Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rules of Engagement VII: Separation of Arms and State?

I knew that the plan was to draw down troop levels to 50,000 by the end of this month, but I had no idea what the next part entailed:
As the United States military prepares to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the Obama administration is planning a remarkable civilian effort, buttressed by a small army of contractors, to fill the void.

By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors. With no American soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish pesh merga forces.

This provided me with an interesting rumination on the topic I was following before, of Rules of Engagement (started here).

The idea is that a society decides which members of society are granted the right of force (police, militia-men/irregulars, soldiers, and intelligence officers), and then society formalizes the rules around their use. Some (neoconservatives, particularly) tend to push for looser rules; some (libertarians, particularly) tend to push for tighter rules.

The rules of engagement have somewhat changed as wars become less "conventional" and more "irregular," and where the goal has changed from domination to achieving changes in the very structure of the enemy. It was one thing for America to defeat Mexico over territorial control of Texas, it was another thing entirely for America to attempt to control the ideological underpinnings of Vietnam.

World War Two was the turning point for this idea. Although we set out in the conventional sense, simply to "beat the Nazis" and roll back their territorial acquisition, once Germany was under our control, it became clear that punishing them, a la World War One, was not the way to go. We had to rebuild them.

Thus, nation building. The United Nations was formed at the same time, which soon would find itself in the uncomfortable realm of peace-keeping. Peace-keeping is a terrible dilemma: it's the use of force to try and instill peace. It's very, very hard to do. Thus, their rules of engagement are under a lot of criticism for being too restrictive on the one end, or too loose on the other end. Where they use more force, they damage their goal; where they use less force, they fail to achieve their goal.

America has tried this too, under the Clinton doctrine of humanitarian war which was tested twice -- once, disastrously, in Somalia and once to fair success in the Balkans.

President Bush tried to recast the Iraq war in these terms after the fact as well. And whether or not President Bush was in favor of nation building, his two largest wars (don't forget that he also went to war in Somalia!) became just that: nation building.

Which leads us to today, where a Clintonian president with a Clinton in his cabinet is planning the future of nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, with Clinton at the state department, the Obama Administration is credited with surging state department involvement in Afghanistan. Clinton herself spoke frequently about enlarging the state department's role in nation building; too much of it was focused on an American military whose primary training was not in the world of diplomacy and governance.

And now, the NYTimes article posits that not only will the state department enlarge its role in Iraq, but they will take over a primary function which, up until now, has been conducted by the US Military: training the Iraqi security forces.

To me, this signals an interesting new shift in policy. Whereas the US Military spent sixty years with 50,000 troops in Germany, the article hints at (but doesn't commit to) a 5,000-10,000 troop presence in Iraq by year's end. In their place, a robust state department, committed not only to our diplomatic relationship but also to the stability of the nation in question.

This could signal a shift towards separating the war responsibility of destroying a nation, and the post-war responsibility of defending a nation and rebuilding it into two separate camps. The Pentagon attacks and defends; the State Department rebuilds and organizes.

It makes sense to me, but previously -- the South, Germany, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan -- we have entrusted leadership over defeated-and-rebuilt areas in the hands of the military (Military governors, General MacArthur, etc.). The military were active in the nation building process.