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Wednesday, May 16

More on State-Pentagon battles, and there's no such thing as diplomatic war

Two interesting takes on Monday's post about the conflict between the Pentagon and State Department regarding the Pentagon's involvement in foreign aid. Dan Riehl focused on the possibility of Newt Gingrich positioning himself for a run at the US presidency, which I hadn't considered.

Yet I remain mystified as to why Newt is coming down on State's side in the Pentagon-State conflict. I seem to recall that in the early years after 9/11, Newt was a vociferous critic of State. Does he think he can score points with Condoleezza Rice by turning on the Pentagon?

In any case, Newt's argument for civilian-led foreign aid in conflict situations is not only unrealistic, it also overlooks the vast power that State's unelected bureaucrats have gained. The Pentagon is perhaps the only effective counterweight, given that State's operations are virtually immune from congressional oversight and can be greatly resistant to White House policies.

John Loftus also weighed in:

"Pundita:
I recall that in postwar Germany and Japan the [U.S.] military had a traditional political function, G-5, and was in charge of administering occupied areas. State supplied a political adviser (Polad) but was kept out of the chain of command. Even the High Commissioner of Germany (HICOG) was usually a retired general.

Unfortunately, Colin Powell changed the status quo; State led the post-war administration in Iraq with disastrous results. Barbara Bodine was actually the mayor of Baghdad!

If it is only a question of competence, I think the military should take the lead role every time.
John Loftus "

Dear John:
Whenever I hear of Barbara Bodine I remember John O'Neill's attempts to investigate the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and Bodine's intervention on behalf of the Yemen government. The incident illustrates the severe case of Clientitis that befell State starting in the 1980s.

The US invasion of Iraq had such a big public relations angle; it was a 'diplomatic war' (a contradiction in terms). Officially, the US never 'occupied' Iraq and so couldn't carry out the kind of actions that led to successful stabilization and reconstruction of Japan and Germany. Yet those actions are the only intelligent ones when an invading force has toppled a government and found the country and political parties in ruins.

I was horrified by the argument that Paul Bremer used to insist that Iraq's state-run factories remain shut. Bremer wanted private investors to buy the factories! Of course the investors never showed up. He was making an economics argument in a situation that screamed for post-conflict stabilization measures by a military.

I note that one part of the Pentagon-State war seems to be going the Pentagon's way, but not before a pitched battle occurred:
Paul Brinkley, a deputy undersecretary of defense, has been called a Stalinist by U.S. diplomats in Iraq. One has accused him of helping insurgents build better bombs. The State Department has even taken the unusual step of enlisting the CIA to dispute the validity of Brinkley's work.

His transgression? To begin reopening dozens of government-owned factories in Iraq. [...](1)
1) Defense Skirts State in Reviving Iraqi Industry by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, May 14, The Washington Post.
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