Saturday, October 28, 2006

Unified Action

Reader Carol Herman alerted me to this excellent Austin Bay "Strategy Page" discussion of an interview with Donald Rumsfield.

Saddam Hussein's economic and political policies damaged agriculture in the land that eight millennia ago spawned the Agricultural Revolution. (Heck of an achievement, huh?) Agriculture, Commerce and several NGOs have expertise and programs that are helping revive Iraqi farms. Still, problems occur when trying to tailor programs to meet specific local needs -- like, who pays for the program and who is ultimately in charge of oversight and coordination.
This kind of effort is called "Unified Action". Here is how we used to direct those efforts.
Our system for "Unified Action" is still largely a Cold War, 20th century relic designed to prop up governments (so often corrupt and ill-led), instead of helping individuals and neighborhoods become economically self-sustaining and self-securing. Winning war in the Age of the Internet means improving neighborhoods and individual lives. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and micro-finance whiz Muhammad Yunus understands this.
Austin Bay points out something he saw in Iraq.
While serving in Iraq in 2004, I met a young U.S. Army captain who was running a successful small-scale date palm restoration project. What we really need are joint development and security teams, where agricultural and economic specialists work with that captain "in the field" on a sustained, day-to-day basis. We need to decide who is in charge of that team (the captain or the arborist?) and how we fund it.
Here is the hot question Austin asked Secratary Rumsfeld.
"Mr. Secretary, based on our experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the limited interagency and non-governmental organization (NGO) participation in that operation, how do you see 'Unified Action' evolving for future conflicts?"
This really is key for speeding improvement in Iraq. Get every one on the same page. This is particularly true of those elemetnts which Secratary Rumsfeld has some fairly direct influence.
The politically deft SecDef finessed the question -- and it was finesse, not dodge. The military jargon masked a heavy political hand grenade I was rolling toward the Beltway. You think Harry Reid's land deal or Mark Foley's messages are big stories? How about a stinging pre-election turf battle between Defense and the departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Commerce and Agriculture, complete with zinger accusations of who is or isn't contributing to the war effort?

I know, that's quite a claim, which is why I need to translate the mil-speak: Unified Action means coordinating and synchronizing every "tool of power" America possesses to achieve a political end -- like winning a global war for national survival against terrorists who hijack economically and politically fragile nations and provinces.

People understand the role of soldiers and cops in a war, but in 21st century wars where economic and political development are determinative, an arborist at the Department of Agriculture and a Commerce Department trade consultant can be powerful contributors to "Unified Action."
I'd like to see people and organizations competing to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.

Do you think the Democrats would be interested?

1 comment:

linearthinker said...

Do you think the Democrats would be interested?

Since you asked, my answer is only to the extent that they could gain political power toward creating a Democratic hegemony in American life. All else is secondary to them.

I'd like to see people and organizations competing to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.

Competition is usually good, but in this context, I'd rather see them cooperating than competing.
Iraq is no place for turf wars between US government departments, and if it's happening, it's unconscionable. I suspect it is happening, given the liberal composition of departments other than defense. Note each department can demand its share of the pie including expanded budgets and bureaucracy, but can avoid criticism for failed efforts by sloughing the failure off on the military. Think they'd be as generous sharing compliments? I think you and Austin Bay are both driving at the need for boots on the ground other than combat boots. Wanna bet whether there are many arborist's boot prints in that orchard project? I bet the only Dept of Agric. or Dept of Commerce prints there are dents in the office seat cushions back in the green zone. I hope I'm wrong, and if I am, they should be commended and I should be criticized for doubting them.