Expeditionary Law Enforcement

By John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus

Washington is overflowing with foreign policy proposals for the next administration. Think-tankers of all political stripes are looking for a big idea to revolutionize American foreign policy. Missing from the equation, however, are new solutions for America’s problems with counterinsurgency (COIN) and stabilization operations. The goal of these military missions is the reconstruction of law and order and the pacification of enemies such as criminals and guerrillas. The vast majority of American military missions since World War II have been counterinsurgencies, and military experts agree that we will face many more in the coming decades.

Unfortunately, Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the immense difficulties our conventional military faces in adapting to careful, intelligence-driven stabilization missions. A bipartisan chorus of critics argue that military force alone is insufficient for winning counterinsurgencies, which they often dub “police work.” So how do we get COIN right? One solution wears blue, drives cars with flashing lights, and wrote you up yesterday for doing 56 in the 55 zone. Yes — police officers.

Why? Future battlegrounds increasingly blur the boundaries between war, crime, and terrorism. Lawlessness usually follows disorder and accelerates the process of state failure by eroding the state’s monopoly of violence and preventing the growth of legitimate enterprise. In Afghanistan the Taliban uses the country’s illegal opium trade to finance its operations and undermine government authority. Mobbed-up Iraqi insurgents muscle in on criminal enterprises. And the Colombian FARC, who lack mass public support, are sustained by their command of the coca fields. This highly volatile and complex kind of warfare cannot be waged by traditional military forces alone.

The fault lies not in the professionalism and courage of our fighting men and women, who have proven their mettle in fierce combat. But military forces are ill-suited for restoring basic law and order in societies ravaged by the reach of terrorists and organized crime. Investigation, community relations, and other complex tasks of preserving social order have never been part of the basic military mission and remain at best an acquired taste.

With a wealth of experience in combating gangs and organized crime, community policing, and dealing with complex conflicts in an increasingly multi-ethnic society, America’s metropolitan police officers are well suited to overseas stabilization missions.

Yes, the average uniformed police officer doesn’t have all of the range of skills necessary to operate effectively in failed states riven by insurgency. But building from community police skills, SWAT capabilities, gang suppression, and detective practices, they can be adapted and integrated into paramilitary, “formed” police units. These hybrid forces like France’s Gendarmerie, Italy’s Carabinieri, and Spain’s Guardia Civil are a third option between the military and the police. These militarized internal security units are trained for both policing and fighting, and excel at international stability missions. These units handle specialized tasks like riot control, investigations, and disrupting criminal conspiracies, freeing up military forces for more general missions.

The European Union has pooled these military police into a 5,000-strong expeditionary police (EXPOL) force known as the European Gendarmerie Force (Eurogendfor), and Australian and Canadian national police departments regularly deploy police for stability operations worldwide.

Unfortunately, the US has no equivalent. With no national police force, few local police forces can contribute officers for peacekeeping abroad without straining their own resources. With no standing EXPOL force, international policing needs are filled on an ad hoc basis by military units and small civilian police forces that are ill-suited to the task. The United Nations has experimented with civilian police (CIVPOL) in peacekeeping forces, but uniformed military peacekeepers still predominate in peace operations.

The time has come for the development of standing constabulary forces that can draw talented and intelligent individuals for overseas policing. A US-specific EXPOL force could deploy in concert with standing NATO and UN expeditionary police units, although there’s no reason why US EXPOL units couldn’t be combined into mixed police units.

There are many remaining questions about such a force. Under whose authority would it fall–State Department, Defense Department, or Homeland Security? Would it be a US-centric standing force, or a composite force drawn from many alliance powers? A standing force would offer a clear continuity of command and control, but would be expensive in both money and political will to maintain. A composite force would be cheap and rapidly deployable, but would have uncertain lines of command and control and lack continuity and professionalized training. Constructing such a stability police force would pose many problems and difficulties. But going without it is infinitely more expensive.

In the military, the COIN process is often simplified as DIME (Diplomacy, Intelligence, Military, Economic). But without effective policing to guarantee basic law and order, diplomacy has no credibility, the military cannot effectively operate, and economic reconstruction is impossible. We need to add a “P” — Policing — to the mix.

John P. Sullivan is a senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism. A career police officer, he is a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He is also co-editor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a global counter-terrorism network (Routledge, 2006)

Adam Elkus is a writer specializing in foreign policy, national security, and law enforcement issues. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Military.com, DefenseWatch, Defense and the National Interest, SWAT Digest, and the Huffington Post. Adam blogs at Rethinking Security.

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Filed in Uncategorized | 14 responses so far

14 Responses to “Expeditionary Law Enforcement”

  1. Maxon 29 Jun 2008 at 9:12 am 1

    Makes a lot of sense, and ties in with my
    own conviction for the need for senseably proportional and comensurate reaction
    and response to these situations.

    A large part of my job is in analysis of ideas
    and plans, and then telling pepole what problems,
    conciquences and impediments to expect.

    1) Highly vested interests in the failed
    stratigies and tactics of the current status quo.
    Whereby very widely held interests continue to make profits, or are otherwize gamefully employed.

    As we have seen, studied, and some experienced first hand, These interests are entrenched and permiate all levels of US scociety and will fight tooth and nail to maintain the current schemes, irrespective of it’s dismal efficacy or glaring deficiencies. And no matter what horrors we inflict
    on others in these situations. “They” always” seem to find a way to rationalise, excuse or otherwize justify.

    2) I crindge at the thought of setting up yet another branch of the US military services and beuracracy. On the surface that’s enough right
    there to say NO!

    For even with the best of ideas and intentions our scociety has a long standing and proven track record of lousing it all up, particularly anything to do with the military and or paramiltary.

    The F-16 saga, familiar to most amoug us, comes to mind.

    Perhaps the emergence of these burgeoning private
    para-military corporations is defacto an incarnation of this phylosophy. To be honest however, these scare me to death ! To a degree where I could consider leaving, and having nothing much further to do with the country, permanently.
    I’m luckly have that option.

    3) If it did happen, I prefer the model suggested
    with international participation, we do not
    want to repete the mistakes of mis-guided
    unilatteralism. Note ‘ We do allready have UN peace keeping forces.

    4) Such action must be combined with diplomacy and political action, to effectively usurp the interests and legitimacy, and bring about the swift
    and sure alienation of trouble makers.

    OTHERWIZE your wasiting your time !

    If you can get past all that, and it’s a mighty tall order, then go for it.


  2. Duncan Kinderon 29 Jun 2008 at 1:45 pm 2

    Missing from the equation, however, are new solutions for America’s problems with counterinsurgency (COIN) and stabilization operations.

    What is most conspicuously absent from any discussion is the concept that we might actually, from time to time, consider promoting rather than fighting various insurgencies.

    Zimbabwe comes to mind immediately as a situation where promoting an insurgency might be a rational response. Since apparently nobody is going to intervene in Darfur, at least giving those people the means to defend themselves should be considered.

    Upon examination, these might be bad ideas. But the point is that they are not even being considered.

    In chess, for example, you must be able to play black as well as white; and you can’t really launch an effective attack as white unless you can envision what defenses black might respond with.

    In like matter, to counter insurgency, you can clearly benefit some capacity actually to conduct one.

    [CR: Absolutely right! This is the heart of the debate about post-Iraq defense policy — why not base it on something that actually works? I also make this suggestion on pp. 59ff. and then in the last chapter of If We Can Keep It.]

  3. rethinking_securityon 30 Jun 2008 at 10:37 am 3


    We’ve promoted plenty of insurgencies since the Cold War, and one of them (in Afghanistan) arguably set a chain of events in motion that led to the collapse of a superpower. Yet there hasn’t been a quantifiable increase in our own skill-sets. Even the fact that we’ve been fighting irregular wars ourselves for over 200 years hasn’t changed the equation.

    I agree that in some cases, helping one side win is better then going there yourself. For example, it was the dreaded private military contractors (MPRI Corp), not NATO or the UN, who actually turned the tide in the Bosnian war. They built up the Croatian Army, enabling it to destroy the Croatian Serb pocket and aid the Bosnians. This changed the balance of power and took the military advantage away from the Serbs.

    I’m not sure about the utility of doing so in Darfur or Zimbabwe. If the rebels win in Darfur it might destabilize the entire region, and Zimbabwe lacks a “third force” that is credible, organized, and willing to fight.

  4. rethinking_securityon 30 Jun 2008 at 10:42 am 4


    Sage words. Anyone who’s been a faithful reader of DNI knows the vast impediments that those who favor the status quo will put up as well as the inherent risks in promoting new ideas about security.

  5. Maxon 30 Jun 2008 at 3:09 pm 5

    rethinking_security on 30 Jun 2008 at 10:42 am 4

    “Max, Sage words”

    Thank You.
    I didn’t say it was impossible mind you, but, if it was easy
    then, ANY idiot could or would, do it. ;0)


    “What is most conspicuously absent from any discussion is the concept that we might actually, from time to time, consider promoting rather than fighting various insurgencies.”

    Interesting enough, and on the face of it, the theory is fine, Duncan.

    But, once you start really thinking it through however, I must agree with what RTS had to say in reply.

    1) It rarely works ! Please give us one credible example in the last
    50 years, where the US didn’t inevitably get sucked into the
    conflict directly, and/or, in one form or another end up paying dearly?

    Sometimes, and more often than not, it backfires severely, Please read Chalmers Johnson.


    9-11 itself being a perfect example.

    2) What is it in the Popular American Phycie, that we expect
    the world’s downtrodden, everywhere, anytime, to react, and behave exactly as the largely MYTHOLOGISED version and accounts of our own independence revolution ?

    Please appreciate I’m not out to critisise or throw flames,
    on the contrary.


    Good thread, gentlemen and officers, this is a classy place.

    And thanks, and welcome back to Chet.


  6. Duncan Kinderon 30 Jun 2008 at 8:24 pm 6

    The criticisms of my post are very well taken and – to some degree – I agree with many of them.

    Still, and I am going to make an emphatic point here, conducting as well as opposing insurgencies ought to be part of our skill set. Such exercises should be as regular as drafted plans to invade Canada or to nuke Spain.

    As such, as intellectual exercises, even such far fetched scenarios as aiding Welsh insurgents against the British or Maori insurgents against New Zealand ought to be part of our common tool kit.

    I’m a little bit out of focus as to what sort of transnational insurgents we might hypothetically support – but I have long maintained that the biggest, baddest transnational of them all is the Roman Catholic Church. So maybe some sort of Jesuit plot is something that we could – hypothetically – advance.

    Of course, no offense to any Britishers, New Zealanders, or Catholics out there. I think you’re splendid fellows.

  7. EmeryNelsonon 30 Jun 2008 at 9:42 pm 7

    We could try minding our own business and only fighting wars that involved our national survival? However, this is as foolish as expecting the paramilitaries not to turn into a blood sucking bureaucracy. Insurgencies are successful because of human nature. Governments react in the same manner through the ages. Soon after we deployed a lightly armed “law enforcement Bde” you can bet the regular army wouldn’t be far behind. I see the value in theory but if this worked SOCOM would have ended Iraq and Afghanistan a long time ago. Someone’s goiong to tell me how that fine organization was misused and I’ll have to reply back, ‘That’s the point. They’re always misused.” Perhaps the formula to look at is Switzerland’s?

  8. Duncan Kinderon 01 Jul 2008 at 12:10 am 8

    OK, here’s another way of approaching my idea.

    The Houston Chronicle describes a human trafficking sex ring operation that had existed in Houston:

    To control them, Mondragon kept “intelligence” on each one — the names of their mothers, brothers and children and locations of their homes and schools. Records show victims said he threatened to kill relatives or burn down family homes if they did not cooperate.

    “They were scared to death of him. … They thought he was the devil,” said Sgt. Michael Barnett of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s enforcement division in Houston.

    In that strictly monitored world, male traffickers and their female “handlers” controlled victims’ clothing, their bodies, their money and nearly their every move, according to interviews and court records.

    “I had to do everything that they said — they had a camera outside my apartment that recorded everything,” one victim told the Chronicle.

    Obviously human traffickers succeed because they are organized while their victims are not.

    Query: Can 4th/5th/Global Guerrilla or related type concepts be developed / applied to empower human trafficking victims so they can resist traffickers? Is there any way that they could effectively conduct an insurgency against their oppressors?

  9. Maxon 01 Jul 2008 at 7:27 am 9

    on 30 Jun 2008 at 9:42 pm

    “We could try minding our own business”

    No Kidding, thanks for coming straight out and bluntly saying what
    may of us were thinking.

    Now then, but, how could we make any money ?
    Or at least move money around like the current Mil. Ind. Complex
    the sustaining element of our failing economy does currently ?

    Ohh, research and inovation, and by attracting the worlds
    very best and brightest to our shores, instead of alienating them.

    Spend a lot more on our own education, infrastructure, etc,,,.

    But, hey, I know, that’s crazy talk,,,,.


  10. Maxon 01 Jul 2008 at 9:09 am 10

    “Query: Can 4th/5th/Global Guerrilla or related type concepts be developed / applied to empower human trafficking victims so they can resist traffickers? (SNIP) insurgency against their oppressors?”

    This would fall under the catagory of failure of the state to protect a segment of it’s own population, no ?

    In as much as organised crime of any type
    undermines the legitimacy of scociety
    and civilisation at large.

    The danger here maybe,
    If the victims organise and do “it” the job, themselves, how long before they themselves evolve into just another gang ?

    If you want to really discuss decentralisation
    or disolution of the state as we know it,
    that’s a very legitimate topic in itself
    related to 4GW.

    You’re in the right place.
    Irronicaly That dovetails in some respects with the mention of the Swiss model, wich was mentioned
    in rebuttal.

    It’s all good, building snowmobiles and breaking
    a few eggs along the way,,.

  11. Duncan Kinderon 01 Jul 2008 at 1:49 pm 11

    If you want to really discuss decentralisation
    or disolution of the state as we know it,
    that’s a very legitimate topic in itself
    related to 4GW.

    We might want to develop some sort of story telling tradition amongst victims and potential victims – to provide them with situational awareness.

    Something like a revamped version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped perhaps?

  12. Maxon 02 Jul 2008 at 11:28 am 12

    Interesting idea, familarity through popular literature.

    Electronic media has to some degree supplanted, for
    better and probably much worse, with popular
    entertainment becoming largely dumbed down

    I found out about Boyd, The LWF Mafia,
    and DNI through books.


  13. Maxon 04 Jul 2008 at 5:44 pm 13


    “We might want to develop some sort of story telling tradition amongst victims and potential victims – to provide them with situational awareness.”

    Speaking of lore, in popular culture and mythology,
    you have an interesting idea there, and it might take something like this.

    I’ve long held a vague impression that George Lucas’s
    StarWars franchise stared out initaly as somewhat
    of a 4th generational warfare scenario.

    BTW; Fabius Maximus does not agree in private exchanges.

    I could be giving Lucas far more credit than is deserved, and I don’t honestly believe it was planned or conciously deliberate beyond the consession for dramatics.

    But here you had the underdogs, pitted against the mighty well equipped high-tech ’empire.’

    Of course Lucas is also accused of trying to start his own half-assed
    religion, IE; The Force ala; Hubbard & Scientology.

    I find it interesting and ironic how that many in positions of authority today in the US Military, think tanks, and industry, would have grown up and come of age, enamored and emerced in the original 3 Star Wars films, which again have the underling theme of pitting weakness and winning against overwhelming strength and resourches.

    And yet the very same do not apparently recognise that in themselves,
    and the current reality. Much less admit to being on the wrong side
    of the tale,,,.

    As a serious intelectual arguement It’s all quite tenious and symplistic mind you, but so sometimes is real life.

    Speaking of which,

    If YOU or I had for instance had written a novel describing in general terms the reality of the USA over the last 8 years or so, back in the 70s, no one in their right minds would have believed a word of it.


  14. Maxon 11 Jul 2008 at 5:50 am 14

    Duncan Kinder

    “What is most conspicuously absent from any discussion is the concept that we might actually, from time to time, consider promoting rather than fighting various insurgencies.”

    Behond the recent commentary on the effectiveness, this assertion stuck in my mind, and being a fasinating topic. I came across something recently that brought it back to
    the forfront.

    Anyone’s who’s studdied and read Chalmers Johnson (as I have fairly extensively) can tell you this methodology has been well underway for decades. At least by his account.

    The rub is, and Duncan’s post demonstrates and underscores the point, is that these programs and operations are largely kept secret from the American public. Or at the very least, one has to dig, and/or be a serious devotee of the topic
    to find out very much at all.

    In many cases these operations may indeed pose a complex moral delema, and that’s amoung principle reasons for being held in secret.

    Are these moral delema’s decisive ?
    That’s an excellent question, to paraphrase,
    “terrorism is in the eye of the beholder.”

    Now, one can argue, that all that maybe a lofty moralistic position, in the larger
    context of “terrorisim,” when it’s done to us,
    but “covert” and legitimate when we do it.
    Perhaps Fair enough and when the day is done,
    and depanding on your concience and politics.

    You judge and think for yourself.

    I hold this discussion seperately from the previous
    commentary on implementation, and effectiveness.

    Then again, we have no way of really knowing just how many operations have happened and what rate
    of success there maybe. Perhaps we never hear at all of the sucesses, perhaps those are widespread
    and frequent ?