Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Charleston Post-Courier: Pay More for Diplomacy

This piece is a little dated, but the Charleston Post and Courier is a paper that is near and dear to my heart, so I had to post it.

Pay more for diplomacy
Monday, July 21, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been rightly warning the president, Congress and the nation since last year that U.S. policy in developing nations places too much reliance on the military and not enough on diplomacy.

He repeated that advice last week in a headline-grabbing speech warning of the "creeping militarization" of American foreign policy. According to The Washington Post, Mr. Gates said that in the next 20 years, "The most persistent and potentially dangerous threats will come less from emerging ambitious states, than from failing ones that cannot meet the basic needs — much less the aspirations — of their people."

"We cannot kill or capture our way to victory" in future campaigns against terrorists and other destabilizing forces, he said. "Broadly speaking, when it comes to America's engagement with the rest of the world, it is important that the military is — and is clearly seen to be — in a supporting role to civilian agencies."

The defense secretary's assessment was echoed two days later by a non-governmental aid organization, Refugees International, in a report saying that American aid to Africa is becoming increasingly militarized and short-term in its priorities at the expense of longer-term development.

Mr. Gates, in his speech, returned to a theme he first expounded in a speech last year at Kansas State University. There he said, "We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military. There is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on civilian instruments of national security — diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development."

This week he observed that the budget increases for the State Department and the Agency for International Development since 2001 have largely been eaten up by the costs of heightened security for embassies and other missions, and by the declining dollar.

"America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long — relative to what we traditionally spend on the military, and more importantly, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world," Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Gates's complaint has been frequently heard in the past 60 years. What makes his comments particularly arresting is that they come from the head of the defense establishment, not from the Foreign Service.

They should get the full attention of the next president and Congress, recognizing that when diplomacy succeeds, armies don't have to fight.

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