Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Diplomacy Matters, and We Are Bad at It

I recently attended a Worcester Committee on Foreign Relations meeting* that featured Ambassador John Maisto, who was a fantastic and engaging speaker.  He had plenty of stories and points to discuss about his time in the foreign service as the US Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Venezuela and Nicaragua.  He closed his remarks by noting that the US diplomatic corps' budget is only 1% of the national budget, while most people think it should be between 5% and 10% and think it is 25%.  He also noted that for every $1 spent on that corps, the military saves $5.  Despite all this, the State Department is continually assailed by attempts to cut its already meager budget.  Dan Kubiske writes about some of the attacks and about the value of diplomacy in this blog post.

Diplomacy is the art of managing international relationships, full stop.  These relationships can involve all kinds of issues, from conflicts to trade agreements.  Just as saying hi to your neighbor in the driveway in the morning can make you more likely to spare a couple eggs or some sugar when they need it, maintaining these relationships allows the United States to address problems appropriately when they arise and to work with other nations to capitalize on their partnerships when things are going well. Whenever you bring guns to the table, it makes the parties involved think a solution must be military; leaving the guns at home allows parties a graceful out and to feel that their sovereignty is secure and safe from later incursions.  Investing in diplomacy is essential to healthy foreign policy, reducing military overextension and reducing the debt by using less militarized force.  We cannot afford to let it slip out of effectiveness.

* Worcester's Committee is one of 28 committees associated under the American Committee on Foreign Relations.  It is a forum for public citizens to discuss important matters of foreign policy, and a seriously cool organization.  It actually formed from the bottom up in 1938, with the separate committees eventually putting together the ACFR in 1995 to better connect the various local groups and share resources.  In Worcester, the committee is run by the inestimable Hank and Donna Rose, and meets monthly at the beautiful Worcester Club for a lovely dinner and good company before hearing excellent speakers.  If you are interested in becoming a member or just checking out a meeting, please feel free to email me and I will bring you along!

No comments:

Post a Comment