[dehai-news] Analysis: Obama foreign policy favors diplomacy

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From: michael seium (michael.seium@gmail.com)
Date: Sat Jan 24 2009 - 12:44:23 EST


 "not to mention the challenges of a rising China, an assertive Russia and a
chaotic Horn of Africa."

Analysis: Obama foreign policy favors diplomacy

WASHINGTON Diplomacy now trumps defense as the main instrument of American
foreign policy.

At least that is the intent that President Barack Obama and his
change-minded secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, spelled out on
their first days. They made clear that the military will be a prominent
but no longer dominant tool for achieving U.S. goals abroad.

The message was reflected clearly in Obama's decision, on his second full
day in the White House, to close the military-run prison for suspected
terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to include the State Department in a
broad government study of how to proceed with terrorist detentions in the

In a subtler but equally telling way, the commander in chief's decision to
visit the State Department before stepping foot in the Pentagonindicated his
intention to elevate the role of diplomacy.

Setting the stage for what amounted to Obama's first foreign policy
address since
his inauguration, Vice President Joe Biden told State Department employees on
Thursday that Clinton's charter is to "put diplomacy back in the forefront
of America's foreign policy," and to do so immediately.

"For too long, we've put the bulk of the burden, in my view, on our
military," Biden said.

Obama put it this way: "A new era of American leadership is at hand, and the
hard work has just begun. You are going to be at the front lines of engaging
in that important work."

Biden didn't say so, but it will be difficult to bulk up the State
Department's capacity for stronger diplomacy.

The reality is that the Defense Department is vastly better equipped, with
far bigger budgets, greater reach and a more committed constituency on
Capitol Hill. Thus it often will be called on first to take the lead abroad,
even if Obama manages to begin to shift the balance back in favor of
the diplomatic

One measure of the disparity: The military has more band members than the
State Department has diplomats. Or as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has
noted, the 6,600 people in the foreign service equal roughly the number of
personnel aboard a single U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group at sea.

Against that backdrop, Clinton's arrival at the State Department on Thursday
was a feel-good moment for a diplomatic corps that felt neglected during
the Bush administration. But she wasted no time warning all to temper their
cheers with the sobering knowledge that the foreign policy road will be

"I don't want anybody to leave this extraordinarily warm reception thinking,
`Oh, good, you know this is going to be great,'" she told a welcoming
ceremony attended by hundreds of department workers. "It's going to be

That includes not only the Guantanamo Bay headache but also others that the
president and secretary of state will be confronting in the weeks ahead,
from the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace effort to nuclear dangers in Iran
 and North Korea.

Then there are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Obama has promised
that diplomacy and perhaps development aid will play a more prominent role
in seeking to stabilize those countries, not to mention the challenges of a
rising China, an assertive Russia and a chaotic Horn of Africa.

In her caution against excessively high hopes, Clinton also cited her pledge
to reinvigorate the State Department by grabbing more resources, expanding
the diplomatic corps, widening the role of development aid and building a
civilian capacity to work alongside the military overseas.

"This is going to be a challenging time and it will require 21st century
tools and solutions to meet our problems and seize our opportunities," she
said. "I'm going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the
proverbial box."

Unconventional approaches will be much in demand. But Clinton seems
determined to begin with basics, such as bigger budgets, reclaiming some of
the clout that the State Department has ceded to the Pentagon in recent
years, and restoring morale in an institution that has been derided as idle
and placid.

In remarks Friday, Clinton lamented the migration of funds and authority
from the State Department to the Pentagon. She noted that young officers in
Iraq and Afghanistan are given millions in cash to spend as they see fit to
build a school, open a health clinic or provide other nonmilitary aid.

"Our diplomats and our development experts have to go through miles of
paperwork to spend 10 cents. It is not a sensible approach," she said.

Clinton has already shown some of the ways in which she will change
direction at Foggy Bottom:

_Obama will include the State Department not only in meetings of the National
Security Council but also theNational Economic Council. "The State
Department will participate in both, not just one," Clinton told her
confirmation hearing Jan. 13. "We will be very much involved in the crafting
of international economic efforts."

_She intends to make more use of special diplomatic envoys, in part to move
the U.S. away from its recent practice of increasing the power of military
commanders to interact with foreign leaders. "I believe that special envoys,
particularly (as compared to) military commands, have a lot to recommend in
order to make sure that we've got the civilian presence well represented,"
she told senators.

_She says she agrees with Gates that in fighting against Islamic extremism,
military action should take a back seat to efforts to promote better
governance, spur economic development and address the grievances among the
discontented roles tailor-made for the diplomats and development experts.

"I think that our foreign policy has gotten way out of balance," she told
her confirmation hearing. "It's going to be up to us to try to get back into
more equilibrium, which will be good for our government and for the image of
our country around the world."


EDITOR'S NOTE Robert Burns has covered national security affairs for The
Associated Press since 1990.

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