Making a ‘Civilian Surge’ a Two-Way Street

Brian Till makes a very good point:

As we begin to re-imagine the world for the twenty-first century –Sergio’s world, as Power is fond of saying, of “broken people andbroken states” — it seems that building successful legal systems needsa bigger niche than we typically afford.

This is true in South Asia, where filling the “rule of law” vacuum has historically been an opening for Taliban influence. In Pakistan, particularly, a significant amount of the military-civilian jockeying has played out recently — and currently — over the independence of the judiciary.

This is also a good example of a concrete proposal with regard to demilitarizing U.S. foreign policy in general, and nation-building in particular. It has the merit, too, as Till obliquely mentions, of being something we can accomplish in the U.S., by training foreign leaders of both police forces and judiciaries Stateside. I’d add governmental watchdog functions, like the CBO, andanti-corruption auditing functions to the list, too, since those are alsogeneralized problems in the kinds of countries Till refers to.

There will always be a need for on-the-ground missions as well. But the key is not to assume we should head out and impose systems on other cultures and societies, so much as expose functionaries of foreign governments to how we address some of the problems they might face. Again, that argues for immersing them in the U.S. system, and allowing them to bring whatever’s relevant home with them.

At the very least, the idea of a “civilian surge” doesn’t need to be conceived of as exclusively a one-way street of U.S. civil servants heading to war zones and other fragile states.