Commentary: Obama must restore U.S. diplomacy

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

President-elect Barack Obama will inherit such a wide array of foreign-policy problems that he's going to need a triple-layer in-basket: "URGENT," "ASAP" and "PRIORITY." The blog-savvy president may even need an "OMG!" tray on really bad days. An indispensable first step to cope with these multiple crises will be to restore diplomacy to its proper place at the forefront of foreign policy. Military power alone cannot deal with all the challenges facing the country abroad.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates knows this better than most. In the last few months, the leader of the Pentagon has become an outspoken advocate for the use of diplomacy to achieve national aims. "Over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory," he writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Gates is right. The military is usually called in only after diplomacy has failed, but Mr. Gates believes there are limits to what the military should be called on to do.

Under the Bush administration, the diplomatic arm has been allowed to wither. Part of it has to do with allocation of money and manpower. As another article in Foreign Affairs notes, the Pentagon spends more on healthcare for military personnel than the amount the government allocates to diplomacy and foreign aid. There are more lawyers in the Pentagon than in the entire U.S. diplomatic corps.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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