Relationships Matter

Secretary of State Clinton appeared before a Congressional appropriations subcommittee today to provide her view of the budget needs of her department.

She covered the globe with five major areas of interest:

  1. Sustainment of national security missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan;
  2. A new focus on the Asia-Pacific region;
  3. Moving forward from the events of the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa;
  4. Use of economic statescraft — using diplomacy and development to create jobs in the U.S.; and
  5. The elevation of development alongside diplomacy and defense to help build strategic depth in vulnerable areas.

In every sense, the State Department’s $51.6 billion budget request for Fiscal Year 2013, and the five priorities it’s centered on, value the development, maintenance and growth of relationships.  Investment in strengthening existing relationships and building new ones is vital to our country’s ability to engage and lead abroad.

The U.S. seemed slow to respond to the opportunities presented by the events of the Arab Spring.  Our efforts to engage and assist seemed uncoordinated and incomplete in the wake of sweeping changes across the region.  Secretary Clinton seems to recognize this, too, since her department’s FY13 budget request includes a $770 million incentive fund for the Middle East and North Africa.  The fund will enable the U.S. to be more flexible and speedy in its efforts to build relationships and assist in the region.  Unfortunately, the funds are needed now for such an effort, not at the end of this year.

Similarly, in the Pacific region, the landscape change brought by North Korea’s leadership shift and China’s growing influence calls for a concerted focus on building relationships that endure current challenges and create strength for the future.  Traditional partners like Japan and South Korea will be key to the diplomatic efforts.  Untraditional or new partners like Vietnam will play an increasingly important role.  The efforts of the Defense Department will clearly be important complements through programs such as joint, combined exercises and the military-to-military contact programs in the quest to build meaningful relationships that can help affect the future.

Clinton also testified to the importance of development and said her budget request would elevate that type of engagement to the equivalent level of defense and diplomacy.  The focus on development is a wise one and will help to ensure there are actions to back up the diplomatic words about the need to stabilize areas hindered by disease, poverty and hunger — destabilizing factors that provide fertile ground for violent extremism and conflict.

While many will argue against investment outside the U.S. while so many domestic demands face the country, only the U.S. has the reach, resources and existing relationships to help secure a more peaceful and prosperous world.  While relationships always have mattered in the realm of diplomacy, the dynamic nature of the modern geopolitical and economic landscape make these associations even more important.  Simply put, investing now in our country’s ability to grow and maintain key, international relationships will help to underwrite the future of stability at home and abroad.


Formation of the Fifth Iraqi Government

List compiled by Dhafra al-Azzawi and Scott Weiner


Prime Minister: Nouri al-Maliki (SLC – Dawa)

Deputy PM – Rouz Nouri Shawees (KA – KDP)
Deputy PM – Hussein al-Shahristani (Shia – Independent)
Deputy PM – Salih al-Mutlaq (Iraqiya – Iraqi Front for National Dialogue)

Head, National Council for Strategic Policy – Iyad Allawi (Iraqiya – al-Wifaq al-Watani)

President – Jalal Talabani (KA – PUK)
Vice President – Adel Abdel Mahdi (INA – ISCI)
Vice President – Tareq al-Hashimi (Tajdeed)

Parliament Speaker – Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraqiya – Iraqi Front for National Dialogue)
First Deputy Speaker – Qusay Abd el-Wahid el-Suhail (Sadrist)
Second Deputy Speaker – Aref Tayfour (KA – KDP)

Ministries – Total: 42

Interior – (acting – PM Maliki)
Security – (acting – PM Maliki)
Defense – (acting – PM Maliki)


Ministry of State – Ali al-Dabbagh (SLC – Dawa)
Government Spokesman – Ali al-Dabbagh (SLC – Dawa)
Higher Education – Ali al-Adeeb (SLC – Dawa)
Ministry of State for Foreign Affairs – Ali Abdullah al-Sajri (SLC)
Oil – Abdul Karim al-Lua’ibi (Shia)
Ministry of Electricty – Hussein al-Shahristani (Shia- independent) (acting – position assigned to Iraqiya)
Youth and Sports – Jasim Mohammed Ja’afar (Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkomen)
Human Rights – Mohammed Shayaa al-Soudani (Sadrist)
Ministry of State – Hassan Radhi al-Sari (SLC)


Labor and Social Affairs – Nassar al-Rubaie (Sadrist)
Planning – Nasser al-Rubaie (Sadrist) (acting – position assigned to SLC)
Reconstruction and Housing – Mohammed Sahib al-Darraji (Sadrist)
Municipalities and Public Works – Mohammed Sahib al-Darraji (Sadrist) (acting – position assigned to Sadrists)
Ministry of State- Abd el-Mehdi Hassan al-Matiri (Sadrist)
Justice – Hassan al-Shimmari (Fadila)
Ministry of State  – Bushra Hussein Saleh [female] (Fadila)
Transportation – Hadi al-Ameri (Badr)
Tourism and Antiquities – Lua’ Smeesim (Sadrist)
Water Resources – Muhanad al-Sa’idi (Shia – position assigned to Sadrists)
Ministry of State for National Reconciliation Affairs – Ali al-Adeeb (acting – position assigned to al-Mihrab)
Electricity  – Hussein al-Shahristani (Shia- independent – acting – position assigned to Iraqiya)
Ministry of State – Thia Najim al-Assadi (Badr)
Ministry of State for Parliamentary Affairs – Safa’ al-Din al-Safi (Shia)

*Sadrist Ministries of State are: Marshes, Foreign Affairs

IRAQIYA LIST – 9 Ministries

Finance – Rafaie al-Issawi (Independent Patriotic Gathering)
Education – Mohammed ِAli Tamim (Iraqiya )
Agriculture – Az Adin Abdullah al-Doula (Iraqis Gathering)
Communication – Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi (al-Wifaq)
Science and Technology – Abdul Karim al-Sammraie (al-Tajdeed)
Ministry of State – Salah Muzahim Darwish al-Jubouri (Iraqiya – Iraqi Front for National Dialogue)
Culture – Saadoun al-Dulaimi (Iraqiya – al-Wifaq)
Industry and Minerals- Ahmed Nasr Dali (Iraqiya )
Ministry of State for Provincial Affairs – Turhan Muthhar Hassan (Turkomen)
Ministry of State for Tribal Affairs


Foreign Affairs – Hoshayer al-Zebari (KA – KDP)
Health – Majeed Hamid Ameen (KA)
Migration and Displaced Persons – Dindar Najman Shafeeq (KA)
Ministry of State for Civil Society Organization Affairs – Dindar Najman Shafeeq (acting)
Women’s Affairs – Hoshayer al-Zebari (KA – KDP – acting)
Trade – Rouz Nouri Shawees (KA – KDP – acting)

Other – 2 Ministries
Environment – Sargun Slayuh (Christian)
Ministry of State – Yassin Hassan Muhammed

*Ministry of State is not a portfolio in and of itself, and is therefore not included in ministry counts.


Bowen and Biddle: Corruption Causes COIN Complications

On November 2, 2010, the Elliot School of International Affairs at The George Washington University hosted a panel on corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In attendance were Stuart W. Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and Dr. Stephen D. Biddle, Roger Hertog Senior Fellow for Defense Policy and the Council on Foreign Relations.  In his prepared remarks, Bowen pulled no punches on the importance of defeating corruption.  He referred to it as “the second insurgency” in Iraq, and said “corruption has like a cancer spread” in the country.  Iraq’s oil and gas resources are government owned, allowing only a privileged few to benefit, and to skim profits off the top.  He pointed to a lack of services and corruption as the major reasons Iraqis lack confidence in their government.

Dr. Biddle discussed corruption as it relates to Afghanistan and emphasized the role of the US to combat it.  When Afghan farmers are being preyed upon by corrupt government leaders and see the US aiding the government, they often turn to the Taliban as the only body that will protect them from corruption.  Biddle emphasized good governance as key to successful counter-insurgency, and characterized corruption as the “hydraulic fluid” making the machine of Afghan government run.  He proposed a pragmatic middle-ground solution in which corruption would not be defeated completely but rather brought down to a “reasonable” level.

Both Bowen and Biddle advocated greater unity of effort in the US government to fight corruption.  Bowen called for unifying anti-corruption agencies.  Biddle urged “cooperation among a variety of government sectors,” noting that this is “unusually hard in COIN” because of the complex environment.  Nonetheless, Biddle pointed to the cooperation during the Iraqi troop Surge of 2007 between Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus as a successful model of the unity of effort.

Both speakers hit on a key point, which is that support (which includes the perceptions) of Iraqi and Afghan citizens are critical in America’s ability to win the fight in both theaters.  Counterinsurgency is not only a military campaign for security, but a political campaign for confidence and trust.  The appearance that the US is indifferent to or complicit with regard to corruption activities not only damages morale, but is a strategic liability in the war effort.  As Dr. Biddle succinctly put it, “If we fail in this…we lose the war.”

One lingering question after the event, however, is the role that cultural differences play in this issue.  Many practices considered here in the US to be corrupt are well-accepted as legitimate in counterinsurgency theaters.  These are cultural differences with which commanders on the ground are forced to pragmatically deal.  Achieving the kind of tolerable corruption which Dr. Biddle advocates will require understanding the cultural norms surrounding corruption in COIN theaters, and dealing with them in ways that most successfully enable our troops to accomplish the mission.


Culture is our Weapon

AfroReggae is a Brazilian NGO that empowers destitute youths through cultural empowerment.  The organization was founded in 1993, right after Rio de Janeiro police massacred twenty-one civilians in the Vigario Geral favela (the Portuguese equivalent of slum).  The founders of the organization recognized that young people in these favelas were given no cultural reference points aside from pervasive violence and the drug trade.  Because they are given no alternatives, many of these impoverished Brazilians become tied up in narcotrafficking gangs at a very early age and are unable to ever escape.  AfroReggae’s mission is to promote development by bringing culture to these people who have lost their culture.

The organization’s efforts have been a model of success, as its founders used their connections in the local favela communities, the Rio government, and even the narcotraffickers, to gradually expand AfroReggae’s operations to more of Rio’s impoverished favelas.  At a recent event in Washington D.C., Damien Platt, the author of a recently-published book about AfroReggae called Culture is our Weapon, detailed the full extent of AfroReggae’s efforts in Rio: several bands, five culture centers that offer classes, a samba group, an all-girl percussion group, a theater group, a dance and procussion group, a circus school, a TV program, a magazine, and two to three radio programs.  Damien first encountered AfroReggae while working for Amnesty International in Rio, and later worked as AfroReggae’s International Relations coordinator from 2006 to 2008.

The experience of AfroReggae shows that targeted cultural development programs, carefully tailored to the local environment, can have transformative effects on impoverished communities.  Clearly, AfroReggae’s efforts should be encouraged by the local government in Rio de Janeiro so that they can spread to the city’s other destitute favelas.  However, this organization’s successes raise the question of whether similar efforts can be undertaken elsewhere in Brazil.  For example, Brazil’s Tri-Border Areas, particularly the triple frontier with Paraguay and Argentina, have received considerable international attention in recent years, due to allegations that Middle Eastern terrorist groups have profited enormously from the illegal drug trade in these loosely-governed border areas.  Could Brazil improve its efforts to undermine the drug trade in the southern Tri-Border Area by promoting efforts similar to AfroReggae’s in Rio?

In his talk, Damien Platt highlighted that race relations have played an important role in AfroReggae’s success in Rio: not only are AfroReggae’s Afro-Brazilian clients socioeconomically marginalized, but they are also racially marginalized.   AfroReggae addresses both of these social problems, giving their favela clients specific Afro-Brazilian cultural reference points.  If similarly marginalized minorities exist in the Tri-Border Areas, Indian tribes and Middle Eastern immigrants for example, AfroReggae’s development model could be put to use elsewhere within Brazil.  AfroReggae’s development efforts in Rio have taken over a decade to grow their current stage, and fostering this kind of grassroots development in the Tri-Border Area will take time – all the more reason to get started soon.  If any of you know of any studies indicating whether this model could be successful in Brazil’s TBAs, please send it our way.


Do Working Men Rebel?

The National Bureau of Economic Research recently published a paper by Eli Berman, Jacob Shapiro, and Joseph Felter called “Do Working Men Rebel?” The paper challenges one of the few universal tenets held by Counter Insurgency planners and decision makers: the belief that unemployment drives insurgent violence. To put the traditional view succinctly: give young men a job, and they will throw down their rifle and stop conducting attacks. The authors make a compelling argument, using data from the Iraqi district level and the Philippines equivalent- province level, that in fact the opposite is true. Prosperity brings violence, rather than reducing it.

The purpose of this post is not to explore the statistical models, data sources, or other specific academic concerns, as the two case studies and the types of data used are generally well thought out. There are some questions about the implementation, or operationalization, of the data, from a planner’s perspective.

The following vignette will highlight the operating picture the authors consider statistically in the study: The Iraqi district /Philippine province observed for the study is the source of a major government effort against insurgents. Increased patrols and checkpoints (kinetic operations), increased aid to businesses and community (civil military operations), along with a myriad of other efforts, are being used to reduce insurgent effectiveness. As this occurs, violence increases with no significant relationship to unemployment. At first this glance the policy implication is that efforts to employ young males, the most likely insurgents, are a waste of resources, as they do not reduce violence.  However, further exploration might lead to a different conclusion.  The following issues should be more carefully  considered before concluding that increased employment does not reduce insurgent violence.

1. The data show that the area analyzed is the subject of intense effort by the government security forces. That means that such an effort almost certainly draws insurgents into the area to fight. The study’s authors do not have the ability to build a compelling profile of the insurgents. For Iraq, one immediate question comes to mind: what about foreign fighters? They are potentially one of the most likely elements to “march to the sound of the guns” along with other more professional insurgents. The Syrian elements in Anbar province Iraq prior to the tribal awakening would be a great example of external forces that would skew study data.  Since the study occurred in two very small geographical areas, a better question to ask might be “how did the Iraqi province the district resides in perform overall in terms of reduced violence and higher employment?”

2. The government’s forces cannot be everywhere at once. “Clear, Hold, Build” means that you have to establish a beachhead to work from, as the Marines and the Afghan Army are currently doing in Marja. Marja will draw violence for months as the Taliban tries to disrupt the “Building” that is to follow in the wake of the current “Clearing” and “Holding.” Additionally, Marja may remain a problem, but is the seed planted there really unable to affect Helmand as a whole? Perhaps higher employment reduces the number of insurgents emanating from Marja, ultimately reducing the total number of insurgents in the overall battle space? This does not refute the study data, but calls into question whether the geographical areas studied were large enough to enable operational and strategic level decisions to be made about eliminating programs that provide employment to young males.

A follow-on to this effort that examined a larger geographical area and better examined the question of who is behind attacks would be incredibly insightful and add value to the authors’ study.  While any data can be picked apart, the authors should be commended for challenging the status quo and providing a perspective that may prove to be incredibly invaluable for planners and decision makers.