"We in the Obama Administration view development as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative," said Clinton at the Council on Foreign Relations on September 8. "It is central to advancing American interests - as central as diplomacy and defense. Our approach is not, however, development for development's sake; it is an integrated strategy for solving problems."
But while the poll's message isn't novel, what is new is the group voicing that message. According to Ambassador James Dobbins at the RAND Corporation, who served as a special diplomatic envoy in the Clinton and Bush administrations, the poll reflects the changing attitudes of a military that has seen near universal overseas experience. The deployment of so many American soldiers since the 2003 invasion of Iraq has exposed almost the entire military to overseas conflict.
"Now, throughout the armed forces, there's a more widespread understanding of information that once only experts understood," explains Dobbins.
That information boils down to this: the military can't secure a society alone. While military deployment can provide opportunities for change in conflict states, "the changes that make the deployment worthwhile are those that are brought about by non-military means, by people by whose expertise lies outside the military," Dobbins says. The military can impose a certain degree of security, but can't maintain stability without development-based civilian skills.
But troops haven't always held this deep appreciation for humanitarian aid.
The intellectual history of the support stems from General Petraeus's relatively recent command in Iraq. In 2006, Petraeus faced a rapidly worsening Iraq war, and a tough realization: the war couldn't be won simply through force. He introduced a counterinsurgency strategy: a humanitarian, nation-building mission that proved that development work can effectively achieve military objectives. Petraeus spearheaded the construction of a new university -- the University of Mosul -- and helped jumpstart the political system, among a plethora of other projects.
But despite the arguable success of the counterinsurgency, and the tangible effects of humanitarian and development work, when USAID and the State Department ask for aid dollars, they often get turned away -- unlike the Pentagon.
At a September 28 discussion on the Administration's New Global Development Policy at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Conference, Clinton and Gates had a comical but revealing exchange on the subject.
"One of the things that Bob and I have talked about is a national security budget," Clinton said towards the end of the discussion. "Because I'll just say the obvious - it is really easy for him to get his budget and it's really hard for me to get our budget. "
Later, Gates admitted, "We are able to get money easier than State and AID," and discussed working cooperatively with the State Department. "We have a couple of sections in law in the Defense Authorization Act, Sections 1206 and 1207, that are basically - the money is in our budget, but it's basically dual-key -- the Secretary of State and I both have to approve these things -- these projects .... And that has worked very well. We have a counterinsurgency fund for Pakistan. We have several of these funds that the Congress has worked with us on to meet specific needs in the short term. They are -- I would say, though, they are inadequate to the need."