Defense Secretary Gates's warning against the "militarization of American foreign policy" is the opening salvo in what should be a larger debate about the role of the DoD in shaping U.S. foreign policy. As this Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists piece notes:
[S]ome parts of the U.S. government are also looking for ways to shape an alternative to the policies pursued in Baghdad for the past four years. This search for a different approach focuses both on the front end (how to prevent such conflicts in the future) and on the back end (how to cope with the aftermath when they do). Call these "shaping" and "stabilization and reconstruction."
Strikingly, this search seems to preoccupy the military more than the civilian branches of government. In fact, the U.S. approach to the future of global security is almost entirely military in nature; any other center of strategic or post-conflict planning in the government is absent. Without thinking about it, the United States is moving toward reliance on its military instrument for the future of its security.
Let's start with "shaping" and the so-called "long war." Shaping did not emerge from the State Department or the National Security Council; it originated in the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review, under the leadership of Defense Secretary William Cohen. The goal of shaping was to influence the international environment so much that the risk of open combat was reduced.
The planning shift out of the interagency process and into the DoD is in part a function of resources. At one event I attended last week, for example, an SAIC Pentagon consultant suggested the disparity between the DoD and every other agency is now so big that it would be most organizationally efficient to fold all foreign policy functions into the Pentagon. (Call it the single-payer theory of national security.)
In places like Africa, the resource bias towards the DoD is already causing trouble for the United States. Over the past few months, there has been a continent-wide uproar over AFRICOM, the Pentagon's new command designed to "shape" Africa by providing reconstruction, security, and development assistance.
African countries are opposed to making the U.S. military the face of American aid efforts--as is Secretary Gates, judging by his remarks last night--but the fact is that we're relying on the Pentagon because no other agency has the capacity to take the lead.
That's a direct result of our paltry International Affairs budget; and we'll continue to find ourselves in similar situations until we create other organizational options. Which, of course, will require us to pony up our $1.05.