A Revolution In Diplomatic Affairs

Austin Bay

9/26/2007 12:01:00 AM - Austin Bay

America needs a "revolution in diplomatic affairs."

Even the State Department's chardonnay and brie brigade suspects we have entered a new era of grimy, street-level foreign policy. It's an era where effective diplomacy starts with long days in bad neighborhoods, as culturally-savvy diplomats identify the hopes, fears and trends that seed future crises, and -- preferably -- create American-influenced opportunities to positively shape events.

Rudy Giuliani's essay "Toward a Realistic Peace" (published in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs) recognizes the need to implement the integrated, coherent policy-making and policy-executing system Washington has lacked since the Eisenhower administration. Crediting the Eisenhower administration may also be a bit of a stretch, but Ike's five-star general's brain was the strategic ringmaster that occasionally united America's disjointed foreign policy circus.

Giuliani's essay addresses a range of foreign policy issues and is thus far the most significant and thoughtful foreign policy statement by a 2008 presidential candidate.

Giuliani's article anticipates three major foreign policy challenges the next administration must confront: "setting a course for victory in the terrorists' war on global order, strengthening the international system the terrorists seek to destroy and extending the system's benefits."

In what is clearly a shot at Bill Clinton (and hence Hillary), Giuliani scalds pre-9/11 counter-terror policy. "We have responded forcefully to the Terrorists' War on Us," Giuliani writes, "abandoning a decade long -- and counterproductive -- strategy of defensive reaction in favor of a vigorous offense."

He advocates expanding the size of the Army's active duty forces -- with ballpark numbers somewhat larger than an increase advocated by former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Pete Schoomaker.

But the section titled "Determined Diplomacy" is particularly striking. In it, the prosecutor who busted the Mafia is "putting down a marker" for the State Department and Pentagon mobs.

"Diplomacy," Giuliani writes, "has received a bad name, because of two opposing perspectives. One side denigrates diplomacy because it believes that negotiation is inseparable from accommodation. ... The other seemingly believes that diplomacy can solve nearly all problems, even those involving people dedicated to our destruction. When such efforts fail, as they inevitably do, diplomacy itself is blamed, rather than the flawed approach that led to their failure. ... America has been most successful as a world leader when it has used strength and diplomacy hand in hand. To achieve a realistic peace, U.S. diplomacy must be tightly linked to our other strengths: military, economic and moral."

The last sentence refers to what the U.S. military calls "DIME," an acronym for the four elements of national power: "Diplomatic," "Information," "Military" and "Economic" power. (Information includes intelligence operations and moral and psychological capabilities.)

Unified Action is another Pentagon term. Achieving "unified action" requires coordinating and synchronizing every "tool of power" America possesses to reach a political objective -- like winning a global war for national survival against terrorists who hijack economically and politically fragile nations and provinces.

America's current "interagency structure" frustrates even the best attempts to coordinate the elements of power and achieve "Unified Action." It's a Cold War antique designed to prop up governments (so often corrupt and ill-led), instead of helping individuals and neighborhoods become economically self-sustaining and self-securing. Winning war in the Age of the Internet and -- even better -- preventing crises by pre-emptive diplomacy require "street-level" political intelligence and the capacity to improve neighborhoods and individual lives.

What does Giuliani propose? He intends to practice unified action from the top down. "The task of a president is not merely to set priorities but to ensure that they are pursued across the government." In my view that means changing bureaucratic cultures, starting with the State Department, Treasury and other key federal agencies. It also means creating an "expeditionary" corps of problem-solving diplomats, economic advisers and developmental experts that deploy as readily as U.S. military forces.

That's a revolution, indeed.