Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and the Strangelove Debate

Who's in charge of foreign policy?

By + More

By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

A couple of weeks ago, I noted a New York Times piece about how Hillary Clinton is trying to build up the power of the State Department. This is a good sign, I argued, because the Pentagon had encroached too greatly into State's diplomatic turf.

Steve Glain, who is writing a book on the matter, gives the flip-side view in our op-ed section today. Gates, Glain writes,

... has defined Pentagon authority more broadly and more aggressively than any of his predecessors. While warning against the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, as he did in a noteworthy July speech, Gates has done less to empower the State Department and more to entrench the concept of civilian-military partnerships in "stability operations"—Pentagon jargon for the rebuilding of failed states before they become incubators of radical Islam. If neglected civilian agencies cannot keep up with the abundantly resourced military, Gates has implied, the Pentagon will take the lead, and often in areas where it was once prohibited from going.

The whole piece is worth a read. And it's a subject that merits greater and more explicit consideration.

In a sense, it's a modern day Strangelove debate: It may be that, as the late Gen. Jack D. Ripper argued, war is too important to be left to politicians. Or Clemenceau may still be correct that war is too important to be left to the military. I tend to side with Clemenceau, but if we're going to change that view we should do so explicitly, not in beltway bureaucratic turf battles.

One way or another, it'll be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Debate among yourselves in the comment section below. And in the meantime, help yourself to a drink of grain alcohol and rainwater.