The Foreign Service Journal - June 2017
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JUNE 2017


State has ceded some turf to the military, but it’s not too late to regain it

and rebalance the civilian-military equation in U.S. foreign affairs.

Creeping Militarization of

Foreign Policy

or Creeping

State Department Irrelevance?


ince the fall of the Berlin Wall we have

seen a steady outpouring of books

and articles lamenting the trend in

Washington to see foreign policy

through a military lens: Rosa Brooks’

How Everything Became War and the

Military Became Everything

, Lorelei


Unbalanced Security: The Divide

between State and Defense,

and Gordon

Adams and Shoon Murray’s

Mission Creep—The Militarization

of U.S. Foreign Policy

, among others.

Why might one have this view? Is it that the Defense Depart-

ment’s huge budget, personnel and other capabilities give it

an advantage? Is it due to how the military is organized—with

geographic combatant commands that have effective control

over policy and activities across their areas of responsibility,


Ambassador (ret.) Larry Butler served nearly 38 years in the Foreign Service in the Balkans, Scandinavia, South America and the

Middle East. He was the deputy assistant secretary of State for Iraq during the 2007-2009 surge, the U.S. ambassador in Macedo-

nia from 2002 to 2005 and acting chief of mission in the former Yugoslavia in 1996. An economic-coned officer, he found his call-

ing in crisis prevention and management, which included a three-month Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

mission in Kosovo and a tour as principal deputy high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as three back-to-back tours as a

foreign policy adviser with NATO, U.S. forces in Iraq and at the U.S. European Command in Germany. He also served as the latter’s civilian

deputy to the commander. Since retiring from the Foreign Service he has worked in support of military training exercises, providing expertise

on how to work with embassy country teams and international partners.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Department of State, the Department of

Defense or the U.S. government.



whereas State’s regional bureaus are misaligned with military

counterparts and assistant secretaries deal via turf-conscious

bilateral ambassadors numbering up to 40 or more, and have

little say over how USAID spends its money?

Has Foggy Bottom lost relevance in the foreign affairs arena

by emphasizing soft-power social agendas (e.g., the creation of

special envoys for various religions, LGBTQ, the Holocaust, global

A solely military response is not sufficient. We want to

increasingly involve other elements of the U.S. govern-

ment and the international community, recognizing that

it is only through a combination of capabilities that we

will achieve and sustain our strongest deterrence posture.

—General Joseph Votel,

Commander, U.S. Central Command,

March 9, 2017