An important new piece from Foreign Policy by Rosa Brooks, a former Obama Administration defense official. She aggressively defends the concept of the military taking on the civil development and assistance roles as a practical approach to U.S. international security given domestic political constraints and the actual challenges faced. Nonetheless, she concludes that AFRICOM to date is experiencing “the worst of both worlds”:
These problems are not unique to Africom. As other combatant commands have similarly expanded their activities into traditionally civilian domains, they have struggled with similar problems and criticism.
In a sense, we currently inhabit the worst of all possible worlds: The military is increasingly taking on traditionally civilian jobs but doing them clumsily and often halfheartedly, without investing fully in developing the skills necessary for success. Meanwhile, civilian agencies mostly just grumble from the sidelines, waiting for that happy day when Congress gets serious about rebuilding civilian capacity. (I think Samuel Beckett wrote a play about that.) And few people, inside or outside the Pentagon, are taking seriously the need to think in new ways about what “whole-of-government” or a holistic approach to security might truly mean.
The blurring of civilian and military roles is inevitable, but the failure to grapple effectively with this blurring of roles is not. To address threats (and seize opportunities) in this globalized, blurry, chaotic world, we will need to develop new competencies, flexible new structures, and creative new accountability mechanisms. Most critically, we’ll need to let go of our comfortable old assumptions about roles and missions.
Well worthwhile to read the whole piece. I’ll have some comments in the near future.
- America’s Shadow Wars in Africa (fabiusmaximus.com)
- Africom Forms Military Relationship With Libya (defense.gov)
- Signs of Military Professionalism, Cooperation On Rise in Africa (defense.gov)
- Nick Turse: Obama’s Scramble for Africa (guernicamag.com)