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In 2007, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued a call that would, he predicted, strike many officials in his own department as “blasphemy”: the United States needed to spend more on diplomacy, foreign aid, and other nonmilitary tools of foreign policy. “Having a sitting secretary of defense . . . make a pitch to increase the budget of other agencies might,” Gates noted, “fit into the category of ‘man bites dog.’”

Not so today. It has become ordinary, even orthodoxy, for national security professionals to lament how the underfunding of civilian tools has fueled an overmilitarized foreign policy that is ill-equipped to take on today’s most pressing challenges. As James Mattis, then the commander of U.S. Central Command, put it in 2013: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Unfortunately, this rhetorical consensus has not produced the necessary rebalance in resources. If anything, the situation has gotten worse since Gates’s speech. When Mattis himself took over the Defense Department in 2017, his own words were frequently quoted back to him. Yet the administration he served promptly proposed boosting defense spending and tried to drastically cut funding for the State Department and the

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