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Prof. Andrea Margeletti

Fifteen years have passed since the end of the two-bloc era and the change in the nature of conflicts, though considered as a protean event, should represent a metabolized event, or at least one being metabolized by those in charge of nation building and military interventions in crisis areas. Apart from the disquisition over the asymmetry of conflicts, whether potential or already existing, we may focus our attention on the issue of the intervention of forces responsible for territory control and thus for the immediate stabilization of the nation building process. We are in the face of a delicate stage where the peculiar characteristic of non-traditional conflicts of the postindustrial era are clearly manifest.

Conflicts where civilians are personally involved. The “irregular” typology of opposing forces on the territory requires a less conventional approach to the problem of stabilization considered in all its aspects. The history of conflicts tells us that very often the combat component of armies directs the effort towards the center of gravity of potential military and political enemies. In Iraq Anglo-American troops carried out a rather brief land campaign, and launched themselves in the conquest of Baghdad, the capital. The chronicles of those days testify to attacks to allied logistic columns by prevailingly non-conventional forces formed by Baathist militias and firing groups organized by Saddam’s intelligence. In these cases, during a war, the rear lines have to be controlled in a pervasive manner in order to eliminate the source of the problem, guerrilla warfare. The reduction of the maneuver space of the guerrilla and, therefore, of instability at theatre level, is an objective that may be reached by a rapid return to normal security and liability of the areas concerned by the phenomenon.

However, the distraction of entire combat units from the front line to increase the security of communication thoroughfares and the logistic flow of rear lines, reduces the pressure exercised against the enemy, thus lengthening the conflict. Demands however are incompatible. Modern wars fought by Western countries cannot disregard the time factor. The latter heavily affects the consent of public opinion to the use of the military tool and conditions military operations carried out on the terrain. A prolonged war effort, excessive collateral damage and, chiefly, considerable and continuous loss of soldiers lead to loss of the population’s favour towards the pursuance of the political aims established by the force. The transition from war to nation building is thus a priority. This may start during the central stages of the conflict by the pacification of the military controlled areas. However, at this point, on the basis of the lessons learned from “ Iraqi Freedom” the approach to the problem must be re-examined.

Nowadays it seems obvious to everyone that land forces must be structured on the basis of a combat component specifically envisaged to stabilize and reconstruct. Nation building becomes an integrating part of the operation planning in its entirety and not a separate chapter to be sized only at the end of the conflict. From the Italian viewpoint it must be mentioned that, in leaving the true and proper combat role to the army, it is necessary that other components of the Defense have new professional skills favouring nation building and maintaining a close adherence to the combat component. 160 At present this is an unfailing necessity. It goes without saying that the fluidity of war dynamics does not allow the flow in the theatre and the full operativeness of NGOs. There is still need of soldiers capable of defending themselves and the civil population, but they will have to stand in the shoes of public administrators and suppliers of first necessity services, contributing in difficult environmental contexts to the recovery of a normal daily life.

Levels of general security and stabilization are closely connected factors. The improvement of the civil population’s life quality almost always corresponds to a reduction of maneuver space of enemy forces (that is guerrilla warfare or terrorism). We previously mentioned the need for the employment of soldiers, but, in the shortest possible time, of police agents as well (similar to those in the MSUs), mainly to train local corps designed to maintain public security and order. Thus the MSUs represent the security component of “stabilization packages” articulated into services, justice and communications. As often proved in the Balkans (in Bosnia Herzegovina and in Kosovo) the MSU, formed by the Italian Carabinieri and other military police components, is fully capable of carrying out security and investigative police functions by employing in the theatre elements characterized by a remarkable professionalism. The easiness with which the Carabinieri face the social tissue of the regions where they perform their institutional activity is under everybody’s eyes.

The excellent relations with the local population and the operational results reached are proof of the intense security production enjoyed by the population itself as well as by the SFOR and KFOR peace contingents. Though maintaining the stabilization packages under the land commandeer from the personnel viewpoint, the MSUs should implement their role by articulating it into the plurality of the new tasks. This however will impose deep changes as regards the training of those elements destined for the stabilization function. A training center could be established where to develop a doctrinal line to be applied during CRO/PSO missions, to avoid drawing Corps personnel from the Territorial Organization, with all that this ensues as regards different methods in carrying out services. The results of experiences matured in the theatre are an important ground on which to build a profitable capitalization. It is now a matter of devoting resources to the project while maintaining a constant dialogue with the other Armed Forces, aware that at present the Country cannot afford, nor would it understand, useless and expensive duplications.


(*) - Head of the Institute for Geopolitical Studies.