In another great David Brooks op-ed (today's New York Times), he talks about how great it is that in the new Obama Cabinet, we have real consensus from the State Department (actually, both the outgoing and the incoming) and the Defense Department.
So what does everyone agree on?
The need for nation-building.
While everyone can cook up great ideas about how to use diplomats, other State Dept. civilians, or some newly hatched Civilian Reserve nation-building corps, the reality right now is that the only instantly-deployable group of people that the government can send to go fix war-torn countries -- to build civil society, to fix infrastructure, and to provide direct support to populations -- is the military.
The government literally owns its servicemembers.
It issues "orders" not "suggestions," "ideas," or "offers." If a servicemember doesn't show up when and where he or she is supposed to be, it is, literally, a crime.*
That's why all these other wonderful ideas about who to use to do this type of stuff are just ideas, and will be for a long time until the little kinks about how to tell people where to go without catching flak or resistance for it are, just, ideas.
Unprovoked wars in the name of regime change or democracy building don't figure to be a staple in this new President's foreign policy. But one thing is for certain -- nation-building in places like the Middle East, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean isn't going anywhere.
It was funny to see that article this morning, because today is the day that I formally started my move process over from the Navy (active duty) to the Army (Mass. Natty Guard) to become a Civil Affairs Officer, or nation-builder. I'll do another post later on to explain why I am so pro-Guard and why I think it's better than active duty or the reserves (many people confuse Guard and reserve, but trust me, they're different). The move process is going to involve lots of paperwork and take several months.
But if David Brooks is right -- and many statements from Ms. Clinton, Mr. Gates, and Mr. Obama certainly suggest he is -- there will be plenty of good work to be done in the years ahead.
* The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) lists any Unauthorized Absence (UA), i.e. not being where you're supposed to be, as a punishable offense.