Remember about a month ago, when President-elect Obama announced his foreign policy team, and it looked as if there was going to be a shift in emphasis from the military to the civilian agencies of government in terms of money, attention and influence? Secretary of State-designee Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking to reorganize her (intended) department to ensure it happens.
The New York Times‘ Mark Landler and Helene Cooper have a great story — great in terms of being so comprehensive that it makes commentary difficult, because most points worth making are actually in the story — reporting that Clinton is going with two deputy secretaries: Jim Steinberg, as Greg Sargent has tirelessly reported, for traditional deputy tasks like diplomacy, policy and management; and former Clinton administration budget chief Jacob Lew, who will push the bureaucracy to get money for the department.
This is something Bob Gates has been behind all through his Pentagon tenure as it is. Back in February 2007, right as Gates was coming into office, he expressed alarm that the State Dept. wasn’t shouldering enough of the burden in Iraq. He turned that burden-sharing concern into a fundamental theme of his secretaryship, and according to the Times, he’s naturally on board with Clinton’s move, as is incoming national security adviser Jim Jones.
“The Pentagon would like to turn functionality over to civilian resources, but the resources are not there,” the [transition] official said. “We’re looking to have a State Department that has what it needs.”
There is a question here of capacity, though. It’s one thing to give the State Dept. a bigger budget. But it’s quite another to give it a bigger budget and instruct it to take charge of certain things the military does, like, say, outreach to tribal groups far from embassies and consulates in the middle of shooting wars. The State Dept. still doesn’t have an expeditionary culture, largely because it hasn’t really had to have one for awhile. A question that Clinton should have to address at her confirmation hearing is how she intends to address that. Will pay incentives change? Will foreign-service-officer training change? If not, the natural instinct — at least in rubber-hits-the-road places like Iraq and Afghanistan — is for the military to remain in a dominant role, since it’s the far more capable organization.
Crossposted to The Streak.