Monday, June 30, 2003

'An army of builders'

Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek that America may need to reorient its military towards nation-building in the wake of our experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and maybe now Liberia. The point is one that I also made in my essay on nation-building in the Washington Monthly. Our 21st century military force has transformed itself to fight with more lethal precision and efficacy than any military in history. But it has not effectively transformed itself to deal with the challenges of nation-building. Zakaria writes:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is rightly proud of having pushed the military toward thinking about war in the 21st century. He has made it fight wars of the future, not the past—except in one crucial sense. America's future conflicts are all likely to be short on war and long on nation-building.

Because of its massive advantages and extraordinary skill, the American military will win any future war quickly and easily. The regime it is fighting will collapse, leaving disorder and chaos in its wake. Within weeks the Army will no longer be engaged in war, but instead in policing, law and order, aid deliveries and political negotiations. And this will take not weeks but years.

Rumsfeld is wary of having the Pentagon involved in nation-building. He disbanded its tiny office of peacekeeping. Yet nation-building and peacekeeping are mostly what the armed forces have been doing for the past decade, as Dana Priest documents in her book "The Mission." It's what they are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

Only not very well. American soldiers are the best in the world. But 22-year-old Marines are trained to fight, not to rebuild houses, manage group rivalries, adjudicate legal claims and help found civic groups. What we need in Iraq—and what we would quickly need in Liberia—are armies of engineers, aid workers, agronomists and, most important, political and legal experts to negotiate the myriad problems of peace. They would also know how to get help. Without aid from other countries and international organizations, America is simply not going to intervene in all the failing states around the world.
Thoughts... Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has pushed the military to realign its force structure in some small ways towards this end. The FY2005 Pentagon budget bill will include legislative provisions to shift manpower in key specialties (MP, Civil Affairs, engineers, etc) from the reserve forces to the active forces. That will help a great deal. But it's still not enough. We have invested an awful lot in the information architecture of way, and the precision firepower of war. We have not built human organizations capable of managing the complex operations after the war's completion. If the current trend continues, and America continues to deploy its military to failed states, we may need to build some type of constabulary force that's organized and equipped to deal with this precise situation. If we don't, we will continue to pound square combat units into round nation-building missions and suffer the consequences.

Also see this piece by Frederick Kagan in the current issue of the Weekly Standard. He writes, as I have before, that:
It is time to stop pretending that the United States can prosecute a war on terror, conduct peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, and maintain the security of the homeland without a substantial increase in the size of the armed forces. General Shinseki, the recently retired Army chief of staff, warns us to "beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division army"--and even he understates the problem. In truth, the armed forces need an increase in size of at least 25 percent.