Gates Urges Increased Funding for Diplomacy

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called yesterday for a "dramatic increase" in the U.S. budget for diplomacy and foreign aid, arguing that al-Qaeda does a better job than Washington of communicating its message overseas and that U.S. deployment of civilians abroad has been "ad hoc and on the fly."

In a speech that emphasized the importance of "soft power" to prevent and end conflicts, Gates suggested beefing up the State Department's foreign affairs budget of $36 billion, even as he acknowledged that Pentagon observers might consider it "blasphemy" for a sitting defense secretary to make such an appeal for another agency.

"One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win," said Gates, delivering the annual Landon Lecture at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. The wars of the future, he said, are likely to be "fundamentally political in nature" and will not be solved by military means alone.

The U.S. troop increase in Iraq has significantly lowered violence there, according to military data, but officials say progress in national political reconciliation that is vital to preserving security gains has so far largely eluded the country's Shiite-led government and Sunni and Kurdish minority groups.

"The importance of deploying civilian expertise has been relearned -- the hard way" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates said. Such expertise must be strengthened rather than allowed to atrophy as occurred after past conflicts, he said.

Four times in the past century the United States has taken a "peace dividend" at the end of a war by disarming and dismantling key national security institutions, Gates said. "It will be important not to make the same mistake a fifth time," he warned.

Gates cited the period after the Cold War when the active-duty Army cut its manpower by nearly 40 percent, and the CIA reduced its clandestine service by 30 percent. Even more shortsighted, he said, was the shrinking of the U.S. Agency for International Development's permanent staff to 3,000 and the abolition of the U.S. Information Agency -- effectively "gutting . . . America's ability to engage, assist, and communicate with other parts of the world" through the use of "soft power."

"We are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and culture," Gates said. "It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America."

The U.S. military has shouldered much of the burden of the lack of civilian expertise, Gates said, adding that recent civilian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- such as the interagency provincial reconstruction teams -- had been done "ad hoc and on the fly in a climate of crisis."

He called for developing "a permanent, sizeable cadre of immediately deployable experts with disparate skills" that is integrated with the U.S. government, private sector and institutions of foreign countries receiving assistance.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company