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May 19, 2009

The Militarization of US Foreign Policy - Sign # 643
Posted by Michael Cohen

Apparently nearly a million Pakistanis have been displaced by the government's military attacks on the Taliban in the Swat Valley and not surprisingly the United States is providing humanitarian assistance. What is perhaps surprising (or maybe should be) is who is doling out the assistance - the Pentagon. Spencer Ackerman over at the WINDY blog poses a reasonable query:

The question, though, is when the Defense Department isn’t going to retain the exclusive capability to provide this aid.

Secretaries Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bob Gates have both talked about bolstering the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s capacity to take on the provision of non-military assistance. I hesitate to criticize, since we’re talking about the well-being of roughly a million people — a concern that eclipses bureaucratic box-checking — but there’s always going to be some important priority that comes before interagency reform. And in this case, the State Department has a more established presence in the country than the Defense Department does.

True enough. This is not a time to be arguing over which is the best agency to be offering humanitarian assistance, but really shouldn't this be AID's job? We've seen a lot of talk about the need for a less-military focused US response to Pakistan's problems. Wouldn't the empowering of our civilian agencies be a worthwhile step in that direction; particularly when as Spencer points out they already have a fairly robust presence in the country? This is what happens when you keep weakening the country's civilian agencies.

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Way to go, USA
news report:
The human exodus from the war-torn Swat valley in northern Pakistan is turning into the world's most dramatic displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the UN refugee agency warned.

A Pakistani military offensive against Taliban militants in their Swat valley bastion has forced more than a million people from their homes, the government and the United Nations say.

Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million, not including 300,000 the provincial government believes have not registered. "It's been a long time since there has been a displacement this big," the UNHCR's spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva, trying to recall the last time so many people had been uprooted so quickly. "It could go back to Rwanda."


Some questions to ask yourself:

1) After you take away the maintenance and operations of U.S. embassies, exactly how much money does State (which AID is a part of) have?

2) How robust is State and AID's organic logistical capability? In order words, how many planes, boats, and cars does State and AID own itself, without having to borrow from other USG agencies?

The answer to these questions is 1) very little and 2) even less. You see a lot of green suiters performing these humanitarian missions in Pakistan and elsewhere (called Operations Other than War, or OOTW, in the 1990s) not because they want to, but because the military is often the only U.S. entity that can. This is a reason why Secretary Gates made so many headlines by stating publically that more MONEY needs to be spent on State & USAID. Part of that was the realization that DoD can't and shouldn't do it all.

But having the less-than-desired person complete the mission is better than having no one complete the mission. Despite it's claims to the contrary, State and AID have been woefully inadequate is having the right people with the right skill sets and right ATTITUDE to want to go to some of these places and provide long-term operations.

One of the reasons the military took so many billets for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan back in 2007/2008 was not because the military wanted to "own" the PRT program, but because State and other civilian agencies couldn't or wouldn't pony up the bodies to fill them. Then they had the nerve to complain to Congress that they couldn't send people to PRTs because the military was taking up all of the billets!

If someone in uniform is told to get their ass on a plane and be prepared to go and provide relief in Pakistan or some other god-forsaken part of the world, they salute smartly and carry out their mission until properly relieved. Civilian world? Not so much. Many folks in uniform, who spend on average over 12 months at a time on deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, couldn't help but notice the mini-revolt during the State Department town hall meeting in the fall of 2007 when the idea of forced, 6-12 month assignments to Kabul and Baghdad was floated.

It’s going to take a fundamental change in spending and personnel priorities, coupled with a good incentive program to send the right civilians to spearhead these types of missions. Change which, by the way, won't be fixed in a news cycle or one fiscal year. Otherwise, you’re going to have the military being tasked to again perform outside of its lane in lieu of civilians, all the while being criticized for the “militarization” of U.S. foreign policy.

I think this policy move is interesting especially the incorporation of text donations. The administration can't just let the situation in Pakistan escalate by they don't have the option of getting directly involved this is a good and helpful middle ground. This video is interesting check it out for more details: http://www.newsy.com/videos/u_s_sends_aid_for_pakistani_refugees

Thank you very much. I am wonderring if I can share your article in the bookmarks of society,Then more friends can talk about this problem.

US foreign policy is so ineffective because it has been taken over by the military. Even postwar reconstruction in Iraq under the US-led occupation was run by the Pentagon rather than by civilian agencies....

Great comments! You are so nice, man! You never know how much i like'em!

Yes, that's cool. The device is amazing! Waiting for your next one!

Yes, that's cool. The device is amazing! Waiting for your next one!

The human exodus from the war-torn Swat valley in northern Pakistan is turning into the world's most dramatic displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the UN refugee agency warned.
seslisohbet
seslichat

True enough. This is not a time to be arguing over which is the best agency to be offering humanitarian assistance, but really shouldn't this be AID's job? We've seen a lot of talk about the need for a less-military focused US response to Pakistan's problems. Wouldn't the empowering of our civilian agencies be a worthwhile step in that direction; particularly when as Spencer points out they already have a fairly robust presence in the country? This is what happens when you keep weakening the country's civilian agencies.
seslichat
seslisohbet

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