December 25, 2006

To protect & serve
Constabulary force could build rapport between U.S., Iraqis

The Army Times

By Maj. Morgan Smiley

Several publications have highlighted the difference between war fighting and fighting a counterinsurgency. Some say a smaller, lighter paramilitary or police force is better suited to counterinsurgency operations than a regular military force.

I recommend the reinstitution of the U.S. Constabulary.

This force existed in Europe from 1946 to 1952 after the end of World War II. The idea was to have a well-trained, highly mobile, lightly armed military force that focused primarily on maintaining order and stability, assisting in re-establishing local government control and helping to rebuild Western Europe. In other words, a well-armed police force trained to use minimum force but capable of applying maximum force if necessary.

This unit was to be considered an elite outfit, equipped with lightly armored vehicles and aircraft, made up of volunteers who were to be well-trained in the culture and language of the area, schooled in police work � including how to make arrests and conduct criminal investigations � and in how to deal with the local populace.

While the current situation in Iraq may not be quite the same as a thoroughly exhausted Europe in 1945, the difference between a standard military approach to dealing with security issues versus the police approach are worth considering.

The military is trained to apply a significant level of combat power to quickly and effectively reduce a threat. Police are trained to apply the minimum level so as to better maintain control of the situation and safeguard the populace.

A constabulary force that works from the basis of �to protect and serve� � to borrow the motto of the Los Angeles Police Department � might make more headway in identifying and removing the insurgents and terrorists than a military force that approaches the insurgency with the mind-set that says �death from above.�

Additionally, military operations involve avoiding civilians as much as possible in order to keep them out of harm�s way, whereas police work often involves working with civilians to gain and share information to bring thugs to justice.

Emplacing in Iraq a constabulary force that is smaller than what we have now would reduce our footprint. That would reduce the number of American and coalition targets and force the Iraqi police and security forces to shoulder more of the security burden. We could assist by providing guidance and �back-up,� and train with our military, special police and border training teams. The change would increase the level of civilian involvement in providing information on the whereabouts of the insurgents as civilians become more comfortable with coalition and Iraqi forces working to police their areas rather than engaging in combat.

Police forces in our own country often note that a policeman �walking a neighborhood beat� has a higher level of success in building rapport with the locals than one who simply drives around the area. The face-to-face contact that comes with walking a beat builds trust, confidence and a sense that somebody cares.

Our military may want to consider a constabulary force in Iraq to walk the beat as we press forth in rebuilding Iraqi security and get the locals involved in creating a safer environment.

The author is deployed to Al Asad, Iraq. His previous assignments include Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Irwin, Calif.; and Fort Benning, Ga.

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