State Department’s Fast Action Nation-Fixers: Smart Power’s First Deliverables?


SCRC TWN Afghanistan.jpg
(Alongside U.S. Army officers, a Civilian Response Corps member from the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization, center, participates in discussions with Pashtun tribal leaders in Khost Province, Afghanistan. photo credit: Department of State)
This a guest note by Jeffrey Stacey, an International Engagement Officer in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) in the Department of State. Stacey previously served as a Franklin Fellow in this same office while simultaneously serving as a professor of political science at Tulane University.
Stacey’s views are of great interest to The Washington Note which has been monitoring carefully a brewing bureaucratic skirmish between the Pentagon, Department of State, US AID, and the National Security Council on how to build “smart power” capacity in America’s international portfolio. As the process of moving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s new QDDR, or the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, picks up steam, watch the various agencies try to tug and pull what S/CRS does into their bureaucratic spheres
These views on bureaucratic wrestling are TWN’s own and not Jeffrey Stacey’s but may ultimately lead to an affirmation of General Anthony Zinni’s admonition that the Department of State, US AID, and the administration officials who are working on these issues may be so unable to solve their dysfunctional competition that the entire smart power capacity of government will end up in the Department of Defense under some sort of “smart power command.”
— The Washington Note

jeffrey stacey twn.jpgIn a world of over forty failing, failed and post-conflict states and another twenty or so fragile states–some newly so because of the global financial crisis–the need for pre- and post-conflict stability operations is steadily increasing, and not likely to ebb any time soon.
As the demand side of the equation increases the global effort to build sufficient capacity on the supply side to mount these operations must keep pace.
scrs twn.jpgAt the U.S. Department of State, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is working overtime to help get the supply side right, not only by building and deploying the Civilian Response Corps of the U.S. Government, but also by working with partners around the world to build the capacity we need to prevent conflict and stabilize conflict-ridden countries.
That this effort is vital goes without saying, for it is no longer a choice whether or not to do so-called “complex operations.” By now the debate is over: either you get in the civilian trenches to prevent instability, vacuums, and fertile ground for insurgencies, or you pay a far higher price to fight additional wars and mount costly counter-insurgency efforts.
Personally speaking I have found these goals noble yet practical enough that after doing a fellowship at State this year, I have decided to join up and work in an office of over 150 highly skilled and dedicated individuals.
civilian response corps.jpgRight now we have 80 Civilian Response Corps stabilization experts ready to deploy around the world on short notice. Before long this number will rise to 264 active component members and a far larger number in the standby component–who are ready to deploy from their government jobs on longer notice.
Recognizing the benefits that come from international collaboration, for some time S/CRS has been actively engaging other government and multilateral organizations who have committed serious resources for mounting stability operations. This fall we brought together fourteen governments and four multilaterals — UN, EU, OSCE, and World Bank–for four days in Washington for a workshop on Reconstruction, Stabilization, and Peacebuilding. These partners agreed to work toward achieving the goal of comprehensive interoperability (CINT) — the ability down the road to mount joint stability operations — and an international working group that will bring the technical specialists in our various offices together to make this happen.
CINT is critical to getting the civilian supply right, for no single government is building sufficient individual capacity to mount these operations on its own; nor politically would it be wise to try to do so. “Comprehensive” is a horizontal term, not a vertical term, that refers to foreign policy tools that range across the spectrum, including stability operations that employ the hard tools of military power and the soft tools of long term development. Improved coordination among actors can lead to better stability operations and better outcomes for the recipient nations.
Several weeks ago I gave a speech at NATO in which I discussed how the military mission of the alliance can no longer be fully achieved without performing essential civilian tasks as well. As part of its Comprehensive Approach NATO could usefully add a small force of stabilization experts to bring about “initial stabilization” — governance (creating conditions for consensus), police (keeping opposing groups apart), and rule of law (getting the legal system operating again) — before handing the baton to the UN, EU, or a group of bilateral actors.
The EU has the foremost experience in the world in mounting stability operations, and we at S/CRS have much we can glean from the EU’s experience. Hence, we are actively engaging the EU and will soon be working closely with our counterparts in Brussels.
The UN of course has the foremost experience in the related area of peacekeeping, and we are also actively engaging the UN as it is doing more and more peacebuilding these days. There are also numerous governments that have robust stability capabilities or have begun to build their own capacity, leading to a growing contingent of governments and multilateral organizations that recognize the need for civilian stability operations.
Essentially, we’ll know when the supply of global stability capabilities is sufficient when global actors can interoperate successfully and the following scenario presents itself: if country X has become unstable and is rapidly headed for conflict, all stabilization capacity partners can convene a meeting and determine which partners should mount a joint mission together. For example, if the EU were to have multiple operations at the time and the UN’s resources were similarly overtaxed, the U.S., UK, Canada and other bilateral or regional actors could agree to deploy a combined mission together.
As S/CRS continues to engage its partners around the world, right here in Washington we are helping our own government’s principal policy makers become fully familiar with the new soft power tool they hold in their hands. Our capability is so new that we are still identifying all the different ways that policy makers can deploy our growing force of CRC personnel.
Deploying the CRC either alone or with our partners will help the U.S. to meet its core national security interests. Already, the departments of Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and USAID via S/CRS are involved in U.S. foreign policy in a new and fairly revolutionary way.
This “whole of government” approach is as novel as it is important, and other governments around the world are recognizing our example and adopting similar approaches.
For the good of our own citizens and those of numerous conflict prone countries around the world, may we and our partners succeed.
— Jeffrey Stacey


4 comments on “State Department’s Fast Action Nation-Fixers: Smart Power’s First Deliverables?

  1. DonS says:

    d = DonS at 1:00. sorry.


  2. d says:

    I’m all for ‘soft power’ (spent two years as a VISTA volunteer, domestically of course; was accepted into foreign service/USIS), but it’s just hard for me to make the transition to believing that our government’s warmongering and warmaking capacity and track record over the past decade or so is being addressed.
    I suppose it’s a start, but with the way the US government is ever more leaning in the counterinsurgency direction as a foreign policy political stance it’s hard not to sneer ‘window dressing’, or worse, intelligence front. And, gosh darn, that might be exactly what the recipients of our ‘outreach’ might surmise.
    And with that nexus of US governmental departments contributing to the mix — Homeland Security?? — who wouldn’t be a believer?
    As to Mr. Stacey’s new boss, liberal interventionist Hillary, well I guess some leopards can change their spots, but not many.
    If we weren’t so goddam paranoid about those damn boogeymen under our beds maybe we could field an effort that didn’t have “made in America, land of the torturers”, stamped all over it. A for the good old days of the Peace Corps: just a bunch of idealistic folks,building schools, helping with rudimentary health issues — without every other one being debriefed by the CIA regularly.


  3. DanE says:

    I am to beginning to recognize a pattern emerging here in ‘Washington Note” articles.
    The articles invariably criticize and praise policy efforts solely on the context of how effective the administration is at controlling the narrative related to the policies, not whether or not the policies are actually providing benefits to the American public.
    Pay particular attention to how reliably the contributors here focus their articles both directly and indirectly on the ‘process’ of conflict resolution rather than on actual policies being adopted and enforced that actually bring an end to the conflicts being addressed.
    If the efforts are solely focused on prolonged and indefinite ‘process’ then Israel/Palestine is not a failed policy, it is rather a wildly successful ‘process’ since it has now been unresolved for over sixty years.
    I am rapidly losing interest in ‘The Washington Note” as a credible source for information when I read superficial articles like the one above and essays clearly written to obfuscate the issues like Constanze Stelzenmüller’s essay from January 23.
    For real honest, hard hitting journalism read Juan Cole.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “….but also by working with partners around the world to build the capacity we need to prevent conflict and stabilize conflict-ridden countries”
    Haiti. Iraq. Afghanistan.
    Next, Iran????
    Need I go on?
    Seems to me we do the EXACT OPPOSITE.
    Maybe its time to stay home and stop running around breaking things globally, eh?
    Can’t you people find enough to fix HERE, at HOME???
    Look, if we are going to be the evil empire, can’t you at least admit it? Instead of killing a million or so in illegal wars, (like we did in Iraq), then getting all puffed up and righteous by trying to convince us we are actually trying to “fix” these places?
    Your schpiel is getting harder and harder to buy into. You must think we are all fuckin’ idiots.


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