Belmont Club

Mysterious force

According to the Obama transition team, the mysterious “civilian national security force” he announced to cheering crowds in July is intended to provide “postwar reconstruction” in addition to the strictly military activities of the regularly Armed Forces. It is not a Brownshirt-like force. That at least, is the vague explanation given to his most tantalizing speech.

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.

“It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force,” Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. “I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism.”

Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military. …

Obama’s comments about a national security force came during a speech in Colorado in which he called for expanding the nation’s foreign service.

“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set,” Obama said in July. “We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

The Obama transition team declined to comment on Broun’s remarks. But spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama was referring in the speech to a proposal for a civilian reserve corps that could handle postwar reconstruction efforts such as rebuilding infrastructure — an idea endorsed by the Bush administration.

But the “civilian reserve corps” mentioned in GWB’s 2007 State of the Union Speech was a relatively small, all-volunteer corps of civilians who could provide specialist skills for reconstruction. It was nothing like the organization “just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the US military described by Barack Obama.

President Bush, who once dismissed “nation-building” and failed to prepare adequately for rebuilding Iraq after invading it, made a significant shift in his State of the Union address a year ago.

He proposed creating a small, all-volunteer force of U.S. civilians with specialized skills who could deploy on short notice to nations shattered by war, to help them rebuild. It was an acknowledgement that while the Pentagon was given the lead in postwar Iraq, reconstruction is often a job best suited for civilian agencies.

But the initiative, called the Civilian Reserve Corps, has gone nowhere. It’s been a victim of congressional skepticism and, some critics say, ambivalence from the Bush administration.

Congress last May approved $50 million for the plan, enough to create a 500-person reserve. But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has blocked legislation permitting the State Department to spend the money.

The 500 man, $50 million dollar force can hardly be what Obama refers to. It seems to be something much grander. The tantalizing question is what department this “civilian reserve corps” — if that’s what it is — would be housed under. Will it be the DOS, the DOD? Homeland Security? Or something completely different. And who would coordinate it’s activities with the DOD? One possibility, already proposed under HR 808, is the proposed Department of Peace and Nonviolence.

GovTrack has this entry for H.R. 808, “A bill to establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence,” sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-OH]. The bill was introduced February, 2007. It aims to establish a new Department of Peace and Nonviolence with the following offices:

Office of Peace Education and Training.
Office of Domestic Peace Activities.
Office of International Peace Activities.
Office of Technology for Peace.
Office of Arms Control and Disarmament.
Office of Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution.
Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights.
Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Peace and Nonviolence.

According to the bill’s text, a representative of the Department of Peace and Nonviolence will sit on the National Security Council, recommend policy to the Attorney General and advise the Secretary of Defense and State on all matters concerning national security.

The Department of Peace and Nonviolence doesn’t exactly seem to be the kind of organization that can partner with the US military in dangerous situations. Is that going to be yet another organization? Who knows? We’ll see soon enough.

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