At the Limit of Complexity: British Military Operations in North Persia and the Caucasus 1918

MAJ Roland Minez’s Art of War Paper, At the Limit of Complexity: British Military Operations in North Persia and the Caucasus, 1918 highlights the volatile, complex, and ambiguous operating environment likely to face future military operations in unanticipated and far-flung corners of the globe. As World War I wound down, Commonwealth forces entered the Caucasus to fill a power vacuum left by the collapse of the Russian Empire as well as forestall German and Ottoman influence, protect vulnerable Armenian populations that were already the victims of an ongoing genocide and shield vital petroleum reserves, both in the region and in Persia. Dunsterforce, the polyglot and inadequate ad hoc force given this unenviable mission struggled to balance competing priorities, secure adequate support, and navigate the myriad of interests struggling for control of the region, especially the vital petroleum reserves at Baku. While hardly a story of a successful undertaking, the British actions typify complex operations common in the recent past, including interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo when peacekeepers had to sort out competing factions, all while attempting to train friendly forces capable of assuming the mission, the purpose of the current Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs). Thus, MAJ Minez’s historical case study offers a wealth of lessons for future Soldiers attempting to solve complex problems in hostile and remote locales.