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May 19, 2005

Good for Bush
Posted by Derek Chollet

It isn’t often that we at DA heap praise on the President, but today he deserves some.  Last night at an event hosted by the International Republican Institute, he gave a pretty good speech on the importance of democracy and freedom.  But most interesting, he spoke at length about the importance of an issue that his administration once derided, nation-building, and how we have to build our civilian capacity to help war-torn states get back on their feet.  He described a new office the State Department created last summer to be the locus of forward planning and preparation for post-conflict situations (remember, the State Department was cut-out or largely ignored in the planning for Iraq), and described in detail an important new initiative: to create a new corps of civilian post-conflict “first responders,” called an Active Response Corps.

It is worth quoting in full:

“We must also improve the responsiveness of our government to help nations emerging from tyranny and war. Democratic change can arrive suddenly -- and that means our government must be able to move quickly to provide needed assistance. So last summer, my administration established a new Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department, led by Ambassador Carlos Pascual. This new office is charged with coordinating our government's civilian efforts to meet an essential mission: helping the world's newest democracies make the transition to peace and freedom and a market economy.

You know, one of the lessons we learned from our experience in Iraq is that, while military personnel can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, the same is not true of U.S. government civilians. Many fine civilian workers from almost every department of our government volunteered to serve in Iraq. When they got there they did an amazing job under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances -- and America appreciates their service and sacrifice. But the process of recruiting and staffing the Coalition Provisional Authority was lengthy and it was difficult. That's why one of the first projects of the new Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization is to create a new Active Response Corps, made up of foreign and civil service officers who can deploy quickly to crisis situations as civilian "first responders." This new Corps will be on call -- ready to get programs running on the ground in days and weeks, instead of months and years. The 2006 budget requests $24 million for this office, and $100 million for a new Conflict Response Fund. If a crisis emerges, and assistance is needed, the United States of America will be ready. (Applause.)

This office will also work to expand our use of civilian volunteers from outside our government, who have the right skills and are willing to serve in these missions. After the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans from all walks of life stepped forward to help these newly liberated nations recover. Last summer a Lancaster, Ohio police officer named Brian Fisher volunteered to spend a year in Baghdad training Iraqi police. Brian says, "The Iraqi people have been under a dictatorship and now they are moving toward democracy, and I want to do something to help." What a fantastic spirit that Brian showed. But he's not alone. Last May, a Notre Dame Law School professor named Jimmy Gurul helped train 39 Iraqi judges, some of whom will conduct the trials of Saddam Hussein and other senior members of his regime. Because of efforts of people like him and Brian, these trials will be fair and transparent.

These are ordinary Americans who are making unbelievable contributions to freedom's cause. And the spirit of the citizenship of this country is remarkable, and we're going to put that spirit to work to advance the cause of liberty and to build a safer world. (Applause.)”

For years, many in the think-tank world as well as Democratic and Republican members of Congress have been talking about such ideas, and we can justifiably criticize the Administration for being slow on the uptake.  And remembering this Administration’s penchant for making bold promises and then letting them go unfulfilled (think global HIV/AIDS assistance), we need to ensure that actions match rhetoric.  But last night’s statement is an important start.


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wait a minute, isn't this the same office that Congress only funded to the tune of $7.7 million?

...great idea, especially if it's used to assist folks finding democracy on their own rather than having to go in and clean up after we've demolished a country.

praktike is on to something, however: methinks that some republicans are not keen on the idea - budget links follow...

From here: articles/A64341-2005Mar24.html

"The Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization would bring together civilian experts in such fields as political administration, law enforcement and economics and give them a seat at the table alongside the military during the planning of U.S. intervention in troubled states, Carlos Pascual, the head of the new office, said yesterday in a briefing with reporters...The office was created in July, but it still has no dedicated funding."

From here:

"April 1, 2005

Dear Senator,

As representatives of humanitarian, civil society and conflict prevention organizations, we are writing to express our support for the Administration’s newly created Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS). As the Senate prepares to take up the supplemental appropriations bill, we urge you to ensure that the Administration’s full $17 million request is maintained in the Senate version and through the final Conference agreements."

...and, finally, on April 4th, here:

"...This bill authorizes $24 million in funds for FY 2006..."

I can't believe Bush is citing agency-creation as policy success, when he won't fight for agency funding.

Considering that developing a nation-building capacity is coming so far after the fact, and given the rampant reconstruction failure in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion (which helped legitimize the young insurgency) I'm unimpressed by slapping a name and a phone number on some office door.

At this point in the game, demonstrable performance is what counts.

Excuse the blog faux pas, but permit me to repeat a post that will otherwise go unnoticed in the comments to Suzanne's earlier Top 10 Questions Progressives Must Answer entry:

Regarding #9: Use of Force. U.S. national interests are paramount in calculating when to take up arms, but realists minimize America's "meta-interests" in worldwide peace and stability in a globalizing age. With this in mind, progressives should law claim to the noble "Just War" tradition in defining our doctrine. Although the Roman Church is most closely associated with JW theory, it is in fact an amalgam of Protestant, Jewish and even pagan influences that can claim universal applicability. JW doctrine asserts that violence is justified in extraordinary circumstances (anti-pacifist), but warmaking and warfighting are subject to moral scrutiny (anti-realist). We are justified to defend ourselves against aggression - but we are also obligated to "love thy neighbor" and use force if necessary to protect him/her if threatened by evil. This ethic provides a more expansive sanction than international law (Darfur), while condemning imperial aggression (arguably Iraq). It also encourages multilateralism without requiring it. Progressives should claim the moral high ground, embrace Just War doctrine, and adapt it to the Age of Terror.

Equating "justness" and "moral scrutiny" with whether or not a desired course of action has attained the requisite legal imprimatur is incorrect. Obedience to a legal framework does not determine the morality of war. Rather, it is dependent on the situational demands, and the political obligations of war makers. War has never corresponded to doctrinal platitudes, and why should it?

A "just cause" is inherently a political determination. Obscuring that fact with made up legalisms merely compounds the problem. Instead, focus attention on democratic involvement and improved decision making. Improve the political environment in which decisions are made and actions are taken. But being obedient to wishful metaphysics has already been a failed experiment.

Stygius: "War has never corresponded to doctrinal platitudes, and why should it?"

War is indeed a political enterprise, but to deny the ethical or metaphysical aspect of armed conflict, as realists do, is not only amoral, but self-defeating. We are compelled to reflect upon standards, such as the Just War critieria, of warmaking and warfighting for self-preservation as well as self-justification. If might equals to right, there are no checks on the conscience of our adversaries should the tables turn and they become mightier then we. In an increasingly democraticizig and globalizing world, we dismiss the role of public perceptions and consciousness in war at our own peril. What is a soldier's morale and willingness to make the ultimate sacrficice but a belief in the rightness and justice of his or her cause? Adopting a purely Machiavellian calculus to war, and dismissing metaphysical dimension of it, is unrealistic, naive, and dangerous.

...DonkeyHawk is almost right - the following excerpt:

"...there are no checks on the conscience of our adversaries should the tables turn and they become mightier then we."

...SHOULD read:

...there are no checks on the conscience of our adversaries when the tables turn and they become mightier then we.

...the world is long, folks. think of mighty Ur.

The table has already been turn it just a matter of time to see the end result. Has anybody seen "Bugs Life"? Some one like Flick, or what ever his name was in Bugs Life, decided to stand-up to the bully and he/she is in for a good fight. Anybody who seen "Bugs Life" knows what happen.

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