For PBS, I look at why the Congress is cutting the State Department’s budget:
Next time you’re at Target, take a look at the bumper stickers on the SUVs in the parking lot. In all likelihood, you’ll find a good half-dozen or more that say “Support the Troops” in one way or another. You will not find “Support the Diplomats” anywhere. As Dana Priest documented in her 2004 book “The Mission,” the military combatant commands (regionally-focused commands like CENTCOM) each have dozens of staff members devoted to lobbying Congress for defense needs (this is in addition to Department-level attaches on the Hill, and the many DoD officials assigned to do public relations). The State Department simply cannot field as many people to lobby Congress or the public to advance its cause. The Transportation Security Administration has about 58,000 employees; the State Department has about 22,000. The DoD, in contrast, has nearly 450,000 employees stationed overseas, with 2.5 million more employees in the U.S.
So with no built-in constituency to argue for its interest, and an acutely lopsided share of the foreign policy budget (under 6 percent), it seems natural the State Department would face cuts first. It never really stood a chance.
I’ve heard some people disagree with my thought that part of the reason for these cuts is that State doesn’t have the same lobbying power as the DoD. I can accept that, but I do think the drastic imbalance in public and private lobbying contribute to why diplomats are often perceived as feckless limp-wristed liberal cocktail socialites, while the military is perceived as hearty, salt-of-the-earth wholesome American heroes. That perception might not matter much to cynical Beltway types (of which I am one), but to the rest it very much does.
Either way, the aggressive militarization of American foreign policy over the last 15 years has been awful. There should be no surprise that so many around the world perceive us as an aggressive militarist power. That is how we’ve organized our foreign policy.