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Diplomacy as a Weapon and 2 Other Unique Takes

(On Violence is back! At least for a little bit. We’re starting up for two reasons: 1. We didn’t want to miss our first “most thought-provoking” event and 2. We started a new podcast for those interested in podcasts, science fiction/fantasy, military history and humor: Spec Media. Please go check it out and share the news.)

We had the idea for this series months back. So a month ago, I started writing, collecting sources on Trump’s dismantling of the State Department. Since it is so seldom covered in the news (and by this we mainly mean the cable news and Google News front page), I didn’t think we’d get an update in the middle.

Well, we did!

While we were writing, President Trump released his new budget proposal. Do I mean the budget deal reached by Congress to fund the government for two years? No, I mean the separate document written by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, which contains the Trump administration’s proposed budget for the future. Yeah, that’s confusing.

Either way, it updated the cuts that Trump wants in government. He wants to cut the State Department budget by 25% with more cuts for foreign aid. Long term, Trump proposes cutting the State Department budget to 58% of today’s total by 2022. (The recent budget deal of $1.3 trillion dollars didn’t end up taking any of these recommendations.)

I don’t have a unique take on that budget proposal by President Trump. It’s just bad (and unlikely to happen because even budget hawk Republicans know that doesn’t make any sense). But I do have some other unique takes.

1. Diplomacy as a weapon.

Our new podcast (follow us on Twitter here!) goes deep into a spoof of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, one of the greatest podcasts out there. Possibly my favorite series he did was on the Mongol Empire, Wrath of the Khans. Genghis Khan was one of the evilest men who ever lived--as Carlin points out a lot, time has healed Khan’s reputation--but he was excellent at defeating his enemies. Or to use the modern parlance, he loved winning. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongols did so much winning they got sick of winning.

So you would think Trump would want to emulate that, right?

Now, a lot of this winning was military might. Obviously. But it wasn’t only military might. You don’t take a 10,000 man army across the world and defeat every foe who steps up using military might alone. And Carlin is very clear in one of his episodes (they are so long I might never find the link) that the Mongols used diplomacy in an offensive capacity. That’s right, diplomacy as a weapon. (They also excelled at leveraging intelligence, while President Trump believes he is in an deep state conspiracy...)

What does this mean in practice? Well, Genghis Khan could divide his enemies while convincing a lot of smaller states to quit without even fighting. He played alliances against each other, and usually emerged on top. America did this throughout the Cold War. (As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, we weren’t always perfect. ***Cough*** Iran ***cough***)

Afterwards, America used diplomacy to shape the international system to benefit itself (and, usefully, to benefit all free-trading democracies). It knew that as a free-trading democracy, the best thing it could create would be a liberal world order to help it thrive. Obviously, the State Department has a huge role in this, and Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson may ruin it.

2. China understands diplomacy (and development) as a weapon.

China has a growing military. And it plans to leverage it more in the future. Their growing power in the military sphere complements their (formerly wildly) growing economy and economic might.

But China’s growing economic power and military might are going to be paired with...diplomatic might.

Unlike Donald Trump, China understands the value of a strong diplomatic corps. Now, China will make mistakes along the way. A lot of countries fear China’s growing power and are irritated by its posturing in those seas I mentioned above. But a lot of other smaller countries see a value in cozying up to China. China’s leader Xi Jinping even promised to protect free trade after Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

China is pairing this with development assistance. They have a huge plan called the One Belt, One Road initiative. China has a development fund and a development bank in Africa. Now, maybe these expenditures are peanuts or will go away over time. But what if they don’t? Do we want to risk shrinking our capability as China expands theirs? What if China finds the investments have enormous benefits, the way the Marshall Plan and Korean/Israeli aid helped the US secure allies?

3: Even the National Review thinks this is bad.

I stumbled upon a quote from Noah Daponte-Smith while doing research that sums up why the State Department is good, so I’ll just let a conservative have the last word:

“The U.S. Department of State is one of the world’s great governmental institutions. Founded near the inception of this nation, it boasts a long and storied history: It has guided America’s evolution from a colonial backwater to a world superpower, and in the years following the end of the Second World War, it played a prime role in constructing the global order that still holds to this day.”