Of the many (many) issues that debilitate the effectiveness of the Department of State, none should concern us all more than the ongoing militarization of America’s foreign affairs. I have written about the chilling effects of this, others have written whole books on the subject, and columnists have focused on specific areas of concern, such as Africa.
The State Department risks almost complete irrelevance, sinking into the role of America’s concierge abroad even as the ever-ironically named Department of Defense grows and grows.
So it is with more than a little concern that we all listened recently to Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington try way too hard to make it sound different. As the people say, you usually don’t need a lot of words to prove something that is just true. It’s when the salesperson won’t stop talking that you better watch your wallet.
“The State Department is a national security agency, too,” Shapiro said. “We are helping to save lives every day” (No specifics; really, lives? Everyday? Like at a hospital?)
State has, in recent years, increased its efforts to become directly involved in security assurance, even during military operations. It had diplomatic staff members on the ground in Libya during intense fighting there last year, Shapiro said. (Doing exactly what? Accomplishing what, other than fulfilling DOD’s “Bring Your Diplomat to Work Day”)
OK, I wanted specifics and Shapiro gave up what he had to offer:
• The creation of the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), a joint pool of money funded by upwards of $200 million from DOD and $50 million from the State Department to be used for rapid responses to security situations. (If DOD is funding it 4:1, guess who has the biggest say in things?)
• A January memorandum of understanding signed by the two departments that nearly doubled the size of a personnel swap program, meaning that roughly 100 DOD staff members will be working at the State Department, and 95 State staff members will be working at DOD. (OK I guess, but more uniforms at State is not likely to lessen the effects of militarization, while 95 diplomats will soak into the DOD carpet and hardly be noticed)
• The creation of a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), modeled on the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) that DoD employs for long-term planning. (Seriously Shapiro? BFD, another paper another planning document. Where’s the action?)
In short, Shapiro offered little but some happy talk, and of course the tried-and-true sucking up that State does lead in:
The cooperation between the State Department and the Pentagon is truly unprecedented, and I think this will be remembered as one of Secretary Clinton’s lasting legacies.
Sorry to say, but if this is all an Assistant Secretary of State can cite to justify his lead-off assertion that “The U.S. State Department has earned a greater say in international security policy, aided by years of joint nation-building in the Middle East that has improved cooperation with the Pentagon,” there is little there to say that militarization of our foreign affairs is not a done deal. Maybe you need to try even harder next time Shapiro.
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!