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Underkill. Scalable Capabilities for Military Operations Amid Populations

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During the first few years of their occupation of Iraq, U.S. military forces proved to be better at killing insurgents than at defeating the insurgents by convincing the Iraqi people to turn against them. As a consequence, the insurgency grew despite its losses, the populations tolerance for the U.S. occupation shrank, and U.S. casualties mounted. At a certain point, a majority of all Iraqis believed that the use of force against U.S. troops was a legitimate form of resistance. This belief was reinforced by a number of incidents in which Iraqi noncombatants were killed or gravely hurt--cases heavily exploited by anti-U.S. propagandists. While this problem has eased in Iraq as a result of vastly improved U.S. counterinsurgency COIN strategy, it has called attention to the fact that U.S. forces are not well equipped to carry out operations and defend themselves amid populations except through the use of lethal force. The persistence of civilian casualties and the resulting political backlash against U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO forces in Afghanistan confirms that this deficit is a serious problem. Against this background, a 2007 RAND Corporation report on comprehensive capabilities for COIN entitled War by Other Means cited, among other deficiencies, the inadequacy of U.S. nonlethal capabilities and the resultant human and political damage that comes from killing, hurting, or terrifying persons who are not enemy fighters. Prompted by this findings, and with the sponsorship of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, RAND embarked on a study of the requirements for and desired characteristics of nonlethal capabilities in the current and foreseeable security environments.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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