Diplo­macy can’t achieve much with­out the mil­i­tary.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - out­look@wash­post.com

From Teddy Roo­sevelt’s fa­mous “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” an­a­lysts and for­eign pol­icy pro­fes­sion­als have agreed that diplo­macy with­out force to back it up rarely gets the job done — es­pe­cially in cases that are vi­tal to na­tional se­cu­rity (think Iraq, Syria and North Korea).

But the pendulum may have swung too far in re­cent years to fa­vor the big stick. The best re­sponse to this ar­gu­ment prob­a­bly came from then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Bob Gates. He told a Wash­ing­ton think tank in 2008 that diplo­macy and de­vel­op­ment should lead Amer­i­can ef­forts abroad, and he warned against a “creep­ing mil­i­ta­riza­tion” of U.S. for­eign pol­icy. “It is im­por­tant,” he said, “that the mil­i­tary is — and is clearly seen to be — in a sup­port­ing role to civil­ian agen­cies.”

The For­eign Ser­vice is typ­i­cally our first con­tact in our re­la­tions with other states and other peo­ples. Ex­perts in­side and out­side gov­ern­ment know that it is cheaper and more ef­fec­tive to al­low our diplo­mats to deal with cri­sis sit­u­a­tions be­fore they ex­plode, rather than af­ter. But even if the money is ap­pro­pri­ated, it is dif­fi­cult to claim suc­cess for the civil war that has been averted, for the mass rapes that have not oc­curred or for the state that has not failed. We all know, how­ever, how easy (if re­gret­table) it is to claim suc­cess for the com­bat­ants killed, the en­emy strongholds taken and the num­ber of prison­ers cap­tured. In an up­date of Gates’s state­ment, we can re­call Gen. Jim Mat­tis’s 2013 re­marks, while lead­ing U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand: “If you don’t fund the State De­part­ment fully, then I need to buy more am­mu­ni­tion.”

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