But Should We?

Former National Security Adviser and Former Secretary of State spoke at Duke this weekend, and had this to say:

“Whatever happens, it’s going to be a rocky road in the Middle East because reform has come late,” she told a packed crowd under heavy security at Duke University’s Page Auditorium.

Rice, currently teaching at Stanford University, offered insight into the challenges facing the international system, reflected on the decisions of the Bush administration and encouraged students to stay positive about the future.

Three major shocks rocked the international community in the past decade, Rice said: Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in 2001, the global financial crisis of 2008 and violent government over-throws in the Middle East, such as like Egypt and Libya….

Traveling the globe as secretary of state, Rice found people always viewed the U.S. as the land of free markets and free people, a place where anyone could become a part of the country.

The country needs to return to that mindset, she said.

“That immigrant culture that has renewed us … has been at the core of our strength,” she said. “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.”

One of the biggest regrets of her time in the Bush administration was failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, she said.

She also felt there were missteps in the country’s mission in Iraq, she said.

The administration didn’t fully understand how the tribal system worked, she said, and made a lot of mistakes in the reconstruction of that government.

“We didn’t have enough forces,” she said. “I frankly don’t think we had an institution that knew how to secure the peace.”

This piqued my interest a bit – it’s absolutely true that we don’t have such an institution. We have the US Military, whose primary mission is the application of force – breaking things and killing people. The military has learned to do police, diplomacy, reconstruction, nation building, etc., but it’s never going to be the #1 priority.

The State Department has a lot of skilled diplomats, but is tragically underfunded and simply doesn’t have the training to deal with many of the high-risk and technically complicated tasks that nation building demands.

There’s a menagerie of other agencies that all bring a piece to the effort to “secure the peace,” but are not trained in handling the broader picture.

So my question is this: SHOULD we have an agency (or branch of an existing agency) whose entire purpose is to prepare for large-scale, long-time frame occupations, invasions, nation building, etc.? While the current wind is blowing away from such operations, it’s almost certain that we will in the next few decades find ourselves back here again. Wouldn’t it be prudent to have a group of people who are familiar with the gamut of foreign policy tools at our disposal, trained in a wide variety of cultures and regions, and solely devoted to the study of nation building under hostile circumstances.

Or would such a group’s mere presence make it more likely that we would end up in those situations, while at the same time not performing demonstrably better than the military people currently doing that job on an as-needed basis?

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About thinklikeafox

I'm a Naval Officer living in Southern California. I hope to be attending law school in the next year or two, and I started writing this blog out of a desire to improve my writing and critical thinking skills after a couple years outside of academia.
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