View Full Version : Send In the State Department

02-21-2006, 10:37 AM
21 Feb. New York Times commentary - Send In the State Department (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/opinion/21kaplan.html) by Robert Kaplan (Imperial Grunts).

After Iraq," one officer in the Pentagon told me, "we hope not to be invading a big country for a long time, so we'll be reduced to low-profile raiding, which the military has a very long and venerable tradition of, from the 19th and early 20th centuries."...

The military wants to increasingly manage the world through quiet cooperation on one hand, and the use of host-country proxies on the other. At the forefront of this strategy is a combination of training missions with other countries conducted by marines and Army Special Forces, humanitarian efforts by Army civil affairs units, and discreet raids on terrorists in places removed from the headlines. For the military, this is "soft power," because for the most part the methods used are indirect. And when they are direct, few tend to notice, as when our surveillance planes assist local forces in sub-Saharan Africa in the hunting and killing of Salafist terrorists.

The long war, if smartly executed, can prevent a big war. In spending the last few years embedded with Army, Navy and Marine units, I have learned that the smaller the American military footprint and the less notice it draws, the more effective is the operation. A few hundred Green Berets going after narcoterrorists or Islamic extremists, as I have seen in Colombia and the Philippines, can be effective force multipliers. Ten or twenty thousand troops, as in Afghanistan, can tread water. And 135,000, as in Iraq, constitute a mess.

The goal from now on is to get into a place fast, before a problem begins to fester, when there is leeway to experiment and thus to make mistakes without suffering a loss of prestige. The way to avoid quagmires is to be engaged in more places, not fewer. Even if Iraq were to dissolve in chaos, this would not lead to a new era of isolationism, at least as far as the American military is concerned...

While this is all good planning, there is still a major omission: the civilian or non-Defense Department piece of it is entirely missing. The longer the war, the less decisive is military technology and what the Army calls "doctrine." The struggle against Al Qaeda and its offshoots will go on for many years after a troop drawdown in Iraq, and in this worldwide struggle the civilian piece associated with the State Department will be a vital, unconventional asset....