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Planning, Friction, Strategy. The Politico-Military Dynamics of Crisis Response Operations

Wednesday, 15 June, 2011 - 10:45
Faculty: Social Sciences and Solvay Business School
Alexander Mattelaer
phd defence

This project concerns the making of strategy in contemporary crisis response operations undertaken by European armed forces. Following Clausewitzian tradition, strategy is defined as the conceptual outline of how the use of force contributes to the realisation of an operation’s political objectives.

Alexander's thesis argues, firstly, that the operations planning cycle from political initiation to military plan constitutes the critical interface in the making of strategy for these endeavours. Operations planning is conceptualised as an iterative yet unequal politico-military dialogue that enables the formulation of a rational intent behind military operations.

Secondly, it argues that the clashing logic of intergovernmental political decision-making and functionally oriented integrated military planning inevitably challenges strategic coherence. As such, it constitutes a force disabling the making of strategy, albeit without fundamentally negating it. In order to cope with the challenges such friction poses, the quality and health of the politico-military dialogue can be considered to be a critical factor, which can be analysed in informational, organisational and conceptual terms.

Thirdly, this thesis explores the political instrumentality of crisis response operations by using planning and friction as complementary windows on the making of strategy. In this regard, it argues that the combination of deterrence and local capacity building constitutes a strategic blueprint for crisis response operations. This allows them to function as a versatile instrument of containment while being at the same time limited by internal constraints in what they can achieve in a wider political context. Strategies based on deterrence and capacity building generate limited political effects but do not substitute for political process.

Drawing these three strands of argument together, the answer to the question how strategy for crisis response operations is made goes as follows: strategy is made in the operations planning process, which is a politico-military dialogue characterised by omnipresent friction, as a result of which strategy carries its own conceptual limitations within itself.

Promotors: Prof. Dr. Gustaaf Geeraerts (BICCS) & Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop (Egmont Institute)