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A new U.S. focus on nation-building

Critics say the Bush administration is relying too heavily on the military.

By Gordon LuboldStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 23, 2008

Getting along: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Capitol Hill April 15, prior to testifying before the House Armed Services Committee.

Susan Walsh/AP



George W. Bush resisted calls to do nation-building during his 2000 campaign, but eight years later, his cabinet is making fundamental changes to reorganize the way the American government can prop up countries around the world.

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As the US spends billions to build the military and governance capacity of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration finds it has no choice but to support such efforts in other emerging countries.

But analysts and members of Congress warn that a recent push by the administration for more money for train-and-equip programs relies too heavily on the Defense Department, and those initiatives will continue to erode the powers of non-military agencies.

"I would argue that what it will do over time is just continue to emasculate the civilian agencies," says Kathleen Hicks, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington. "[The State Department] is never going to be able to compete with money and people, and if the mission goes, then you'll continue to rely on the military."

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared before a House panel asking to stabilize a funding stream that allows the Pentagon to conduct train-and-equip missions and for the State Department to work alongside or separately to support military and other forms of nation-building.

The request amounts to a large increase, from $300 million a year for the military to perform training, to about $750 million per year. A separate legislative request to transfer at least a $100 million from the Pentagon to the State Department would let it provide civilian support for emerging nations.

The proposal, which falls under the Building Global Partnerships Act, simply extends work the military has done in places like Georgia, Somalia, and Haiti.