Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


This dissertation examines the political-military effectiveness of U.S. small-scale, long-duration military advisory missions focused upon the mission of foreign internal defense within the subset of so-called "small wars." Why focus on this issue? First, an explicit assumption of the dissertation is that as the U.S. winds down from the wars in Afghanistan (2001-present) and Iraq (2003-2011) its interests will still dictate that it be engaged in the ambiguities of small wars and particularly in helping foreign governments to fend off "subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to their security." Second, such an examination will be useful in rectifying the relatively scant attention given to lower-level civil-military interactions in small wars environments in the literature of civil-military relations.

A theory of political-military effectiveness in small-scale, long-duration advisory missions conducting foreign internal defense operations is offered and tested with the cases of U.S. military advisors serving in El Salvador (1980-1992), Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (2002-2012), and Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara (2003-2012). The study finds that political-military effectiveness is high when: (1) when military leaders are constructively politically engaged in the small wars environment, both with the U.S. country team and, more importantly, with the host nation security forces; (2) U.S. military advisors and the U.S. country team are working together with the embassy in the lead; and, (3) when the advisory teams have deep familiarity and repetitive experience in the operational environment.

The dissertation consists of six chapters: an introduction; an examination of American strategic and military culture to include a macro investigation of a 279 case dataset on the use of U.S. forces abroad from 1798-2012; a theory chapter dealing with civil-military relations, political-military effectiveness, and small-scale advisory missions; El Salvador (1980-1992) case study; Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (2001-2012) and OEF-Trans Sahara (2002-2012) case studies; and, a conclusion with findings and policy prescriptions.

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