We ask too much of the military

In a new post on his “Foreign Policy” blog, The Sheathed Sword, Gordon Adams writes about the breakdown of civilian and military work—and how the U.S. increasingly relies on its military for development programs over trained development practitioners. See below for excerpts from this strong piece:

“We have a foreign assistance force; it is called the U.S. Agency for International Development, which operates with the assistance of the State Department. But over the past ten years or so, we have larded up our military with missions that USAID and State should be doing — development, governance support, social support, training for ministries, public diplomacy.”

“It is the wrong approach to assistance because, for all the vaunted Seabee capability, they are not a development force; they are not “best practiced” in development. They do not, and cannot put such construction into the context of Cambodia’s development and governance needs; they can just sweep in and “do good.” But that may have little to do with what the Cambodians actually need; Seabees have no competence in that area. As too many projects in Iraq and Afghanistan show, the short-term effort to “win hearts and minds” backfires when the schools lack teachers and material; the clinics lack doctors and medicines. In other words, the Seabees have no way to ensure the advisability or sustainability of such projects.


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