In an interesting exchange between two smart foreign policy bloggers, Spencer Ackerman and Matt Armstrong discuss the potential for a whole scale re-shaping of the State Department. Both agree that State is due for a bureaucratic re-modeling (sort of along the lines of how the “Goldwater-Nichols act” changed how the Department of Defense organized itself) but Spencer is skepitcal that this sort happen anytime soon. Says Spencer:
Building institutional capability for rebalancing the civilian and military components to national security is a demand-side problem as much as it is a supply side one. Progressives have to build the constituency for that around the country, and members of Congress have to appropriate money for the State Department and support efforts at non-traditional and expeditionary diplomacy that people like Hillary Clinton and, yes, Condoleezza Rice want. Without that, all the structural overhauls of the State Department in the world won’t stop the militarization of foreign policy.
This is an important point, but I think the stars are actually favorably alligned for this sort of effort to occur in the near future. For one, there is wide-spread agreement among foreign policy elites that the State Department needs a serious capacity boost. (Incidentally, to that end, the Secretary of Defense is one of the loudest cheerleaders.) But to get directly to Spencer’s point, in Hillary Clinton we have a Secretary of State with a huge and independent base of political support. 18 million people voted for her last year. If the massive “Hillary” constituency can somehow be morphed into an activist constituency for diplomacy, a major overhaul of the State Department may yet be possible.