Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thinking Outside the Box

The CATO forum was quite interesting and hopefully a transcript will be up soon.

Interventions always sound great when discussed in the abstract and when we conceive of the military as some sort of video-game force, where the computer provides an endlessly renewable supply of warriors.

We can't get a handle on the question, however, unless we are willing to address the manpower gap. This is not simply the fact that we have limited resources but also that in the U.S., we have competing and conflicting impulses: we want to do good, but we also want to do it at low or no cost. The trajectory of the Somalia mission in 1992-93 makes this clear--high support at the beginning for delivering food, decreasing support as the mission went on and as costs mounted, especially in terms of blood.

We also have to face front and center that for most humanitarian missions, trying to bait and switch the populace (if we don't fight the janjaweed in Darfur we'll have to fight them in Hoboken) may work in the short run but always produces a backlash. So we either need to create volunteer contingents in the military who sign up for such missions, go to the private sector or think about recreating the medieval hospitaller orders in some sort of 21st century fashion as knights-errant who go out to secure refugee camps.

The PMCs are the most controversial option, as the q and a session demonstrated. But as with Ukraine's supposed choice between the West and Russia, so to here: the choice is not between the U.S. military going to Darfur or the PMCs; it is between the PMCs or nobody (in terms of trained, skilled Western military forces).

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