Smart Power on Display

October 16, 2009 By Richard Parker

“Putting Smart Power to Work,” the USGLC-hosted event at the Willard Hotel on October 14, attracted a host of provocative commentary in the blogosphere.

Writing at the National Security Network’s Democracy Arsenal blog, Michael Cohen said that QDDR boosters are too optimistic in thinking the State Department and USAID will move once again to the forefront of U.S. foreign policymaking.

While I think the QDDR process is a smart one; and I like the fact that a lot of folks at State,  the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill are talking about increasing resources for State and AID until we start talking about moving authorities away from DoD and giving them back to the civilian agencies the slow but inexorable militarization of American foreign policy will continue unabated. In some ways, I think this is the most important foreign policy challenge Barack Obama will face during his presidency.

Politico’s Laura Rozen, meanwhile, explained the significance of the event’s big turnout:

The large attendance indicated concern from the Hill, NGOs, contractors, think tanks, etc. “who find themselves at a loss of how to influence or even understand the process.” The team also found themselves dealing with another rumor – that the QDDR process is cover for State to absorb USAID.

Over at Foreign Policy’s influential Cable blog, Josh Rogin wrote that the development community is focused on getting a top person to head up USAID:

The future of USAID was the main topic of interest at Wednesday’s conference put on by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and featuring a panel with Deputy Secretary of State  Jack Lew, Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter (above left), and acting USAID administrator Alonzo Fulgham.

Development-community sources said that the administration has its pick for USAID administrator in mind, but that person has told the White House he won’t accept the job until questions about his role and authorities are settled.

Government Executive’s Alyssa Rosenberg commended Rogin’s take, saying “it could be a real act of public service to give USAID some leadership through what could be a complicated if rewarding time.”

Diplopundit was full of praise for Secretary Lew:

Jack Lew is probably the one great hope at the moment to shepherd that State/USAID transformation into the 21st century.

On the Blog 4 Global Health, Duncan Rollason called the debate productive:

Immediately following the panel discussion, the audience broke into various working groups to offer their input into the future of U.S. development assistance.  The leadership made it very clear that they want to hear from civil society, specifically through the working groups and sub-working groups as the QDDR unfolds.