The Overstretched Superpower
Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?
To the Editor:
J. Anthony Holmes ("Where Are the Civilians?" January/February 2009) makes a number of persuasive points concerning the military's domination of U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, fixing U.S. foreign policy requires a comprehensive, long-term approach. An excellent beginning would be to implement fully the proposals contained in a recent joint report by the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Henry L. Stimson Center. They are ambitious enough to make rapid implementation hard work, but they are probably only the minimum necessary to meet today's requirements.
In the longer term, consideration should be given to an even more ambitious reform of the State Department and related agencies and programs. The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) has analyzed the flawed national security system and made recommendations pertinent to the problems Holmes identifies.
The PNSR's final report, Forging a New Shield, recommends that Congress prescribe in statute the national security roles of each executive-branch department and agency, including the nontraditional components of the national security system, such as development. It also recommends consolidating within the State Department all functions related to the conduct of foreign affairs that are now assigned elsewhere.
These steps would produce a better-organized and better-coordinated U.S. government effort overseas. They would also have the desirable result of enabling policymakers to avoid burdening the Pentagon with responsibilities that properly lie with other departments.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, and Working Group Chair, Project on National Security Reform
ROBERT B. OAKLEY
Former U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Zaire, and Pakistan, and Working Group Chair, Project on National Security Reform