The Foreign Service Journal - December 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2017 13 way factored in the entire experience of the French Indochina War.” Thus, reliance was placed on U.S. military firepower without due consider- ation for Vietnamese hearts and minds, the history of Vietnam’s nationalistic resolve against foreign intervention, or the guerrilla tactics of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Today the Trump administration is making many of the same crippling mis- takes. The president’s principal foreign policy advisers are military men, while the State Department, with all of its expertise, experience and relationships abroad, has often been sidelined. Recently, President Trump even pub- licly stated that Secretary of State Rex Til- lerson was “wasting his time” by attempt- ing to negotiate with the North Koreans. But even Secretary Tillerson has sup- ported the proposed draconian budget cuts to his own State Department prior to the outcome of a reorganization study the Senate Appropriations Committee worries has been “predetermined.” And Tillerson has walled himself off behind a small group of loyalists he’s brought in with him. Predictably, Til- lerson’s and Trump’s long experience with private corporations, where profits measure success, offered little preparation for the policy and relational worlds of gov- ernment, foreign affairs and diplomacy. Meanwhile, Pres. Trump raises false- hood and the denial of fact to alarming levels as he panders to his domestic political base. While waving the flag of “America First” to project strength abroad, the president’s insults, threats, impulsivity and termination of inter- national agreements have antagonized allies and adversaries alike. A reduction in soft-power capabilities undermines U.S. efforts to further global justice, prosperity and peace through promotion of relationships, cooperation, mutual understanding, democracy and assistance abroad. Such power builds bridges, not walls. It combats and contains the root causes of militancy. As General James Mattis observed in 2013: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.” The urgent need for soft power was stated eloquently last year by former Sen- ate Foreign Relations Committee Chair- man Richard Lugar: “In this century, the ability of nations to communicate and work with each other across borders will determine the fate of billions of people. The effectiveness of our response to pandemics, nuclear proliferation, environmental disasters, energy and food insecurity, and threats of conflict will depend foremost on the investments we have made in knowledge, relationships and communication.” John A. Lindburg Foreign Service Reserve, retired Former General Counsel, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Washington, D.C. n Share your thoughts about this month’s issue. Submit letters to the editor: