The new Army doctrine intended as the by-the-book bridge between combat and stability operations is a bold step -- even making clear the Army's role in helping to establish a judiciary once the major shooting stops.
But there's one place that doctrine framers decided not to boldly go with that mission -- setting up a judiciary when the host nation is bent on having one rooted in religion.
"When we looked at the judicial sector, at the end of an operation you want what we call rule of law ... where people are empowered, where the law serves the people and not necessarily the government," Lt. Col. Steve Leonard, the primary author of the 200-plus page Field Manual 3-07, Stability Operations, told Military.com during a bloggers' roundtable held in Washington as part of the Association of the United States Army annual symposium. Though just released Oct. 6, the document has been in the making since late 2005. It points out that the U.S. military has a long history -- though not a consistent one -- of establishing or re-establishing civil authority once major fighting has ended.
The Stability Operations manual goes so far as to lay out the Army's obligation to restoring civil authority, including existing laws, courts and justice systems when they function. Of course, these may be suspended by the Army if the players cannot or are not performing them, or if they impede the Army from carrying out its own obligations under international law, including the Geneva Conventions, according to the manual.
"But oftentimes what we see in these countries is rule by law, where the ruling authority maintains control over the civil populace by leveraging the laws to their benefit. You don't want that."
What the doctrine looks at is just two of three types of authority: civil authority, in which law is used to govern the population and provide for its essential needs, safety and security; and transitional military authority, which is what the doctrine calls for while the Army and its partners -- other U.S. agencies, allies, or non-governmental agencies -- help establish a working judiciary.
"You hit the third leg of that [religious authority]," Leonard told Military.com. "We actually had this debate as we developed the doctrine. Did we want to address establishing a religious authority or a religious judiciary? Say a ... judiciary based on the rule of the Quran, for instance?"
Not only does Leonard not believe the Army or any partners would have the expertise to do that, but the developers of the doctrine did not believe it was a place they wanted to go.
"In this book [doctrine] there were not too many things we declared off limits, but that was one we just felt was too far down the road for us to [address], although it exists. But I don't think our national interests push in that area that we would be trying to establish religious authorities."