Foreign Policy Blogs

Sifting Through the GOP Platform

When the Democratic party released their party platform two weeks ago I sifted through it to see where and how the word “diplomacy” was used. Now it's the Republican Party's turn.

There's good news and bad news with the the GOP report. The good news is that the platform's drafters dedicated a section to both Public Diplomacy and State Department reform. The bad news is, apart from the word diplomacy in the heading for the former section, the word is not used anywhere else in the entire report.

The good news first, from the section titled “State Department Reform”:

“Advancing America's values should be the core mission of every part of the federal government, including the Department of State. America's diplomatic establishment must energetically represent our country's agenda to the world. We propose a thorough reform of its structure to ensure that promotions and appointments are based on performance in supporting the nation's agenda. Our diplomats must be the best our country has to offer, and America's diplomatic abilities must be an integral part of America's national security system.”

At first glance I was glad to see the GOPs dedicating a section to State Department reform. But now once I read it through, there doesn't seem to be much meat there. The key issue that does need urgent reform isn't mentioned: funding for the State Department. Of course, I am just an outsider, but I am not aware of there being a big problem in the State Department with the promotions and appointments process. But if there is, I can't imagine it being a bigger problem than the whole funding issue.

From the section titled “Public Diplomacy:”

“Throughout the Cold War, our international broadcasting of free and impartial information promoted American values to combat tyranny. It still does, through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio/TV Marti, and it remains an important instrument in promoting a modernizing alternative to the culture of radical terror. Getting America's message out to the world is a critical element in the struggle against extremism, and our government must wage a much more effective battle in the war of ideas.”

Hmmm, not much meat here either. Just a nod to PD's usefulness in combating terrorism.

Alright here's the bad news:

While the report's drafters never mention the word “diplomacy,” they skirt the concept by talking about its constraints. For example, the reports drafters say US participation in multilateral institutions (a diplomatic activity) should never interfere with American leadership. From the section “Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations:” 

The United States participates in various international international organizations which can, at times, serve the cause of peace and prosperity, but those organizations must never serve as a substitute for principled American leadership. Nor should our participation in them prevent our joining with other democracies to protect our vital national interests.”
Rather than emphasise the need for international cooperation, like the Demcorats’ platform did, this section goes on to address the GOP's pet issues that usually drive its agenda within international organizations:

Because the UN has no mandate to promote radical social engineering, any effort to address global social problems must respect the fundamental institutions of marriage and family. We assert the rights of families in all international programs and will not fund organizations involved in abortion.”

To be fair, the report does vaguely talk about international cooperation–without using the term diplomacy–in a paragraph introducing the section titled “Securing the Peace:”

“The Republican vision of peace through strength requires a sustained international effort, which complements our military activities, to develop and maintain alliances and relationships that will lead to greater peace and stability.”

Given the way the report avoides using the word diplomacy, do you think there is some political charge to the word? Could there be a perception that use of the world diplomacy implies being “soft” among Republicans? I sure hope not; it would be a sad day when diplomacy becomes a dirty word.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.