Friday, December 02, 2005

From the "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail" department

Abraham Maslow once said "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. " That may be an appropriate lens through which to read this interesting piece "Police, Not Armies, Stop Terrorism" from The CounterterrorismBlog:
Armies -- ours and those we train -- are for combat, immediate post-combat stabilization, and mission completion, where the mission is identifiable and defined by a sound strategy, replete with benchmarks toward mission completion. Yes, benchmarks can shift in response to changes in the security environment, but not indefinitely. That is why we train democracy-stabilizing police forces. Not just armies.

In the wake of a successful effort by a victorious army, building (read: training) or re-building (read: retraining) an indigenous police force is the bell weather of a sustainable, enduring democracy. The occupying army cannot stay forever, and the re-trained or re-acculturated indigenous army can not be expected -- and should not be expected or pre-positioned -- to sustain a viable demcoracy.

Democracies do not fare well with military dictators, nor when entrusted to overpowering and internally focused armies. Armies are trained, quite rightly, to kill and ask questions later. Police forces are trained to exercise discretion, sustain the rule of law, respect human rights, understand the freedoms we have embodied neatly in a Bill of Rights (but which are more natural law than man made incantations) -- all this, even in the face of deadly force. That is a tall order, but that is what they are trained to do.
Of course, you can only go to war with the army you have, and the building of a viable, honest police force is difficult. However, the Secretary of Defense seems to be onto this issue as reported here:
A broad Pentagon directive issued this week orders the U.S. military to be sure, the next time it goes to war, to prepare more thoroughly for picking up the pieces afterward.

More than a year in the making, the directive represents an ambitious attempt to bring about a fundamental, permanent widening in what U.S. troops are trained and equipped to do. Accustomed to focusing primarily on combat operations, U.S. forces under the new order must now give post-conflict stability operations similar priority, which means they must be ready in foreign countries to carry out such tasks as developing political institutions, establishing judicial systems and reviving economic activities.

"Stability operations are a core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be prepared to conduct and support," the directive says. "They shall be given priority comparable to combat operations and be explicitly addressed and integrated across all" Pentagon activities.
Not too surprisingly, this seems to tie into this guy's suggestion of the need for force of "system adminstrators" to help in "shrinking the gap."

If you have two tools, not every problem is a nail.

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