The US has spent upwards of $50 billion over the past decade, outside of pure military spending, to try to reconstruct and stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan. Our failures are, by now, legend, by now, but we keep trying, and keep spending.
And we have invented new dogmas, or mantras, about what we are doing, particularly "whole of government" and "post conflict stabilization and reconstruction." DOD is building massive capacity and doctrine to stabilize, help govern, and rebuild countries, or "build partner capacity," as the recent Quadrennial Defense Review puts it. www.defense.gov/qdr/ State and USAID are busily trying to build on existing capacities to develop an even more ambitious role, as reenforced in the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. www.state.gov/documents/organization/153108.pdf. And the administration still argues that it is doing better at coordinating these efforts across the government.
It is not often we talk here about the State Department and USAID. After all, at roughly $50 billion for all international affairs funding, it is a rounding error for discretionary spending. It is also served as a punching pillow for people who are deep in xenophobia, or hate diplomats and think the State Department is inept, or think we are giving away the family store in foreign assistance to other, feckless countries. (For evidence, see the latest blast from the incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Roz-Leitenan.)