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Civilian role urged in war on terrorism

Email|Print| Text size + By Robert Burns
Associated Press / November 27, 2007

WASHINGTON - Defeating terrorism will require the use of more "soft power," with civilians contributing more in nonmilitary areas such as communication, economic assistance, and political development, Pentagon chief Robert Gates said yesterday.

Gates called for the creation of new government organizations, including a permanent group of civilians with a wide range of expertise who could be sent abroad on short notice as a supplement to US military efforts. And he urged more involvement by universities and other private organizations.

"We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen," he said in a speech at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. "We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years."

He said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as US military involvement in the 1990s in the Balkans and in Somalia, have shown that long-term success requires more than military power.

"Based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former director of the CIA, and now as secretary of defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use 'soft' power and for better integrating it with 'hard' power," Gates said.

Many have argued that the Bush administration missed opportunities early in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns to head off insurgents by failing to focus on economic development, promotion of internal reconciliation, training of police forces, and communication of US goals.

The lesson, Gates said, is that nontraditional conflict - against insurgents, guerrillas, and terrorists - will be the mainstay of battlefields for years to come, requiring more than military power.

"Success will be less a matter of imposing one's will and more a function of shaping behavior - of friends, adversaries and, most importantly, the people in between," Gates told his audience of students, faculty, and local residents.

Gates said there is an urgent need to figure out how to better organize the government to meet the security challenges of the 21st century. Among shortcomings in the nonmilitary area, Gates said the US government is "miserable" at communicating its goals and policies to foreign audiences.

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