George Will's description of General Petraeus's approach to counterinsurgency as the "civilianization of the military" has been getting some play the past few days.
"Petraeus wanted to know: Why had the Shiite finance minister closed the bank? How quickly could the local manager reopen it? How many guards did the bank need and what was the plan to train them?
"This is not the militarization of U.S. policy. Rather, it is the civilianization of the military, an inevitable consequence of nation-building (The Military Tries Nation-Building in Afghanistan)."
But this is not a good deconstruction of FM 3-24, co-authored by Petraeus. If either Will or Petraeus went by that manual, they would understand that the military has inappropriately usurped functions rightfully belonging to the State Department.
COIN is not a unilateral military mission, nor should we civilialinize the military. It should not be played like a game of scrabble, in which the tiles are shuffled and rearranged endlessly. Furthermore, a greater concern is that we have militarized the civilian agencies such as the State Department. When former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice introduced the concept of "Clear-hold-build" in 2005, she was muddling the agencies' missions.
COIN should be a synergistic interplay between State and Defense, but its execution has instead morphed into a miasma that nobody seems to understand -- not Will, Petraeus, Obama or Secretary of State Clinton.
A well-oiled machine with discrete and integral parts this is not.