The New Rules: A Pleasant Surprise from Inside State

The New Rules: A Pleasant Surprise from Inside State

One thing I've discovered from writing columns over the years is that they're a great way to elicit invitations to sit down and talk with various players in the national security establishment. All you have to do is mention somebody's office and you're likely to get an e-mail from their public affairs officer eager to set your thinking straight. And so it was last week that I had the chance to converse with Ambassador John Herbst, three years in the job now as the State Department's Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

I earned the invitation by describing the CRS job as "underpowered and under-budgeted," terms that Herbst chose not to contest. Instead, he focused -- as happy bureaucratic warriors are wont to do -- on what his office has managed to achieve by its fifth birthday this month. It's not an unimpressive list, given Congress' long-displayed reluctance to fund contingency operations in advance: Congress might buy a military every year, but it never budgets for actual operations -- hence the supplementals.

By definition, the creation of the CRS' job implies that the United States government will remain in the business of nation-building. In certain cases, that will include in advance of interventions by the U.S. military, whether those be of the humanitarian response variety or something aggressively kinetic (e.g., Iran, Afghanistan). Naturally, this is a controversial subject, especially in budgetary terms.

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