The State Department, despite its rather lack of regard from much of the American public, has been one of the most integral institutions of American History. If it weren’t for the diplomatic maneuvering of Thomas Jefferson, which secured French support for our revolution, our very United States may not be in existence today.
Heading into 2021, however, it is easy to say that the State Department is well within the shadow of its former light. Despite extravagant moves to promote American interests globally, the state department under the recent presidency has seen its lowest of lows.
This is no one more to blame than former President Trump, the Achilles Heel to the State Department’s long tradition of safeguarding American interests abroad.
When we first look at home, the intention of President Trump’s actions was clear; the State Department and its responsibilities were no longer a primary necessity.
Throughout his four years as “leader of the free world,” President Trump oversaw deep slashes into the State Department.
Over the last four years under President Trump, there has been a recorded 31% cut to the state department’s budget, according to AP. These cuts are such a huge hit to the point that it is unfathomable to consider that the D.O.S could function to the same capacity it once did.
With such a cut, it was only realistic that the state department could not handle its current functionality. This inevitably led to the release of hundreds of Foreign Service Officers (diplomats), affiliated NGOs and others somehow affiliated with the department, according to the New York Times.
This abandonment of traditional foreign policy has led to an alternative: military diplomacy. Although the phrase isn’t all too common, military diplomacy has been a long-standing trend in American international relations, according to the Center for American Progress.
The process of military diplomacy is indeed rather simple. The US offers weaponry, to a country or group, in exchange for supporting or ignoring whatever interest America has at the time. Though, it must be mentioned that this was usually the last resort, or a term added to sweeten a deal.
This has changed under the Trump presidency, and military dealings have become the forefront to achieving military interests, according to Business Insider.
This is no clearer than the Israel-Arab recognition treaties, with the UAE being the most prevalent. Many around the world were surprised to see the UAE formally recognize Israel, but the realization of the “peace treaty” set in when the UAE soon after purchased 50 F-35A state of the art Fighter Jets from the United States, according to Al Jazeera.
This sort of rhetoric seems to get the job done, but its long-term consequences are very real. One could look no further than Saudi Arabia, as American weapons (achieved through similar military diplomacy deals in the past) are used to committing violence in Yemen, according to the Human Rights Watch.
President Biden and his intended secretary of state Antony Blinken clearly have a tough road in front of them. From a gutted state department to dangerous diplomatic rhetoric, the two men face the tall order of restoring faith to one of our most sacred institutions.