WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. model for international engagement is based around three pillars: development, defense and diplomacy. The 3 D’s are not mutually exclusive – they require a wholesome government approach, one which the U.S. has yet to achieve.
Historically, American foreign policy has relied heavily on its defense component, while bypassing more effective diplomatic and development efforts. By strengthening our forces to meet the challenges of modern war, while preparing for and deterring a variety of threats, we can expect to win wars. The most important component to defense is the military and armed services. In order to maintain a long-standing force, the U.S. government must sustain a cycle of recruitment, retention, and recognition for those in the armed forces.
Diplomacy is the first line of engagement. It aims to address conflicts and build constructive relationships. It requires listening to our allies, understanding their needs and then working with them to overcome these. By building mutual respect and cooperation with our international partners, we decrease the likelihood of conflict and ensure peaceful relations in the future. Diplomatic efforts take place in multilateral institutions, state-to-state interaction (via the Department of State) and federal capacity building.
Development is the catalyst for long term peace through which the U.S. government hopes to reduce global poverty. Through NGOs and USAID, the United States extends its resources to other nations in hopes of creating stable economies. By creating economic opportunities in developing nations, we not only benefit the world’s poor, but also create new markets for American goods. As former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said in 2010, development should be of the same level of importance as defense and diplomacy. Arguing her point, Mrs. Clinton said, “We cannot stop terrorism or defeat the ideologies of violent extremism when hundreds of millions of young people see a future with no jobs, no hope and no way to ever catch up to the developed world.”
However, not all D’s are created equal. For much of America’s history, defense has dominated our national security priorities. Although a focus on defense is necessary for national security, diplomacy and development are required for long term stability. But, in recent years, the budget towards foreign aid has consistently been cut. Worse yet, 21st century threats require a coordinated effort between allied nations and civilians on the ground, an effort which the U.S. has failed to develop. Moreover, the U.S.’s reliance on defense has made development and diplomatic efforts less effective. As defense has received more money in recent years, the department has also been granted the power to send military personnel into crisis situations. In such cases, the focus of these missions has been primarily political. For instance, the U.S. utilizes a ‘hearts and minds approach’ in counterterrorism efforts. Oftentimes, these efforts are undercut by the lack of skill and expertise of these personnel.
Rather than a fully balanced 3D approach to national security, the U.S. should consider decreasing the focus on defense. Diplomatic and development efforts spur economic growth, prevent conflict, strengthen states, and lift people out of poverty. In order to truly resolve conflict and ensure national security, the U.S. government should refocus these policies to address the withstanding structural problems.
As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Diplomacy and development are certainly not glamorous. It’s like what Max Weber said about politics; it’s long, slow drilling of hard boards. But it’s the only way we’re going to be able to bring together the disparate, often conflicting interests in order to move together in this interconnected world.”
Moreover, in order to create a lasting policy of national security, the United States should create clear distinctions regarding the roles of USAID, NGOs, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State. As it stands now, the Department of Defense (DoD) is the hegemon in U.S. foreign affairs even though other agencies may have greater capacity to create effective change. The 3Ds can only work when each of these separate entities is given the wherewithal by Congress to utilize their expertise in foreign affairs. In addition, the United States should consider civilian capacity building in development and diplomatic efforts to make this dream a reality.
– Kelsey Ziomek