Max Boot, writes an short but helpful prescription for what ails the Foreign Service and related denizens of the State Department, with an opinion piece in the LA Times.
Boot notes several positive developments already ongoing at the State Department, but urges more. He recommends that the US Information Agency, disastrously reassigned to State Department control during the Clinton years, be revived in an autonomous form, rechartered and refunded. He calls for more.
And so should the US Government and Military do more. Whatever ways we may have been ill-prepared for the new Post 9/11 world of non-national threats and unconventional warfare, we were even less prepared for keeping the peace, let alone Nation Building.
I greatly prefer that we respond to threats and opportunities proactively, rather than react. Those who would pay the requisite attention to the events of 9/11 (New York), 3/11 (Madrid), and 7/7 (London), know all too well the price of inaction. A committed and disciplined terrorist organization makes mockery of Nation-state foreign policies that focus on international law enforcement.
We do not understand the grave threats that form before us. We do not comprehend the cultural and political environments that foster and promote the depraved ideologies. There is a diplomatic front, the traditional province of foreign affairs, and the agencies and resources primarily responsible for these efforts are sorely lacking. But even within the military sphere, our soldiers, sailors and airmen are an increasingly critical component of US national security objectives. Our military works to preserve peace in democratic societies -- and those who yearn for democracy -- and perform a wider and wider range of peacetime contingency and unconventional operations. As never before, our armed forces perform missions that require diplomacy and the tools of public and civil affairs.
Boot reaches for the example of the British Empire, and like it or not, the skills most lacking in our military are precisely those that mature empires generated in great quantity. It was a profession, or administration, of diplomacy, of building cultural relations and interdependence of public life.
But the Empire that the Americans advance in these dangerous times is not an empire of greed, acquisition, or material exploitation, despite our accusing critics. Nor is it patronizing in the classic sense. If anything, it is an opportunity afforded to many of the worlds citizens, not previously available, and certainly not from the autocrats, kleptocrats, or dictators who would otherwise oppress them.
It is time we acknowledge that we must maintain a primary role in the preservation and extension of freedom and democracy in the world. Any other course is fire-fighting at best, and a recipe for greater catastrophes at home, when the evils of the world fester long enough and form full measure here at home.
But we need an honest and sober assessment of the tools we need. And a more aggressive promulgation of diplomatic and civil affairs skill sets, integrated with the other tools in our arsenal, represents a vital first step.