The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

We scarcely do diplomacy

with one comment

Diplomacy is making a headline or two. American diplomats are —wonder of wonders— talking to Iran for the first time in what, forty years? I want to say, “Where have you been?

I’m learning that diplomacy’s near absence is not uncommon in US foreign relations. Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, illustrates:

The USA has more people in its military <i>bands</i> than in its diplomatic corps (U.S. Army Ceremonial Band)

The USA has more "musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats" (photo: U.S. Army Ceremonial Band)

The United States has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats. […] More than 1,000 American diplomatic positions are vacant, but a myopic Congress is refusing to finance even modest new hiring.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.

Huh. Then this stunner:  One of the voices pleading for increased US diplomatic ability is none other than Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

“One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win,” Mr. Gates said. He noted that the entire American diplomatic corps — about 6,500 people — is less than the staffing of a single aircraft carrier group, yet Congress isn’t interested in paying for a larger Foreign Service. […]

For the price of one F-22, [Kristof writes] 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. […]

Kristof cites a study from the RAND Corporation. After looking at hundreds of terrorist groups that had dried up between 1968 and 2006, RAND discovered that:

[B]y far the most common way for them to disappear was to be absorbed by the political process [wonder what would have happened if the USA hadn’t taken down Hamas after it won legitimate elections]. The second most common way was to be defeated by police work. In contrast, in only 7 percent of cases did military force destroy the terrorist group.

“There is no battlefield solution to terrorism,” the report declares. “Military force usually has the opposite effect from what is intended.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa – now you tell us!  Listen up, politicians!

Our intuitive approach to fighting terrorists and insurgents is to blow things up. But one of the most cost-effective counterterrorism methods in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan may be to build things up, like schooling and microfinance. Girls’ education sometimes gets more bang for the buck than a missile.

What is it Jesus says – “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”?  Oh guess what?

Our whopping big military and dinky diplomatic corps produce Charles Atlas military campaigns and 90-lb. weakling diplomacy. We make war because it’s all we’ve got.  And because there’s a vast military industry that’s all set to make money when we do.

What if we invested a as tenth as much into learning how to de-fuse international problems as we invest in finding new ways to blow things up? Even a tenth!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Monte Asbury

Written by Monte

August 10, 2008 at 5:29 pm

One Response

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  1. Yes! This is the same problem we are having with domestic issues. When we allow our government to spend so much on the military, they underspend on EVERYTHING else. The time has come to end pork barrel military spending and invest in more effective measures at home and abroad!

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer


    August 18, 2008 at 9:31 pm

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