S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Soldiers are great people --

Those who fight with the U.S. military to protect our nation deserve nothing but credit and respect for putting their lives on the line for our nation. But something is wrong when a too dominant presence of the military in foreign affairs overshadows America's diplomatic efforts. An article by Jim Lobe in The Asia Times focused on a recent report detailing the problem from The Stimson Center titled,  "A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future."  To quote Lobe:

While the Pentagon's budget has risen to heights not seen since World War II, United States diplomatic and foreign aid assets have largely wasted away and must be quickly rebuilt by any new administration that takes office in January, said a new report released in Washington this week by former senior foreign service officers. 

The report, written by the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) and the Henry L Stimson Center, calls for a nearly 50% increase in the number of diplomats and aid and development specialists recruited into the foreign service over the next five years. 

. . . "Since the fall of the Berlin Wall [in 1989], the diplomatic capacity of the United States has been hollowed out," according to the 26-page report, "A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future", which said a continuation of the status quo cannot continue without serious damage to the US's "vital interests".

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, himself, called for a better balance of diplomatic efforts in a major speech in November of last year.  To quote the NYT

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called Monday for the United States government to commit more money and effort to “soft power” tools, including diplomacy, economic assistance and communications, because the military alone cannot defend America’s interests around the world

In a speech at Kansas State University, the Pentagon chief forcefully advocated a larger budget for the State Department. Mr. Gates noted that military spending — even without war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan — totals nearly half a trillion dollars annually, compared with a State Department budget of $36 billion.

Officials on both sides of the negotiating table doubt that a Status of Forces Agreement will be concluded with Iraq by the deadline at the end of the year.  The U.S. military's attack from Iraq into Syria may be a complicating factor, according to Professor Juan Cole.  It had the eventual result that today Syrian riot police were forced form a protective ring around the U.S. embassy in Damascus.  The crowd peacefully dispersed after a couple of hours.

Our current president's foreign policy goals are largely unmet, according to an excellent analysis in the Washington Post (10/30/08) by Barry Schweid.  To quote:

Now, with less than three months left, Bush appears destined to step down without achieving many of his global objectives.

. . . Iraq has become less volatile, but it is still not the democratic jewel Bush had hoped to inspire after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein and despite huge investments in American troops and capital.

AFRICACOM -- The Defense and State Departments have been largely melded for the U.S. efforts in Africa, as you can see from this mixture of diplomatic and military stories from their website:   A military exercise will be hosted by Mali in Novermber.  The U.S. government condems the actions of rebels in the Congo.  And the USS Robert Bradley is sailing to a deployment near Africa to help countries increase their security efforts, etc.  To quote:

. . . The crew will also train African military forces in visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations. VBSS teams are tasked with boarding and securing suspect vessels, conducting searches, obtaining intelligence and detaining persons of interest. Bradley's VBSS teams will help train African security forces and naval boarding teams to help them deter piracy. 

In addition to conducting training events, service members will participate in community relations opportunities to strengthen the partnership between the United States and African nations.

The perfect metaphor for the level of confusion in the current administration about the dfferences between "kinetic power" and "soft power" is the unhealthy migration of Secretaries between State, Defense and National Security and Homeland Security.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was formerly head of the National Security Council.  Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, was Rice's predecessor at the State Department, and Robert Gates headed Texas A & M University before heading the Defense Department.  The head of the CIA is General Michael Hayden, the Director of National Intelligence is Admiral Mike McConnell, and U.S. Attorney and Judge, Michael Chertoff heads the Department of Homeland Security.  They might all be excellent officials, but far too many of them are military.

Previous S/SW posts on the subject of dominance of the U.S. military over diplomacy:

  1. "Our Little World"

  2. "Who has the right . . . "

  3. "When diplomacy is the step-child"

View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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