Gates Highlights Role of Diplomacy, Development in U.S. Foreign Policy
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 16, 2008 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday said diplomacy and development should lead American efforts abroad, and he warned against a “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy. Video
“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,” he said.
In a speech interrupted several times by rousing applause, Gates told the audience at a dinner organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign that America cannot simply “kill or capture our way to victory” over the long term.
“What the Pentagon calls ‘kinetic’ operations should be subordinate to measures to promote participation in government, economic programs to spur development, and efforts to address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies and among the discontented from which terrorists recruit,” he said.
In remarks imbued with a spirit of cooperation between the departments of Defense and State -- a relationship that in the past has been marked by contention, Gates said -- the defense secretary hailed his working relationship with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had presented him the group’s leadership award earlier in the evening.
“Our diplomatic leaders -- be they in ambassadors’ suites or on the seventh floor of the State Department -- must have the resources and political support needed to fully exercise their statutory responsibilities in leading American foreign policy,” Gates said.
This year’s presidential budget proposal accounts for the addition of 1,100 Foreign Service officers -- the general practitioners of American diplomacy -- in addition to 300 U.S. Agency for International Development personnel and a response corps of civilian experts that can deploy on short notice, requests that Gates praised.
He also expressed optimism that an increase in the civilian foreign affairs budget is receiving support on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation that would triple humanitarian spending in Pakistan.
For far too long, Gates said, America’s civilian institutions of diplomacy and development -- which lack the ready-made political constituency enjoyed by major weapons systems -- have been chronically undermanned and underfunded in comparison to defense spending.
“I cannot pretend to know right dollar amount,” Gates said, referring to the budgetary needs of civilian institutions, “I know it’s a good deal more than the one percent of the federal budget that it is right now.
“A steep increase of these capabilities is well within reach, as long as there is the political will and the wisdom to do it,” he added.
With invigorated emphasis on counterinsurgency, which includes operations that combine elements of military and civilian affairs, U.S. servicemembers are performing functions that formerly were the exclusive province of civilian agencies and institutions, Gates said.
“This has led to concern among many organizations … about what’s seen as a creeping ‘militarization’ of some aspects of America’s foreign policy,” he said.
But Gates added that this scenario can be avoided by putting in place the right leadership, adequate funding of civilian agencies, effective coordination on the ground, and a clear understanding of the authorities, roles, and missions of military versus civilian efforts, and how they are able, or unable, to fit together.
“We know that at least in the early phases of any conflict, contingency, or natural disaster, the U.S. military -- as has been the case throughout our history -- will be responsible for security, reconstruction, and providing basic sustenance and public services,” he said.
“Building the security capacity of other nations through training and equipping programs has emerged as a core and enduring military requirement,” he continued, “though none of these programs go forward without the approval of the secretary of state.”
Gates added that the U.S. will always need Foreign Service officers to conduct professional diplomacy, advance American interests, and strengthen the nation’s international partnerships. Likewise, he said, barring a radical change in human nature, the U.S. will require military members to deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression from hostile states and forces indefinitely.
“The challenge facing our institutions,” he said “is to adapt to new realities while preserving those core competencies and institutional traits that have made them so successful in the past.”