TCS Daily


What a Civilian Reserve Corps Would Look Like

By Ilya Shapiro - August 28, 2007 12:00 AM

BAGHDAD—Last week I argued that neither civilian nor military structures, as currently organized, are quite right for leading the Rule of Law (ROL) component of a reconstruction (or "nation-building") effort. Instead, I floated the idea of a Civilian Reserve Corps modeled on British colonial institutions specializing in such efforts, such as the India Civil Service.

The idea is that the military, despite its valiant service in stepping up to man civil affairs capacities in Iraq, was not designed for such activities, and can carry with it a perception of imposing an occupying power's will by force. Civilian capability is lacking, however, because the Departments of State and Justice, and other relevant agencies, lack both the manpower and the legal authority to deploy the civilian experts necessary to enable a wholesale national reconstruction. And the U.S. also lacks a national police force and stability police (constabulary) units altogether, so dealing with civil disorder and police training is complicated further.

Fortunately, I am not alone in drawing this conclusion, and the U.S. government is now moving to create the organization to put some hard lessons learned into practice. On December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day), 2005, President Bush signed a National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD-44), assigning responsibility to the Secretary of State for planning and coordinating the activities of civilian agencies during post-conflict interventions. The State Department in turn assigned the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stability Operations (CRS) to create a Civilian Reserve Corps of police, constabulary, and ROL experts to work alongside the military in stabilization operations.

As described by Robert Perito of the U.S. Institute of Peace's (USIP) Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations, the CRS has developed a three-tiered plan to deploy critical civilian elements at the outset of a peace or stability operation.

The first tier, the Active Reserve Corps (ARC), would be composed of 100-150 personnel with diplomatic, police, justice, and other ROL skills who would deploy on 24-hour notice from their government jobs at a variety of agencies. The second tier, the Standby Reserve Corps (SRC), would be composed of over 1,000 new hires who would be trained and deployable within 60 days of assignment. While ARC officers would be assigned to military commands or embassies, SRC officers would man mobile or regional teams.

The third tier, the Civil Response Corps (CRC), would be composed of personnel from state and local governments and the private sector who would sign contingency agreements with the federal government. Like the Army Reserves, they could be activated by the appropriate authority for international service, at which point they would become federal employees. Over time the CRC, including its police aspect, would grow to about 4,000 people.

The CRC is obviously the most radical idea of the three—heretofore no provision exists for deploying civilians akin to a military unit—but all of this A-S-C system addresses a gap in American foreign policy capability that becomes more obvious with each international engagement we undertake. (I would have called the second tier Bystanding Reserve Corps, so the acronyms would go A-B-C but never mind.)

To finance this plan, including the recruitment of the first 500 members of the CRC, Congress appropriated $50 million in the latest Iraq supplemental funding bill, which President Bush signed May 25, 2007. The funds will not be available, however, unless Congress passes a companion piece of authorizing legislation, the Civilian Management Reconstruction and Stabilization Act, sponsored by Senators Lugar (R-IN) and Biden (D-DE).

Congress is expected to pass this legislation such that the Civilian Reserve Corps should begin operations by the end of the year—although nearly identical legislation (one its own bill, the other a part of the main State Department appropriation) failed in the previous Congress. It is not so much the Democrats' takeover that has turned the tide in favor of this project, but the realization that if our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan—and, it is left unsaid, the Iraqs and Afghanistans of the future—are to succeed, we need to have this motivated corps of civilian experts available for quick deployment, especially in the critical early stages of the mission.

For that is the far-reaching ROL lesson here: Setting aside the question of whether we should be involved in building ROL, or intervening abroad in circumstances that create a need for stabilization and reconstruction—we have in the past and we will in the future, regardless of the theory or partisan politics behind it—we need a capability beyond those provided by current agencies, whether civilian and military.

I am not at all a fan of big government, or new government programs, or creating bureaucracies, but if there's one thing I've learned during this stint in Iraq, it's that if we are to do this kind of work—for national security, humanitarian, or other policy reasons—we have to do it right.

Ilya Shapiro, the incoming Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, is currently a Special Assistant/Advisor to the Multi-National Force-Iraq's (MNFI) Law and Order Task Force (LAOTF). He writes the "Dispatches from Purple America" column for TCS Daily.com and a blog [link to http://dispatchesfrompurpleamerica.blogspot.com/] of the same name. The opinions expressed here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of any institution with which he is affiliated.


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5 Comments

looking good
Interesting articles re the Rule of Law in Iraq. But people might have more confidence in its efficacy if the ideas mentioned were implemented and show to be successful in places like say, the black ghettos that we cannot walk around in right now in the States. So if it were demonstrated then that a white guy or his daughters could safely walk around at night in DC, once that happened then it could be tried in Bagdad too. This is another way that foreign countries don't have too much confidence in the US anymore because they see them so often trying to do things in other countries that they can't even do at home.

My God, Dietmar is right
That is right dietmar the US or any other country for that matter should road test some of the civil engineering ideas at home first. Before trying them else where. The includes green groups and big business in the third world.

It is not a good thing to build such an institution.
Many people in Government might want America to be an empire with colonies all over the world but such a decision will impoverish and destroy America.(........)
There are no values to be gained by the American people in looting other countries. We do not need to control other countries to get all the value that we can from them. All we have to do to get that is to purchase what they have to sell. If it is not worth buying then what ever we do to take it will cost more than it is worth.(........)
We do not have the power to build countries for other people. We do not and can not have the slightest idea of how to do that. It is something that the people of that country must discover for themselves by doing it.(.......)
That knowledge does not exist now and after the country has built itself up it will only exist as that countries history and will not be more than a guideline for doing the same thing in another country.(.......)
The only thing we can do is teach the people in our schools ways that have worked in the past in similar situations. They will have to adapt them to their own circumstances. (........)
Since there is so much confusion in ideas as to which ones are the right ones it would be foolish to think that out of all the ideas available that our Government would pick the right ones that would actually work.(.....)
The whole enterprise would be a fools undertaking.

but...
"I am not a fan of big government, ... but" is a guarantee that the rest of the article is also an oxymoron.

Its called competent empire...
This proposal for a civilian reserve corp is an example of what Jerry pournelle calls a technique of competent empire. I agree with the author that if we are to be an empire, that we should be a competent rather than incompetent one, and that creating such a civilian reserve corp is a necessary part of this.

However, the real question being begged here (that noone is answering) is the issue of whether we should become an empire or go back to being the commercial republic that the founders of the U.S. intended. I would like to see more discussion of this.

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