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Issue: Diplomacy - Republican Neglect

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

by J. Michael Atherton

The NH Republicans platform says, “We believe that freedom can exist only in a nation that is willing to defend it. The utmost honor must be bestowed upon those who are willing to serve and sacrifice in the United States Military. Let us never forget those whose greatest sacrifice has protected a free and strong America for all.”

Ok, sounds good, but is it enough? Have they neglected something of equal importance and what motivates this neglect?

First, everyone supports our troops, so you get no extra points for promoting them. But America needs more than people with guns. Republicans lavish praise and funding on all things military, dedicating two entire planks of their NH platform to such admiration, but they neglect to even mention other dedicated people who spend their every hour supporting America in the international arena: our diplomats. The fact that the word “diplomat” does not appear once in the entire NH platform suggests an indifference to the crucial issue of diplomacy. What gets neglected weakens, shrivels up, and dies. What do the Republican policy makers neglect when they overlook diplomats and what does this say about their values? To understand their neglect we first need to know something about diplomats that they snub.

President Biden addressed global issues in his speech at the United Nations, Sept. 21, 2022. Photo: VOANEWS

Diplomats maintain positive relations with their host country. Theirs is the complex and nuanced task of building trust, not blowing up buildings. Diplomats never engage in hand-to-hand combat, but they do wrestle with international relations regarding peace treaties, economic trade deals, mutually enriching cultural exchanges, issues of human rights, and shared environmental concerns. Diplomats do not spend nights in guard towers watching hostile borders, but they do spend countless hours in the shadows laying the groundwork for peace treaties and trade agreements. All this arduous work occurs long before politicians take the stage to sign them into life.

Further, diplomats gather information vital to creating an informed, accurate, and timely foreign policy. No small feat when you realize the tense state of a world where we must make friends and business partners all while we manage our enemies.

Some may feel indifferent toward foreign policy and therefore the diplomats, so integral to it. Such isolationism blinds us to our place in the world. Witness how Putin’s war has increased US gas and food prices. We are not “Fortress America” ignorant of and isolated from every other country, but an integral part of a complex world that punishes the ignorant and rewards the informed. Diplomats keep us informed so we all reap the rewards.

Russian President Putin with Defense Minister Sergie Shoigu Photo: The Kremlin

If informed diplomacy benefits us, then why do the Republican neglect diplomacy? Funding facts reveal the answer because we fund to support and cut to destroy. The Republicans, under Trump, slashed financial support for foreign services by 21%. But it gets worse than just defunding the State Department. His Republican administration was proudly unpredictable in a world where knowledgeable, experienced diplomats uniformly say it demands predictability. His foreign policy made it a habit to cavalierly renege on commitments we had already signed. He mocked normal diplomatic conventions, replacing them with arrogance and ignorance. Trump’s Republicans constantly resorted to bellicose brinksmanship with adversaries perhaps hoping to cow them into obedience. Trump’s arrogance forced our diplomats to embrace proto-dictators from Duterte in the Philippines to Orban in Hungary to Putin in Russia.

One might summarize Republican foreign policy under Trump in the following manner: cut funding, alternate between acting like a clown and a bully, and sow confusion where one false step can cause wars. Stated like this, we can see the reason the NH Republican platform says nothing about their diplomatic history. Even they are ashamed.

The NH Republican platform contains two pro-military planks. It's fine to support the military; however, they reveal their utterly confused thinking when we see their back-peddling on support for Ukraine in Putin’s War. If they had been consistent with their militaristic bias, they would have tried to bring tanks to Ukraine through the use of our diplomatic corps. Instead we hear isolationist Republicans worrying about budgets while they turn a blind eye to the invasion of a sovereign country. Withdrawing support could doom Ukraine to Putin’s subjugation. Worse it could signal invasions of other countries with an eventual military confrontation between Russia and the US. Such a nuclear-charged conflict could be stopped by supporting diplomats in their efforts to unify world opposition to Putin. If Republicans knew how to govern, they would have found the wisdom to support diplomacy. Their platform ignores diplomacy and so we should ignore them.

About the author -

J. Michael Atherton (Mike) has retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy (after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school). He spent four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage to Cynthia Walter, the birth of their first child, and a PhD all at the University of Chicago. They moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where Cynthia taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. They moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our environment. And they are great fun to be around. A winning combination!

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