Small Wars Journal

The Military Must Hunt Corruption, Not Just Terrorists

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 6:46am

The Military Must Hunt Corruption, Not Just Terrorists by Sarah Chayes, Defense One

As popular uprisings keep toppling governments like bowling pins, the latest round has morphed into a great power face-off — with Russia and the West glowering at each other across a divided Ukraine. Thailand, a key United States military friend in Southeast Asia, could be next on the list. Thousands of protests rock Chinese provinces each month, worrying President Xi Jinping’s still-green administration. The Egyptian and Syrian revolutions have spun off into bloody and widening strife, while extremist insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Philippines stubbornly challenge state stability.

What links these far-flung events, most of them high on the U.S. list of security priorities? Corruption. Not garden-variety corruption, the kind that exists everywhere. Acute and systemic corruption has taken hold in these countries. And it is driving indignant populations, who are networked and communicating as never before, to extremes…

Read on.



Tue, 04/08/2014 - 6:40pm

I don't doubt that corruption is an issue across the globe, but is this really a military mission? The author uses the adjective 'must', without explaining why. Is the military 'fit for purpose' for this additional role?

Just to add some perspective the EU had a long record of its annual accounts not being signed off i.e. approved by the auditors. Last year they signed them off, noting just under 5% of the budget was spent on unapproved purposes.


I agree with this argument with one strong condition. The U.S. Military, and DoS, must address it's own rampant corruption before it starts pointing the fingers at others. To wit: Secretary Clinton famously stated publicly that the President of Afghanistan was corrupt. Yet it turns out that Secretary Clinton NEVER appointed or had an Inspector General overseeing the Department of State during her Tenure, which is HIGHLY irregular. Furthermore, we now discover that the Department of State cannot account for a minimum of $6 billion dollars of it's budget, exactly overlapping Sec. Clintons term in office (which, given there was no IG, should surprise no one).

Please to not misread my point. I am not accusing Sec. Clinton of misappropriating funds, nor of having knowledge of any such behavior. This stated, Sec. Clinton's brother, when her term as co-president was coming to a close, was discovered to have been selling PRESIDENTIAL PARDONS for $400,000 each (had I known at the time, I'd have gladly begged and borrowed enough to purchase a Pardon myself!).

When the United States Secretary of State openly accuses another world Leader of being corrupt, or crooked, whilst at the same time has not taken the necessary measures to insure those Americans closest to herself aren't even BIGGER crooks or MORE corrupt… such public statements are going to be dismissed as blatant hypocrisy. Moreover, should it be the case, as it was with her brother, that accusations of the worst sort of cynical and unapologetic abuse of public power and trust are true, Madam Clinton, however innocent she may be personally, tarnishes the reputation of the Office and Department she's been the spokeswoman for… Why should ANY other Nation take ANY anti-corruption agenda adopted by the US DoS remotely seriously? They should not.

The Department of Defense Inspector General is one of the oldest institutions in our Nation, and began under General Washington himself. Yet even the DODIG will admit that they are undermanned and underfunded and suffer from a large backlog. I cannot imagine how convoluted and complex the job before the OIG for the DoS must be… Moreover, I find it difficult to imagine the WH supporting the DoS OIG, given the liabilities this would likely entail for the WH's political candidate in 2016. This is not to suggest that the President is complicit, as from what I've heard him say publicly, it seems likely that he himself would be very supportive of a DoS housecleaning, as would Sec. Kerry… but the President has pressures and priorities of his own, and has to weigh those against the grief and infighting within his own Party over this issue.

This leaves the DoD, and others within the IC who do not have to concern themselves over political agendas, with the burden of 'weeding our American garden' before we are able to condemn others for the condition of theirs. Military readers should appreciate that very very little in the Beltway is unconnected to Power and Money. Very little indeed.

On a last note. Asset recovery. Google it. Because in the private sector those firms who undertake international asset recovery are paid a percentage of what they are able to recover, and this isn't a small amount of money. In the Public sector, OIG's receive no additional benefit or bonus for recovery of misappropriated or stolen public funds. Moreover, should a patriotic SEI/ or mysterious elf manage to recover or gain control of large amounts of misappropriated or stolen public monies, it is IMPOSSIBLE for said person to legally hand over such funds… Partly because it's unlikely that they'd been strictly obeying international law, or the laws of foreign Nations, in the recovery of said funds. Partly for reasons best left unsaid. and partly because, assuming such a thing had ever happened in the past, hypothetically, said SEI or mysterious elf would have discovered that one never exactly knows how people who SEEM honest are going to react if handed control over hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts. lol.

I know if I WAS one such mysterious elf, I'd hand over everything I'd recovered to the appropriate authority, keep ZERO for myself (no records of account numbers, nor transactions, nor etc.), and consider myself lucky to survive the process… Would I be surprised if I was to discover that the appropriate authority had misbehaved? Only the first time. Would I be surprised to find myself discredited and slandered, or be subjected to every dirty, underhanded and sinister trick in the book as a result? Only the first time. Would I ever consent to undertaking such a task again? Sure. But not as an SEI or mysterious elf! lol.


A. Scott Crawford