Congress gives Pentagon $200 million...

Bradford Plumer over at MoJo blog points to a sorely under-reported story regarding the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's victory in Congress. A wee paragraph in the massive Defense Authorization Act has granted the Pentagon the authority to unilaterally dole out some $200 million to foreign militaries in orded to "'build the capacity' of foreign militaries to conduct counterterrorist operations."

This cash is not subject to the stipulations normally exercised in foreign aid programs overseen by the State Department. It's a whole new special wing of funding based on the supposition that all those rules requiring foreign recipients to respect things like basic human rights are just too cumbersome when we're in a "crisis" situation.

The WaPo reports
The initiative addresses an issue that both the Pentagon and the State Department have identified as crucial in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability abroad -- namely, "building partnership capacity" in Africa and other developing regions. Administration officials complain that attempts to provide such security assistance, especially in crisis situations, have often been hampered by a patchwork of legal restrictions and by a division of responsibilities among U.S. government departments. Improving security in a failing foreign nation, for instance, might involve drawing on the Pentagon for military training, the State Department for police training, the Department of Homeland Security for border protection and the Treasury Department for financial enforcement. Cobbling such pieces together can take many months, officials say.
As Plumer rightly points out, this could easily translate into propping up some pretty unseemly characters. But perhaps most troubling is this perception by administration officials that having to reach consensus through more than one authority or organization is just a bunch of red tape. "Improving security in a failing foreign nation" is a task most likely tackled in different ways by the State Department and the Pentagon. And it seems pretty obvious that improving security in a failing foreign nation might be at odds with giving money to rogue regimes who provide us with intelligence, but continue to be a part of what is causing the nation to fail in the first place.

"Fighting terrorism" does not inherently translate into "promoting stability." Just like elections, as we have so pointedly seen in the Middle East, are not synonomous with democracy.

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