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  • Writer's pictureParley Policy Initiative

Players in a Postwar Environment

When examining or building policies for a postwar environment, it is critical to consider the various players involved. Each brings a different set of policy requirements, and all have myriad ways they can affect the postwar setting, for better or worse. Thus, to ensure success, one must reconcile those requirements, mitigate the impact of players who can disrupt policy implementation, and leverage those groups that can have a positive impact on the postwar environment. The different players are detailed below.

Domestic players

These are the players that hail from and reside in the postwar area of responsibility.


In postwar environments, the populace tends to put first things first. In other words, they will seek to satisfy their physiological and safety needs before worrying about the principles and ideals that a postwar administration may try to instill.

This was illustrated in the postwar occupation of Japan. The General Headquarters of the occupation sought to institutionalize elements of a liberal society that would never again wage war, but the allied leadership knew that nothing would take root if they could not meet the fundamental needs of the populace. In a plea to Congress, General Douglas MacArthur argued that he required food aid immediately upon taking responsibility for the country. He famously argued: "Starvation breeds mass unrest, disorder, and violence. Give me bread or give me bullets."

Postwar authorities must ensure that the administration delivers necessary goods and services to the populace, including but not limited to the provision of security, delivery of food and other aid, and fostering economic growth which can ensure a sustainable society.


Even when hostilities end, the risk of violence remains. Belligerents (the military forces of the warring sides) or insurgents (rebel forces seeking to disrupt or overthrow the postwar administration) may perpetrate attacks against the populace, security forces, civil administrators, or third party personnel. When building and implementing postwar policies, one must always address the risk that these players present.

Business Interests

Depending on the setting, these interests may exist in different forms, whether large conglomerates or family-run enterprises. Whatever the case, there are going to be individuals or groups that either actively control or will drive the economy in the postwar area. It is important to recognize those players, determine whether they are going to be a boon or a bane for implementation of postwar policies, and make decisions accordingly.

Security forces

Whether security is provided by foreign peacekeepers or occupiers in the immediate postwar setting, there will eventually need to be capable and reliable domestic security forces. Those forces must be able to deter and to repulse attacks while fostering a peaceful-enough environment to allow for stable reconstruction and growth.

Civil administrators

Whether or not there is a formal government in place, there must be officials that carry out civil administration--those functions of government necessary for implementing policies and delivering goods and services to the populace. These administrators must be able to connect the highest levels of decision-making to the lowest levels of the populace.

There are three associated risks with civil administrators. The first is corruption, which is prevalent in postwar environments where a new administration may be trying to take root. Corruption can come in many forms including embezzlement, cronyism, and nepotism. In all cases, corruption leads to fraud, waste, and abuse, and it undermines the legitimacy of the postwar civil administration.

The second risk is ineffectiveness; that is, the civil administrative bureaucracy is simply too bloated or the system is too byzantine to carry out its responsibilities.

Finally, there is a risk of alienation. In this case, the civil administration is simply too small, too centralized, or too poorly equipped to deliver goods and services equally across the entire area of responsibility. This leaves segments of the populace isolated to the point that their needs are not being met and/or that postwar policies simply are not reaching them.

Foreign Players

These are the players that deploy to the postwar area of responsibility and will presumably leave at some point. Broadly, they can be broken down into two categories and several subcategories.

Third Party Pacifiers

These are the people who seek to maintain peaceful conditions in the postwar environment.

  • Occupiers: These are foreign military forces and government personnel that maintain overall responsibility for the postwar environment. Those responsibilities may be carried out by domestic civil administrators, but the core policy direction is determined by the occupiers.

  • Peacekeepers: Unlike occupiers, peacekeepers serve in a security and/or monitoring capacity and do not retain overall responsibility for the postwar environment. Their function is to protect the populace, to deter or suppress any acts of violence, and to empower civil administrators in governing over the postwar area.

  • Observers: Observers serve as watchdogs for the implementation of postwar policies. They may be present at the direct request of the former warring parties, or they may be mandated by an international organization such as the United Nations.

  • Suppliers: Suppliers provide goods and services to the postwar environment. Typically, they include international aid organizations and nongovernmental organizations focused on food, health services, and other assistance.

Third Party Antagonists

These players are those who seek to disrupt or degrade the postwar environment.

  • Fighters: As the name implies, these are foreign forces that come to a postwar environment to perpetrate acts of violence.

  • Observers: Some countries may exploit observer status to spread dis/misinformation about the postwar environment to sow discord and discontent.

  • Suppliers: Unlike their pacifier counterparts, antagonistic suppliers provide war materiel and other goods and services to belligerents, insurgents, and/or third party fighters with the intent of disrupting the postwar environment.

Implications for Postwar Policy

Given the breadth of players involved in a postwar environment, it is critical that postwar authorities build and implement policies that adequately addresses each group. A few basic principles are relevant here:

1. Postwar authorities must meet the needs of the populace to ensure that their policies can take root.

2. It is important to eliminate the tools of belligerency and insurgency as much as possible to prevent coordinated acts of violence in a postwar environment.

3. While peacekeepers or occupiers can be essential tools in securing the postwar environment, fostering reliable and capable domestic security forces is an indispensable requirement for postwar administration.

4. Civil administrators are critical in the implementation of postwar policy, but there are great risks associated with corrupt, ineffective, or inadequate civil administration.

5. Postwar authorities should maximize the benefits of third party pacifiers while taking steps to minimize the involvement of third party antagonists.

Cable No 1_Players in a Postwar Environment
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Two local children look on during the advent of the postwar occupation of Japan, 1945


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