Monday, March 31, 2008

How to Fix the US Military

Slate Magazine is publishing a "Fix-It" series this week on the US military, a 10-point list that looks something like this. Aside from my general beef that "Incorporate Better Training in the Laws of War into Basic Training" is not on the list, the ideas bear some consideration. I found this one especially interesting:

"Spread the responsibilities around. Civilian experts are probably better than sergeants at the kinds of stability operations described above. So, the next president should see that more money goes to the State Department, USAID, and other agencies—many of which have nascent offices of stability operations and foreign assistance—and let them do the jobs. Secretary Gates urged this course (even if he didn't volunteer to hand over any of the Pentagon's billions). Some senior Army officers have told us that, for certain urgent tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan, they would rather have 500 more Foreign Service officers than 5,000 more soldiers. If wars—or foreign policies generally—are national campaigns, the burden should be carried by the national government more broadly."
For a thoughtful dissenting view, see Hank's thoughts on Electic Meanderings.


hank_F_M said...

Thanks for the link.
If i remenber correctly in 2003 the Sec Def tuned down an offer from the State Department to have USAID officers help. The Army was willing to accept the offer.

The Army has maintined a civil affairs capabilty to provide Military Government in the reserves since WWII. Staffed mostly by people who are involved in state and local govemrnment in their civilian jobs. According to Global Security orders of battle at the time, 70 % of these units were unactivated. It is nothing against the combat officers who dispite their orginal instructions, had to set up a government, to say that if officers who knew what to do and how to do it were there it would have avoided a lot of problems.

Yes, there was a problem, but let us not malign poor overworkd sergeants for the failings of the Sec Def.

Roy Nickerson said...

PLEASE SEND HELP! With a deep nod to the State Department and USAID personnel that I've seen working with Provincial Reconstruction Teams here in Iraq, I think that this idea has a lot of merit. It's important that we take a lot of the state-building responsibilities away from DoD and give it to our State Department experts (God be with their children Jack Croddy). Soldiers are smart people that do great things daily. They will do anything that you tell them to, to the best of their abilities. That doesn't mean whatever solution they find and implement will be the best solution, or even a good one. We need our experts to do their part. They are now, we'd just like to see a lot more of them. See A. Heather Coyne's piece Amateur Hour in The American Interest, NOV/DEC 2007. She has an interesting perspective--she served as a US Army Civil Affairs officer in Iraq, and then headed the Iraq office of the US Institute of Peace, where she is now a senior program officer. Her anecdotes support the post.

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