The op-ed in the NYT on “Send the State Department to War”

  1. Criticizes the State Department for a reorganization that was mandated by Sen. Jesse Helms, a Republican who hated State, and
  2. Implies that the main job of State should be regime change.

On both counts it is misguided. Helms mandated that USIS (the public affairs diplomatic arm) be merged into main State, along with AID and ACDA (which he doesn’t mention). No doubt merging them into State has made them somewhat less desirable, but that’s what the Republicans wanted because they generally hate State and what to see it stymied in whatever it’s doing. But I doubt that separating them out again will make much difference in the short term.

He complains that State has not been involved enough in Iraq and Afghanistan, but part of that is due to Rumsfeld and his colleagues at Defense, who fought hard to keep State out of Iraq and to make Defense responsible for things that would normally be done by State. Only after Defense failed at these tasks did insiders start to call for State to take up the tasks and to criticize State for not having done it earlier.

Without specifically mentioning regime change, Max Boot calls for State to aid moderate Muslims, flex our political and diplomatic muscles to achieve vital objectives peacefully, gather intelligence, and build the rule of law in ungoverned lands.

I am one of those, who as he says will “object that to build up these capacities will encourage reckless ‘imperialism’ or ‘militarism.’ But improving our abilities in nation-building, strategic communications, security advising and related disciplines will actually lessen the chances that we will need to mount a major military intervention such as the one in Iraq.”

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