Michael Douglas: Investing in Smart Diplomacy

The following is a guest post by Michael Douglas. 

There are some threats that can’t be solved with military might. That’s exactly why we need smart diplomacy that serves to build international cooperation, increases world stability and furthers our own national security.

It’s a small investment that has a large payoff. For far less than 1% of the federal budget, American diplomacy has delivered huge benefits in increased national security. Civilian efforts led by the Department of State and U.S. AID have helped prevent wars, contain conflicts, expand global markets, counter extremism and protect Americans abroad. Diplomatic efforts are critical to ensuring democratic stability in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, securing progress in South Sudan and Haiti, and in advancing civil society and democracy around the world. And significantly, diplomatic efforts are one of our most important tools to combat the spread of nuclear weapons and potential nuclear terrorism.

The Department of State has been at the forefront of efforts to negotiate treaties that reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world and to build international institutions that contain the spread of these most dangerous weapons. Under the leadership of Secretary Hillary Clinton, talented negotiators like Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller have succeeded in reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons by a third. Additionally, Department of State efforts have been critical in successfully engaging and containing Iran’s nuclear program.

We must do more. The nuclear agenda, like the jobs agenda, cannot wait.

These essential efforts require a strong, well-funded State Department. Unfortunately, these cost effective programs are under siege from overzealous budget cutters. Recently, the House of Representatives has voted to cut State’s core budget by 18% for fiscal year 2012, and the Senate has voted to cut it by 7%. Such cuts would seriously undermine the Department of State’s ability to advance American interests abroad and compromise national security.

Leading military and defense colleagues are opposing these cuts. In April, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen forecasted direct negative consequences if the civilian diplomatic efforts were to be defunded. “The more significant the cuts [to State and USAID], the longer military operations will take and more and more lives are at risk!”

We cannot allow these cuts to happen. More than ever, America needs a smart, well-resourced diplomatic core to reduce the nuclear threat, reshape the Middle East and strengthen allies abroad. Fully funding the State Department is a smart investment for American interests.

Michael Douglas is an actor and producer. He is on the board of directors of Ploughshares Fund and has been a UN Messenger of Peace for eleven years.