23 January 2019

In a recent article for The Hill, Strauss Distinguished Scholar Dr. William Inboden presents the case for a robust defense budget. In 2013, General Mattis testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying “if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.” Inboden notes that while the State Department and diplomacy are integral in preventing armed conflict and protecting U.S. national security, the relationship flows both ways. Inboden argues, “to strengthen the State Department, along with U.S. diplomatic and economic influence, we need a large defense budget…A powerful military can strengthen diplomacy and make peaceful settlements more likely, precisely because the possibility of force looms in the diplomatic background.”

Inboden provides 10 reasons why, historically, U.S. military strength has been essential to American diplomacy. In particular, Inboden stipulates that a strong military:

(1)   Preserves the open lanes of global commerce and finance for the American economy. 

(2)   Induces fence-sitters to lean our way. 

(3)   Helps secure and preserve peace treaties.

(4)   Spurs our allies to spend more on their own defense.

(5)   Strengthens our economic negotiating posture with allies.

(6)   Strengthens our negotiating posture with adversaries. 

(7)   Makes us more attractive to potential allies and partners. 

(8)   Provides new channels for diplomatic leverage and intelligence collection. 

(9)   Helps promote and strengthen democracy and human rights. 

(10)Improves humanitarian relief operations and enhances U.S. public diplomacy.

In concluding his analysis, Inboden cites Secretary of State George Schultz’s 1984 speech, “Power and Diplomacy,” where he said, “The hard reality is that diplomacy not backed by strength is ineffectual.  This is why, for example, the United States has succeeded many times in its mediation when many other well-intentioned mediators have failed.  Leverage, as well as goodwill, is required.” Ultimately, Inboden stipulates, “To give U.S. diplomacy the leverage it needs for 21st century challenges, Congress needs to fund the Pentagon at full strength.”