State Department's Nation-Building Plan Will Need Army Support

By Hawkins, William R. | Army, April 2011 | Go to article overview

State Department's Nation-Building Plan Will Need Army Support


Hawkins, William R., Army


The State Department issued the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), Leading Through Civilian Power, on December 15, 2010. In her foreword, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explains the origin of the QDDR: "When I was a Senator, I served on the Armed Services Committee, where I watched the Defense Department go through its impressive Quadrennial Defense Review [QDR]. I saw how the QDR provided a strategic plan for the department. It forced hard decisions about priorities, and it made sure those priorities were reflected in the budget." The QDDR and QDR should be seen as complementary documents, since the priorities for foreign policy set by the State Department will have to be backed up by the military priorities set by the Defense Department to be effectively implemented.

The concept outlined in the QDDR goes back to a speech given by Barack Obama on the presidential campaign trail in July 2008. "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set," he said. "We have to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." It is based on the need to strengthen the nation-building aspects of counterinsurgency and regime-change objectives that have relied too heavily, some argue, on military operations. New, friendly governments must be established in lands where terrorism and war have created a political vacuum, and existing, friendly governments must be supported in regions where there is the threat of revolution or aggression.

The failure to adequately plan for reestablishing a central government in Iraq after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime and the continued difficulties in providing a "govemmentin-a-box" to areas of Afghanistan after they have been cleared of insurgents have called forth the QDDR. The emphasis is on mobilizing civilian agencies and departments across the entire U.S. government in a coordinated effort, but the hard fact is that the effort will be made in areas racked by real or potential conflict. The Army and other military services, therefore, will need to be incorporated into any comprehensive strategy to achieve the ambitions set out by the QDDR.

Make no mistake: The ambitions are bold. According to the QDDR, "Civilian power is the combined force of women and men across the U.S. government who are practicing diplomacy, implementing development projects, strengthening alliances and partnerships, preventing and responding to crises and conflict, and advancing America's core interests: security, prosperity, universal values - especially democracy and human rights - and a just international order." None of these objectives can be met without establishing a secure environment within which to work.

Democracy and human rights are not as universal as the State Department claims. There are plenty of regimes and movements that reject American values. There are also those who will contest the QDDR's aims to "secure investments for American business [and] open new markets for American goods." The goal of strengthening alliances implies one or more common enemies who have a different idea of what constitutes "a just international order." The QDDR recognizes "the risk of conflict and armed violence growing in resource-rich but governance-poor parts of Africa and Asia," which calls for stronger nation-building efforts.

Yet even with these caveats, the QDDR may not fully comprehend the range of possible challenges that nation builders and development experts will have to meet to protect core U.S. interests. The document states, "Threats loom, including violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, climate change and economic shocks that could set back global prosperity." Global pandemics are also mentioned. A daunting list, but one extremely important factor is missing that could serve to multiply the other dangers: There is no mention of the ambitions of other major powers, rivals who are also interested in extending their influence in the developing world in a zero-sum struggle for strategic position. …

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State Department's Nation-Building Plan Will Need Army Support
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