My colleague Dr. Gene Bonventre has been hard at work considering ways to get USAID to work with DoD. One of the irritating fundamental arguments I have heard from USAID/DoS and NGO personnel against DoD's work is that we are 'crowding the humanitarian space'. Part of the problem, in my view, is that DoD doesn't view where it works as "humanitarian space." Afghanistan, for example, is a "battlespace" in my view. Some USAID personnel do not share that view and believe the country to be a "humanitarian space" that is being poisoned by DoD. In fact, some would argue that DoD's presence in Afghanistan creates danger to their personnel. From the DoD perspective, the U.S. President ordered up a war against the Taliban who were lurking in Afghanistan.
But back to the brilliant Dr. Bonventre who used to work for DoD. He apparently has been slaving away on a committee to make recommendations about how we can all get along. The report is here: http://www.usaid.gov/km/seminars/2009/civilian_military_relations.pdf. I haven't read it thoroughly yet but it looks promising.
Also, Dr. Bonventre and another brilliant former military guy, Dr. Skip Burkle, have posted their views here, on the New Security Beat blog ( http://newsecuritybeat.blogspot.com/2009/07/who-does-development-guest-contributor.html?showComment=1248726308123#c3239810732797271218).
I take issue with Skip Burkle's blog in that he views the discussion from a development perspective (the title of the blog, after all), and he maintains that USAID is best for development actions. He criticizes Secretary Gates for asking for more civilian personnel positing that Gates was asking for the personnel to be under the control of the military. Finally he criticizes DoD for be inexpert at development which he calls "winning hearts and minds" and which I would argue is "counter insurgency" when referring to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Regardless of his critique I think the question is the wrong question.
I don't think we have the luxury to have "either/or" agencies any more. I have written about this before--I think Michele Flournoy hit the nail on the head with a proposal for a new breed of security expert. Or, you could have a new breed of development expert. Either way, staff at USAID who are being paid with my tax dollars should be promoting the US Government agenda, and part of that is our national security interests. Cognizance of what that is would be a good starting point. Much like we can no longer leave military actions in these hybrid wars to the combat arms dudes who view every problem as something to shoot and kill. The world has moved on, but perhaps our gut reactions have not.
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