Friday, February 29, 2008

Our Ms. Brooks: The New Imperialism

Rosa Brooks' latest column, published in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, considers the latest permutation in US military thinking, and she raises some interesting, if disquieting questions about the change.

This week, the Army released a new version of FM 3-0, the Army Field Manual on Operations. The first revision since 9/11, it offers what the Army -- which is not an institution prone to exaggeration -- calls "a revolutionary departure from past doctrine." For more than 200 years, the Army has had two "core missions": offense and defense. FM 3-0 adds a third: "stability operations," better (if more controversially) known to the public as nation building. ...

By adding stability operations as a new core mission, the revised Army Field Manual tries to ensure that the failures of Iraq will never be repeated. FM 3-0 foresees future Army forces fighting when fighting is called for -- but troops also will work as needed to ensure civilian security and provide "emergency infrastructure reconstruction, humanitarian relief [and] political, legal, social and economic institutions that support the transition to legitimate local governance."

Stability operations will be integrated into Army planning and training at every level and will take place across the "full spectrum of conflict": that is, such activities may be preventive (intended to keep an unstable society from collapsing), or coexist with traditional war fighting, or occur in the aftermath of a conflict.
[Emphasis added]

Now that's interesting: it appears that the Army is planning to take over activities traditionally left to the State Department and humanitarian relief organizations. And the inclusion of this new mission certainly fits nicely with the new AFRICOM set up, about which Ms. Brooks has already commented (see here). The broadening of the military role is disturbing, for reasons suggested by questions Ms. Brooks raises:

The Army can't possibly "stabilize" every troubled society, so how will the U.S. select priorities? Will military involvement in traditionally humanitarian activities create new dangers for private relief and humanitarian organizations? Will others around the world see U.S. stability operations as just a new form of imperialism?

Why, yes, the rest of the world will undoubtedly see it that way, because that is precisely what it is. Gunboat diplomacy has been the preferred way to operate in the world by this neocon-riddled administration, and at least one of the presidential candidates sees no problem with that. Sen. McCain's comment that he finds nothng disturbing about having troops remain in Iraq for a hundred years is quite telling in that respect.

But, hey, it's just another facet of Mr. Bush's legacy.

325 days.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

That's like having a SWAT team run kindergartens.

7:13 PM  

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