Diplomacy on the Cheap?

Unlike James Bond, diplomats are on the ground in true conflict zones and dangerous places.  Increasingly, security for US diplomats has been maintained on the cheap. (Even military efforts appear to be lacking resources.)  Is this the real takeaway from Benghazi?

For conservatives, the Benghazi scandal is a Watergate-like presidential cover-up. For liberals, it a fabricated Republican witch-hunt. For me, Benghazi is a call to act on an enduring problem that both parties ignore.

One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security. Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us.

Now, I’m not arguing that this use of contractors was the sole cause of the Benghazi tragedy, but I believe it was a primary one.

via Benghazi’s Lesson: Diplomacy Can’t Be Done on the Cheap – David Rohde – The Atlantic.

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3 thoughts on “Diplomacy on the Cheap?

  1. The solution seems pretty simple to me. The Obama administration certainly favors exhausting all diplomatic efforts before considering military action, which is one reason why it is fine with at least $500 billion in defense spending cuts come 2013. Why not divert some of that money to our foreign service? Reports show that the State Department is in need of serious reform. The tragedy at Benghazi stemmed from the Department’s shifting of responsibility to an undermanned and underfunded Bureau of Diplomatic Security (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/15/state-department-ignored-security-recommendations). If the federal government really wants to fix things and get this monkey off its back, all it needs to do is prioritize. Right now, its spending does not match its foreign policy agenda. That’s not going to get anybody anywhere. If we’re betting on improved diplomacy to keep us out of conflicts, we ought to put our money where our mouth is. If Ambassador Stevens and his staff had been properly protected, we would probably still have a functioning diplomatic corps in Libya. We would still have people on the ground there, helping a struggling government in its painful transition to democracy. I’m guessing that the president would be very willing to pay for that kind of stability. This is his chance to do it.

  2. joshuacordon says:

    The United States Marine Corp is the best fighting machine in the world. United States Marines are already stationed at every US embassy, they are bodyguards for Navy General, and they protect our president. If we would stop cutting the military budget we could afford to higher some more skilled body guards to protect our ambassadors. Nevertheless Obama continues to slash the military budget.
    http://theweek.com/article/index/233846/downsizing-the-military

  3. I agree that there is a large problem behind the state department being underfunded. It wasn’t the fact that these guys were contractors though. If you looked at their military records you couldn’t find better guys to be there. The fact of the matter was the officials ignored the pleas for more security. Perhaps they didn’t think of it as a real credible threat. Perhaps they really didn’t have the funding/didn’t want to use the funding for it. The fact is this could have been avoided if the state department actually listened to their guys on the ground.

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