functions.




Maneuver is the employment of forces to secure an advantage or leverage over the


enemy to accomplish the mission. Tactical maneuver aims to gain an advantage in combat,


however, operational maneuver impacts beyond the realm of combat as it aims to reduce


the amount of fighting necessary to accomplish the mission. (4:64) With only around


17,000 regular and part-time troops this function is exercised regularly in the planning and


execution of operations. The British Government bases it's security strategy on the three


tiers of deterrence, reassurance and attrition. The "quick fix" approach of the army in the


early 70's leaned too heavily on the third tier but as the campaign has progressed a more


balanced approach has been developed. Political and military leaders strive to keep security


in perspective alongside political, economic and social strategies in the war against the


terrorist. Confrontation with the civilian population is not what is required and there is a


constant challenge to commanders at all levels to maneuver their forces in such a way as to


satisfy all three tiers.


Mobility, the second function, is a key ingredient in maneuver. The capability to


move from place to place while retaining the ability to perform the mission is vital. (5)


Heavy use of helicopters by significant forces provides operational mobility and these


assets are put to good use in Northern Ireland with 45% of the Royal Air Force's helicopter


hours taking place there. (1) Due to the terrorist's possession of surface to air missiles and


heavy machine guns (three helicopters have been shot down or sustained serious hits in the


past three years) no better training scenario could be produced for our pilots or planners.



Tempo is a rate or rhythm of activity. (6:72) The mobility prodded by support


helicopters and vehicles allows for multiple tactical actions to be undertaken in rapid


succession in support of local operations. In addition, rapid response to potential situations


often stops them before they can develop. At certain times in Northern Ireland, troops


work at a high tempo for sustained periods which tests the endurance of men and


equipment--another facet of combat that is difficult to stimulate in peacetime.



Intelligence is without doubt the key function in a peacekeeping or insurgency


operation. In Northern Ireland, as in most other similar situations, the Government forces


are clearly unbeatable in the field. The problem is that this is not a match-up that will ever


take place. Defeat of the British Government's present aims could only ever come about


through the democratic process or public opinion. As a result the silent, intelligence war


continually moves on at a high tempo. The cards that intelligence collectors, collators,


analysts and operators play with may be different, but the mental and physical processes of


assessing the opposition's capabilities are the same as for war. When we fight we fight to





Another key facet of the intelligence war in Northern Ireland is the experience that


is being gained daily in terms of inter-agency cooperation. As terrorists are legally


criminals with no special privileges, the lead agency on a day to day basis is the Special


Branch (SB) of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). They liaise at every level with


military intelligence personnel in the planning of joint operations. At the highest level the


Prime Minister has appointed a Director and Coordinator of Intelligence (DCI) who is the


right hand man of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland regarding intelligence


matters. He takes the lead in strategic intelligence and provides the Chief Constable of the


RUC and the Army's General Officer Commanding with advice on, or taskings for,


national intelligence assets. Military forces are used in a wide variety of levels of conflict,


often as part of the diplomatic process, and inter-agency operations could be as much a


feature of the 90's as joint operations were of the 80's.




Surprise is a state of disorientation which is the result of unexpected events and


which degrades ability to react effectively. (7:75) Surprise, be it the product of deception


or speed of mobility, is as important in Northern Ireland as in general war. Troops have


been deployed in support of the police for nearly 25 years and commanders have to work


hard not to fall into the "same old routine." Deterrence, as mentioned earlier, is one of the


three tiers of the British security policy and random helicopter inserted patrols and snap


vehicle check points are among the methods used to contribute to this tier through surprise.




As in general war, logistics often determines what is and is not possible. Certain


security force bases on the borders of South Armagh are only resupplied by air to avoid the


manpower-intensive and pattern-producing route clearances required by convoys.


Resources may not be as limited; however, responsiveness and anticipation are as


important as ever.




Leadership is the personal ability to influence the performance of others in pursuit


of a goal. (8:82) In Northern Ireland, the difficulties of identifying the enemy lead to


uncertainty. With inexperienced or poorly led troops this can in turn lead to one of the


extremes of under-or over-reaction. The stakes are different--one fatality can mar an


otherwise faultless six-month tour of the province--but the ability to energize and unify the


efforts of groups of men continues and the "loneliness of command" syndrome can weigh


heavily on some commanders' shoulders. The campaign in Northern Ireland is a classic


example of centralized planning and decentralized execution. At the tactical level fire


teams operate independently either as the principal or supporting element of a patrol of


about half-platoon strength. This has tested the corporals and lieutenants to a high level


and these junior leaders, with their operational experience, are seen as one of the strengths


of the British Army.



The United Kingdom has participated in military operations overseas throughout


the past 25 years whilst the problems in Northern Ireland have persisted. These operations


have covered almost the full spectrum of conflict, from general war to humanitarian


assistance, and on no occasion has its armed forces been found lacking. In Northern


Ireland a peak occurred in the level of violence in 1981, during the IRA's hunger strike


campaign, when ten convicted terrorists died in prison due to self-imposed starvation.


Despite an increase in troop levels over the following months, Britain was able to mount a


large scale amphibious operation to recapture the Falkland Islands, some 8,000 miles from


home bases. Junior leadership was again cited as a key factor and a large proportion of the


landing force had previously served in the province. Likewise in the war in Southwest


Asia, a large number of the British troops had Northern Ireland experience.



By definition contingency operations occur at short notice. This was again the case


when the Royal Marines' 3rd Commando Brigade was deployed to carry out relief


operations in northern Iraq, as part of the multi-national coalition, in April 1991. These


operations were essentially humanitarian in nature, but due to the threat, significant combat


power was included lest robust peacemaking became necessary. Reassurance to the Kurds


and deterrence to the Iraqis were features of the operation that were nothing new to the


British servicemen. Robin Ross, the Royal Marines General in command of the British


forces stated "that our experience in internal security operations gave us an excellent


understanding of how to cope with the problems in a highly volatile situation." (9:208) A


volatile situation is exactly what the 2,000 British troops deployed in the former Yugoslavia


are facing now.




Participation in peacekeeping operations is not as alienated from conventional


combat as some would have us believe. When planning to conduct these operations,


degradation of skills in certain specialist skills in areas such as armor, artillery and fixed-


wing aviation may be unavoidable, but the overall military functions can be tested at all


levels to a greater or lesser degree.




In whatever form it comes, leadership is leadership, teamwork is teamwork and


operational planing is operational planning. Morale can be affected by excessive or


unnecessary separation but when a real job is there to be done, when real danger is a


possibility or when a noble cause is being engaged in with the benefits clearly visible,


servicemen are not only happy to do the job but will receive realistic training for their


primary mission. Outside the combat zone, the decision-making and logistic processes


during conventional military operations are not that dissimilar to those for peacekeeping for


the military and civilian high commands. Sometimes the matter of training needs to be


considered for them as well as for the foot soldier.




Defense of the national security rests first with the concept of deterrence and


secondly with winning the nation's wars. Military support for national goals short of war,


be it general military service to the nation or any of a wide range of actions abroad in


support of foreign policy, should not be viewed as a problem in itself. On the other hand it


can be looked at more as a training exercise, providing relevant and realistic training to the


military, however undesirable the overall situation is. As long as specialist training is not


forgotten and the military keeps the flexibility to change roles quickly, most operational


functions can be enhanced by the experience gained during peacekeeping operations.




1. Milne, Major S. S. Military Situation Briefing. Headquarters Northern Ireland. 15

February 93.


2. The British Army Of The Future. Pamphlet published by M.O.D. October 91.


3. Cullen, Kevin. "Northern Ireland: Safe -- And Worth Seeing." Boston Globe 21

January 93: 87.


4. FMFM 1-1 Campaigning. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990: 64.


5. JCS Pub. 1-02. U. S. Government Printing Office, 1987.


6. FMFM 1-1 Campaigning. U. S. Government Printing Office, 1990: 72.


7. FMFM 1-1 Campaigning. U. S. Government Printing Office, 1990: 75.


8. FMFM 1-1 Campaigning. U. S. Government Printing Office, 1990: 82.


9. Ross, Maj. Gen. R. J. "Operation Haven." The Globe and Laurel July/August

1991: 208.


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