Friday, January 30, 2009

Do We Need a Nation-Building Service?

And who should staff it? Over at Shadow Government, Chris Brose takes up the question I posed in the previous post--and draws all sorts of responses, including some negative ones. I've also joined the fray over there, with some further points and clarifications.

You guys are still not getting it. An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure.

Is it not more efficient to preserv nations than to bust them first, followed by dubious attemots at "Nation Building"?
Well, it is too late for some places--so if thenation is already busted ... but agree, better not to bust nations in the first place.
Nations cannot be built.

States perhaps, but not Nations...
Former military officers who pursue careers in the Foreign Service as individuals aren't necessarily a problem, although they become one if they replace civilian diplomats longer-term. The problem would be an explicit policy to facilitate the lateral transfer of military officers into diplomatic service. This can only further militarize the appearance (and to a degree the reality) of U.S. foreign policy.

If we rely on military officers to perform an increasing number of civilian tasks outside the country, we also place them in conflict with the separation of civil and military authority here at home. What we need is to limit the role of armed forces to well-defined military missions and leave everything else we do abroad to civilians. If there is a shortage of civilian capabilities, then that is a matter to be addressed as a civilian need and not patched by recruiting from the military.

On the question of nation-building, there is also the practical question of how much longer the United States can entertain this idea. A more explicitly militarized foreign policy can at best delay and may in fact accelerate the relative decline of American power.

It should be noted that the British colonial service (and its counterpart services in India) for the most part practiced a policy known as "indirect rule," in which local societies were left alone and not rebuilt as Western-style nations.
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