June 15, 2006

June 15, 2006 | Special Report on National Security and Defense

Winning the Peace: Readings and Recommendations for Post-Conflict Operations


* This paper is a compilation of several Heritage research papers; to view in entirety, please download the PDF



Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

Winning the Peace: Principles for Post-Conflict Operations
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Dana R. Dillon

Post-Conflict and Culture: Changing America's Military for 21st Century Missions
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

The U.S. Role in Peace Operations: Past, Perspective, and Prescriptions for the Future
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

The Pentagon and Postwar Contractor Support: Rethinking the Future
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

The Impact of the Imperial Wars (1898-1907) on the U.S. Army
Brian McAllister Linn, Ph.D.

Boots on the Ground: The Impact of Stability Operations on the Armies That Must Conduct Them
Major General Jonathan P. Riley

The Impact of Peacekeeping and Stability Operations on the Armed Forces
Peter F. Herrly, Colonel, USA, Ret.

The Effects of Operations Other Than War-Fighting on the Participants
Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold


Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Armed Forces have been engaged in either a peacekeeping or post-conflict operation on average every two years. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved to be most difficult during the post-conflict stages. And since the United States' conventional military power is overwhelming, future adversaries will only be more tempted to fight insurgency-style wars in the fashion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, America's military planners must realize this time that post-conflict operations will be a feature of military operations for the foreseeable future.

The stakes involved with these operations are no less serious than those associated with combat operations. President Bush has repeatedly explained the stakes for which the United States is fighting in Iraq by trying to imagine an alternative to U.S. victory there. The picture he paints is not pretty. American failure to continue with the mission until there is a functioning, self-sustaining security force, a legitimate, capable government, and an economy poised to grow will likely result in a takeover by radical Islamic groups that employ terror as their primary weapon. Such an Iraq could then become a base from which terrorist groups conduct global war, much like Afghanistan under the Taliban. The stakes in Iraq are high indeed. The post-conflict phase of operations, then, must succeed.

As a result of this strategic imperative, The Heritage Foundation has devoted considerable time and effort to developing a set of principles and recommendations that can be applied to post-conflict operations. The analyses in this report present a guide for building the kind of military America needs to secure its interests in the 21st century.

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
The Heritage Foundation


Military planners traditionally disdain conducting post-conflict missions. Their training emphasizes warfighting and, as a result, they tend to focus on that aspect of the job. The problem is that post-conflict missions and warfighting missions cannot be treated separately. "For whilst we are in full occupation of the country," wrote Clausewitz, the great 19th century military theorist, "the war may break out afresh, either in the interior or through assistance given by Allies. No doubt, this may also take place after a peace, but that shows nothing more than that every war does not carry in itself the elements for a complete decision and final settlement." Post-conflict operations, then, are not optional, but an absolutely necessary phase in the conduct of war.

Understanding the nature of these operations is essential. This requires an understanding of the differences between peacemaking, peacekeeping, and post-conflict missions, and how those differences should help define strategic requirements.

Because military organizations are not designed specifically to carry out post-conflict operations, changes will be needed not only in force structure, but also in military culture. Planners will need the right mix of resources to succeed, but will also have to spend more time training and developing doctrine for post-conflict missions. These changes should include a review of the role contractors play in the post-conflict environment and how they can be better utilized.

After developing all of these themes, Heritage Foundation analysts attempted to create a set of flexible principles to help guide future preparation for post-conflict operations. The policy changes recommended in the following pages are, in many cases, prescriptions for institutional change. Implementing wide-ranging institutional reforms will not only establish better practices for dealing with post-conflict operations, they will also force future military leaders to address the unique challenges presented by post-conflict missions.

The analysis and recommendations that follow are compiled from The Heritage Foundation's work on the subject of post-conflict operations over the past three years. In addition, four lectures are included from a conference entitled "The Test of Terrain: The Impact of Stability Operations Upon the Armed Forces." The Heritage Foundation co-sponsored the conference, which was held in Paris on June 17-18, 2005.

Our hope is that the recommendations set forth will motivate forward-looking policies that will prevent America's military from slipping back into old habits and disdaining the thought of conducting post-conflict operations. Such changes will be successful if they apply the valuable lessons learned by American forces time and again in a way that will save lives in the future.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow
The Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
The Heritage Foundation

About the Author