TOO MANY HOT SPOTS, TOO FEW SEASONED DIPLOMATS
BY PHIL PRIMACK, A70
Two active wars, military action in Libya, and a fateful Navy SEALs raid into Pakistan may cloud the intent, but the Obama administration insists that it wants to elevate the role of diplomacy to shape and advance American interests abroad. As Hillary Clinton put it in her 2009 confirmation hearing to become Secretary of State, “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural—picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy.”
But the vanguard of American diplomacy, the Department of State’s Foreign Service, faces strong headwinds as it tries to fill that important role in a world that changes with geopolitical cyber-speed. Budget battles are hitting nearly all sectors of government, but the State Department also faces ingrained skepticism among some members of Congress and others about the worth and work of foreign aid and diplomacy. Indeed, April’s keep-the-federal-government-
open budget deal cut President Obama’s funding request for the State Department and other foreign operations by about 15 percent, or $8.4 billion.