"Post-war pacification in Afghanistan and Iraq is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. So the question is, who?"
Thus begins a very interesting column by Jay Bryant of The Optimate. He has some suggestions regarding the Peace Corps, suggestions that are apparently under serious consideration in Washington. In fact, this proposed model has already been used successfully. Where, and by whom? You'll never guess...
UPDATE: Unfortunately, The Optimate has gone dark. Fortunately, Exit Zero included this excerpt as part of their own coverage after reading this piece:
We need a force of humanitarian workers who will advance American foreign policy by performing genuine humanitarian service. There is no reason why there should be any conflict between the two. Siegel likens the relationship to that between wartime Iraqi military units and their embedded reporters. Both had jobs to do, and did them while establishing good working relationships that, in most cases, increased respect for each side among the other.
One interesting precedent for hardened, policy-driven humanitarian workers, explained to me by a retired US Army Colonel, comes from an unlikely place - Cuba. The Cubans went into places like Angola with doctors and nurses, well-diggers, teachers, axes, shovels, raw lumber and construction equipment and actually did some good for people while measurably advancing the foreign policy objectives of their homeland.
Of course, those well-diggers, teachers, et. al. had military training and were armed; more than a few held positions in Cuba's intelligence or internal security apparatus. They were also accompanied in the field by Cuban troops.
International NGOs have shown very clearly that they will not take casualties in order to perform their work, and at the same time will not accept military protection. This makes them essentially useless in any conflict situation. Many are also politically motivated to actively undermine US efforts, not to mention their efforts to justly earn their high-living "Toyota Taliban" nickname.
Something better will be required, and the NATO "Provincial Reconstruction Teams" approach in Afghanistan is a first step toward that something. The fact that the full alternative model we need comes from the brutal tyrant and darling of the international NGO set Fidel Castro is just an additional irony.