State Department Must Stand Up for Itself More in Policy Debates

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State-Department.jpg
Many are lauding President Obama’s UN General Assembly speech highlighting America’s rededicated, slightly shifting course on which countries to focus development aid on — and which not. The US Global Leadership Coalition, which is having a mega conference this week on the focus of America’s international aid agenda, is loudly applauding President Obama and Hillary Clinton for their efforts.
On top of this, the long awaited Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review should be released by the administration any day now — and while I too think that it’s important to promote America’s aid budgets, I think that as things look now, the State Department is being applauded too strongly for not achieving as much as it should have in the QDDR process.


Secretary Clinton did gain some ground in the long turf wrestling match over the future management of America’s international development and stabilization programs, but oddly — she failed to really support her own Department’s team, and that is what Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and others like myself have been encouraging her to do. Build up the State Department’s own capacities.
Specifically, I think she should have established an “Under Secretary for Development” at the Department of State and shored up that ‘command’ in her own shop. To give credit where credit is due, David Rothkopf and I both came to that conclusion during a meeting in Washington.
I explain below in a piece that has also run as an oped in
Al Jazeera as well as for Al Majalla.
Not Enough Cooks?
Obama Team’s QDDR Wars Need to Change the Game

by Steve Clemons
In the coming week or so, the Obama administration will release its much-anticipated Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), a new report instituted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to benchmark and frame a new approach to managing international development budgets and objectives.
Behind the scenes, a serious battle has raged between the administration’s development czars – and interestingly, while Hillary Clinton ended up prevailing in most of the key contests, she has yet to put her stamp on a more effective approach to 21st century international development and hasn’t yet upgraded her own department’s growing but mostly ignored nation-stabilizing, smart power team.
Hillary’s missed beat
While details of the QDDR are not yet public, we know that Hillary Clinton has stymied efforts to make the US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator cabinet rank, preempted an effort for the agency to fully break away from state department guidance, and squashed the creation of a high-ranking Development Council in the National Security Council that would have authority to run various bureaus across government on key development, stabilization, and relief missions.
But what Hillary Clinton hasn’t done is elevate the team and personnel committed to international stabilization and development within her own department.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others have been out calling for an increase in the state department’s resources and personnel because too much of the international civil society, humanitarian, and stabilization functions of the US government were increasingly flowing into Pentagon budgets and responsibilities.
In making her final decisions on the QDDR, Clinton should focus on taking the various parts of the international development universe inside the state department and create an “Under Secretary for Development.” Furthermore, she should be making her own department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (CRS) as well as her Civilian Response Corps (CRC) the crown jewels of this new position.
Challenging Pentagon primacy
Former government official and Foreign Policy blogger David Rothkopf has suggested that creating such an under secretary level position would focus the State Department’s own thinking and deployment of teams and budgets in a way that would have changed the status quo in the administration’s paralyzed, mostly ineffectual development bureaucracies. Rothkopf shared with me that a move like this by Hillary Clinton would change the game and restore confidence that the state department is a viable player rather than conceding this challenge to Pentagon primacy.
During these policy skirmishes, Clinton has yet to embrace her own existing capacity as strongly as she should have rather than treat as an unwanted stepchild her own CRS office and CRC that despite getting little attention from the highest levels of the state department have been the largest growing budget item at the state department and created the largest team of trained, non-military, cohesive, US government (vs. privately contracted) civilian experts that can be quickly deployed as the front wave of US smart power where there is political or natural disaster upheaval.
However, because she herself gave CRS and CRC little attention and because these teams were ignored in assembling the core of the privately contracted teams sent to Afghanistan, Congress is planning to slash these budgets by about 50% in 2011.
Winning the ‘development war’
Secretary Clinton did prevail during the ‘development wars’ inside the Obama administration against efforts to have CRS – which now has more than a thousand deployable civilian experts buttressed by a global initiative of 20 major partners to perform immediate response relief, reconstruction and stabilization missions – placed within the Agency for International Development. But all she did was preserve what the department had; she has yet to upgrade the operation or figure out a way for her department to become the clear mother ship for US smart power deployed in messy international situations.
Creating an Under Secretary of State for Development and building out the state department’s own army of trained, civilians could have been “the big idea” delivered by the QDDR.
Instead, Clinton along with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, and National Security Council staff Michael Froman and Gayle Smith among others have largely settled on a plan that gives USAID broader mandates over budget coordination in the administration’s diversely situated international development capacities.
In a well-meaning but probably ineffective effort, USAID advocates have been trying to restore the status and capacity of USAID that was gutted from it during a siege led in the 1990s by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms. But the fact is that USAID has very few of its own people anymore. US-led AID initiatives are mostly privately contracted, and USAID has become more of a Cisco Systems or Dell Computer of international development, essentially a bundler of subcontracted componentry rather than a government enterprise that can easily hire, fire, quickly deploy or withdraw its own forces on quick, time-urgent missions.
Soft power failure
Last year, retired General Anthony Zinni, who acknowledged he had helped member or co-chair nearly every commission or study group on “smart power” that has mattered, declared that he had lost confidence in the “development community” and the ability of any administration – given the structure of the development bureaucracy – to succeed at smart power responses to failed or failing states.
He argued that the international development community was paralyzed and collectively incompetent, stating that only the Pentagon had the capacity to deploy credible teams with well-thought out and simulation-tested plans to try and hold up or build governments abroad that were collapsing or virtually non-existent.
Zinni continued that the only hope to turn this around was for personnel from the state department, USAID and other branches of government tasked with nation-building or post-conflict or natural disaster stabilization to co-habit in offices with Pentagon staff tasked with delivering results. Specifically, Zinni proposed that all of the civil affairs functions in each of the Pentagon’s major commands be taken out and collectively organized as a brand new command in the defense department.
Then when America decided to save failing states or clean up after conflict or deal with earthquake, flood, and tsunami relief – the state department and USAID personnel could watch how the Pentagon did their thing and learn.
Zinni’s idea mostly affirms something the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post author Dana Priest wrote in her important book, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military. Priest argued that the Pentagon was aggrandizing by design and by default most of the key powers of America’s international engagement – from diplomacy to development and that the trend would be tough to stop.
Proving Zinni wrong
Hillary Clinton and others on President Obama’s team had an opportunity to prove General Zinni wrong – that there was indeed an appetite and capacity for a strategic leap in the way America’s non-defense agencies and departments deploy smart power. CRS is the US’s only non-military entity that can do military-like planning and execution, but with expertise that the military doesn’t have and frankly – according to Gates and his deputies – doesn’t want to have.
While creating a new under secretary slot for development can be scoffed at – understandably – for just adding another chef to an already crowded, chaotic kitchen, this would be missing the point. By not moving beyond slight adjustments in the administration’s approach to development other than coordinated budget activity for the most part, Clinton would structurally assure that the Pentagon – more than USAID or state – will continue by default to be the heavyweight political player in overseas development, stabilization, and relief.
Hopefully as the final QDDR decisions are made, the Secretary of State will do more to change the game and secure its own place in the global development equation.
Steve Clemons directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the political blog, The Washington Note.

Comments

53 comments on “State Department Must Stand Up for Itself More in Policy Debates

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    A staunch defender of Western Civilization posing in Afghanistan:
    http://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/artikkel.php?artid=10033166

    Reply

  2. Don Bacon says:

    The US State Department, where the motto is “Diplomacy in Action,” is proving itself powerless in several world hotspots.
    In the Middle East the Israeli Prime Minister has yet again stiffed the US and the talks being (merely) “hosted” by the US. This will apparently lead to a reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah. This agreement is being brokered by Egypt, with new elections to follow in a united Palestine. If this does happen it will force Washington to confront its terrorist list which includes Hamas.
    In the Far East China has made Japan back down on the fishing captain issue. The US has refused to support Japan’s claims to the Senkaku Islands, which the US gave Japan along with Okinawa in 1972. The whole US/Japan relationship, with its basing rights for US warships, is based upon the US protection of Japan’s rights, and now this has been called into question.
    China’s hand has also been strengthened along with this failure to support Japan. It was a shot across the bow on other issues such as currency revaluation and, in another island sovereignty issue, the dispute over the Spratly Island in the South China Sea. Who knows, even the Taiwan situation might be drawn into it as the China panda is getting stronger in the region.
    Iran continues to play cat and mouse with the US on the nuclear issue, and why shouldn’t it? Iran enjoys most of the world’s support, the sanctions are again powerless and Iran has the support of powerful players such as Russia and China. There hasn’t been any new initiative from the US, just the tired old unbased and unprovable allegations regarding “intent.” True diplomacy should deal with facts on the ground and not some ephemeral “intent” that some have dreamed up. We went through this with Iraq — which by the way is now thanks to the US an Islamic Republic aligned with Iran.
    Finally in Afghanistan the additional US troops have only made matters worse as many predicted. Depending on a purely military solution as the US has done is fatal to US interests, but there has been no worthwhile US diplomatic activity. The Afghan president has been active, however, and Saudi Arabia (and possibly UAE) has been working behind the scenes for some time to bring about reconciliation. Again, it’s not US diplomacy in action it’s diplomacy inaction.
    New missions for the State Department? How about serving up some diplomacy. Obama made that promise — remember?

    Reply

  3. Dan Kervick says:

    If this report is to be believed, Norwegian soldiers must *really* love killing, indeed:
    http://www.foreignersinuk.co.uk/beauty_pageants-norwegian_women_are_the_world_s_most_beautiful_1257.html

    Reply

  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Bring me my hip boots. It’s getting deep in here”
    Hip boots????? If by “here” you mean TWN, you must be ignoring Nadine, because to wade through her shit you need scuba gear.
    Look, the thing is, you can’t send a few hundred thousand helmeted lackeys to some God forsaken shithole in the middile east and tell them you’re doin’ it to “protect the homeland” when you can’t even get your shit together to secure your own borders. Truth is, you gotta be a fuckin’ idiot to buy into this horseshit. And, by golly, the United States seems to have an over-abundance of them. And if we’re talkin’ the Armed Services, you can triple the number.

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  5. Don Bacon says:

    Bring me my hip boots. It’s getting deep in here.

    Reply

  6. DonS says:

    DKB, re your comment, of course it is important to categorize the issues being considered so as not to introduce too much cross influence. As we know, such conflation of aspects of issues is a prime technique to marginalize equally compelling, but perhaps superficially competing, points of view.
    E.g., one can recognize the emotional distance of the population as a whole from the effects on individual soldiers without being insensitive to the reality of those effects, for better or worse.
    I do think that the argument that the sociologically disadvantaged bear the risks and burden of war, while true, is not nearly of the salience that it is, or was, during periods when there has been a draft, most recently the Vietnam era. Not actually enough of a percentage of the population. of whatever class, bears that kind of burden, or chooses to enlist, to make an argument based on unfairness. If that were the case, there might be quite a bit more citizen activism. How much do you see?
    And none of this distracts from the case for resistance to war. Or to focus on the fabricated rationale used to perpetuate war. Or to the rot that subservience to the war industry breeds in the political class. Etc.

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  7. DakorabornKansan says:

    Screw the soldiers in Afghanistan?
    Who serves in our military forces?
    We have an all volunteer force. Demographics reveal that the enlistees who fight and die for our country are not representative of the population. Most come from homes where the average income is below the national average. The choice of risking one

    Reply

  8. Paul Norheim says:

    Please don’t blame our women, Dan.
    Just like the Israelis, we are immature and paranoid citizens of
    a young nation. Yes, war IS better than sex. For our
    generation, killing Muslims and driving bulldozers is
    undeniably more exiting than sleeping with our wives.
    However, I can assure you that our wives are sweet and very
    attractive.
    On the other hand, the cement and the bullets make US
    SOLDIERS very attractive to our women, so I think we are
    speaking of contradictions that are entirely false.
    Our women actually love cement and bullets as much as we
    soldiers do, and their affection for cement reflects favorably
    upon us brave men driving the bulldozers and shooting with
    our guns in remote countries.
    Afterwards we have quality time with our wives, and during
    these precious hours, cement and fundamentalism plays a
    major and very exiting role, literally, as well as symbolically
    and dramatically.
    I won’t go into details here, but I can assure you that our love
    life would not be worth mentioning if not for our bulldozers
    and the sand niggers who perpetually threaten us in their
    peculiar existential manner.
    I would even say that shooting afghans would not be so
    exiting if not for our wives and the cement waiting in our
    bedrooms.

    Reply

  9. Don Bacon says:

    Bedroom? Womanhood? Perhaps they considered those possibilities.

    Reply

  10. JohnH says:

    The American soldier is portrayed by the media the media and DOD advertisements as a divine warrior.
    But when they get home, they’re pretty much shunned by society at large. In fact, 25% of homeless Americans are veterans.
    It’s all part of a vicious, malevolent system that celebrates war, but chews up and spits out the boots on the ground along with their families.
    I don’t begrudge the troops, who firmly believe they are trying to protect us. And many of them come from disadvantaged group, who face dismal career prospects anyway.
    But I really do dislike the psychopaths in charge, the people who manipulate the American public and exploit their need for “national security” to put themselves above all accountability.

    Reply

  11. Dan Kervick says:

    “This made big headlines in the tabloids here. WAR BETTER THAN SEX!”
    This testimonial casts a disparaging pall over the bedroom skills of Norweigian womanhood.

    Reply

  12. Paul Norheim says:

    DonBacon said: “Paul, It’s a difficult subject. I guess you really
    have to live here to even begin to understand it.
    ———–
    DonBacon, I can assure you that I would never have raised
    this sensitive issue at The Washington Note if I was 100%
    sober. As I recall it, I have sort of touched this delicate subject
    a couple of times before here in a vague, nervous, or
    somewhat aggressive manner, but always after drinking a
    couple of beers or while consuming a bottle of wine in the
    evening.
    You just don’t joke with the moral dignity and heroic qualities
    of the Useful Idiot, aka the American Soldier.
    Tonight (around 9.00 PM right now here in Norway), not only
    a sixpack, but also the admissions of the brave Norwegian
    soldiers through the tabloids encourage me to be more frank
    on this subject.
    DonBacon, you mention the bible belt. I was born and raised
    in a Norwegian-American-Ethiopian bible belt. I was
    especially struggling with this issue in 1979-80-81 (being
    17-19 years old). There was a draft here in Norway at that
    time. I had read the Bible and some philosophy; I had also
    read about and reflected upon the military service, NATO, the
    recent Vietnam events, napalm, moral issues and so forth.
    One day I informed my parents that “nope”, I didn’t want to
    join the army. Another day, I informed them that “nope”, I had
    no interest whatsoever in entering “heaven” and meeting Jesus
    Christ after death; I didn’t share their faith. The short version
    of the rather complicated army story, is that the case ended in
    court, many years later.
    I may have been more of a pacifist at that time than I am now.
    But I respect the decisions I made at that time, and the
    reflections that led to that decision. Most of the teenagers I
    knew at that time didn’t reflect much on these issues, but did
    what their parents and their teachers said.
    That was their choices – or lack of choices. Some even read
    and reflected and ended up with conclusions the opposite of
    mine. I respect them for that. Did I respect those who did not
    reflect on this issue? Perhaps not. In many ways I was an
    arrogant bastard in those years. Now I realize that I couldn’t
    expect more of my fellow youngsters, and many of them may
    have had their reasons.
    But do I admire them, today? Are they my heroes? Nope. And
    likewise with some of those young Norwegians fighting in
    Afghanistan now: I kind of respect that they made that choice,
    but even at gunpoint no one can force me to say that I admire
    them and that they sacrifice their lives for Afghan women and
    so that I and my relatives can feel more safe from terrorists.
    Bullshit! And although I regret the occasional loss of life, I can
    never bring myself to say that I admire or honor them.
    Generally speaking, they ain’t no heros. (However, within their
    crazy context some of them may act heroically in a given
    situation, and thus admirably).
    All in all: nope. And this is why I almost puke sometimes
    when I see Americans criticizing their leaders and their wars
    of choices, but never the young killing machines
    implementing their decisions by blindly following the orders
    of their superiors.
    You leftists may honor the hundreds of thousands who work
    at MacDonalds or Walmart. I have no objection. Why not?
    But please stop honoring those dumb but useful youngsters
    who kill for America just because they are told to do so, and
    perhaps even get an orgasm during their adventurous killing
    sprees.
    They deserve our pity, perhaps even a degree of basic human
    respect, But not the constant rhetorical shoe-licking seen
    everywhere in the American debates during the last decade -
    exactly the decade of unnecessary wars, if there ever was
    one..
    This spectacle is ridiculous. Every democratic administration
    has to prove that they are “tough” on foreign policy issues.
    And then all the progressives attack their president for being
    too tough – while honoring the teenagers who implement it.
    I’m happy to repeat my conclusion:
    Screw the soldiers in Afghanistan!

    Reply

  13. Don Bacon says:

    “And he knows he shouldn

    Reply

  14. DonS says:

    From Don B’s recounting of the gritty reality of the American underclass (to which one could add other gritty realities, including the undereducated, criminally-destined pool, that undermine the idea of an ‘elite’ volunteer force), to Dan K’s post modern reflection of the recurrent “Ugly American” theme . . . somehow the legitimacy of being “anti-war” seems to have been lost in the propaganda meat grinder. All those made-terrified midwesterners, and others, being led down the politico-religio-culturally exaggerated path marketed by the ‘clash of civilization’ zealots.
    Ah, to yearn for the relative clarity of the ’60′s vision that, somehow, war is an inadequate response. E.g., Buffy Sainte Marie (Universal Soldier), going against the war cult indoctrination:
    He

    Reply

  15. Dan Kervick says:

    Paul, every time an American soldier kills a foreigner, he defends our freedom from foreigners and makes a contribution to protecting us from living in a world in which not everyone is American.
    Dulce et decorum est pro patria caedere.

    Reply

  16. Carroll says:

    But speaking within the American context – could some of
    you please remind me: when have American soldiers actually
    protected American families, genuine American values, and
    American soil, by shooting enemy soldiers and “illegal enemy
    combatants” and whatnot during the last 5o years?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Short answer…Never.
    Americans haven’t experienced war on their soil since the Civil war.
    I recommend another civil war or revolution as a reality lesson.
    If their hysteria over one WTC bombing is any indication 80% the US civilian population could be put down with a powder puff wielded by teenage soldiers.

    Reply

  17. DonS says:

    Somewhat OT:
    Who will speak up for the citizen against pervasive Administration-pushed invasion of privacy?
    Monitoring all overseas transfers of money:
    http://www.americablog.com/2010/09/obama-wants-to-monitor-100-of-money.html
    More monitoring of internet/electronic communications:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27wiretap.html?hp
    Can you say Big effing Brother?

    Reply

  18. Paul Norheim says:

    “I daresay, if the DOD were really engaged in defense, (…) one
    could respect the ideal, at least in aggregate, in theory.”
    I agree, DonS. My reasoning is not a pacifistic argument. And
    the political and military leaders remain the responsible
    instances, the main targets when we address these wars of
    choice.
    But I’m getting more an more allergic, noticing that
    practicably everyone on the whole political spectrum in
    America and Europe honor the soldier, who frequently, in the
    given context, de facto has been a dishonorable murder and
    useful idiot – regardless of his or her original motives.
    This blind and dumb attitude also influences the mentality
    here in Norway, and our discourse regarding our troops
    involved in the war in Afghanistan.
    “Better than sex.”
    “An excellent surrogate for not getting laid for three months!”
    Finally, I paraphrase rather freely from the tabloids today:
    “And the excitement while killing enemy targets is the reason
    we’re here, not issues like democracy and the liberation of
    women. Afghanistan provides us peaceful social democrats
    with an opportunity to experience real war.”
    Not surprising, but I’m glad the holy cows over here were
    honest. Too much testosteron among teenagers.
    Add an identity crisis to this testosteron, and you end up with
    “the enemy”, a Muslim terrorist in the suburbs of London,
    Stockholm, or Paris, planning some bomb plot because he
    feels so lonely and insecure, because life in the suburbs is so
    boring, and he is in the middle of an existential crisis.
    And his identity crisis and testosteron costs Western societies
    billions, and provides Moby Dick fantasies for Kotzabasis.

    Reply

  19. Don Bacon says:

    Paul,
    It’s a difficult subject. I guess you really have to live here to even begin to understand it.
    The military is revered, and this is particularly true in the “bible belt.” They seem to go together, religion and soldiering. Cross and flag. And it’s been handed down through generations. It’s dificult for a typical teen-ager to see through all this military reverence displayed by his elders.
    And the military adapts. The new recruiting officers, seen throughout the country, are ‘career centers.’ They’ll pay for your advanced education. Times are tough is small towns in the midwest. There’s not future there. The towns are dying, and young people have to leave. The military gives them a chance.
    And then when they get in they’re not careerists they’re warriors, and the ‘buddy effect’ takes over. Soldiers have an intense bonding with their fellows, and so they re-enlist in large numbers despite other family problems etc.
    When was the last time they de facto protected America?
    Every time, according to the media and a lot of people who should know better. Whatever they do they are defending America and Keeping Us Safe (TM). You’ll never hear otherwise if you live here. If you don’t live here, yes, it makes no sense.

    Reply

  20. DonS says:

    Paul, you are correct that the American soldier has become “a holy cow”. And all pay homage and, at least, lip service to such as “America’s finest” when in fact he or she is no more nor less so than any other individual. In aggregate, or really just generalizing, it’s just a cliche. As a pawn for the militarist/corporatist endless war class, the soldier is a cipher and, as you suggest, a useful idiot.
    And I must say there are, and I have known military types who, far from being anyone’s idea of ‘finest’, are closer to human scum. Maybe even Gen. Mattis, who Don Bacon notes above, could qualify for that name.
    I daresay, if the DOD were really engaged in defense, again as you suggest, rather than naked aggression dressed up in fancy euphemisms, one could respect the ideal, at least in aggregate, in theory.

    Reply

  21. Paul Norheim says:

    To be honest, I’m sick of the common American mentality of
    solely blaming the political and military leadership, while
    treating The American Soldier as a sacred cow and heroic
    warrior transcending all moral and political considerations,
    protecting America on direct order from Heaven and the Oval
    office.
    Or perhaps The American Soldier is too poor and
    unemployed, too redneck and miserable, too African-
    American, or too naive and stupid not to kill for a bad
    mission?
    As an abstract principle, this is somewhat understandable:
    Who has the right to criticize someone who may potentially
    risk their lives to protect the life and welfare of the one who
    criticizes them?
    But speaking within the American context – could some of
    you please remind me: when have American soldiers actually
    protected American families, genuine American values, and
    American soil, by shooting enemy soldiers and “illegal enemy
    combatants” and whatnot during the last 5o years?
    In Vietnam? In Granada? Panama? Iraq? Afghanistan? Some
    clandestine operations in South America?
    When was the last time they de facto protected America?
    Sure, the American Soldier is a useful idiot for any task
    required by the political or military leaders of a superpower.
    He may be adventurous or foolish; he may be a big patriot or
    a big bigot; he may be poor; he may feel bored at home; he
    may be a strong believer in democracy, in white civilization; in
    the rights of women or the American way; he may be forced
    to fight abroad due to a draft, or due to dire straits at home,
    or all kinds of motives.
    But quite frankly: If the American Soldier after WWII feels
    patriotic or poor or redneck or black, or that killing may be
    better than sex at home, I don’t blame him. But I don’t admire
    him either.
    From a strict empirical and historical perspective,
    I see no reason not to say: Screw him! Yes, screw him (or her;
    gay or lesbian) for being a useful idiot for his military and
    political leaders! He is basically doing no good on earth. But
    who knows – he may do some good under different
    circumstances?
    Of course you won’t find anybody on the right who want to
    criticize the American Soldier. And neither would articulated
    people on the left currently dream of criticizing the Brave
    American Soldier: It gives them a bad conscience, because
    they know that they personally don’t pay the price (and want
    to avoid being accused of being cowards). And the soldier
    may be from a lower class. Or black. Or gay, secretly. And
    we’re all patriots, aren’t we?
    All in all: the Brave American Soldier is a holy cow.
    And since no decent American wants to say this directly, I’ll
    say it again, from the Norwegian fjords:
    You may deserve basic respect, Soldier, as a human being, but
    you do not deserve being treated as a holy cow.

    Reply

  22. Don Bacon says:

    All Obama had to say when he took the job that he craved was: “I want to see all the options, from getting out to going large. ALL the options. Got it?”
    “It’s the fellows who go to West Point and are trained to think they’re gods in uniform that I plan to take apart”.–Harry S Truman
    And he did.

    Reply

  23. Don Bacon says:

    (CBS/AP) Feb 3 2005– A Marine general who has commanded troops in Afghanistan and Iraq told a forum, “It’s fun to shoot some people.” The commandant of the Marine Corps said Thursday he has counseled Lt. Gen. James Mattis about choosing his words more carefully.
    Mattis, an infantry officer, made the comments Tuesday while speaking to a forum in San Diego about strategies for the war on terror. Mattis is the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.
    According to an audio recording of Mattis’ remarks, he said, “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot… It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”
    He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis continued. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
    http://tinyurl.com/6uyc4
    General Mattis is now a full general and commands the Central Command — General Petraeus’s boss.

    Reply

  24. JohnH says:

    “WAR BETTER THAN SEX.” So how do people like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld get their jollies? Vicariously, by watching torture tapes?

    Reply

  25. Paul Norheim says:

    A quote from Woodward’s book referring to the fighting
    between the military and the POTUS re the new
    Afghanistan strategy – a tiny excerpt, beautiful in its
    clarity:
    “He [Obama] later told his staff, “I’m not going to leave this
    to my successor.” The military’s plan “compromises our
    ability to do anything else. We have things we want to do
    domestically. We have things we want to do
    internationally.”
    Obama turned to Gates. “You have essentially given me
    one option,” he said.”It’s unacceptable.”
    Gates replied, “Well, Mr. President, I think we owe you”
    another option.
    It never came.”

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  26. Paul Norheim says:

    Dan said: “This change in outlook is leading to abuses at
    home and abroad.”
    Yes. And allow me to report that these abuses are the big
    news in the province of Norway today: Norwegian elite
    soldiers enthusiastically tell a magazine that killing Taliban
    fighters in Afghanistan is “better than fucking”.
    This made big headlines in the tabloids here. WAR BETTER
    THAN SEX! And the Ministry of Defence etc is “shocked” -
    it is detrimental to the official mission of “saving Afghan
    women and building a democracy”.
    I guess that was the end of Norwegian naivit

    Reply

  27. Dan Kervick says:

    I never liked the idea of an official US agency in charge of post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction. If the federal government maintains a standing capacity for re-building broken states, it will feel fewer compunctions about breaking states in the first place.
    Pumping up the CRS gives me same kinds of willies I feel about efforts to remake the US military as a counterinsurgency outfit. We are already seeing where that is leading. Powerful forces in Washington now seem to view the whole world, and everything in it that doesn’t go our way, as one big “insurgency” against American rule, an endless campaign of war against which we must fight a permanent “counterinsurgency” campaign. This change in outlook is leading to abuses at home and abroad.
    As a result of these kinds of changes, we are now in a condition of permanent war. We have officially been in wartime now since 2001, a circumstance unique in our history. Two consecutive presidents have embraced horrifyingly broad executive powers over their own citizens at home. At the same time, our foreign policy is being run by “gods in uniform” like McChrystal and Petraeus, who scheme and maneuver to keep their unending World of Warcraft out of the hands of the elected civilian leadership.

    Reply

  28. anirprof says:

    Steve,
    Good op ed piece, and I’ll admit I’m a bit surprised there wasn’t more progress along the lines you describe in the last two years. Putting on your reporter hat, do you have any insights into WHY this has been the case? That with the SECDEF in favor of giving more resources to State, plenty of support for that in WH-level policy statements, etc., why State itself is resisting?
    Does DoS figure these sorts of missions are inevitable quagmires and wants no part of them? Clinton is too busy with diplomatic initiatives to focus on institutional reforms? CRS is seen as a Bush program and thus is an unwanted orphan? The development community is resisting being pulled into a more integrated foreign policy apparatus — they want to be isolated in a “purely humanitarian” world? Something else? Any insights would be helpful.

    Reply

  29. Don Bacon says:

    The good news is that the State Department is helping those who need help, like China. (Forget that China holds almost a trillion dollars of US debt.) It’s smart power.
    “USAID is helping China promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is working with China to improve environmental law and environmental governance. Activities also will strengthen environmental due diligence among national agencies and the private sector and reduce China’s environmental footprint.
    “USAID assists China’s efforts to develop a legal system for fair, participatory, and transparent governance, as well as its efforts to introduce reforms within the justice system. Programs preserve cultural traditions and promote sustainable development and environmental conservation among ethnic Tibetans.”
    The 2010 budget request to help China — $13,158,000

    Reply

  30. PissedOffAmerican says:

    OH MY!!!! Look at all the “conspiracy theorists” I’ve pulled out of the woodwork!
    Wheres that “Questions” weasel when this blog needs his obsfucating bits of wussblather and gumbispeak?
    Nothing to see here folks, the corruption of a local election in Memphis means nothing. Just because they can fuck with THOSE voting machines doesn’t mean they can do it on a national scale when special interests have countless billions and yes or no policies riding on the results of national elections. Oh noooo, folks, these fuckin’ scumbags that brought you 9/11, torture, rendition, illegal spying on american citizens, the Global War On Terror, Blackwater, the war on Iraq, and a myriad of other crimes, attrocities, and Constitutional abuses wouldn’t dream of stealing an election. Besides, just because some small time Memphis crooks have the expertise to do it doesn’t mean the large scale global crooks have the same expertise.
    Move along, nothing to see here.
    And as I’m sure that amoeba “questions” will attest to, there’s no sense in gettin’ all hot and bothered about the feds picking on them nasty ‘ol anti-war activists. After all, how are we to know what disaster might befall us for NOT picking on them??? Whats a few crummy little rights to privacy mean in the big picture of “national security” anyway??? Fuck the Constitution and the very essence of what we claim to be. I want PROTECTION God damn it!
    Besides, if you’ve got nuthin’ to hide…….

    Reply

  31. Don Bacon says:

    Sorry, it was February not May. I’ve been involved in some other blogging that involved May — the planned targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in Yemen. In a nutshell, it appears to me that the reason they want him dead is to silence him. It looks like the FBI “flipped” him in 2002 and now he knows too much. They don’t even have a kill order out on OBL! There’s a a $25m reward if you know where he is.

    Reply

  32. Don Bacon says:

    What are they waiting for?
    They’re not waiting.
    May 2010.
    http://tinyurl.com/29f3kvw
    One dog dead.
    The seven-year-old is still in counseling.
    They found one marijuana pipe.

    Reply

  33. The Pessimist says:

    But who will be the first to unleash this newly consolidated Gestapo like authoritarian force within the Homeland; Republicans or Democrats? More importantly, who will give them their marching orders? Who is really running Amerika right now?
    What are they waiting for? What is the line in the sand that must be crossed before martial law is declared? An event; a date; what? What is the trigger?

    Reply

  34. Don Bacon says:

    The US military is now only one component of the US Security State. Besides the FBI and Homeland Security, your friendly local protect & serve police department is well outfitted for home raids. Entry tools, according to one police tactical supply company, include: axes, bolt cutters, breaching kits, door rams, halligan tools, mirrors, sledge hammers and window punches. There are seven varieties of door rams, including a “BlackHawk Dynamic Twin Turbo Entry” for only $380.18.
    http://tinyurl.com/33ub729

    Reply

  35. JohnH says:

    “They have made the US another front in these wars.’ This was pretty obvious when they abolished posse comitatus and established the “Northern” Command. Bit by bit they’re putting the pieces in place for an extended period of martial law.
    But for the moment, the military is happily occupied in Iraq, Afghanistan, and its 700 other bases around the world.

    Reply

  36. Don Bacon says:

    Actually what the FBI/Nazis were looking for in their house raids, which included the confiscation of personal items, was any connection of the activists to US-designated terrorist groups: Hamas, Hezbollah and FARC. There are literally dozens of groups on various government lists, but according to a government spokesman these were the groups the FBI was particularly interested in, trying to determine if trips have been made to Colombia and Palestine, and if so who paid for them, and other things. A fishing expedition, as one of the targets surmised.
    Now these are groups that don’t threaten you or me, or the US, but they are deemed to threaten components of the US empire. Therefore any of their supporters are terrorist supporters and enemies of the state during the endless world-wide war on terror.
    As a legal justification they’re using the 2002 AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) which said, essentially, do whatever — no limits — in retaliation for 9/11.
    In President Obama’s foreword to the 2010 National Security Strategy he says: “In all that we do, we will advocate for and advance the basic rights upon which our Nation was founded, and which peoples of every race and region have made their own.”
    And the NSS itself states: “The rule of law

    Reply

  37. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing, isn’t it? Very real and irrefutable criminal tampering of voting machines, with election officials blatantly lying their asses off, the FBI raiding the homes of anti-war activists whose only apparent “offense” has been to actively and peacefully protest war, AND THE ONLY RESPONSE IS SOME ASSHOLE ZIONIST, WHOSE FIRST LOYALTY IS TO ISRAEL, MUMBLING SOME HORSESHIT ABOUT BLACK HELICOPTERS.
    You’re wrong, people. Simply ignoring whats right in front of your faces won’t make it go away.

    Reply

  38. JohnH says:

    Instead of wasting money trying to “promote democracy” (AKA regime change) in democracies such as Venezuela and Bolivia, USAID could put its very scarce resources behind constructive activities.

    Reply

  39. Don Bacon says:

    Peace is a priority in the Middle East, which is good, but there is no similar regional or local effort on AfPak. Why not?
    WASHINGTON

    Reply

  40. Don Bacon says:

    Thanks for that, John. I bet you’ve got some stories but it’s not my blog so I can’t ask you for them. Anyhow thanks for your service. Agricultural economics. I just put in a small garden out back and I must have paid . . .never mind.

    Reply

  41. John Bennett says:

    Foreign aid has always been a tough task and an equally tough sell to Congress and the public. Aid officials have not helped their case, as they have been too often naive or not very critical of their own progress. State is not interested except when their feet get held to the fire and neither knows much about aid or cares; it isn’t

    Reply

  42. The Pessimist says:

    There is no real separation of activities between the state department and the war department. They both engage in the same objective: total American government domination of every square inch of planet earth. The war department does it openly, the state department does it clandestinely.
    But in reality they are one and the same.

    Reply

  43. Don Bacon says:

    What the State Department ought to be doing is not dreaming up new missions but working on the diplomatic component of an AfPak settlement. Most knowledgeable observers and even participants like General Petraeus tell us is that there won’t be any military ending to the current fiasco, but rather a negotiated solution that involves many parties inside and outside of the region.
    Unfortunately all the strategic planning under Obama has been entirely on the military side.
    Nation-building, development, soft power, aid, reconstruction, stabilization, development, whatever one calls it is simply a cover for more corruption and more billions of dollars we don’t have going down the Afghan rathole.
    We’ve already dumped billions in there and there’s been no improvement in the lives of Afghans, unless one considers the oligarchs who air-freighted pallet-loads of Jacksons to Abu Dhabi.

    Reply

  44. nadine says:

    It occurs to me that if our State Dept spent even 10% as much attention on the foreign interests of the United States as it does on its bureaucratic turf wars, the country might be much better off.
    And all Steve Clemons can say is, “pay even more attention to your bureaucratic turf war, you poor put-upon State Department!” He sounds like an office-seeker.

    Reply

  45. Don Bacon says:

    In her 1972 book about Vietnam, Fire in the Lake, author Frances FitzGerald wrote of the perverse illogic of a onetime RAND prot

    Reply

  46. paul_lukasiak says:

    Steve –
    Both the CRC & CRS are creatures of the Bush administration, and given the kind of people that Bushco hired to “rebuild” Iraq, one wonders exactly what kind of people staff these two agencies. Is it possible that Hillary Clinton wants to starve these agencies in order to purge them of conservative ideologues hired by Bush cronies, and either replace or rebuild them with competence dimplomats and development experts?

    Reply

  47. Don Bacon says:

    from the State Department:
    “In the early 1970s the United States formalized its responsibility to speak out on behalf of international human rights standards. . . .This information gathering can be hazardous, and U.S. Foreign Service personnel regularly go to great lengths, under trying and sometimes dangerous conditions, to investigate reports of human rights abuse, monitor elections, and come to the aid of individuals at risk, such as political dissidents and human rights defenders whose rights are threatened by their governments.”
    2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
    March 11 2010
    See if these human rights violations, taken from the country reports, ring any bells. We’ll go through the first five reports, alphabetically in Africa, with extracts.
    Angola: Unlawful arrest and detention continued to be serious problems, Citizens widely believed that the government maintained surveillance of certain groups, including government critics, opposition parties, and journalists.
    Benin: Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment–The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Authorities often used the practice of holding a person indefinitely “at the disposal of” the public prosecutor’s office before presenting the case to a magistrate.
    Botswana: members of the media stated they were sometimes subject to government pressure to portray the government and the country in a positive light. The government held newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from Zimbabwe, in the Center for Illegal Immigrants
    Burkina Faso: suspects were frequently subjected to beatings, threats, and occasionally torture to extract confessions. Prison conditions were harsh and could be life threatening. Prisons were overcrowded, and medical care and sanitation were poor. Prison diet was inadequate,
    Burundi: members of the security forces often manhandled and beat civilians and detainees. Sources in the media and civil society believed that security forces monitored telephone calls.
    PS: There is no report on the USA.

    Reply

  48. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Black helicopters?”
    Dispute Bev Harris’ work, and comment on FBI raids based on ethereal accusations, or shut the fuck up. You are one of the premier assholes here, Birnbaum. Are you proud of that?
    The “connection” is your own construct. My comment about Hillary was a response to Steve’s comment about State Deparetment “capabilities”. In the Rulebook of Birnbaum, more than one issue can’t be addressed in a comment?
    Why don’t you just shove it, Birnbaum, and swim your zionist ass out of this country that you place last on your list of loyalties?

    Reply

  49. larry birnbaum says:

    “Hilary IS doing this. By amassing her own private army in Iraq…”
    “The people of this great nation better wake up. And soon, if its not
    too late already. Memphis, and these FBI raids, are a harbinger of
    things to come.”
    One wonders, how are these dots to be connected. Black
    helicopters?
    The mind reels.

    Reply

  50. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So you have blatant and irrefutable tampering of the voting computers in Memphis, and the FBI now raiding the homes of peace activists using warrants based on vague accusations and general non-specific semantics, making “enemies of the state” out of peaceful activists.
    And the “Think Tanks” keep churning out bullshit that ignores the truly alarming and dangerous direction our government is now taking.
    “Build up the State Department’s own capacities”
    Hilary IS doing this. By amassing her own private army in Iraq, comprised of mercenaries that operate outside the parameters of international law using arms and equipment paid for by the american taxpayer, and supplied by an out of control and dangerous defense industry.
    The people of this great nation better wake up. And soon, if its not too late already. Memphis, and these FBI raids, are a harbinger of things to come. As public discontent grows, the true patriots will be targeted for censure and demonization, just as false patriot groups such as the Tea Party, (a front for the far right GOP), sing patriotic ballads as our Democracy is slid out from underneath us.
    http://www.blackboxvoting.org/
    (TN) 9/10 – SHELBY: MATERIAL MISREPRESENTATIONS AND FLAT-OUT WHOPPERS – The May database is not the May database, and the Election Day Polling place are actually triple-counted absentee votes, and it is not possible to print results reports, and the main server for electronic pollbook data is just an old computer used only for military absentee votes, and we can’t print an audit log because we never do and by the way, no one can look at the bank of live touchscreens being operated a week after the election together with a do-it-yourself poll tape manufacturing kit.
    Move along. Nothing to see here.
    Let’s review the latest whoppers, and then please read on for additional material misrepresentations, big fat lies and links to the actual documents. See for yourself that Shelby County elections officials deserve your nomination for the Pinnocchio Award.
    * * * * *
    BREAKING – Thursday Sept. 23 11:34 am MEMPHIS: Shelby County Aug. 2010 election
    “MAY POLL BOOK” DATA PROVIDED TO INSPECTION TEAM DOES NOT MATCH ACTUAL MAY POLL BOOK
    In what may be a preview for the election database wars this coming November, Shelby County shows just how a centralized statewide database can be systematically manipulated for voter intimidation and disenfranchisement. And then read the tutorial on how to lie about it to inspectors and the media.
    Act 1: Under the guidance of Shelby County Prosecutor Bill Gibbons and as I understand it, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, news stories are plastered all over Memphis warning people not to vote twice, pointing to a “recent” arrest for voting twice. Nevermind that it was a hastily assembled indictment for someone from four years ago, trotted out three days into Early Voting.
    Act II: Repeat Act I, trotting out another four-year-old double voting incident, blasting it into the media just before polling place voting takes place.
    Act III: Load the wrong database into electronic pollbooks. Now, the nature of databases is that information can be imported, exported, sorted, batch-replaced, searched and seized in any configuration at all, in a matter of seconds. You can overwrite all, some, or just what you want.
    In Shelby County, they overwrote their real August election pollbook database, which contains the names of all eligible voters and marks those who have already voted so they can’t vote again, with incorrect data. Then they told people they could not vote. When they got caught, they threw a local IT guy named Dennis Boyce under the bus, but wait: Sevier County Tennessee also “accidentally” loaded the “May” database onto THEIR electronic pollbooks.
    They claim they “accidentally” installed data for voted May Early Voters. Then they called it a glitch, nevermind that its impact would hit over 5,000 people.
    BUT WHAT WAS IT, REALLY, THAT THEY PUT IN THERE? BECAUSE THE “ACCIDENTAL MAY DATA” THEY GAVE INSPECTORS WAS NOT THE MAY DATA.
    Pursuant to various court orders, Shelby County election officials were required to provide documents to an inspection team, which included Bev Harris and Susan Pynchon. They provided a document called “PollDataold.db3″ representing that it was the set of incorrect data that was originally loaded into poll books for Election Day.
    The actual May 2010 Early Voters list, which can be found on Shelby County’s Web site here:
    (link removed due to TWN’s spam software)
    should match the “May” list provided to the inspection team. The files do not match.
    That’s right. The “May loaded in August” file provided is not the same database as the actual May data on the County Web site.
    For clarity, we’ll call the actual May early voter list on the Shelby County Web site the “actual May early voter list”. We’ll call the file provided to the inspection team ‘the August “May” pollbook data’.

    Reply

  51. Don Bacon says:

    The Civilian Response Corps is a nation-building outfit which is intended to rebuild what the US military has destroyed in its overseas adventures. It’s “response” is to miliary destruction. It’s also called nation-building, and it doesn’t work as has been demonstrated in Afghanistan. (Plus it promotes US imperialism as a productive enterprise, which it obviously isn’t, even if the US could afford it, which it can’t since the national debt almost equals the national GDP.)
    Tom Engelhardt: “In the near-decade since Kabul fell in November 2001, a sizable majority of Afghans have continued to live in poverty and privation. Measuring such misery may be impossible, but the United Nations has tried to find a comprehensive way to do so nonetheless. Using a Human Poverty Index which ‘focuses on the proportion of people below certain threshold[s] in regard to a long and healthy life, having access to education, and a decent standard of living,’ the U.N. found that, comparatively speaking, it doesn’t get worse than life in Afghanistan. The nation ranks dead last in its listing, number 135 out of 135 countries. This is what ‘success’ means today in Afghanistan.”
    Afghanistan has been called Corrupt-istan, a country awash in corruption. The crooked State Department sign in the above photo is a good symbol of it.
    But USAID has a cure:
    “A significant part of this effort consists of a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program, which gives thousands of Afghan government officials a crash course on governing and anti-corruption techniques. After the program concludes, these officials are then sent out to form the foundation of Afghanistan’s civil service.” –news report
    Crazy. A crash course on governing and anti-corruption techniques. As if the US were free of corruption.
    So if Congress is planning to slash these budgets by about 50% in 2011, that’s good. Go for 100%, I say.

    Reply

  52. Don Bacon says:

    The Civilian Response Corps is a nation-building outfit which is intended to rebuild what the US military has destroyed in its overseas adventures. It’s “response” is to miliary destruction. It’s also called nation-building, and it doesn’t work as has been demonstrated in Afghanistan. (Plus it promotes US imperialism as a productive enterprise, which it obviously isn’t, even if the US could afford it, which it can’t since the national debt almost equals the national GDP.)
    Tom Engelhardt: “In the near-decade since Kabul fell in November 2001, a sizable majority of Afghans have continued to live in poverty and privation. Measuring such misery may be impossible, but the United Nations has tried to find a comprehensive way to do so nonetheless. Using a Human Poverty Index which ‘focuses on the proportion of people below certain threshold[s] in regard to a long and healthy life, having access to education, and a decent standard of living,’ the U.N. found that, comparatively speaking, it doesn’t get worse than life in Afghanistan. The nation ranks dead last in its listing, number 135 out of 135 countries. This is what ‘success’ means today in Afghanistan.”
    Afghanistan has been called Corrupt-istan, a country awash in corruption. The crooked State Department sign in the above photo is a good symbol of it.
    But USAID has a cure:
    A significant part of this effort consists of a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program, which gives thousands of Afghan government officials a crash course on governing and anti-corruption techniques. After the program concludes, these officials are then sent out to form the foundation of Afghanistan’s civil service.
    Crazy. A crash course on governing and anti-corruption techniques. As if the US were free of corruption.
    So if Congress is planning to slash these budgets by about 50% in 2011, that’s good. Go for 100%, I say.

    Reply

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