THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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
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
Unbalanced Security: The Divide
between State and Defense,
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,
BY LARRY BUT L ER
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.
ON DIPLOMACY AND DEFENSE
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