As President Trump is seeking “historic” defense spending boost but vows to offset the extra costs by cutting funds for other federal programs, more than 120 retired generals signed a joint letter to Congress, urging lawmakers to pressure the President into leaving diplomacy funds untouched.
The generals argued that President Trump’s plan to boost military spending by $54 billion while sacrificing multiple domestic programs is not a good idea when it comes to the country’s diplomacy. By quoting Defense Secretary James Mattis, the generals made a case for defense and diplomacy as two unseparated, equally-important parts of foreign policy.
The letter reads Mattis once said if the government doesn’t give enough money to the State Department, then he needs to buy more ammunition.
However, President Trump doesn’t see diplomacy as his top priority. Although in his inaugural address, he pledged to wipe terrorism from the face of the Earth by “reinforce[ing] old alliances and form[ing] new ones,” his recent actions show that he would rather beef up the military to the detriment of diplomacy.
All the generals that signed the letter agree that the U.S. foreign policy is not an exclusively militaristic endeavor. Four-star marine general John R. Allen, who served as special presidential envoy to counter ISIS under Obama administration, believes that Trump’s plan to slash the State Department’s funding by 37 percent condemns America to a “generational war.” And the only way out of it is diplomacy and “enlightened development,” the four-star general said.
The general also thinks that the U.S. cannot eliminate ISIS by brute force alone. The country’s diplomats are working relentlessly with other countries to help them prevent young men and women from being radicalized and recruited by extremist groups. But for this, diplomats need funds.
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a nonprofit including senior military officials, foreign-policy pundits, and business executives, coordinated the letter. They submitted the document to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The letter also landed on the desk of Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and various officials at the Department of Defense and the State Department.
The generals also wrote that, from their considerable experience on and off the battle field, they learned that many crises cannot be solved through military force alone. These crises include facing extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa, Ebola outbreaks across the world, and stabilizing third-world countries that can destabilize the entire planet.
It is unclear how severe the diplomacy cuts will be, but State Department employees think that the cuts could destroy the government instead of leading to “a deconstruction of the administrative state,” as the President’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon envisions it.
The State Department said that it was working with the White House and the Office of Management and Budget on the issue. The agency also pledged to remain committed to the country’s foreign policy in a way that promotes the security and prosperity of the U.S. people.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thinks the budget cuts would “undercut” the country’s diplomacy and imperil national security.
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