Wednesday, August 22

Should US civilian agencies spend more time fighting the war than each other? What a quaint notion!

Re Pundita's post Where the hell is the war czar? --

"Hi Miss P:
You are right. Our policy formation and execution remains a total mess. I think our "War Czar" is a lot like the "Drug Czar" - a box on an org chart (hey - ain't the president supposed to be the "czar" of war???)

Bruce Kesler [at Democracy Project] prodded me into doing a guest post on foreign policy coordination (or lack thereof) when the War Czar thing hit the news. Here's the result:

Modern Foreign Policy Execution

I listened firsthand to Zinni (along with Generals Gray & Van Riper) talk about the trials and tribulations of Goldwater-Nichols at Quantico about a month ago -- it wasn't a perfect solution but in the long term it sure helped the armed services spend more time fighting the enemy than each other. We need that for the spectrum of Military - State - IC - Economic agencies.
Mark Safranski"

Dear Mark:
Pundita nodded in agreement so many times while reading your observations at Democracy Project that I risked a crick in my neck. Thanks to Bruce for prodding. Your recommendations, which if implemented can get civilian agencies cooperating rather than fighting with each other, are very important. What we face now is unacceptable. As you note:
The foreign policy process is becoming unmanageable because the bureaucracy through which the president – any president – must work his foreign policy, was built for an era that is increasingly relegated to history books. A world of iron curtains and checkpoint charlies that ran at the pace of snail mail, telegrams and rotary telephones. That time is gone and it is never coming back; America’s problems today evolve at a much faster velocity. [...]
I am very concerned about a situation running alongside the agency infighting, which is that US politicians have realized that foreign policy can make or break them, and indeed their entire party. So they are running their own foreign policy initiatives; e.g., promoting legislation designed to pressure a foreign government into giving the US more help in Iraq. But the initiatives come off not as diplomacy or even policy but as threats.

That situation is not new in a time of war. But it's new in that it's playing out during the era of instant globalized news reporting. The upshot is that State spends a lot of time trying to defuse anger in foreign governments about statements by US politicians that are broadcast globally. This takes away from the diplomatic effort and makes a lot of unnecessary problems.

This said, disarray caused by poor interagency coordination feeds into the secondary situation. So I hope a great many in Washington have seen your recommendations, which you framed in highly accessible language.

No comments: