As a four-star combatant commander and senior defense leader for almost a decade, I know that today’s crises do not have military solutions alone. Yet, America’s essential civilian national security agencies – the State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies – faced a significant funding cut last year. This year’s budget proposed by the Trump administration slashes the International Affairs Budget – again – by what could be close to 30 percent.

Given the significance of this potential cut, I joined more than 150 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals, and more than 1,200 veterans from all branches of the military and all 50 states, to urge the House and Senate leadership to support U.S. diplomatic and development efforts across the globe in their budget proposals.

I cannot think of a higher risk for the U.S. than to have widely perceived weakness emanating from the State Department. Our security is based on three key elements of engagement with the world: defense, diplomacy, and development. I have watched the interplay of hard and soft power in peace and crisis; the ability to wield them together is crucial. When we have done so, the outcomes have been far better than when either is used alone – such as ending the furious wars in the Balkans in the 1990s and the virulent insurgency in Colombia, a vital ally of the U.S.

Where we have tried to use solutions that are hard power-based, notably in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein and in Afghanistan when the Taliban threatened to overwhelm the fragile government, we have been far less successful. To build working alliances and coalitions, an effective State Department and development sector are essential.

Current crises will also require diplomatic solutions. In the Middle East, rising tensions between the Sunni and Shia worlds offer Israel an opportunity to partner with more of its Sunni neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, to staunch the rising threat of Shia Iran.

On the Korean Peninsula, we’re seeing a tiny sliver of hope as athletes meet at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and the two Koreas hold informal talks for the first time in years. We should see if we can expand these two-party talks into four-party talks that would include the U.S. and China. As I told the team at Morning Joe, all roads to Pyongyang lead through Beijing.

To that effect, we should keep our eyes on China as another possible diplomatic partner. Our interests are far more likely to converge than to diverge overall, and our economies are deeply intertwined. The U.S. needs a strategy to deal with a China that is increasingly comfortable engaging aggressively in the world. You can read my suggestions on how to develop a forward-thinking China policy in Bloomberg.

All of this is to say that the world we live in is only becoming more interconnected, and the need for diplomacy remains strong. As Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis so eloquently put it, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

As always, thank you for reading.

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