Skip to content

Why Militarized Aid Fails

January 7, 2011

Military action is no longer regarded as the only effective tool of U.S. foreign policy.  From the halls of Congress to the Pentagon, high ranking US officials now tout development and diplomacy as critical components of foreign policy.

Despite this wide support, the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) remain woefully underfunded compared to the military.  Over the past few decades, State and USAID’s shrinking budgets and capacity resulted in the military filling in the gaps by assuming traditional development and diplomatic activities.  This trend is referred to as “militarized aid”.

A recent Foreign Affairs article describes militarized aid as ineffective for four reasons:

the pressure to spend huge funding quickly, the inability to match human resources with project management demands, the dominance of short-term political goals over longer-term development needs, and the focus of aid on certain groups for tactical gain.

In other words, militarized aid doesn’t work. It fails because its motivations are politically driven rather than centered around the needs of the communities it serves.

This week, the Washington Post highlighted failures of the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Iraq and Afghanistan, which provides flexible spending to the military to use for development projects.  Congress allocated CERP $5 billion over the past six years despite the program’s significant shortcomings.

Given the shaky economy and staggering deficit, the U.S. cannot afford to waste money on expensive and short-sighted aid projects that ultimately don’t work.

The Obama administration must separate the roles of civilian and military personnel, increase civilian agency capacity, and prioritize long-term development over short-sighted national security interests.  Until this happens, more money will be wasted and development needs will remain unmet.

One Comment
  1. Paul Roden permalink
    January 7, 2011 4:40 pm

    To get a better understanding of this phenomenon, you should read Dana Priest’s excellent book on this subject entitled “The Mission”. The generals that are in charge of these “Central” commands are like kings of their own fiefdom’s, who train “friendly ” military units within their central command, often entering a country and not informing the US Ambassador of their training mission with that countries military. The perks of having a golf course, PX, nice chow in the mess hall and other privileges that comes with rank are explained in great detail in this veteran Washington Post military and foreign affairs reporter is a real eye opener.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: