default The Comprehensive Approach; the point of war is not just to win but to make a better peace

Title: The Comprehensive Approach; the point of war is not just to win but to make a better peace
Institution: House of Commons Defence Committee
Publication Date: 2010
Key Words: Comprehensive / Integrated Approach


The House of Commons Defence Committee holds the UK Government accountable for the delivery of effect.  This review of the Comprehensive Approach examines how well UK military and non military agencies work together.  It provides a good overview of the evolution of the Comprehensive Approach within the UK, but also with allies and international organisations, and at all levels on the ground.  It draws upon lessons and a broad range of first hand accounts to determine conclusions and recommendations.  It is a key document for both policy makers and practitioners interested in the UK’s progress to date and future challenges.

Key Issues:

Amongst other objectives, the review focuses on:

  • the validity of the Comprehensive Approach;
  • how well UK government departments are working together;
  • how well the UK is working with its allies in NATO (particularly the USA);
  • to what extent the Comprehensive Approach has been implemented in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • how successful the approach has been;
  • the effectiveness of the approach in delivering favourable and enduring outcomes;
  • what adjustments are needed to the Comprehensive Approach to deliver better outcomes.

The review highlights there is no commonly agreed definition of what a Comprehensive Approach entails (page 11) but offers the MOD definition alongside the four guiding principles of:

- proactive engagement;

- shared understanding;

- outcome-based thinking; and

- collaborative working.

Recommendation 30 recommends the production of a Comprehensive Approach policy and doctrine to bring together all aspects of the concept in one place.  The review also identifies the importance of lessons to the success of the Comprehensive Approach (page 35); it notes that lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq were not shared across theatres as well as they might have been. 

The report concludes future engagements are likely to require the Comprehensive Approach.  It is therefore essential there is a shared understanding across Government of what the Comprehensive Approach is.  It identifies early and thorough assessment of the situation is critical in order to determine the elements (leadership, objectives, defined end state, strategy, tactics and personnel) required in response.  The review closes with the determination there is evidence the Comprehensive Approach is beginning to work, but much remains to be done.

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