8 years, 9 months ago
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates made a provocative speech today at Kansas State University. It was sweeping and far reaching in terms of the mobilization and leveraging of symbiotic power of the United States as a complete, holistic nation state, to effect and achieve its ends, those ends being most particularly the security of the same. This symbiotic power couples multiple power centers (diplomacy, monetary, military, etc.) in a way that makes the combination of them more potent than the particulars taken separately, or so the vision goes. At The Captain’s Journal we have been hard on the State Department and their lack of participation in such endeavors, but Gates has laid down the gauntlet. In part, Gates said:
… my message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use soft power and for better integrating it with hard power …We can expect that asymmetric warfare will be the mainstay of the contemporary battlefield for some time. These conflicts will be fundamentally political in nature, and require the application of all elements of national power. Success will be less a matter of imposing one’s will and more a function of shaping behavior of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between.Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.Despite new hires, there are only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group. And personnel challenges loom on the horizon. By one estimate, 30 percent of USAID’s Foreign Service officers are eligible for retirement this year valuable experience that cannot be contracted out.Overall, our current military spending amounts to about 4 percent of GDP, below the historic norm and well below previous wartime periods. Nonetheless, we use this benchmark as a rough floor of how much we should spend on defense. We lack a similar benchmark for other departments and institutions.What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development. Secretary Rice addressed this need in a speech at Georgetown University nearly two years ago. We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years.
Most assuredly, the State Department will jump at the opportunity to spend more money, but the real question is this: will the State Department play along? As an observer of the vacillation, prevarication and recalcitrance of the State Department for years, I remain to be convinced that the so-called “lifers” in the department can be persuaded to actively support and participate in war in general and counterinsurgencies in particular. In order to apply this “soft” power, the department must effect the national policy set forth by the executive branch, and this doesn’t mean the “lifers” in the State Department. Two short examples will suffice to warn the reader that we may be expecting too much from the State Department as currently constituted.When the administration declared the Iranian Quds force a terrorist organization, Michael Ledeen dryly observed that:
The only real mystery is why anyone in the government felt that it was necessary to have a formal decision to declare the IRGC a bunch of terrorists. I guess that would be the lawyers, for whom it wasn’t sufficient to know that the entire Islamic Republic had been branded a sponsor of terrorism, and hence (a normal person would say) any part of it is ipso facto culpable of terrorist activity, and it’s particularly true of the IRGC, which directly kills people, both inside and outside Iran.
The point Ledeen makes is not that Quds should not have been designated a sponsor of terror. The point is that it is merely pro forma, a recognition of what has been the case for twenty years. But the same advocates of waiting on this declaration have advocated talking with Iran while it has almost gone nuclear. This soft power has never been coupled with hard power specifically because the State Department doesn’t work that way and doesn’t believe in it.This leads to the second example showing how many of the employees see in their mission, whatever that mission is. In an overlooked and almost silent murder, the State Department recently worked directly against both the objectives of the executive branch of the government and the security interests of the United States by killing a program that would have aided democracy in Iran.
The former director of President Bush’s flagship democracy program for the Middle East is saying that the State Department has “effectively killed” a program to disburse millions of dollars to Iran’s liberal opposition.In an interview yesterday, Scott Carpenter said a recent decision to move the $75 million annual aid program for Iranian democrats to the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs would effectively neuter an initiative the president had intended to spur democracy inside the Islamic Republic.”In my view, this pretty much kills the Iran democracy program,” Mr. Carpenter said of the decision by the State Department to subsume the program. “There is not the expertise, there is not the energy for it. The Iran office is worried about the bilateral policy. I think they are not committed to this anymore.”Mr. Carpenter, who headed the Middle East Partnership Initiative and was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs until he left the Bush administration this summer, predicted the $20 million devoted to supporting the activities inside the Islamic Republic would be relegated to what he called “safe initiatives” such as student exchange programs, and not the more daring projects he and his deputy, David Denehy, funded, such as training for Web site operators to evade Internet censorship, political polling, and training on increasing recruitment for civil society groups.
We have advocated monies and support for the budding insurgency in Iran, so support for bloggers is mild compared to our recommendations; support for student exchange programs is wasteful, and if this is the kind of program that the State Department foresees with its increased funding, then the speech by Secretary Gates will have been to no avail. These were nice words describing nice ideas, but unfortunately they will conflict with the agendas of the “lifers” at the State Department. On to the next idea … Mr. Secretary.