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Can Diplomacy Rise Again?

September 15, 2009

You know you’ve made it into the policy debate when you hear your own arguments being made in Foreign Policy magazine.  In Hitting Bottom in Foggy Bottom, Matthew Armstrong echoes some of FCNL’s own talking points about how badly the U.S. has neglected its tools of diplomacy and how militarized  foreign policy has become.  The State Department has become so dysfunctional he even asks,  “Do we need to kill it to save it?”

Like FCNL, he holds out hope that civilian leadership can be rebuilt and U.S. diplomacy can rise again.

The United States now has a Congress that supports change, secretaries of state and defense who want change, a president whose entire election platform was built around the word “change,” and an American public that would be outraged at the dysfunction if it only knew the details.

Armstrong points to “a burst of activity after Barack Obama’s election” in which “Congress authorized more money and people for the State Department and pushed for greater public diplomacy.”  He’s referring to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act passed by the House earlier this year – a bill packed so full of good things we called it the Prevent War bill.

What he doesn’t mention is that we’re still waiting anxiously for a companion bill out of the Senate.  And it does take two to tango in Congress.  Our Senate contacts say their version will be even better (so introduce it already!), but with health care and soon perhaps Afghanistan consuming all the air in the Senate chamber, passing a new authorization bill for the State Department this year hardly seems likely.

We may have made the policy debate, but we still have to make the policy change.

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