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US diplomacy tainted by 'militarization'

by Asia Times Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008 at 12:28 PM

"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".

Oct 17, 2008
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - 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.

This would cost about US$3 billion - approximately what the Pentagon currently spends every 10 days on military operations in Iraq - over current budget estimates.

"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".

A vacuum created by the lack of diplomatic resources - particularly in comparison to the Pentagon's budget and manpower - has translated into the militarization of US foreign policy, warns the report.

"Today, significant portions of the nation's foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished ... The work migrates by default to the military that does have the necessary people and funding but neither sufficient experience nor knowledge. The 'militarization' of diplomacy exists and is accelerating."

To that end, the report calls for the State Department to take control from the Defense Department (DOD) of nearly $800 million a year budgeted for several security assistance programs, including humanitarian aid. The programs were created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to help allies prosecute the "global war on terrorism".

"Our view is that the secretary of state has and should have responsibility for assuring that all foreign and security assistance is carried out in accord with US foreign policy, including setting overall policy, approving countries to receive assistance, and setting the budget for such assistance," the report said.

"DOD's expanded policy responsibility for security assistance programs risks the additional atrophy of the civilian agencies' ability to plan and conduct foreign policy and foreign assistance and raises serious concerns that such programs could conflict with broader US strategic and foreign policy interests."

These expanded missions are not the core competence of the military and so may detract from its readiness to perform more "central" military missions, it added. "Finally, it is important for the US to ensure that its non-military international presence and engagement be carried out primarily by civilians, not by the military."

Indeed, the latest report echoes the views - albeit in more diplomatic language - of a growing number of non-governmental organizations and foreign policy experts that the Pentagon, simply by virtue of its enormous budget and its worldwide presence with nearly 800 overseas bases, has become far too dominant in policy-making.

Even Pentagon chief Robert Gates, a former senior intelligence officer, has complained about the imbalance between US military and diplomatic resources. "Funding for non-military foreign affairs programs ... remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military," he declared in a much-discussed speech last November.

"What is clear for me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security."

He said in July that diplomatic leaders, be they in ambassadors' suites or on the State Department's top floor, "must have the resources and political support needed to fully exercise their statutory responsibilities in leading American foreign policy".

He has also noted ruefully that there are more people serving in military bands than in the entire State Department.

Despite his support, however, Gates' views have not yet substantially altered the political equation in Congress, which has routinely approved or even increased the President George W Bush administration's budgetary requests for the Pentagon over the past eight years. And Congress has cast a far more skeptical eye on requests for the State Department, which lacks a comparably broad-based geographic, commercial or demographic constituency.

The Defense Department is slated to receive well over $527 billion for 2009 - not including some $15 billion a month for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - or roughly 13 times more than the State Department's budget of less than $40 billion.

Moreover, despite his concerns, Gates has asked - so far without success - that substantially more money be allocated to the new discretionary accounts that the Pentagon currently may disburse for allies in the war on terror, a request which, to the dismay of most foreign service officers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice supported in hearings before Congress earlier this year.

The Pentagon last week submitted a new estimate for defense spending which asked for $450 billion more over the next five years than previously announced, according to Congressional Quarterly. The budget plan would begin with a nearly 10% increase in its 2010 budget to nearly $600 billion.

Compared to that request, the recommendation by the AAD-Stimson report to increase the State Department's planned budget by roughly $3.3 billion over the next five years seems paltry.

According to the report, which was put together by a task force of 14 former senior foreign service officers with the help of an advisory group chaired by former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering, the State Department currently suffers serious shortages in personnel in virtually all of its operations, from consular activity to development assistance and public diplomacy.

The report noted the decline in the foreign service and State Department spending began at the end of the Cold War when the international affairs budget was reduced by roughly 30% in real terms. Former secretary of state Colin Powell succeeded in creating more than 1,000 new State Department posts between 2001 and 2004, according to the report, but these increases were quickly absorbed by diplomatic surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving other key areas and global issues with significant staff shortfalls.

It called for total State Department staffing to increase from roughly 10,000 today to nearly 15,000 by 2014.

Jim Lobe's blog on US foreign policy, and particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.

(Inter Press Service)
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JJ17Ak02.html
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