The Comprehensive Approach as a Strategic Design to Run the Military-Industrial Complex in Operations

The Comprehensive Approach as a Strategic Design to Run the Military-Industrial Complex in Operations

Mirva Salminen (Department of Social Sciences, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland) and Aki-Mauri Huhtinen (Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/ijcwt.2012040103
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


How to steer military actions that are concurrent both in the real world and in virtual networks? After the great wars of the 20th century and the Cold War with the threat of nuclear warfare, the information revolution, as well as the emergence of new wars and global threats, has led to an increasingly complex security space of the 21st century. A corner of this space is occupied by private military and security contractors that have been introduced to the wide public as previously undetected actors operating in conflict zones. These developments have required the re-thinking of military organisation, planning and conduct. This article scrutinises the basic principle and key concepts of a new western politico-strategic level military planning model called the Comprehensive Approach. It is a Wikileaks type of open door policy: everyone operating in the same real space can participate in the shared virtual planning space. The model’s usability in the new military atmosphere is under theoretical scrutiny. Challenges that the open planning creates to the military organisation are highlighted.
Article Preview


In his farewell address, given in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the rise of what he named as the military-industrial complex. Due to the great wars, the United States had “(....) been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” However, “(i)n the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes”. (Eisenhower 1961.)

Were the President’s warnings heard or not, the military-industrial complex was never without influence during the Cold War (in this article, understood as a commonly shared cognitive constellation of international relations rather than as a particular period of time (Patomäki, 2011)). Even if no major conventional war was fought between the main ideological opponents, the military-industrial complex did not find itself redundant. Preparedness for war in the western world was at an unprecedented level and the market for standardised, industrially produced military products reached a global scale. Towards the end of the Cold War, and especially after it, the complex has gradually reformed itself and expanded into new sectors. The traditional production sector has been supplemented with what can be categorised as the service sector; the sectors have enmeshed, allied with different sectors in the civil society and hence created new relationships of power. Virtualisation of the social space has played an important facilitating role in this process by creating new potential for service development and by increasing the speed at which information is globally disseminated. Therefore, following James Der Derian’s (2001) theorising, it might be more appropriate to discuss the military-industrial-media-entertainment network than mere military-industrial complex. However, even if this article acknowledges the importance of public media and entertainment aspects, it concentrates on discussing the role of private military and security contractors (PMSCs) in military planning and organisation. In addition, it only examines the development of both military-industrial complex and comprehensive approach in the United States. Of the western countries, the US has gone furthest in the outsourcing of the state’s security and warfare related functions and most of the investigative discussion takes place in this context.

The Montreux Document ‒ the sole internationally agreed, yet legally non-binding document addressing the state responsibilities in relation to PMSCs ‒ defines private military and security contractors as “(…) private business entities that provide military and/or security services (…)” which include “(…) armed guarding and protection of persons and objects (…); prison detention; and advice to or training of local forces and security personnel” (the Montreux Document, 2008, 6). The definition is loose, which is due to the constantly evolving nature of the industry. The mainstream historical narrative told about PMSCs states that the reformation of the military-industrial complex has taken place within the possibility conditions created during the Cold War and at its end. The large supply of surplus armament and skilled personnel to the global market combined with an increased demand for capabilities that had been run down established favourable conditions for the enlargement of the complex (Avant, 2005; Singer, 2003). Nevertheless, this is only part of the reasoning and cannot explain the entire phenomenon (Rosén, 2008). At the same time, the information revolution changed the possibility conditions of almost every aspect of life – including the spheres of security and warfare. Thus currently, it is next to impossible to give estimations about the scale or influence of the reformed (and globally linked) military-industrial complex. What can be said, however, is that PMSCs have become an important component of military and security operations that are executed in the same manner as they are viewed: on real-time – actually and virtually (Der Derian, 2001).

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Open Access Articles: Forthcoming
Volume 12: 4 Issues (2022): Forthcoming, Available for Pre-Order
Volume 11: 4 Issues (2021): 3 Released, 1 Forthcoming
Volume 10: 4 Issues (2020)
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2019)
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2018)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2011)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing