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JUNE 2017



youth and global women’s affairs) that are dis-

tinctly American over hard-power national secu-

rity interests (e.g., strong international security

and healthy economic systems that protect allies

and provide opportunities for American busi-

nesses)? Or is it, perhaps, simply that the Foreign

Service is either late in arriving or missing from

the field where the military is operating?

The answer, of course, is all of the above. But there are two

broad aspects of the problem that I believe are fundamental: first,

the proliferation of priorities at the State Department following

the end of the Cold War; and second, the missed opportunities at

State during the past 20 years of joint operations with the military

to institutionalize the kind of professional and personal relation-

ships that would enable the smaller Foreign Service to exert lead-

ership in the foreign policy arena at home and abroad.

A Proliferation of Priorities

The end of the Cold War and the so-called “end of history”

marked a shift for the State Department. We hired a more

diverse Foreign Service that, in turn, took on a broader range

of narrower activities that more resemble small-picture social

engineering than traditional, big-picture diplomacy. At the

same time, State reallocated existing resources to create an

alphabet soup of new under secretaries, functional bureaus,

offices and special envoys. At its peak during the Obama

administration, there were more than 50 of the latter. As

Ambassador Jim Jeffrey observes in a March 3 piece in Foreign Policy , neither the 2010 nor the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy

and Development Review focuses on “traditional” diplomacy.

The department has diffused its energy too broadly to the

neglect of fundamentals, and this, in turn, left a vacuum that

the military has had to fill.

New State Department priorities include such things as this,

for example. In Muslim-majority Indonesia in 2014 and 2015,

not long before the deadly January 2016 extremist terrorist

attack on Starbucks and other locations rocked the capital,

Jakarta, our consulate in Surabaya produced impressive His-

panic heritage month YouTube videos of its celebrations, which

included spending money to bring Los Angeles artists to paint

murals on the walls of a local school and sponsor fun runs

for local girls. Similarly, in March the U.S. embassy in Mace-

donia—a country with simmering interethnic tensions and

endemic corruption that hasn’t had a government since elec-

tions in early December 2016—flew in a lawyer from the Office

of the Special Counsel to lecture locals on the Hatch Act, even

as refugees streamed north from Greece and European-born

Islamic State group fighters returned from Syrian battlefields.

In religiously conservative Uganda, a U.S. Army commander

there to train units in combating the Lord’s Resistance Army

and al-Shabaab in Somalia had to deal with backlash from an

angry counterpart when the U.S. embassy flew

the rainbow flag high over Kampala in a righ-

teous response to that country’s persecution

of the LGBTQ community. That subsequently

set back efforts to combat other forms of vio-

lent abuses of human rights in eastern Africa.

One general commented, “If everything is a

priority for the State Department, nothing is.”

On its own, each example represents admira-

ble commitment by the Foreign Service to human

rights, social progress and good governance

policy efforts. But collectively, that commitment

ignores the opportunity cost of not prioritizing

activities more immediate to countering violent

extremism, promoting economic prosperity and

strengthening the security necessary to address

higher-order human rights and civic goals.

The U.S. armed forces remain the only military establishment with global

power projection capabilities and experience in managing multinational

coalitions. Generals and admirals bestride the highly militarized foreign

policy apparatus of the United States government. This caps a longstanding

trend. Americans so thoroughly identify “power” as exclusively military in

nature that it has been necessary to invent an academic concept of

“soft power” to embrace measures short of war like diplomacy.

—Ambassador Chas Freeman, March 9, 2017

Ambassador Larry Butler (in black jacket) with soldiers of the French Operational

Mentoring Liaison Team on a hilltop outpost south of Surobi, Afghanistan, in

December 2008.