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The Overmilitarization of American Foreign Policy: The United States Must Recover the Full Range of Its Power

Author:  Robert M. Gates

Affiliation: Former US Secretary of Defense

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place:  July-August 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Report

Word Count: 4157


Keywords: Global Leadership, Reformation, National Security, Soft Power.



There is a bipartisan agreement in the US on focusing inwards, at the expense of global leadership. Foreign interventions and their costs made it seem that leadership wasn’t worth it. But if the US forgoes this role then the challenges from China, Russia, global terrorism and divisions among European allies will compound and further damage US interests. The reason for these foreign policy failures was overdependence on military might, and a national security structure designed for the cold war. Reformations are crucial to adapt, and military intervention should be balanced by clear objectives and resource spending along with post-intervention plans. Non-military means should be revived as they will be needed for future competitions, and the economy should be instrumentalized for more than just weaponizing it. The US lost a significant piece of its soft power by cutting its aid programs and abolishing the United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1999, which had as its mission public diplomacy. Washington should reform its national security apparatus as the National Security Act of 1947 has outlived its purpose. The State Department should be the central hub of non-military strategies, and the heavy bureaucratization should be resolved to achieve this goal. The US should restructure its development assistance to balance the aid offered by China, and work to improve is global messaging. Washington could appeal to public opinions in both allied and rival states, and thus propagate its principles by building a solid footing for its interests. But for all of that to happen, the US must accept the burden of global leadership. 


By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant



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