1. Update
  2. Peacebuilding

Amid Crisis, Diplomatic Paralysis

November 29, 2017


When he released President Trump’s budget blueprint in March, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, boldy declared, “Make no mistake about it, this is a hard power budget, not a soft power budget. That is what the president wanted and that is what we gave him,”

President Trump inherited a world embroiled in crisis. From the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation in Syria and Iraq to entrenched violent conflicts in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and North Korea, all require the most creative tools at our disposal. Unfortunately, the president’s prescription is to increase military spending by almost 10 percent and cut U.S. diplomatic and development engagement by more than 30 percent.

Exit creativity, enter brute force.

In President Trump’s first year, U.S. coalition forces have stepped up air strikes in Iraq and Syria, killing an increasing number of civilians. The U.S. is selling more weapons to Saudi Arabia, enabling that country to carry out a devastating war in Yemen, and to Nigeria, with its terrible humans rights record.

Meanwhile, Trump administration officials are restructuring and reorganizing the State Department, reducing our diplomatic capacity. Those bureaus and offices tasked with preventing violent conflict, mass atrocities, and building peace are particularly vulnerable to being eliminated—despite their proven record of creatively promoting lasting peace. Kenya, Burundi, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among those countries to benefit from U.S. support to prevent and mitigate violence.

FCNL argues that our country needs to invest more in these kinds of civilian-led programs that prevent conflict—not look for ways to eliminate them. These investments save money and protect U.S. interests. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, investments in peacebuilding will return at least sixteen times the cost of military interventions. Investing in more military solutions, meanwhile, continues us down the path to perpetual war. In 2016 alone, violence cost the global economy upwards of $14 trillion dollars—about 12.6 percent of global GDP.

The good news is that Congress is listening. When the president sent his budget request to Congress, many members on both sides of the aisle spoke up against the cuts to diplomacy. In instructions in a funding bill, the Senate Appropriation Committee wrote, “Battlefield technology and firepower cannot replace diplomacy and development.” This legislation maintained funding (albeit at lower amounts than are needed) for programs such as the Complex Crises Fund, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and the U.S. Institute of Peace, which FCNL has consistently lobbied to support.

Another piece of positive news is the growth of bipartisan U.S. efforts to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. FCNL is collaborating with congressional allies to advance the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, which would enable the U.S. to respond and prevent the worst kinds of violence and forestall the need for late military interventions once the killing starts.

In a world embroiled in violence and complex crises, the Trump administration is pushing us toward foreign policy paralysis. But Congress can help to reverse course. Your members of Congress need to hear your support for funding and legislation that promotes peace rather than violence and gives our country the tools it needs to be an effective leader.