Who should conduct US foreign policy – CIA/Pentagon or Diplomats?
During the past decade, the world has somehow come to believe that the US State Department has just become a sidekick of the Pentagon and the CIA in formulating the American foreign policy. In other words, the US has given up the traditional and time-honoured style of conducting diplomacy through dialogue, discussion and consensus in dealing with contentious issues relating to foreign countries. This public hunch has been more than confirmed by the top US foreign service officers.
American diplomats and the US State Department seem fed up of the White House and the Congress pampering the Pentagon and the American war machine. “Shouldn’t we be upgrading and revamping our diplomatic tools and coming together to develop a coherent and affordable national security strategy for the post 9/11 era?” asks Patricia H. Kushlis. She has 27 years public diplomacy experience in Europe, Asia and Washington, DC, as a US foreign service officer, and is an International affairs writer, analyst and commentator.
Kushlis adds: “The fact that the uniformed US military was exempt from the recent government shutdown is just another case in point. Their supporters have tremendous clout in Congress. Congress kept the Pentagon’s doors open and the uniformed military on the job. This exemption to the shutdown was cloaked in great patriotic fervor and love of country but, seems to me that it rested primarily on personal self-interest.
“Support for an engorged military is where populist America and parts of corporate America – the military-industrial complex to be specific – have interests which intersect in what has become a counter-productive and expensive brew for the country to shoulder.
“But does the US still need such a large and costly Cold War strength military to protect its national security interests? Do we need to have an expensive overly militarized border with Mexico? Does the border between Arizona and Chihuahua on the American side need to look like the Fulda Gap pre-1991?
“Shouldn’t, in short, America be dealing with a good portion of its public debt burden by revamping the way it conducts its business abroad? About 20 per cent of the US budget goes to military spending after all. At the very least, shouldn’t universal health care that results in a healthier and hence more productive population also be seen as part and parcel of this nation’s fundamental national security?” More here…
As if this was not enough, Ambassador Thomas E. McNamara, a retired career Foreign Service officer, adds: “It is time to educate the American people about national security fundamentals, so we can conduct a meaningful reassessment of our current strategy.” McNamara served as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, ambassador to Colombia, ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism, and on the NSC staffs of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, among other senior assignments.
McNamara adds: “Unfortunately, we seem ill-prepared for the challenge. One example symbolizes the shortsightedness that hobbles our current politics and thinking. In February 2011 the House. Appropriations Committee decided that only Defense, Veteran Affairs and Homeland Security constituted ‘the national security budget,’ where it would allow no cuts. It then cut the budgets of the foreign affairs agencies. This decision prevails in the House today…
“We suffer from a form of national narcissism, falling in love with our own military might… Let’s begin with foreign policy, and its means of implementation, diplomacy. The House Appropriations Committee’s benighted and destructive deprecation of foreign policy is symptomatic of a distorted view of this central pillar of national security. Congress’s disregard for diplomacy and fascination with force undermine national security.
“The attitude reflects recent American impatience with the complexities of foreign policy, and a desire for simple, tough-guy quick fixes. Military action tends to evoke positive popular and congressional responses, at least initially. Yet the use of force is never quick, simple or cost-free…” More here…
Tim Kelly writes in Infowars.com: “To provide a point of reference consider that the U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population yet its military budget constitutes 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.
“Since World War II, the Pentagon has been the perennial big spender in Washington, and this has predictably created a powerful constituency interested in maintaining large military expenditures. Now in order too keep the money spigots flowing, an atmosphere of crisis has had to be maintained. This has required “scaring the hell out of the American people”, stirring up trouble abroad, and from to time to time fighting actual wars, albeit limited ones.
“C. Wright Mills called this state of perpetual war “military metaphysics” – “the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military.” More here…
I have been writing for nearly two decades that the US can win back friends in the world only when it allows its professional diplomats to take over the conduct of diplomacy from the Pentagon and the CIA.