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This post is mainly intended for people issued from the non-military community, in order to provide them with some explanations on the discipline in coalitions.

Sun Tzu said:

Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:


On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?


By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

Every coalition may face a great danger: the lack of discipline of the troop. What makes the issue even more complicated might be linked to national considerations as for discipline refers.

From a purely legal point of view, a commander, within a coalition, might he be wing, battalion or corps commander will have disciplinary authority exclusively over his subordinates of his nationality.  Not more, not less. From the moment he will meet some disciplinary issues with a non-compliant subordinate of a third nation, every thing might become complicated.

In a first phase, the commander needs to identify whether the disciplinary problem issues from an inter-cultural, or simply professional misunderstanding.

If it is a matter of professional understanding, it is really easy, as you deal with it exactly as if it were with a national subordinate.

If it is inter-cultural, you can be concerned, as there are some cultural features of your subordinate that you do not master, and therefore the incident can happen again. My recommendation would be to discuss as much as deemed necessary to be introduced in the issue, so that your subordinated remains confident in your leadership. Otherwise you may go from trouble to trouble.

Well, now you have identified that guy, who is really definitely a m…r and you really want either to punish, either to fire him.

1st step, you go to the only person having disciplinary authority over this guy, this national boss is either present in the same compound than you, or in case of small detachments, he might be located at several hundred kilometres and be randomly reachable, many when you want to discuss a disciplinary issue.

Let us admit that you are in touch with that senior national representative.  You will now have to convince him that the m…r you are working with should be either fired or at least be punished. And then you discover that in this country you do not punish a soldier unless he has committed a crime, or at least they let you think that. In some other cases, national representatives are very cooperative and support any request, as soon as the case is clear.

However in more complicated cases, where the Military Police has to intervene, some countries will deny those MP to catch anyone of their nationals as they claim doing it by themselves.

All in all, it is quite complicated. Then, a great weakness in any coalition is discipline, individual, but as well collective in operations, as already explained in previous posts dedicated to Sun Tzu.

What can be done? Nothing as long as armed forces will not reach agreements regarding such issues. Anyway, if any agreement is to be reached, it will not be at institutional level, i.e at EU Council level, but exclusively through bilateral agreements.

Author :
EurActiv Network