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American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

August 2003

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Lugar argues that it is time to stop nickel and diming our diplomatic corps. In this article, reprinted with permission from the Foreign Service Journal, he argues that a strong, reinvigorated State Department is a, cost- effective way of winning the war on terrorism.—Ed.

Strengthen Diplomacy for the War on Terror

Looking back to the time just after the Soviet Union broke up, most observers now realize that it was naive to think that the U.S. government could open diplomatic missions in 15 newly-created countries without a budget increase. But it was surely folly to try to manage that expansion, plus all the turmoil in the rest of the world in that decade, while cutting State Department budgets. Despite protests from some of us, that's exactly what Congress and the administration advocated in the mid-1990s, when spending on international affairs in real terms was cut year after year.

Tragically, it took the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania to reverse this short-sighted trend, but the damage was done. Hiring had stopped, generalists and specialists headed for the exits, and a personnel gap opened that will persist for years. As the Bush administration came into office in 2001, the dilapidated state of America's foreign policy apparatus was a national security crisis, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study at the time.

To his credit, Secretary Colin Powell was moving to repair that apparatus even before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But now that we are on a war footing against terrorism, it is more urgent than ever to beef up our diplomatic capabilities just as we are beefing up our military and our homeland defense forces. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which I chair, has dedicated a significant portion of its efforts during 2003 to this goal.

In April, during consideration of the FY 2004 budget resolution, I worked with other senators to restore a $1.15 billion cut by the Senate Budget Committee in the president's request for the 150 Account, which funds the State Department and international affairs programs. I offered an amendment on the Senate floor to fully fund President Bush's international affairs budget.

In this era of deficits, plenty of other budget accounts were cut, and their supporters were likewise trying to restore funding. My amendment was among the few that succeeded. The Senate put back the $1.15 billion, and the full Congress approved that budget, a show of confidence in Secretary Powell and a sign that Congress is paying more attention to foreign policy.

We can no longer afford to conduct diplomacy on a shoestring. To win the war on terrorism, we must assign our diplomatic assets the same strategic importance as we give to our military assets.

I use the phrase win the war on terrorism deliberately. Few doubted that our troops could defeat the Iraqi army, and they did so convincingly. That was an important battlefield conquest, but it is only a middle chapter in the story. We are already faced there with important questions about whether we can limit anti-American reactions in Iraq and in the region. Can we enlist help from our friends and allies in reconstructing Iraq? Can we work with the United Nations and with NATO to quickly bring security and stability there, and then success in political reorganization? Can we deal with the other sources of tension in the Middle East?

We can only claim a complete victory in Iraq if we can achieve those goals, and that success can't be achieved solely with military forces and smart weapons, no matter how superbly trained and designed. Victory requires a robust and engaged foreign policy, one that is creative and capable of leveraging America's economic and political strength.

Similarly, winning the larger war on global terrorism will require more than military force. We will need to continue rallying all countries against al-Qaida, gaining cooperation from local law enforcement agencies on every continent to hunt down and arrest terrorist cells wherever they are. We must help Islamic countries lift themselves out of the poverty that breeds the foot soldiers of extremism. We must work with friends to find ways to rehabilitate the failed states that harbor terrorists. Most fundamentally, we need to change the political and economic environment so that al-Qaida's message no longer strikes a favorable chord in the Muslim world. All this will require a sustained diplomatic commitment over many years.

Five Foreign Policy Campaigns
To achieve victory in the war on terrorism, we must dedicate ourselves to five foreign policy campaigns. The first campaign is boosting investments in our diplomats and in their security, increasing our foreign assistance and strengthening our diplomatic capabilities. It's time to stop nickel-and-diming our diplomatic corps, because this spending is cost-effective in the war on terror. If we can prevent the bombing of an embassy, secure more allied assistance for expensive peace-keeping operations, or keep more terrorists from reaching our shores, the extra funding will have paid for itself many times over.

The second campaign is to expand and perfect our non-proliferation activities. I believe that we can build on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which is dedicated to safeguarding and eliminating nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. The program, which is essential for keeping these weapons out of terrorist hands, currently is limited to Russia and the former Soviet states. We must apply its successful methods to additional countries, eliminate the red tape that hampers emergency non-proliferation missions, and encourage fulfillment of the $10 billion in pledges towards weapons dismantlement programs that we have received from our G-8 partners.

Third, we need to expand trade by eliminating political and economic restrictions and pushing ahead with trade agreements. Free trade is necessary to create the international transparency and economic growth that will dampen terrorist recruitment and political resentment.

Fourth, we must repair our frayed alliances and establish new ones. We simply cannot win the terrorism war alone, any more than we can win the drug war, or the war against AIDS and other deadly diseases.

The final campaign involves addressing underdevelopment along a broad front, with special attention to building democracy, assuring security and diversity of energy supplies, and protecting the environment. These are all necessary to help reverse anti-American attitudes and stop the creation of new terrorist cells.

Ensuring Adequate Funding
The responsibility for waging these campaigns falls heavily on the State Department. Yet diplomatic funding receives only about seven cents for every defense dollar in the U.S. budget. Annual foreign policy funding remains, in real terms, 32 percent below its peak in 1985.

In May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a State Department Authorization bill and reported it to the entire Senate. The Committee increased funding for the State Department above the amount requested by the Bush Administration. This increase included two important additions that directly affect diplomats on the job:

  • $312 million for embassy construction, which will enable the department to break ground on an additional three embassy compounds next year. Despite the stepped up spending on security during the past four years, the GAO says that more than 200 posts still don=t meet all the basic security criteria, and at current rates it will take more than 20 years to finish the planned replacement program. We should cut that time in half. Our diplomats are truly on the front lines of the war on terrorism and we need to give them necessary protection.
  • $8 million to increase the caps on hardship and danger pay for State Department employees. This will enable the Department to boost the danger pay differential at 10 posts from 25 percent to 35 percent, and to raise the hardship differential at 21 posts from 25 percent to 30-35 percent. Staffing shortfalls are occurring at many of our most important missions -- some 60 percent of State's overseas workforce is in hardship posts, where the vacancy rate averages 12.6 percent, versus only 8.4 percent at non-hardship posts. Report after report has shown that despite the dedication of our envoys overseas, staffing problems are compromising diplomatic readiness and our ability to meet foreign policy objectives.

Moreover, to bolster the non-military side of the war on terrorism, we added $30 million to the president's request for outreach to the Islamic world, including public diplomacy efforts such as Arab-language TV and Fulbright exchanges. In all, we added approximately $400 million, or about 4 percent, to the administration's original budget request.

That's still not enough, in my view, and we have to help it survive the legislative meat-grinder. But it's a start, one I want to build on. The Foreign Relations Committee will continue with hearings to review a host of State Department programs that have suffered from congressional neglect in recent years. Some are left over from another era and may need to be scrapped or radically redesigned. Still others may need to be expanded or refocused as State assumes additional responsibilities. New approaches to eliminating and controlling weapons of mass destruction must be high on the list. A comprehensive and creative strategy for public diplomacy in the Islamic world, and efforts to strengthen international civil police capacity, are two other areas that require more emphasis.

On other fronts, the Foreign Relations Committee in May passed a foreign assistance authorization bill for the first time in many years. This will further strengthen our diplomatic capabilities, by raising the profile of foreign assistance programs and giving Congress a greater stake in their success. During the first months of 2003, we also achieved a number of bipartisan successes as the Senate, based on work done by the committee, ratified the Moscow Treaty, the NATO membership accession treaty and three tax treaties, and approved President Bushís landmark Global AIDS Initiative.

This is an important time in our history, perhaps as pivotal as the beginning of the Cold War. The same CFR report I cited earlier noted that American foreign policy prevailed in the Cold War in large part because of the Department of State. In the new war on terrorism, too, we can only prevail by skillful use of our diplomatic clout, public diplomacy, and foreign assistance, directed by a reinvigorated and replenished State Department.


Republished by permission from the Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2003.


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