In case current events in the nation of Georgia haven’t made the fact crystal clear, yr (justifiably) humble svt is unhappy to inform you that the U.S. military hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory over the past nearly 20 years since the end of the Cold War.
And the diplomatic corps has similarly shown itself to be overstressed and undermanned.
Nicholas Kristof made the point this past weekend: the U.S. has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats!
And what Kristof’s story omits, due to rapidly breaking events, is the failure of both U.S. diplomacy and U.S. military strength during the Russian invasion of Georgia this past week.
Military strength? Well, we can’t simultaneously put sufficient boots on the ground to meet our objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less come to the aid of a strategically critical ally, Georgia.
Diplomacy? A strong diplomatic corps might have foreseen (yes, hindsight is always 20:20) that Georgia was simultaneously taking U.S. and NATO support as more than words, while underestimating Vladimir Putin’s urge for regained empire, and warned Mikheil Saakashvili away from his adventuristic invasion of South Ossettia.
Or a diplomatic arm with some heft might have been able to forestall, or at least mitigate, Russia’s response. Putin may now be emboldened to exercise his brand of “diplomacy” over other, West-leaning, former states of the old Soviet empire, and the U.S. will be hard pressed to protect them, diplomatically or militarily, if it even figures out that this would be a useful strategy.
But George III is a happy warrior, as befits a civilian who took giant steps to avoid substantive military service, and diplomacy apparently doesn’t mean much to him, or it appears, to Congress.
Make Diplomacy, Not War
Op-Ed Columnist | By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF | Published: August 9, 2008
Iraq and Afghanistan are the messes getting attention today, but they are only symptoms of a much broader cancer in American foreign policy.
A few glimpses of this larger affliction:
¶The United States has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats.
¶This year alone, the United States Army will add about 7,000 soldiers to its total; that’s more people than in the entire American Foreign Service.
¶More than 1,000 American diplomatic positions are vacant because the Foreign Service is so short-staffed, but a myopic Congress is refusing to finance even modest new hiring. Some 1,100 could be hired for the cost of a single C-17 military cargo plane.
In short, the United States is hugely overinvesting in military tools and underinvesting in diplomatic tools. The result is a lopsided foreign policy that antagonizes the rest of the world and is ineffective in tackling many modern problems.
After all, you can’t bomb global warming.
We increasingly ask our military to be diplomats on the ground, a totally misguided and criminal misuse of force. Women and men trained to kill should hone their expertise in warfare, and leave diplomacy to unarmed experts in the language and culture.
And we love to spend billions on hardware, at the expense of all else.
For the price of one F-22, we could — for 25 years — operate American libraries in each Chinese province, pay for more Chinese-American exchanges, and hire more diplomats prepared to appear on Chinese television and explain in fluent Chinese what American policy is. And for the price of one M.R.E. lunch for one soldier, the State Department could make a few phone calls to push the Chinese leadership to respond to the Dalai Lama’s olive branch a few days ago, helping to eliminate a long-term irritant in U.S.-China relations.
We have lost our way in the world, and one cannot be certain whether even a new administration will know what needs to be done to right the ship of state.
Barack Obama’s most glaring vulnerability is his lack of military, or global experience.
John McCain’s most frightening (from a pretty serious list) propensity is wild overstatements regarding the liberal use of military force.
100 more years in Iraq was not a misstatement, it was an unusually cogent (for this septuagenarian former POW) reflection of his world view: every problem in the world is a nail, and the U.S. military is a damned fine hammer.
This is wrong on every count (and I hope to have more on our current military failings perhaps as soon as tomorrow). The U.S. deserves so much better than its present Evangelical, neocon, mush-mouthed leader, and trading him for an adulterous, corrupt, overaged and showing signs of it every day, misspeaking leader would be a catastrophe on a truly global scale.
Give us a well spoken, analytical, reflective leader, who values diplomacy (and gave the world a brief preview during his “victory” tour a couple of weeks ago), and the nation might just have a chance to once again lead the planet in the important virtues:
Vigorous championship of human rights; leadership by example sustaining economic and political freedom for every one of its 6.5Billion inhabitants; and the resolution of inevitable conflict through substantive and skillful negotiation across a table, not at the business end of a laser guided bomb.
Rebuilding the Foreign Service would be a good start. Even at the expense of a few flugelhorns.
It’s it for now. Thanks,