The Pentagon’s Private Army

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This seems like it should be bigger news. Congress has recently granted the Pentagon $200 million to aid foreign militaries, a sum which the executive branch can now spend without oversight from either the State Department or the legislature. That means the military can spend money training and equipping foreign armies without following constraints that require that the aid recipients meet certain standards, “including respect for human rights and protection of legitimate civilian authorities.” And military leaders will now be able to set a small but potentially important aspect of foreign policy without input from the State Department.

Perhaps there’s a case to be made that the old oversight rules were too byzantine, and, as administration officials argued to the Post, the old way of doing things was hindering U.S. attempts to provide security assistance in “crisis situations.” But the opportunities for abuse here are pretty self-evident. Among other things, the Pentagon wants to use the funds for “fighting terror and bolstering stability” in Africa. But we know that the United States has fostered a “close intelligence relationship” with, for instance, the regime in Sudan that’s currently responsible for genocide in Darfur, all in the interest of fighting terror. Is further assistance on the way? Is this really the sort of thing that demands less, rather than more, oversight?

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