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Sunday, March 27, 2005

'Toothless' System Administrators: the State Dept's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization

"[W]e are working to strengthen international capacities to address conditions in failed, failing and post-conflict states. . . . President Bush already has charged us at the State Department with coordinating our nation's post-conflict and stabilization efforts." -- Secretary Rice, February 17, 2005

This quote in part sums up the underlying theme behind the newly formed Office for the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) at the US State Department. Created officially in August 2004 by then Secretary Colin Powell, the basic premise behind the Office is in step with concepts laid out by strategic thinkers such as Dr. Thomas Barnett and Mark of Zenpundit. Their concepts include the formation of a ‘System Administrator’ force to not only react to post-conflict situations, but to proactively prevent or stabilize areas in which civil conflict and strife are inevitable. In essence, the S/CRS hopes to pre-empt any of the difficulties that the United States has encountered in post-war Iraq while planning for and reversing conflict escalation in other trouble spots around the world. In order to do this, the Office would ‘bring together civilian experts in such field as political administration, law enforcement and economics and give them a seat at the table alongside the military during the planning of U.S intervention in troubled states’. This is a big step in the right direction and ensures that the ‘everything else’ in any military conflict is taken into greater consideration. By putting teams of individuals from several government agencies together, as well as from private-sector groups, the head of the S/CRS, Carols Pascual, will attempt to ensure communication and sufficient planning will occur when instabilities are targeted for US intervention and that the areas and states are brought back into a sustainable path of peace, democracy, and a market economy. There is also hope for these teams to serve as an early warning system to help identify nation-states which seem to be failing or show signs of internal conflict. Perhaps some aspects of the Nation-State Failure concept by Robert Rothberg can serve as a set of guideposts in determining the tell-tell signs of a nations failing nature.
As listed on the State Departments website the Core Objectives of the S/CRS are:

-Monitor and Plan

-Mobilize and Deploy

-Prepare Skills and Resources

-Learn from Experience

-Coordinate with International Partners

One thing that appears to be missing is any mention of a security or ‘Protector’ role, either in coordination or in implementation, as Mr Safranski lays out in his Zenpundit blog, “A System Administrator is a protector, mentor and coordinator”. This idea sounds much like the foundation the State Department is attempting to lay, using the S/CRS as its cornerstone, but again lacks the security aspect. Most, if not all, of the situations that the S/CRS will be involved with will be in highly insecure and destabilized areas and the quickest way to fail in such a situation is to come either poorly armed or worse - - not armed at all. In such situations,force will need to be applied immediately and security established fso the inter-agency/private sector teams of the S/CRS can fulfill their mission effectively. For example, the situation of Somali in the early 1990s; the force of thousands of US Marines was applied throughout the city of Mogadishu during the beginning stages of the intervention, and the relief agencies were able to perform their basic tasks in relative safety and accomplish what they set out to do. Upon the removal of the Marine Corps contingent and the establishment of the Army Ranger base at the airport, civil strife began to creep back in and the ensuing Blackhawk Down incident occurred. The point is that while the show of force was in their midst, those that are part of the conflict and strife are able to be controlled or influenced in a way so the rebuilders and re-connectors can accomplish their goals. Once local government functions and security forces have been established and properly trained, then phased pullouts of the SysAdmin security forces can begin.

As written in an earlier post, “State Department Soldiers, the beginning of the SysAdmin”, the Defense Department seems to be moving parallel with the State Department and much can be said for these revolutionary changes. In keeping with the concept of a System Administrator force to deal with pre and post conflict reconstruction and stabilization, it is integral for the US military and specifically the Marine Corps to be intricately involved. The Marine Corps is becoming quite adept in the role of carrying the “big stick” of force projection as well as “walking softly” in the post-conflict to help reconstruct infrastructure and restore basic service. This is evident in the post-war Iraq rebuilding of electricity, water and sewage plants as well as providing basic health and medical services. Truly one cannot think of a better synergy of the two departments of State and Defense than to combine the applied force projection of the United States Marine Corps with the multi-faceted experience in re-building afforded by the S/CRS. With such a combination, a true System Administrator force can begin its seemingly daunting task of prevention, preparation, stabilization and reconstruction of conflict prone and failing nation-states.

New State Dept. Office Aimed at Postwar Aid
Washington Post
: March 25, 2005

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