Small Wars Journal

Populace-Centric Engagement

Thu, 10/30/2008 - 9:12pm

Populace-Centric Engagement

A Positive Change of Strategic Perspective for Winning the Long War

by Colonel Robert C. Jones, Small Wars Journal

Populace-Centric Engagement (Full PDF Article)

How one looks at a problem shapes the solution sets that are developed to resolve it. To date U.S. engagement for the Long War has focused on the defeat of Al Qaeda and a growing number of affiliate non-state Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO). This strategy recognizes that populaces are important, but places that importance below that of efforts to capture or kill senior VEO leadership and the development of counterterrorist capacity in the existing governments of the countries where these VEOs reside. This strategy naturally lends itself to a family of engagement that requires a Department of Defense lead, with Department of State in support. Populace-Centric Engagement shifts the focus to understanding and supporting populaces around the world, and assisting them in attaining good governance on their own terms, and produces positive secondary effects.

Populace-Centric Engagement (Full PDF Article)

About the Author(s)

Robert Jones is a retired Army Special Forces Colonel, serving the past ten years as senior strategist at USSOCOM. His focus is understanding the nature of the strategic environment, the evolving character of conflict, and the implications for our Special Operations Forces. He is a core member of the Joint Staff’s Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) network, and a regular lecturer at the Joint Special Operations University and the Air War College. A Cold War and Gulf War vet, he stepped away for a bit to gain experiences as both an emergency manager and a deputy district attorney prior to returning to the Special Operations community post 9/11 to serve from Zamboanga to Kandahar, and places in between.


Bill C. (not verified)

Fri, 02/04/2011 - 11:55am

1. If we believe that populace-centric engagement will change the world as we require (provide that various states, societies and regions become more open, more accessable and better configured for use by the United States re: its economic and political interests), then this approach would seem to have merit.

2. If, however, we believe that populace-centric engagement is likely to result in various states and societies remaining -- or becoming -- more closed, less accessable and not better aligned re: US requirements, then this approach would not seem to be in the United States best interests.

3. Accordingly, the United States is likely only to "understand and support populaces around the world, and assist them in attaining good governance on their own terms" if this such efforts meet the criteria of Para 1 above (provide for more open, more accessable and properly configured -- from our point of view -- states and societies).

4. It is unlikely that the United States will understand, support or assist populaces whose desire is to remain -- or to become -- more isolated, more exclusive or ordered, organized or configured such that they might provide an alternative way of life that could come to threaten our own.

slapout9 (not verified)

Fri, 02/04/2011 - 9:49am

Bob(R.C.Jones) you forgot to add it is all my fault!(LOL)

Bob's World

Fri, 02/04/2011 - 8:53am

Long before I had heard of "Population-Centric COIN" I had been developing a concept that I (tragically) termed as "populace-centric engagement."

The idea was that in the emerging global security environment, that old models were inadequate to the mission at hand. We had a State Department that was designed for Government-Centric engagements and we had a Defense Department that was designed for Threat-Centric Engagements, but we were ill-equipped for dealing with powerful non-state organizaitons and tended to get way too focused on defeating named threats without dealing with why those threats exist.

Given recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, I figured it might be time to dust this off and bring it back up to the top of the deck. There was considerable discussion in the tread titled "How to Win" at the time of initial publication.

The real question being, how do we change to deal more effectively with an evolving world, where governments have far less control, and where non-state orgs and populaces have far more relative power?