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There are five imperatives common to each of the diverse operational categories in LIC. View them as a checklist for establishing a mental framework when approaching specified and implied missions.

  • Political Dominance: Civil authority and political objectives drive military decisions at every level. These political objectives must be understood, as they impact on military operations, and influence selected courses of action. Unorthodox courses of action/methods may result. 6

  • Unity of Effort: Consider how actions integrate with, and contribute to initiatives of other governmental agencies. Interagency coordination is critical. Commanders may answer to civilian chiefs or employ the resources of civilian agencies.7

  • Adaptability: The skill and willingness to change or modify structures and methods to accommodate different situations. It is more than merely tailoring or flexibility of common techniques and organizations, but development of new ones appropriate to each situation.8

  • Legitimacy: The willing acceptance by the governed of the right of the government to govern and enforce decisions. It comes from the belief that authority is genuine, effective, and uses the proper agencies for reasonable purposes. Legitimacy is the central concern of all parties involved in a conflict.9

  • Perseverance: LIC by nature involves protracted struggles. Perseverance requires careful, informed analysis to select the right time and place for decisive action. Commanders must reject minor, short term successes in favor of long-range goals.10

All of the factors must be addressed because they are mutually supporting. Lack of attention to one will cause failure of the whole. It is easy to see that great resources can be devoted to a campaign that embraces the imperatives of political dominance, adaptability, legitimacy and perseverance, yet ignores unity of effort. This plan would fragment critical resources and be doomed to failure, the same as piecemealing a maneuver force in an attack.

The following historical example will address and illustrate each of these imperatives.

Table of Contents
Operational Lessons Learned
Historical Perspective - Malaya 1948

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias