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The Coming Military-Civilian Resource Shift?

Matthew Yglesias flags this aspect of a New York Times story about the Obama national-security team:

Yet all three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary — were selected in large part because they have embraced a sweeping shift of resources in the national security arena.

The shift, which would come partly out of the military’s huge budget, would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

As Yglesias comments, this is a really good idea. A really really extremely good massively awesome idea. The budgetary imbalances — half a trillion dollars-plus annually for the military versus $11 billion this fiscal year for the State Dept. — between the military and civilian aspects of national security are so massive that they inevitably skew U.S. responses to various foreign policy problems. It’s no surprise that in Iraq and Afghanistan troops have to be warriors, development workers and diplomats while comparably few development workers and diplomats actually deploy. The civilian agencies have a significantly reduced expeditionary ethic, especially when asked to perform unpopular missions — hence the so-called Diplomats Revolt last year when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened to essentially draft members of the Foreign Service into going to Iraq. Whether a resource shift will result in a cultural one remains to be seen.

In a more abstract sense, though, an overwhelming emphasis on the military inevitably skews the way people perceive the means to resolve foreign-policy problems. If you have one really well-maintained tool and several poorly-maintained ones, which do you use? Gates in particular has been warning about this during his entire tenure as secretary. From a 2007 speech:

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