(originally posted on The Will and the Wallet
For thirty-five years, the Egyptian people believed the myth and lived in fear, fear of the security forces and fear of the chaos and instability that might exist without a strong ruler. They have just overcome that fear and created hope. That collective psychic shift was the key to making the change they needed to bring about.
The US has spent upwards of $50 billion over the past decade, outside of pure military spending, to try to reconstruct and stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan. Our failures are, by now, legend, by now, but we keep trying, and keep spending.
And we have invented new dogmas, or mantras, about what we are doing, particularly "whole of government" and "post conflict stabilization and reconstruction." DOD is building massive capacity and doctrine to stabilize, help govern, and rebuild countries, or "build partner capacity," as the recent Quadrennial Defense Review puts it. www.defense.gov/qdr/ State and USAID are busily trying to build on existing capacities to develop an even more ambitious role, as reenforced in the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. www.state.gov/documents/organization/153108.pdf. And the administration still argues that it is doing better at coordinating these efforts across the government.
Quite a discussion today on the Diane Rehm show involving the future of the defense budget. Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution thinks the budget will not be cut because of emerging threats (China) and because the administration is not projecting a cut. James Kitfield of National Journal thinks it will be cut, but shouldn't be, because it is a dangerous world, with emerging threats and stabilization needs. I think it will be cut because the departure from Iraq and Afghanistan, which will undermine political support for high defense budgets, and deficit reduction, which will require everything to be on the table, will combine to lead both parties to agree on cuts. Listen to the exchange on WAMU.