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Tilting at Windmills: Colonialism, Communism, and the Limits of Coercion

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Technical Report

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School of Advanced Air And Space Studies Maxwell Air Force Base United States

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This thesis addresses the question why military interventions fail to propose solutions for future military activity. The author assesses the way in which two strategic problems were framed and subsequent operations conducted. Specifically, the paper deals solely with interventions into foreign states and not wars between states, and seeks to highlight the essentially political, and not military, nature of internal battles for legitimacy. By undertaking an assessment of the relationship between power and violence, the author posits that to act legitimately, a state must appreciate the beliefs and behaviors, or moral and rational norms, a society will accept. This social set of norms is then termed a framework of authority and is the basis of state power. The author then examines two case studies in intervention, Palestine and South Vietnam, to demonstrate the connection between the way in which the problems were framed and the operational approaches to problem resolution undertaken. Of specific relevance is the relationship between the amount of violence used and its social acceptance. In both case studies the author highlights the importance of moral authority, or a right to rule, over a legalistic imposition of authority. In conclusion, the author recommends that to ensure the efficacy of military intervention, a greater appreciation is necessary of the social tapestry of a state, to both understand the accepted framework of authority and the relative power of disparate social groups. By better appreciating the accepted role of violence in a state, the author argues, we are more likely to apply force effectively in a complex social contest.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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