Featured Article: The State Department: No Longer the Gatekeeper

Featured article:

The State Department: No Longer the Gatekeeper
by Edward Marks

Foreign Affairs Ministers no longer hold a monopoly over foreign affairs, as the process of international relations now includes domestic agencies and important non-state actors as major participants. This process, beginning early in the 20th century, became more dominant after the Cold War when the bipolar political and economic architecture of that period fractured into disparate interests and great fluidity in international relations.

Today, with a multiplicity of economic, social, and ideology factors in addition to the traditional competition for political influence, ministries of foreign affairs are no longer the exclusive channel for international contacts. In most governments important domestic agencies have their own direct foreign contacts, and in specialized international fora conduct their own dialogue. Further complicating the conduct of international relations has been the rise in importance of non-state actors: international companies, non-governmental organizations, global crime and political networks, and even individuals.

For the United States the challenges of the Cold War required involving the full panoply of federal government agencies, and especially the world’s largest military establishment, in the conduct of foreign affairs. American uniformed personnel and military organizations were on the ground throughout the world, requiring a complex network of formal and informal bilateral and multilateral arrangements. Procuring and managing these security arrangements became a major theme of the warp and woof of American foreign policy. The result was a reversal of the traditional American practice of sharply distinguishing between peace and war.

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IAJ 6-4 (Fall 2015) PDF

Ambassador (Ret.) Edward Marks is the former director of the Simons Center, and served as a Foreign Service Officer for 39 years with the State Department. Marks has written extensively on terrorism and interagency coordination, and co-authored U.S. Government Counterterrorism: A Guide to Who Does What. He holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan, an M.A. from the University of Oklahoma, and is a graduate of the National War College.

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