Gates Warns of Militarized Policy

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By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned yesterday against the risk of a "creeping militarization" of U.S. foreign policy, saying the State Department should lead U.S. engagement with other countries, with the military playing a supporting role.

"We cannot kill or capture our way to victory" in the long-term campaign against terrorism, Gates said, arguing that military action should be subordinate to political and economic efforts to undermine extremism.

In a related development, the Pentagon yesterday released the list of Army officers nominated by President Bush for promotion to the rank of one-star general, marking a new generation of Army leaders. The list, resulting from a selection board led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, includes several officers skilled in the counterinsurgency doctrine that Petraeus helped write -- a doctrine that embraces a broader approach to winning conflicts centered on protecting and providing for local populations.

Army officers on the list, many of whom have served repeatedly in Iraq or Afghanistan, include Col. Sean B. MacFarland, Col. H.R. McMaster, Col. Stephen J. Townsend and Col. Jeffrey J. Snow. The list also includes several commanders of Special Operations forces with multiple combat tours, such as Col. Kenneth E. Tovo, Col. Edward M. Reeder, Col. Paul J. LaCamera and Col. Austin S. Miller.

The list has been highly anticipated in Army circles because of Petraeus's role and the belief -- expressed by Gates and others -- that Army promotions must harness the experience forged by today's counterinsurgencies and help shape a future Army less narrowly focused on conventional combat. Officers on the list must be confirmed by the Senate.

In cautioning yesterday against overreliance on the tool of military combat operations, Gates pressed ahead with a personal initiative -- rare amid the bureaucratic turf battling in Washington -- to bolster the civilian efforts that he considers vital to U.S. success overseas. Late last year, Gates raised eyebrows when he called for a substantial increase in the State Department budget.

"America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long -- relative to what we traditionally spend on the military, and more importantly, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world," Gates said at a dinner organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, according to prepared remarks of his speech.

Over the next 20 years, Gates predicted, "the most persistent and potentially dangerous threats will come less from emerging ambitious states, than from failing ones that cannot meet the basic needs -- much less the aspirations -- of their people."

Gates was honored at the event for supporting increases in the U.S. international affairs budget that funds the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies. He said that despite a doubling of that budget since 2001, much of the growth has been consumed by security costs and offset by the declining value of the U.S. dollar. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a tribute to Gates at the event.

"Broadly speaking, when it comes to America's engagement with the rest of the world, it is important that the military is -- and is clearly seen to be -- in a supporting role to civilian agencies," Gates said.

Nevertheless, he said that in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, the U.S. military is increasingly involved in activities once handled by civilian agencies. "This has led to concern among many organizations, including probably many represented here tonight, about what's seen as a creeping 'militarization' of some aspects of America's foreign policy," he said. "This is not an entirely unreasonable sentiment," he said.

"As a career CIA officer, I watched with some dismay the increasing dominance of the defense 800-pound gorilla in the intelligence arena over years," said Gates, who served in the CIA for more than two decades, including as director in the early 1990s. But he said that scenario can be avoided by ensuring civilian agencies are adequately funded and well led, by coordinating efforts on the ground, and by clearly defining "the authorities, roles and missions of military versus civilian efforts and how they fit, or in some cases don't fit, together."


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