Gutting the State Department is a Recipe for Disaster

Gutting the State Department is a Recipe for Disaster

James Robert “Rob” DuBois

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called the new proposed economic plan "a hard-power budget."

I would call it demonstrably ineffective, if it is based on a preoccupation with “hard power.” Too hard is not right, just like too soft was not right in recent years. Many supporters of the new administration express a frustration that America is weaker, and more vulnerable, as a result of the Obama administration’s neglecting hard power.

I agree with that criticism.

Brutes are emboldened by softness, and we’ve seen a rise in anti-U.S. aggressive ambition among foreign powers and non-state actors, alike. The problem is, veering to an opposite extreme is not an effective solution to a crisis of imbalance. You don’t move all the wet laundry to the other side of the washer and expect the banging to go away.

I commend President Trump, separately, for demanding recommendations on trimming fat at Defense (even as he intends to increase military spending by a tenth). But a purely "hard-power budget" disregards the immense parallel good we can do - at minimal expense - to alleviate suffering and to empower global partners, and therefore ourselves, through diplomacy and development.

This budget proposes to gut State by a full third. And the State Department already traditionally receives only about 10% of what the Defense Department does. Rather than amputate this way, it would be better to enforce a similar demand for cost-cutting at State. Let elimination of actual wasteful spending drive reductions, while maintaining State’s ability to conduct critical operations of engagement with a world in trouble.

Foreign assistance, as one area of the State Department’s mission set, is altruistic. It is "morally right" to extend a hand to desperate global neighbors as we would in our own local neighborhood. But far more important for this conversation is that it is practical to develop and maintain international goodwill. Our brand-new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, who at the time was General James Mattis, USMC, testified in 2013 that funding the State Department prevents war:

"If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately."

Then-General Mattis continued, “I think it’s a cost-benefit ratio. The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of an apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.

We absolutely should ensure that our destructive capacity is rock solid, and smartly designed around an accurate assessment of threat...and we absolutely should broadcast that fact of our strength, to eliminate speculation by opportunistic adversaries. That’s smart. Weakness invites brutes like honey draws bears.

AND… (I wrote an entire chapter in Powerful Peace under the title of this powerful little word)… and we need to make sure we are setting conditions worldwide to best support our interests. We don’t do that by threats alone. The concept of “soft power,” contrasted to “hard power,” is that we can accomplish as much or more through a benevolent, cooperative approach among individuals or nations as through the use of force. Using these in an effective balance is “smart power.” Smart power is infinitely adaptable in proportions, and in specific tools used, but neither soft nor hard power is effective in isolation.

The ultimate potential U.S.-personal tragedy here is not even the millions of kids worldwide who would suffer needlessly where we could help easily and smartly. The ultimate U.S.-personal tragedy in this case is the millions of American kids who will be less secure as ISIS and others expand recruiting based on "America's abandonment of populations in need.” That’s just one example of consequences pulled from my own experience base, because I’ve spent much of my career in counter-terrorism and communicating for influence. They do it, too. Very well.

If you had to guess, what proportion of our GDP would you say goes to foreign assistance today? You don't have to guess, because I'll tell you as I told numerous Congressmen and staffers when I conducted informational Hill visits with the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). It's less than 1%. Our national leaders, and possibly you, often assumed the figure was somewhere between 10%-30%. If that were the case, cutting a third would make a big difference in realigning our national checking account.

But one-third of three-quarters of 1% is one-quarter of 1% of GDP, to be returned to the government coffers in the example of foreign assistance. That’s 0.25%. That might not even cover the pay increases Congress will inevitably award itself this year. And what we lose for these inconsequential savings speaks directly to the fair question I was asked in social media this week: “Why do we give our money out to other countries when we are so in the hole ourselves?”

We should continue to provide a tiny sliver of our resources to foreign assistance because it is morally right. More importantly for this argument’s sake, however, we should continue to “fund the State Department fully” because it’s practical...consider our global standing if America were to flatly turn its back on famine, genocide, and internally displaced persons.

I doubt most people would walk past a starving family if they could provide a meal for barely the price of one fancy coffee out of a week's expenditures. We should continue to do our little part because we have economic power many other countries don't, because it comes at very small actual cost to us, and because to not do our little part to help those in need is to abandon what it means to be America.

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BTW..you can neither formulate nor guide nor run a FP and maintain close touch with your DoS and SoS IF you are constantly golfing....

President Trump is now at Trump Int'l Golf Club in West Palm Beach, per pool; it's his 10th golf course trip since taking office 8 weeks ago.

This particular golfing session this weekend was lead off by Trump's own statements to the press on Friday that he was going to FL to hold a large meeting on VA......

WHICH did not happen...it was just a normal Trump lie in order to go golfing...with the tax payer picking up his golfing costs...WHICH BTW could be used to help trim that 37% budget cost...

So instead of worrying about DoS and SoS I would be far more concerned about a pathologically lying President....

A President that maintains what has been truly proven as just out right lies driven by right wing white nationalist conspiracy blogsites is basically a serious threat to all nations..particularly the US itself...

From Washington Post today...

What will it take for Trump to retract his tweets about Obama?
Trump has been offered numerous exit ramps to put his self-created wiretapping controversy behind. Instead, he remains stubbornly defiant, perpetuating rather than closing a damaging chapter in his presidency.

Or his recent NK comments.."they are behaving badly"....a comment one makes about a misbehaving child not a nuclear armed missile capable rouge nation state...

He has no earthly idea how to respond to NK....nor BTW Merkel...

It is kind of difficult to do the so called "whole of government approach" when the existing budget is trimmed a total of 37%....all of the important DoS managerial positions are not filled...no Deputy SoS in place....excluding virtually the press which in the case of SoS is a tool for getting out your national narrative as were and are the daily DoS briefings that are also not being held...there is no truly appointed DoS spokesperson in place......not visiting with your Embassy staff's in the countries you visit and having virtually only two named but not confirmed Ambassadors after asking all politically appointed Ambassadors to leave just after the inaugural....and the list goes on and on and on...

More importantly when there is a major foreign visitor arriving in the US it is the trio of Bannon....Kuschner and Preibus that handles it not the DoS and the SoS has rarely shown himself during those visits....

Example was the Merkel visit....or the Japanese visit....or the call with the Australian PM...

So if in fact the WH is now the defacto DoS...then trimming the budget by 37% makes sense....actually just cut it by a flat 50% and send home most of the employees as the WH will pick up the slack...

But WAIT...most are civil service thus you cannot just fire them which is the Bannon intention longer term...

BLUF..this below goes to the serious lack of a functioning DoS and a strong SoS...Trump's tweets about Germany "owing" vast amounts of money to the US...just flies in the face of truth and ground reality THUS exposing Trump for really what he is....a vastly uninformed and uneducated President when it comes to international relations and FP....actually as a confirmed "non reader" of anything except right wing conspiracy blog sites and FOX the next four years may and or may not get us into a war...

From Washington Post...

No, Germany doesn’t owe U.S. ‘vast sums’ of money for NATO
The president’s tweets arguing that Germany should pay more for the defense NATO provides were quickly attacked by security experts and diplomats. “Trump’s comments misrepresent the way NATO functions,” one said.

BUT WAIT..they are consistent with Trumps calling NATO obsolete and a free loader on American hard earned tax dollars and consistent with Bannon and Miller and Narravo and Gorka all white nationalists...

White House & @realDonaldTrump have at their disposal world's largest & best intelligence apparatus.

Why so much citing odd/fake/conspiracy media reports?

BUT WAIT..doing just that would force Trump and his merry band of white nationalists to stop using their own created "echo chamber" and face the real world with all the real world problems...

BUT WAIT..there is no real functioning DoS and SoS...anymore....

Sadly, this article and many like it do little to justify maintaining or increasing State's budget, which may be why the administration is proposing cutting State's budget so radically. Before I continue, I want to clarify I support increasing State's budget and manpower. However, their tiresome comparing their budget to Defense, or pointing out it is only one percent of the government's budget doesn't justify anything other than ineptness in explaining what you do with it. Sustaining a world class military costs more than diplomacy and development. Seems everyone in the country understands this except State. State should focus their arguments on how they support U.S. interests, provide sujective assessments on the impact of these programs, and how much funding they need for future operations, to include the budget for manpower to ensure they have enough of the right people to execute their mission.