Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

HASTEN SLOWLY: NATO's Effects Based and Comprehensive Approach to Operations

Brooke Smith-Windsor

July 2008

NATO Defense College


Effects Based Approach to Operations (EBAO)3 and Comprehensive Approach (CA) are fashionable terms in NATO circles these days. Whether one is sitting in the North Atlantic Council (NAC), walking the corridors of the Strategic Commands, or travelling with a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan, they are heard with increasing frequency, sometimes distinctly, sometimes relationally, sometimes interchangeably. Indeed, the multiplicity of interpretations of both terms and their relationship to one another arguably rivals the incidence of their contemporary usage. Some are outright contradictory, others too general or ambiguous to be meaningful, still others so complex if not complicated they verge on the unworkable. To be fair to their originators, on the surface we do know this: the advocacy of EBAO within the Alliance emanated largely from military quarters and predated the introduction of CA that was only first officially introduced by the NAC at the Riga Summit of 2006. Despite their sequenced and respective military and civilian parentage, at their core both EBAO and CA aim to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of NATO’s planning and conduct of crisis management operations through the greater consonance or “joining up” of military and civilian efforts, both within the Alliance and in its relations with outside actors. Beyond the latter description, however, the varied interpretations of EBAO and CA begin to abound leading any interested observer to justifiably question: are EBAO and CA the same, similar or different? Do they constitute a genuinely new way of undertaking operations or are they simply the latest reincarnation—however improved—of long-standing approaches to warfare and crisis management? And, at the end of the day, whose efforts and what instruments need to be joined up as a matter of priority, to what extent and by whom?