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Joe Ryan's new post on "Development Assistance History"
April 21, 2021
10:52 am
Tish Butler
Forum Posts: 68
Member Since:
April 22, 2016
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Wikipedia’s article on USAID doesn’t say much about USAID’s work in combat zones like Vietnam and Iraq. One of my ambitions is to add some material on this to the article’s institutional and historical sections.

Not having personal experience with it, I would be happy to benefit from the knowledge of UAA members. Contact me if you would like to work on this — or take it over!

In the meantime, I will share the following bullets of what I have in mind to add to the article, for comment.


— In addition to the development assistance that is USAID’s core rationale, the USG also expects USAID to participate in whole-of-government geopolitical efforts, including implementing programs in combat zones in support of U.S. armed forces.

— The USG developed methods for this in Vietnam, which it explicitly drew on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

— In Vietnam, USAID had “its own” development program and also participated in a joint program with U.S. armed forces called “CORDS.” In Iraq, USAID had its own development program and also participated with the U.S. armed forces in “Provincial Reconstruction Teams” (PRTs).

— Joint operations were justified by USAID’s need for physical security in local programs and by USAID’s improved access to the military’s logistical abilities.

— USAID used special, emergency measures to staff these joint operations.

— The joint operations conducted “counterinsurgency” (COIN). The military enemy was conceptualized as an insurgent rebellion against an established government, where the insurgents had been able to constitute alternative governments in some localities.

— COIN consisted of (a) combat against insurgent military, (b) arrest or killing of the insurgency’s local officials, (c) development of the established government’s local governance and service capabilities, and (d) direct services to local residents. USAID participated in (c) and (d).

— Successful COIN would give the established government a capable and uncontested local presence.


The idea of the bullets above is to provide a brief, schematic description of one type of USAID program, suitable for inclusion in the article about USAID overall. I think the included material will be successful if it’s perceived as descriptive, rather than evaluative or polemical, and proportional to the subject’s importance to USAID.

Wikipedia already has articles on PRTs, CORDS, Civil Affairs, etc. I don’t plan to try to research and present additional details, although it’s enjoyable to read about the subject — e.g., the recent biography of Robert Komer, the creator of CORDS. The USAID article doesn’t get into sectoral details of USAID’s other programs either.

While taking my time to sleep on the approach and the words, I would be happy to get corrections or any other input.

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