While many US (and European) pundits criticize the European countries for a lack of military hard power or even ridicule German and other soldiers as armed social workers, the Pentagon is increasingly focusing on humanitarian missions, writes The Boston Globe:
Having learned the limits of force in Iraq and Afghanistan, US military strategists are rewriting decades-old military doctrine to place humanitarian missions on par with combat, part of a new effort to win over distrustful foreign populations and enlist new global allies, according to top commanders and Pentagon officials. The Defense Department is implementing a series of new directives to use the American arsenal for more peaceful purposes even as it prepares for war, including a little-noticed revision this year to a document called "Joint Operations," described as the "very core" of how the military branches should be organized. The effort illustrates a growing recognition that, to combat radical ideologies and avert future wars, the Pentagon must draw more heavily on its deep reserves of so-called soft power.
Dan Drezner notes that the US military does not want this responsibility, but is stepping up because no other agency possesses either the resources or the willingness to act. He also blames this development on how the foreign policy budget is authorized:
Congressmen are happy to authorize more defense spending, because that's easier to justify to their constituents, particularly those constituents whose livelihoods are tied into the military. Authorizing civilian spending on foreign policy, however, just looks like a handout to other countries - it's much easier for Congress to say no to that authorization, and look fiscally prudent in the process.