Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Dissertation: The Director's Input

Just before Christmas, I went to meet with the Director. As I've noted previously, I arrived with five potential dissertation topics, and added one a few weeks ago. In no particular order, these are:

  • The Dhofar Rebellion
  • Private Military Companies
  • Roman Lessons for Modern Counterinsurgency
  • The Hague and Geneva Conventions and Modern Warfare
  • The Peninsular Shield Force
  • Education as a National Security Issue

    I took these to the Director, and we talked through a few of them. He recommended that, for now, I focus my interest on three: Dhofar or the PSF, and PMCs as the outlier. I've been collecting a LOT of articles and a few other resources on the GCC/PSF, a handful of articles on PMCs (plus the books I listed in that original post), and a few that are relevant to what I'd write about the Dhofar Rebellion. More on those in a moment.

    The items that were knocked off the list don't particularly bug me. As I mentioned in the post about education, it's a huge topic. The paper on Roman counterinsurgency will be written regardless, so that really doesn't change much; and it also would have been most helpful if I intended to continue further into academia, which I don't. The Hague/Geneva topic would have been most relevant if I were taking the Use of Force in International Law course during the second semester; instead, I've switched into the Strategic Nuclear Doctrine course.

    As for the three topics that are still on the list, each one has its own particular set of high points. Each one could also have an impact on my career.

    In the case of Private Military/Security Companies (PMCs/PSCs), I have some personal background in this topic, and I have some good sources to work with. This could also be helpful for my career, either in the public sector or the private. The growth of PSCs since 2001, and their potential utility in future "austere" conflicts is fertile ground for a dissertation.

    With respect to the GCC/PSF, I already have credentials and experience relating to the Persian Gulf Region, and doing my dissertation on the PSF would further cement thoughs - essentially, I could start claiming subject matter expert status on the Gulf and its specific security issues. Regardless of the Obama Administration's goal of a "pivot" to East Asia, the Middle East will continue to be one of the biggest centers of gravity for international security for the foreseeable future. Writing on the GCC/PSF would be potentially helpful if I were to try to find work in the government, in a think tank (particularly the ECSSR in Abu Dhabi), or even with certain defense contracting positions.

    My favorite topic remains the Dhofar Rebellion. The Director seemed optimistic about this one, too, and we went through a potential outline of how I could structure the paper. If I had a couple of weeks with which to just sit down and write, I could probably pound it out right now. It would give me an opportunity (or rather, a justification) to see a bunch of spots in Oman where I plan to go anyway. On the one hand, counterinsurgency is set to lose its vogue status in the next few years. On the other hand, it will become vogue again the next time America finds itself pulled into a war, particularly in the Middle East - unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before it happens because international affairs revolve around reality, rather than hope. The other benefit of the Dhofar Rebellion is that it serves as a model of how to conduct both counterinsurgency and conventional, unconventional, regular, and irregular warfare operations on a budget. It's also a textbook case of the successful use of special operations forces to support strategic goals, support for host nation forces, and what the Army is currently calling "regional alignment". I was pleased that the Director didn't knock this one off the list, and I'm leaning heavily toward using this as my dissertation topic.

    More to come.
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