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Document: Pentagon Joint History Office Report on the Post Cold War Decade

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Newly arrived Marines are led through an encampment near an airfield during Operation Desert Shield. Department of Defense Photo

Newly arrived Marines are led through an encampment near an airfield during Operation Desert Shield. Department of Defense Photo

The following is from the introduction of the recently released report, Other Than War: The American Military Experience and Operations in the Post-Cold War Decade by Frank Schubert for the Pentagon’s Joint History Office.

The almost 300 military deployments between 1989 and 2001 appear at a glance to be a bewildering assortment of domestic and overseas missions that overtaxed the US military and confirmed theories of global chaos. “Other than War,” Dr. Frank N. Schubert’s analysis of the American military experience and operations in the post-Cold War decade, demonstrates that the operations were neither as diffuse nor as numerous as they first appeared.

Instead of looking at hundreds of disparate operations ranging the globe, grouping common operations in specific regions significantly reduces the overall total and clarifies the focus of the deployments. Moreover, the nature of the operations comports with a long US military tradition of law enforcement, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and nation building as well as constabulary operations, including pacification and so-called small wars.

The pattern of operations seems perplexing in part because they were listed as individual responses to separate emergencies and not conceptualized as parts of broader campaigns. Stability operations in the Balkans and Iraq, for example, assigned new names to iterations or single tasks of the continuing operations and obscured the fact that these were two regional campaigns, not almost 100 separate ones.

The profusion of names also appeared in the continuing drug enforcement and migrant interdiction operations in the Caribbean and Panama. Humanitarian operations during the decade responded to an average of three disasters per year, half in the Western Hemisphere where autumn hurricanes, spring floods along the Missouri and Mississippi, and summer fires in the western part of the United States were almost predictable events. Other deploy- ments included non-combatant evacuation (NEO) operations and support of travel by senior executive branch officials.

Experts were misled by the variety of names and the numbers of military personnel involved in deployments relative to the size of the total overseas forc- es. In any one year, fewer than five percent of US military personnel stationed overseas were deployed on operations and most of them were in the Balkans or Southwest Asia, namely Iraq.