Is Obama's "Civilian National Security Force" just a nation-remaking diplomatic corps?
Posted Mon, Dec 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm
In a July, 2008 speech, Barack Obama proposed the creation of a "civilian national security force" that would be "just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded" as the U.S. military. However, there wasn't anything at his site about that, but "A Handpicked Team for a Sweeping Shift in Foreign Policy" by David Sanger of the New York Times (link) might have revealed what he meant:
...all three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary — have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.See also the Center for American Progress report "The Price of Prevention/Getting Ahead of Global Crises" at americanprogress.org/issues/2008/11/price_of_prevention.html
The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states. However, it is unclear whether the financing would be shifted from the Pentagon; Mr. Obama has also committed to increasing the number of American combat troops. Whether they can make the change — one that Mr. Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best — “will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently.
..."This is not an experiment, but a pragmatic solution to a long-acknowledged problem,” [Denis McDonough, a senior Obama foreign policy adviser] said. “During the campaign the then-senator invested a lot of time reaching out to retired military and also younger officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to draw on lessons learned. There wasn’t a meeting that didn’t include a discussion of the need to strengthen and integrate the other tools of national power to succeed against unconventional threats. It is critical to a long-term successful and sustainable national security strategy in the 21st century.” Mr. Obama’s advisers said they were already bracing themselves for the charge from the right that he is investing in social work, even though President Bush repeatedly promised such a shift, starting in a series of speeches in late 2005. But they also expect battles within the Democratic Party over questions like whether the billion dollars in aid to rebuild Afghanistan that Mr. Obama promised during the campaign should now be spent on job-creation projects at home.
[...Gates has been promoting "soft power", hearts and minds, etc. for a while; Jones has gone further...]
Several times during his presidency, Mr. Bush promised to alter [the rebuilding strategy, even creating a “civilian reserve corps” of nation-builders under State Department auspices, but the administration never committed serious funds or personnel to the effort. If Mr. Obama and his team can bring about that kind of shift, it could mark one of the most significant changes in national security strategy in decades and greatly enhance the powers of Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state...