Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates renewed his call Tuesday for more spending on U.S. diplomacy and international aid, saying the U.S. government risks “creeping militarization” of its foreign policy by focusing its resources on the Pentagon.
With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in attendance, Gates said in a speech that the government’s civilian institutions, especially those with the tasks of diplomacy and development, had been undermanned and underfunded since the end of the Cold War.
Gates has made the argument before, most notably in November in an address at Kansas State University. But his speech Tuesday, before a group of business and nongovernmental groups in Washington, included some of his most pointed language yet, including a call for the U.S. to repair its standing in Muslim countries. But he said efforts to buff America’s image were unlikely to help.
“The solution is not to be found in some slick PR campaign or by trying to out-propagandize Al Qaeda, but through the steady accumulation of actions and results that build trust and credibility over time,” Gates said.
The remark seemed directed toward some of the Bush administration’s public diplomacy efforts in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Attempts by former White House aide Karen Hughes and others to reinvigorate administration outreach efforts failed to reverse the U.S. image, especially among Muslim populations.
Gates said that because of the Pentagon’s outsized budget, it frequently handled activities that traditionally had been the responsibility of civilian agencies.
The trend has led critics to charge that U.S. foreign policy is dominated by the military, a view Gates said was “not an entirely unreasonable sentiment.”
He said devoting more resources to civilian agencies and better coordination between civilian and military officials on the ground would help.