One of the memes that has informed the transformation of the U.S. military since the deployments to Somalia in the early 1990s is the belief that the military is being tasked to take on a far greater share of peace, stability, and nation-building operations than is appropriate. One response to this issue has been a call for the U.S. to recuse itself from such exercises.
But another has been to re-think who conducts what activities in the nation-building process. This approach was well articulate by Thomas P.M. Barnett in his seminal book The Pentagon’s New Map, wherein the author called for multi-agency and multi-lateral approaches to global problems, rather than unilateral military-only efforts. Barnett’s approach guides the Department of Defense under Robert Gates, but also the Department of State under Hillary Clinton. (Tellingly, this approach was pointedly eschewed by the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld.)
In Affairs of State: The Interagency and National Security, fifteen national security specialists begin putting some flesh on the multi-agency approach to international affairs. A superb and, frankly, essential read for anyone interested in America’s role in global affairs or in analyzing the country’s decidedly mixed record in bringing stability to other nations.