Continued problems in US foreign policy

Even a tiny request designed to create greater balance in US foreign policy is not fully granted by Congress, and not in the budget signed by President Obama

Robert Gates served as United States Secretary of Defense from November, 2006 (replacing Donald Rumsfeld) until April, 2011 (replaced by Leon Panetta). At his retirement ceremony Gates was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. David L. Boren, Chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said of Gates, “He’ll be remembered for making us aware of the danger of over-reliance on military intervention as an instrument of American foreign policy.” Josh Rogin in his December 27, 2011 Foreign Policy article writes, “Gates, famously warned of the “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy.” Rogin refers to Gates’ 2009 memo to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in which Gates noted that the huge increase in Pentagon funding for stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted complaints about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

That’s like writing to Lady Gaga to help a campaign to urge young ladies to dress more modestly. This is the same Hillary Clinton who showed up mysteriously in Libya two days before US drones enabled the gruesome mob execution of Qaddafi, after which Ms. Clinton gleefully declared in a CBS interview, “we came, we saw, he died.” This is the same Ms. Clinton who published in November, 2011 Foreign Policy, the treatise “America’s Pacific Century,” anticipating and championing President Obama’s U.S.-Australia security pact creating marine, air and ground task force using Australian facilities to act as a “force multiplier” in the region. Obama’s stated reason for increased US militarization of the region was “Beijing’s growing aggressiveness.” The US cannot manage an apology for killing Pakistani soldiers inside Pakistan.

Gates’ hope was to see greater balance in US foreign policy. He recommended a major overhaul of the way the Pentagon and State Department do nation-building, seeking to end friction between the bureaucracies by putting them jointly in charge of addressing problems in U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan — particularly, disputes over whether civilians or the better-funded military should be in charge of stabilization. Gates’ proposal was far ranging with implications for US policy worldwide. But the behavior of this administration and this Secretary of State suggest that State Department does not necessarily mean less militarization? This is a worry.

But what if it were the case that greater cooperation between State and Defense really could portend a more sophisticated, more enlightened US engagement internationally? Gates’ 2009 proposal called for creating three long-term funds totaling as much as $2 billion to be dedicated to training security forces, preventing conflicts, and stabilizing violence-torn societies around the world. Josh Rogin’s December 27, 2011 Foreign Policy piece is about the decision of the Obama administration for “State Department and Pentagon to create a joint office for funding emergency security response.” Is this good news? Let’s take a look and see. Rogin writes:

The Obama administration acted on that idea this year by proposing a starter fund in its fiscal 2012 budget request which it called the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), meant for responding to “urgent and emergent challenges.” The idea is that approval to spend the money would require the approval of both secretaries.

Can we hope then to see US foreign policy return to something more more elevated than the policies of fear and war that have dominated US behavior since 9-11? Will State and the DOD cooperation yield a more subtle and better integrated approach to issues of security?

Fairly big hints towards answering this question can be seen in the numbers. The budget request by Obama was for 50 million dollars! Presently the Department of Defence Budget is $663.84 billion. The State Department budget is $50.9 billion. US military spending is 13 TIMES that of the State Department. The combined budgets of these two departments is 14,013 TIMES greater than the GSCF request!

Both the President of the United States and its Secretary of State are military-minded in their concept for US foreign policy. Two years after Gate’s proposal, the Obama administration requests 50 million dollars to advance a collaborative and integrated approach to US foreign policy related to urgent matters of security. 40 times less than Gates proposed.

Yet senior State Department official excitedly gurgles in an interview with The Cable. “This is really an example of how State and DOD, rather than engage in bureaucratic gamesmanship, have decided to work together to solve these problems… For us, GSCF is the new model,” the official said. “This is the model we think makes the most sense, particularly in budget-constrained times.” He is talking about a fund to harmonize two famously fractious centers of US foreign policy that is fourteen thousand times smaller than the budgets of the departments involved!

And how will this great vision work? “The State Department would be more or less in charge. The new GSCF office will have a State Department official as a director, a Pentagon official as a deputy director, and will be located at the State Department, the official said. Nobody has been selected for the positions yet.”

Did Congress approve this piddling budget request? Not exactly. In the fiscal 2012 budget bill passed by Congress last week and signed by President Barack Obama, the $50 million to start GCSF was omitted. Instead Congress gave the administration the authority to start the project using funding from other accounts, including money earmarked for the Pakistani military.

The final error in this folly lies with the fact that shared money is not a formula to create cooperation and harmony of purpose. Collaboration and higher synthesis derives from vision, commitment, and leadership.


About Frank Kaufmann

Work in: * Religion and Peace * Values in knowledge and Information * Luxembourg * Ivory Coast Consult in: * Interreligious and international relations, * Writing, Editing, Publishing, * Teaching, Training, Education

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