22 August 1997
DEFENSE ANALYST GIVES ACRI CONCEPT HIGH MARKS FOR PEACEKEEPING
(CFE's Hillen comments on joint U.S.-African initiative) (980)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
USIA Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- A U.S.-African partnership for conflict resolution
called the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), currently in its
training phase, is an excellent example of the appropriate use of the
military in peacekeeping, says John Hillen, director of the Council on
Foreign Relations' defense policy review project.
Hillen, a former U.S. Army officer and author of a book that examines
the role of the U.S. military and multilateral institutions in
peacekeeping, told a U.S. Information Agency (USIA) reporter August
20: "I see a lot of hope in the ACRI and I've been fully behind all
the administration proposals for its creation."
A decorated Gulf War combat veteran, Hillen served in Europe, the
Pacific, and Southwest Asia. He is a graduate of Duke University and
attended King's College, the University of London, and Oxford
University, where he earned a Ph.D. in international relations.
While the U.S. Armed Forces should focus on what he calls strategic
security threats from large powers, Hillen said, "regional, ethnic,
civil conflicts, small wars, and internal wars, like in Somalia,
Rwanda, and Liberia, demand an effective approach, which is best done
from the inside out, and that is where the ACRI fits in."
Effective peacekeeping has to be done at "the grassroots level --
inside out," Hillen explained, because "in order to be lasting,
conflict resolution mechanisms have to be constructed by those closest
to the problem, not by those on the outside."
This means that in Bosnia, for instance, "the United States should be
involved militarily, but in a supporting rather than a lead role," he
The ACRI was first promoted by former Secretary of State Warren
Christopher during a trip to Africa last October. Emphasizing that it
would not be a standing military force, Christopher said, "It would
consist of African troops, reinforced by training, equipment,
logistical, and financial support from the United States and other
countries.... Its mission would be to protect innocent civilians,
ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, and help resolve conflicts in
The initiative was given further support at the Summit of the Eight
industrialized nations in Denver last June in discussions of Africa's
place in the global economic community.
In Hillen's view, "any crisis response force, to be successful,
whether it's run by the U.N. with 10,000 troops or the United States,
must have a template for discrimination about when to use it." And in
sub-Saharan Africa "this means decision-making by a political body
like the OAU [Organization of African Unity], responding to a regional
problem, rather than by U.N. bureaucrats sitting in New York," five
thousand miles away.
Thus far, African nations have designated eight battalions to take
part in ACRI, and U.S. military trainers from Fort Bragg, North
Carolina, have been detailed to the continent to help train those
units in the techniques of peacekeeping.
Beyond training, however, there is a role for the U.S. military in
ACRI, Hillen said, in the areas of "sustainable logistics, airlift,
force projection, and electronic intelligence gathering." He noted
that "right now, if Botswana wants to send an infantry brigade to
peacekeep in Liberia...the United States would probably have to fly it
A defense analyst, Hillen has carved out the role of critic and
watchdog for the U.S. military, whose capability, he says, is being
frittered away on peacekeeping missions that misuse resources.
"When I criticize the extent to which the United States is involved in
protracted peacekeeping operations that don't seem to have any
conclusion," as in Bosnia, the security analyst stressed, "I'm talking
about employing the conventional combat capability -- the big
battalions -- of the U.S."
Militarily, the primary duties of a superpower like the United States,
Hillen explained, are "to prevent, deter, or confront security
challenges of the first order from other great military powers and of
the second order from aggressive and well-armed rogue regimes such as
those in Iran, Iraq, and North Korea."
Hillen stressed that "there will always be a place for the U.S.
military in peacekeeping," such as the 47,000-member combined U.S.
military unit known as Special Operations Forces (SOF). But "you don't
want the Third Infantry Division tied down doing peacekeeping for two
years in a row," he said. "You want them [ready] for the big battalion
contingencies" like the Gulf War.
The former commander of SOF, General Henry Shelton, who was recently
named by President Bill Clinton to be the next chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, the president's principal military adviser, noted at
the recent 10th anniversary celebration of the U.S. Special Operations
Command that "SOF are particularly effective in operations other than
The general added that "as America's security strategy changes to
contend with regional uncertainty and instability, SOF's "highly
skilled and relatively small-sized teams" are an advantage in a
variety of missions, "such as training foreign forces, providing
humanitarian aid, [and] demining."
According to Hillen, a top priority for U.S. policymakers should be to
formulate "a reasonable policy of global engagement that preserves
American involvement in global activities that benefit the United
States, but does not squander U.S. resources on a global gendarmerie."
Using U.S. military forces geared toward fighting a powerful enemy for
small-scale peacekeeping roles is like "trying to fill a round hole
with a square peg," the defense analyst said.
The real, lasting solution to regional peacekeeping, he offered, is to
try to create organizations like ACRI and "any other regional
mechanisms -- led by people close to the problem who have interests
that are lasting in that area. A superpower can support -- but should
not lead -- these ventures."