|The Treaty of Paris, 1783|
Diplomatic power has enabled our country to be more secure
and more prosperous. That’s one reason why 86% of Americans
want to maintain an active role in the United Nations.
You often hear that our nation’s military forces are America’s front-line of defense.
It’s a true statement, as far as it goes. But, it leaves out other elements of our national security resources.
The men and women in the military service are ready to respond at a moment’s notice in defense of our country, and they always deserve our thanks and appreciation for that.
In another sense, though, our armed forces aren’t really our front line of national security. Rather, they are the last resort in the defense of our nation.
Prior to the military option, America has always employed an array of non-military resources.
Primarily, one can think of the thousands of dedicated employees of our nation’s foreign service. They are the men and women of our State Department who serve America in far-flung outposts. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, some 15,000 members of the United States Foreign Service carry out the foreign policy of the United States and aid U.S. citizens abroad.
If we don’t often think of the State Department as being an essential part of America’s national security capacity, perhaps it is because of the horror / fascination of modern military weapons. Perhaps we are too focused on the fast pace and dramatic action of 21st century military engagements. We lose sight of what is happening behind the scenes.
The fact is, though, that good old-fashioned American diplomacy has contributed greatly to our national security and independence. It has always been true throughout the history of our nation.
|Benjamin Franklin, the most distinguished
scientific and literary American of his age,
was the first American diplomat.
For example, the website of the National Archives reminds us that America’s independence was not simply the result of American patriots rising up in violent opposition to oppressive British policies. (Militarily, the Revolutionary War has sometimes been described as a series of British military victories and American moral triumphs). Rather:
“The American War for Independence (1775-83) was actually a world conflict, involving not only the United States and Great Britain but also France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The peace process brought a vaguely formed, newly born United States into the arena of international diplomacy, playing against the largest, most sophisticated, and most established powers on earth.”
A team of American negotiators — John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay — “proved themselves to be masters of the game, outmaneuvering their counterparts and clinging fiercely to the points of national interest that guaranteed a future for the United States.”
Their efforts resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 — which ensured British recognition of the independence of the American colonies.
In the 21st century, America’s active diplomacy has resulted in the reduction of nuclear weapons in Russia as well as the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria. (Neither of these objectives could have been obtained through military power alone).
Through America’s power as a sovereign nation to enter into treaties, we have advanced our national interest in areas such as human rights, trade and commerce, protection of the world’s natural resources, etc. Our diplomatic power has enabled our country to be more secure and more prosperous. We have managed conflicts with our adversaries, enhanced our freedoms, and solidified alliances with nations that share our values.
In short, it is impossible to ensure the full measure of American security without the far-sighted work of courageous American diplomats. American diplomacy makes our nation stronger and saves us from costly, unnecessary (and sometimes futile) military adventures.
There are voices in our political town square calling for American diplomats to be withdrawn from the United Nations and from other international forums.
In answer to those voices, we should be perfectly clear: The surrender of American leadership in the United Nations will never be tolerated by the American people.
As evidence of this fact, we can point to a new public opinion survey of American voters. Eighty-six percent of respondents say it is important “for the United States to maintain an active role within the United Nations.”
We hope our politicians are listening!