The Cable

Clinton calls for unified national-security budget

President Obama's new National Security Strategy, first published on The Cable, talks clearly about the need to integrate what the administration dubs the three pillars of national security: defense, development, and diplomacy. In her remarks officially debuting the strategy today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to fight to integrate their budgets as well.

That'll be fun to watch on Capitol Hill.

"We have to start looking at a national-security budget," Clinton said at the Brookings Institution Thursday. "We cannot look at a defense budget, a State Department budget, and a USAID budget without defense overwhelming the combined efforts of the other two, and without us falling back into the old stovepipes that I think are no longer relevant for the challenges of today."

Clinton made all the usual arguments for why State needs more money, including the need to be present everywhere and the increased role diplomats and civilian advisors are playing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. She also pointed out that even top Pentagon leaders are arguing for full funding of the State Department's budget request, which faces a lot of congressional scrutiny this year in light of the constrained fiscal and economic atmosphere.

But her open push for one unified budget for all three agencies is new, and Clinton presented it as a way to get out of the annual ritual of Foggy Bottom trying to out-lobby the all-powerful military folks across the Potomac while also defending State's budget from lawmakers eager to steer funds to domestic programs.

"We want to begin to talk about a national security budget ... so it won't be the case where we go to make the case to our appropriators and DOD goes and makes their case to their appropriators," she said, acknowledging that entrenched interests would likely oppose such a move. "There is resistance in our government and there is resistance in the larger communities ... they are afraid of the idea that we are actually going to be better integrated. I think that is an incredibly short-sighted view."

Clinton said the split budgets are too easy for both the White House and Congress to play games with, and accused her husband's administration, whose budget shop was run by her current deputy, Jack Lew, of doing just that.

"Part of the reason I brought [Lew] in is because I knew when Jack headed OMB during the Clinton administration, State would come in with their budget, and AID would come in with their budget, and OMB would always play them off of each other," she said. "It was the easiest thing in the world to get money out of the 150 account [the international affairs budget]. They would come in and say ‘Oh no, diplomats!' and then ‘Oh no, development!" and OMB would go, ‘Great, take it and give it to someone else.' We are trying to avoid that."

Although Clinton's open support of a unified national-security budget is new, the idea is not. Leading experts have been pushing the concept for a while. The Project on National Security Reform, led by James R. Locher III, proposed just that. In a sad tale, this very proposal led to the defunding of the entire organization, because the late Rep. John Murtha stripped the group of all its money out of fear his jurisdiction over the defense budget could be affected.

That's the kind of resistance that has kept the idea from being adopted until now. But with Clinton's endorsement, it could take on a new momentum.

"I think it's a great idea," said Larry Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a former assistant secretary of defense. "If you send it up as one top line number, Congress can't cut one without the other. Until you do that, Congress will just continue to take funds away from foreign aid."

The Cable

Ship incident raises questions about Obama's China strategy

The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy, first published on The Cable, contained an explanation of how the United States is trying to manage China's rise by persuading Beijing to take more of a leadership role in the world community. But is that a fool's errand?

"We will encourage China to make choices that contribute to peace, security, and prosperity as its influence rises," the strategy says, while also making sure to note that the U.S. administration seeks a "candid" and "pragmatic" relationship with China that also takes into account its military modernization.

The idea that China can be convinced to take a leadership role in the world commensurate with its rapidly rising diplomatic, economic, and military power is not new. That's exactly the point Bush-era Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was making when he called for China to act like a "stakeholder" in the international system. Elements of this thinking also factored into current Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg's concept that U.S.-China relations should be managed according to the principle of "strategic reassurance."

But the Chinese response to evidence that North Korea sank a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, is giving China watchers in Washington pause. The consensus here is that China is either unwilling, or at least unable at this stage, to prioritize the international community's needs anywhere near its own interests. Whether it's on security, nuclear nonproliferation, or climate change, China is not acting like a global leader and maybe the U.S. needs to recognize that.

"We could be mistaken in thinking they could play that role, maybe because they are not capable of doing it, or maybe they are just a big, selfish power," said Victor Cha, a former senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during the Bush administration.

China's stance on the Cheonan crisis -- that North Korea has not been proven responsible and therefore more consultation is needed -- lacks basic credulity, said Cha. He's posted slides from a presentation South Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) earlier this week.

The slides, the result of an investigation that included international experts, show three things: that it was an external explosion that broke the ship in half, that the cause of the explosion was a torpedo, and that the torpedo was made in North Korea. Cha believes it's implausible that there's any other explanation for the ship breaking apart other than that North Korea was responsible.

So why are the Chinese resisting that?

"The Chinese are still living in the Cold War. They feel an allegiance to this communist country [North Korea]. They don't want anything to happen that could possible lead to the regime falling apart. That's their basic calculus," Cha said.

That flies in the face of China's famous pragmatism, which should lead Chinese leaders to the realization that their future economic interests lie much more strongly with South Korea, he added.

Charles W. Freeman III, who holds the Freeman Chair (no relation) at CSIS, agreed that China has not accepted that being a world power carries with it hefty responsibilities.

"China is not at the point where they are ready to be a global leader," Freeman said. "They really desperately tend to avoid any indices of leadership. To tell them you've got to be a net contributor to global welfare is very difficult."

He speculated that China is stalling on responding to the North Korea crisis because there is no consensus within the Chinese Communist Party on how to proceed. Hard-liners in Beijing are feeling their oats and pushing the government to resist U.S. overtures, while more internationally focused officials are losing ground, he said.

Overall, both Cha and Freeman said the Obama administration is right to continue to press China to acknowledge and then live up to its responsibilities. But each cautioned that expectations in the West have to be realistic.

"The stakes are high, so making sure we manage China's rise and China manages its rise with us, in order to avoid conflict, is pretty important stuff," said Freeman.

AFP/Getty Images