As it tries to recover from the most expensive
failure in American military history, the Pentagon has its eyes
on an easier target. The beauty of this adversary is that it
is not from an indecipherable culture, it doesn't speak a strange
language and it doesn't scatter IEDs in the path of Hummers.
In fact, it's not even armed and its headquarters, far from concealed
in the mountains of Pakistan, are easily found in the high rises
of Washington, DC. The new foe: The State Department, USAID and
other civilian diplomatic and development operations - proving
once again that our military leaders' real skill set is not fighting
mile by mile on some foreign battlefield but line by line in
the domestic budget.
There is no doubt that the domestic surge
is working. Between 2002 and 2005, the share of government development
assistance flowing through the Pentagon rose from 6% to 22%.
Stewart Patrick and Kaysie Brown, in a
paper last fall for the Center on Global Development, outlined
These trends have stimulated concerns that
U.S. foreign and development policies may become subordinated
to a narrow, short term security agenda -- at the expense of
broader, longer-term diplomatic goals and institution building
in the developing world -- and that U.S. soldiers may increasingly
assume responsibility for activities more appropriately conducted
by civilians skilled in development challenges. . .
We attribute growing U.S. reliance on the
U.S. military to carry out reconstruction, development, and capacity-building
activities to three factors: an overwhelming focus within the
Bush administration on programs that can help in the global war
on terror, particularly in unstable, conflict-prone, and post-conflict
countries; the vacuum left by civilian agencies, which struggle
to deploy adequate numbers of personnel and to deliver assistance
in highly insecure environments; and a general failure on the
part of the U.S. government to invest adequately in non-military
instruments of global engagement, including by creating deployable
U.S. civilian post-conflict capabilities. . .
A less polite way of looking at it is that
the military is aggressively and greedily invading territory
that traditionally has been left to civilians. Of course, anyone
familiar with the militarization of law enforcement will not
be surprised, but the new stakes should not be underestimated.
Do we really want to turn civilian development activities that
have lent our country honor over to a crowd that is in no small
part to blame for America's current pitiful world reputation?
At the end of the Cold War, a top Soviet
official promised America one last horrible surprise: the loss
of an enemy. It was as the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy had
written early in the century:
Night is here but the barbarians have
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.
And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.
A decade later, a Pentagon office still
sported a sign that read, WANTED: A GOOD ENEMY. It was not long
after the Cold War, in fact, that the military went out shopping
for new enemies to buck up the welfare fathers of the defense
industry. It had not yet received the budgetary blessing - heralded
by a handful of young men with box cutters - of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Who could have imagined that so few could cause so much fear
among so many? Who would have thought that, instead of pursuing
the perps, you could turn the whole affair into the most expensive
war in history and the first to be waged against a perpetual
abstraction - terror - rather than an actual country? Who would
have dreamed that the public could be sold the notion that the
way to deal with guerillas was to engage in warfare that would
increase the number of their allies?
Instead, mostly unreported, America's political
and military planners worked hard developing an external threat
to compensate for the disappearance of the USSR. Although in
the short run, the Pentagon had been remarkably successful in
exempting itself from the deficit-cutting hysteria, there was
always the danger that the public and politicians might start
asking too many questions.
So uncertain was the trumpet, in fact,
that planners were forced to resort to abstractions that were
not only uninformative, they were truly absurd. Thus, we were
told to spend hundreds of billions to protect ourselves against
a generic composite peer competitor, myriad formless threats,
and even, god forbid, an asymmetrical niche opponent. (What did
you do in the last war, Daddy? Well, son, I killed 14 generic
composite peer competitors and would have wasted more if a frigging
asymmetrical niche opponent hadn't got me in the chest.)
As Clinton's budget director Franklin Raines
told a meeting of high level Pentagon officials, "We will
protect your purchasing power."
Thus is was not surprising to see a new
enemy starting to turn up in the military planners' mind: the
US citizen. For the first time since the Civil War, American
government officials began seriously considering the possibility
of armed conflict in, and occupation of, their own country. There
was a growing assumption that the interests of those with power
and those without might diverge to the point of insurrection.
The major media steadfastly ignored the
trend despite ample evidence lying about. For example, Defense
Week reported that "Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer
said the Army needs to focus more on homeland defense and welcomes
a 'mission creep' into that area." A 1996 article by military
historian and strategist Martin van Creveld in the Los Angeles
Times argued that
As the 20th century draws to an end, it
is time that military commanders and the policy makers to whom
they report wake up to the new realities. In today's world the
main threat to many states, including specifically the US, no
longer comes from other countries. Either we make the necessary
changes, or what is commonly known as the modern world will lose
all sense of security and dwell in perpetual fear.
Perhaps most startling was an article in
the Winter 1992 issue of Parameters, a quarterly published by
the US Army College. The author was Lt. Col. Charles J. Dunlap
Jr., a graduate of Villanova School of Law, the Armed Forces
Staff College, and a distinguished graduate of the National War
College. He had been named by the Judge Advocates Association
as the USAF's outstanding career armed services attorney. In
short, not your average paranoid conspiracy theorist. Dunlap's
article was called "The Origins of the American Military
Coup of 2012."
In it, Dunlap quoted one of Washington's
journalistic cherubs, James Fallows, who wrote in a 1991 article
"I am beginning to think that the
only way the national government can do anything worthwhile is
to invent a security threat and turn the job over to the military
. . . The military, strangely, is the one government institution
that has been assigned legitimacy to act on its notion of the
Fallows was not alone within the Washington
establishment. Stephen Rosenfeld of the Washington Post wrote
a column praising an Army advocate of Dunlap's nightmare. Rosenfeld
described US Army Major Ralph Peters this way:
"At home, use of the military appears
inevitable to him -- though not yet to an American consensus
-- "at least on our borders and in some urban environments"
. . . He would dutifully prepare for the traditionally 'military'
missions, plus the new one of missile defense. But he would be
ready to engage with drugs and crime, terrorism, peacekeeping,
illegal immigration, disease control, resource protection, evacuation
of endangered citizens . . ."
What Dunlap described and Peters advocated
was not a bold military stroke against the civilian society,
but simply a coup by attrition. Something similar seems to be
going on now, only the target is not our domestic, but our foreign,
affairs. The goal: all war all the time, with the Pentagon in
charge of as much as possible.
Before raising philosophical questions
about whether the military should be supplanting the civilian
in matters of diplomacy and development, some sense of scale
is useful. Based on figures from a few years ago, for example,
the amount of money the military spent annually on useless -
in fact heavily counterproductive - drug interdiction and anti-drug
activities was nearly a half billon dollars. This was approximately
the same sum being spent by USAID on agriculture, or the environment,
or child survival and maternal health or family planning. And
it was vastly more than was spent on higher education or diseases
other than AIDs.
One example of how the military has infiltrated
civilian diplomacy has been the new African Command. You may
not have noticed too many wars against the U.S. in that part
of the world, but the Pentagon has managed to con Congress into
a grand operation that includes, according to its website, achievements
such as the following:
- U.S. service members from the Combined
Task Force-Horn of Africa gathered with residents of Mikocheni
on May 15 to celebrate the completion of a newly built health
clinic. The Jaypal Singh Babhra Memorial Clinic was completed
by U.S. service members of the CJTF-HOA. . .
-- A group of 20 sailors from the U.S.
Navy's USS Momsen visited a school in the port city of Mombasa
on May 7, as part of a community relations program called Project
Handclasp. Project Handclasp is a U.S. Navy program that provides
donated items such as books, clothes, toys, and medical. . .
-- The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of
Africa funded the renovation of the Mokowe Primary School in
Mokowe, Kenya,and helped construct a fence to secure the facility.
Patrick and Brown cautiously describes
the Pentagon's African mission this way
According to DoD, the new command's primary
mission will be "shaping" activities, designed to ameliorate
troubling trends in the region by helping to eliminate the roots
of extremism, terrorism and violent conflict before they reach
a crisis, rather than traditional operations involving the use
of force. . .
"The Pentagon's new focus on conflict prevention and its
commitment to U.S.-government-wide policy planning and implementation
are to be welcomed. What has not yet been satisfactorily explained
is how AFRICOM's interagency process will interact with other
U.S. programs and activities - and how DoD will ensure that its
military activities do not compete with, undermine, or overshadow
U.S. development and diplomatic objectives throughout the continent.
The risks, which are both symbolic and practical, will need to
be carefully managed. From a public diplomacy perspective, the
elevation of AFRICOM to a position of apparent leadership in
integrating U.S. policy toward Africa may create the damaging
impression (or allow U.S. adversaries to argue) that the United
States has a militarized approach to the continent.46 More substantively,
the enormous asymmetry between the resources available to the
Pentagon, on the one hand, and the State Department, USAID and
other civilian agencies, on the other, raises the danger that
any "shaping" activities that emerge from AFRICOM will
be dominated by U.S. defense priorities while giving short shrift
to broader political and developmental considerations, (including
the democratic accountability of those same security forces).
"In a recent briefing, the head of
the AFRICOM Transition Team, Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, declared
that "Strategic Success" for the new command would
include the achievement of the following goals:
- An African continent that knows liberty,
peace, stability, and increasing prosperity
- Fragile states strengthened; decreased
likelihood of failed states; all territory under the control
of effective democracies
-Economic development and democratic governance
allow African states to take the lead in addressing African challenges.
What is impressive about these strategic
objectives - beyond their breadth -- is how few lend themselves
to DoD leadership. Generally speaking, the U.S. military is not
well-equipped, by its mandate and personnel, to expertly address
the structural sources of underdevelopment, alienation and instability
in target countries. Although requisite skills can sometimes
be found within the civil affairs component of the U.S. Army,
few soldiers possess deep expertise on matters of governance,
development, and the rule of law. . .
Finally, a number of European officials
have expressed misgivings about the integration of U.S. counter-terrorism
and development agendas, suggesting that the new command could
complicate common approaches to Africa within the donor community.
To be sure, there is far from total agreement
on the nature and distance of this shift in the military, even
within the Pentagon. There are, for example, plenty of Army and
Marine officers who would just as soon not be running day care
centers in Tanzania.
Even Defense Secretary Gates seemed to
side with traditional diplomatic and development approaches in
a recent speech in which he praised the role of civilian agencies.
According to the Pentagon release:
Speaking at the Academy of American Diplomats
in Washington, the secretary said there is bipartisan support
on Capitol Hill to devote more resources to the State Department
and other civilian agencies.
Since the war on terror began, President
Bush, defense officials and military officers have stressed that
all parts of the federal government must work together to combat
extremists -- that the military can put in place conditions for
security, but civilian agencies are the repositories of expertise
on governance, economics, agriculture and so on. Countries like
Iraq and Afghanistan need these skills to cement progress in
"There is a need for a much greater
integration of our efforts," Gates said. "There is
clearly a need for a better way to organize interagency collaboration."
The problem with the civilian agencies
providing the personnel has not been a lack of will, but a lack
of capabilities, Gates said. The State Department has about 6,600
Foreign Service officers. To put it in perspective, that's barely
enough to crew one carrier battle group in the Navy, the secretary
The upshot is that when civilian agencies
cannot deploy personnel, service members step in to take up the
slack. The provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and
Iraq are primary examples of this, Gates said. The teams, which
have slots for officials from the departments of agriculture,
commerce, treasury, justice and so on, were staffed by military
personnel so they effort could get up and running quickly.
"There aren't deployable people in
agriculture and commerce and treasury and so on that are prepared
to go overseas," Gates said. And these skills are desperately
needed, he emphasized.
Which all sounds comforting until you discover
who's going to be assigned to whom:
Defense personnel have always worked in
the State Department, but now State Department personnel are
assigned to DoD, especially with the combatant commands. The
newly formed U.S. Africa Command, for example, has a large number
of State Department personnel assigned to the organization. U.S.
Southern Command also has a large number of personnel from civilian
agencies as integral members of the command. . .
And he also called the civilian agencies
a "combat multiplier," hardly a reassuring description
of peaceful diplomacy.
Now consider this from an Economist article
on Gates' philosophy:
In a recent article, General Peter Chiarelli,
an adviser to Robert Gates, America's secretary of defence, says
more money has to be spent not on the Pentagon but on the "non-kinetic
aspects of our national power". He recommends building up
the "minuscule" State Department and USAID development
agency (so small it is "little more than a contracting agency"),
and reviving the United States Information Agency.
As the American army expands, some thinkers.
. . say it needs not just more soldiers-nor even linguists, civil-affairs
officers and engineers-but a fully fledged 20,000-strong corps
of advisers that will train and "embed" themselves
with allied forces around the world. The idea makes army commanders
blanch, but they do not question the underlying assumption.
As the American media has found in Iraq,
embeddedness is not the repose of equals.
Then there is the controversial Defense
Department draft directive going around on the topic of irregular
warfare that some believe lays down the basis for much further
intrusion on civilian roles. The directive would replace one
that had already staked out sizable new turf, of which Patrick
and Brown wrote:
Chastened by its failure to plan for postwar
Iraq and the chaos that resulted, the Pentagon has cast off its
former aversion to nation-building. This shift was cemented in
November 2005 with the signing of DoD Directive 3000.05, which
declared that the U.S. military would henceforth treat "Stability,
Security, Transition and Reconstruction Operations" as a
core mission, on a par with combat operations. Decidedly broad
in scope, this directive extends DoD's mandates and programs
to a wide range of activities that are typically the province
of civilian agencies, including reforming the security sector,
establishing institutions of governance, reviving market activity
and rebuilding infrastructure. While the directive openly recognizes
that many of these tasks are more appropriately carried out by
civilian actors and agencies, it also states that this may not
always be possible in highly insecure environments or where such
civilian capabilities do not yet exist."
Still another way it all might look is
described in American Diplomacy by Sam J,. Holliday, a West Pont
graduate and a former director of Stability Studies [sic] at
the Army War College, and a retired army colonel.
Today there are two broad contending views
regarding policy formulation and implementation for irregular
1. Focus the military on conventional war
against the armed forces of other states and focus the Foreign
Service on diplomacy and negotiations to avoid war, while muddling
through irregular warfare.
2. Recognize irregular warfare as being
distinctive from both war and peace by creating a new Department
of Stability with career personnel dedicated to irregular warfare.
The first view has strong support within
the military from those that do not want war-fighting forces
to be used for internal security against insurgents attempting
to overthrow those in authority. They do not want to be the handmaidens
of "political strife," and they want to avoid the cruel,
violent, and unrewarding activities of internal conflict. . .
This first view sees the solution in a plan that unites all agencies
of the U.S. government. These agencies have different philosophical,
political, and institutional agendas. Therefore, how to coordinate
all U.S. government agencies involved in foreign affairs (State,
Defense, Justice, CIA, NSA, etc.) during policy formulation is
the critical challenge. Until this is done there will be turf
battles, uncertainty, delays, and ineffectiveness. . .
A Stability Department would allow the
development of career personnel (military and civilian) dedicated
to determining and using the means, strategies, tactics, and
methods necessary for irregular warfare. This should make both
policy formulation and implementation more effective and more
efficient. The result would be professionals without preconceptions
shaped by war fighting or diplomacy, without institutional allegiance
to either the military establishment or the foreign policy establishment,
and without mindsets appropriate only for either war or peace.
Hopefully these professionals would be able to determine how
to achieve stability through equilibrium at the lowest possible
costs. . .
Key to the concept of irregular warfare
and a Department of Stability is the assumption of perpetual
conflict, a chronic absence of peace and America's continued
colonial dominance, which others that see shrinking by the day.
A Department of Stability would certainly seem as odd to young
students a century from now as reading about the bureaucracy
of British colonialism under Queen Victoria does today.
Besides, all morality aside, if there is
one thing our time should have taught us it's that war is about
the dumbest way to go about anything that there is. After all,
even the exceptionally well equipped and righteous America hasn't
won a real war against a comparable enemy since WWII and when
you add in Vietnam, Korea and Iraq and then find yourself falling
back on Grenada for props, it may finally be time to think of
This has not, of course, been the fault
of the troops, but of the star bedizened galaxy under which they
serve, of presidents with testosteronic insecurities, and of
toy boys on Capitol Hill willing to gamble our nation to satisfy
another defense contractor aka campaign contributor. After all,
even the best boatswain's mate can't save a ship from the rocks
if those on the bridge can't, or won't, read the chart.
The tragedy of modern military history
is how much courage has been sacrificed for so many puerile,
pointless or psychopathic ends. Which is one good reason you
want the better part of your foreign policy run by civilians
and not generals.
Another reason diplomats, development officials
and civilians now working with the Pentagon are concerned abut
the expansion of the military role was well outlined by an aide
to General Petraeus:
At present, the U.S. defense budget accounts for approximately
half of total global defense spending, while the U.S. armed forces
employ about 1.68 million uniformed members. By comparison, the
State Department employs about 6,000 Foreign Service officers,
while the U.S. Agency for International Development has about
2,000. In other words, the Department of Defense is about 210
times larger than USAID and State combined - there are substantially
more people employed as musicians in Defense bands than in the
entire foreign service.
There are plenty who won't be all that
happy having to deal with a military surge into diplomacy, including
international non-profits, some of our allies and UN organizations.
It is also hard to imagine rock stars throwing themselves into
global fundraising fests when they know the money will go to
pad the budget of a General Petraeus.
Here is how one civilian professional -
who represents others who do a lot work for the Pentagon - reacted
to the proposed new directive:
As I understand things, if this change
were to be implemented, we would have the following:
The connection between State and Defense to harmonize stability
and reconstruction operations would become moot because the funding
and control of the stability operations would be subsumed under
"irregular warfare." It would be up to DoD to decide
if they needed to bring in civilians to help them out.
It would become even more difficult for civilian organizations
and agencies to be involved in any comfortable way, given that
all humanitarian aid, providing essential services, building
local governance, etc., would become part of "irregular
warfare." In fact, I can't think of a single humanitarian
aid organization that would agree to become involved in "irregular
This would continue and extend the idea that "irregular
warfare" is an appropriate approach to dealing with fragile
or failed states, with post-conflict situations, or preventing
future conflicts. Such policies will be completely rejected by
the civilian agencies of the US Government, NGOs, the international
community, without even attending to what the fragile states
We would have even more power and control in the military, creating
an even greater imbalance between the civilian agencies and the
military that are supposed to be working to "harmonize"
their activities now. They are so underfunded and undermanned
at this point that it is very difficult to manage the civilian
side of the "harmonization" process effectively.
The military would then be left with a mission to provide for
stability operations across the board for which they do not have
training, are not equipped to do, have not been able to successfully
accomplish (witness Iraq and Afghanistan), which would mean that
the U.S. capacity to contribute to serious peace building efforts
would be seriously undermined even further than it is now.
The military takeover of traditionally civilian foreign policy
roles is part of a mission creep that has been going on a long
time. My first article on the topic was 12 years ago when the
concerns were the military's expansion of the futile and terribly
damaging drug war and its growing interference with domestic
Things have only gotten worse since. Now
diplomacy and international development are joining the target
list for the mission creep, by a military that has finally found
a battleground it truly likes. And we, the citizens funding it
all, will once again lose the war.