VG Bookshelf: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence

VG Bookshelf: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence

VG Bookshelf: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence

In his book, “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence” Ronan Farrow offers a well researched and thought out analogy of American Diplomacy. He spent several years working with Richard Holbrooke, under Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State during the Obama administration. His assessment of the deteriorating use of diplomacy is well researched, cited, and amazingly, as he’s a liberal, not antagonistic to Republication administrations. Ronan begins his book with interviews from every living Secretary of State. In and of itself an impressive feat. But the underlying context of his book is simply that without career field officers, and a policy pivot to military led diplomacy the future of American influence is in peril.

The United States is eternally preoccupied with solving whatever problems emerge at the moment. We have an inadequate number of experienced people in the conduct of foreign policy but even more importantly, an inadequate number of people who can think of foreign policy as a historical process.”

Henry Kissinger,  “The War on Peace: the End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence”

Multiple Administrations Slowly Kill Diplomacy

Farrow lays blame at every administration from Regan through Trump, and paints diplomats as people who want the best outcome while fighting increasing odds to achieve both American influence, and security. He contrasts diplomatic avenues against military avenues, with a particular focus on the shift of diplomacy from State Department to the Pentagon. In the book Ronan writes,

… From Mogadishu to Damascus to Islamabad, the United Staes cast civilian dialogue to the side, replacing tools of diplomacy with direct, tactical deals between our military and foreign forces. At home, White Houses filled with generals. The last of the diplomats, keepers of a fading discipline that has saved American lives and created structures that stabilized the world, often never made it into the room. Around the world, uniformed officers increasingly handled the negotiation, economic reconstruction, and infrastructure development for which we once had a devoted body of trained specialists. As a result, a different set of relationships has come to from the bedrock of American foreign policy.”

He continues,

America has changed whom it brings to the table, and, by extension, it has changed who sits at the other side. Foreign ministries are still there. But foreign militaries and militias often have the better seats.”

Funding: War and Peace

In DC there is no question that the money is an indication of policy focus and shift. Be it spending on war or diplomacy, there is always a money trail. Following September 11, 2001 the Bush administration focused on rapidly reinvesting resources into the dwindling Department of State. Colin Powell recalled that it was resourced like never before.

Ronan asserts that the focus of foreign policy shifted to a renewed “militarized” form of foreign policy. Where “overseas Contingency Operations” were specifically earmarked for advancing the Global War on Terrorism.

…anything not directly related to the immediate goals of combatting terrorism – flatlined, in many cases permanently. Defense spending, on the other hand skyrocketed to historic extremes, far outpacing the modest growth at State.”

Ronan Farrow, “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and Decline of American Influence”

Having just come off of only the second attack on US soil, the increase in Defense spending was understandable. America had to pivot into a new type of combat, the “War on Terrorism.” In 2001, Brookings asked some very good questions. Not unlike the premise put out by Ronan.

Will Washington again overemphasize military force to achieve its goals and give short shrift to the non-military instruments of statecraft? Will it again focus so narrowly on battle that it forgets other important foreign-policy goals? Will it cut deals today to gain support from other nations that will return to haunt it down the road-in much the same way that supporting the shah led to a deeply hostile Iran and arming Afghan rebels to fight the Soviet Union contributed to the terrorist threat the United States faces today? Will it repudiate its own values at home as it tries to fend off an enemy abroad?”

Nasty, Brutish and Long: America’s War on Terrorism. Brookings December, 2001

Almost 20 years later, we can review how the shift in focus worked, or didn’t, in proffering America’s influence and position on the world stage. Be it through, diplomatic relationships, or military engagements America needs to figure out the balance of “Sticks and Carrots.” One that will best maintain our position as a leader, while fostering the relationships required to offset being replaced by nations vying to be in our position.

If one holds a position similar to that of James Baker, Diplomacy works best when it comes in a mailed fist. Colin Powell, If you break it, you own it. Or even, more aligned with Richard Holbrooke, where he decried a process overtaken by, pure mil-think. The book is a great window into the minds and thought processes of modern day American Diplomats. More importantly how, and where, they see the process of American foreign policy being driven.

Featured Image: Darlene Click for Victory Girls

Written by

"CC" to her friends, she's dreaming of warm weather and open spaces. She's lived all over the USA and overseas. These opportunities are great, but she believes that the USA is the most amazing country, and we are so fortunate to have our Constitution and Bill of Rights. She's always happy to have a debate, so long as the participants understand "Feelings are NOT facts". Bring a fact based viewpoint, a good dose of courtesy (Respect is earned, Courtesy is given freely), a bit of thick skin, and fluency in sarcasm. She's happy to chat about anything from Ron Paul, to Ronald Regan. A bit of warning, she has a dedication to General Jim Mattis, and a low threshold for BS. Professionally, she spent almost a decade working in the Defense Contracting industry.

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