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Development Spending in Iraq – What is the Smartest Way to Move Forward?

As the U.S. moves forward with military withdrawal from Iraq, it is critical to take a look at the status of development spending. NETWORK has always advocated for peace in the Middle East through economic security, promoted through localized development. It is time to take a look at past development funding, learn from our mistakes, and progress with a better understanding of how to support civil stability. 

To their credit, the military has accomplished several important objectives. Most notably, our Armed Forces have improved security. Overall incidents of violence in Iraq have dropped from 5,789 a month in 2007 to 884 per month in 2010. As a result of a more secure atmosphere, civilians and contractors have been able to be more effective in their development and reconstruction efforts.  

Perhaps most importantly, the Department of Defense has looked to the future and realized that military presence alone cannot stabilize a country. Back in 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recognized the need for “a permanent, sizeable cadre of immediately deployable experts with disparate skills.” Reports from outside the Pentagon painted a similar picture. James Traub in Foreign Policy noted the “Army recognizes that the fundamentally political questions raised by state-building…require civilian authority and a civilian perspective.” It is certainly commendable that in the midst of securing the nation, the Department of Defense has recognized the limits of its own capacity and demonstrated a willingness to seek a greater role for civilians. 

However, past action of relying so heavily on the Department of Defense at the expense of the State Department has had its consequences. Our military is the strongest, most capable, and most effective armed force in the world. That being said, what we’re asking our troops to do is beyond the scope of military training, expertise and personnel.

Condoleeza Rice famously remarked that “we don’t need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten.” In doing so, Rice crystallized the issue we have today. We shouldn’t expect the military to be proficient at establishing education, freedom of religion, and the fundamentals for a strong local economy. Similarly, we shouldn’t expect civilians to be able to fly a F18 and confront an armed group of insurgents. 

Because the military has been asked to carry out development duties beyond their normal scope of expertise, problems have arisen