Kerry: Diplomacy is cheaper than no diplomacy
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the University of Virginia.
February 20th, 2013
04:57 PM ET

Kerry: Diplomacy is cheaper than no diplomacy

By Jamie Crawford, reporting from Charlottesville, Virginia

Even in an era of budget austerity in Washington, continued investment in foreign aid and American diplomacy will benefit the economy, and is cheaper in cost and risk than requiring future overseas military deployments, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Just days before departing on his first overseas trip as the nation's top diplomat, Kerry chose his first foreign policy address on Wednesday to lay out out the case for continued American engagement.

"How we conduct our foreign policy matters to our everyday lives – not just in terms of the threats we face, but in the products we buy, the goods we sell, the jobs we create, and the opportunity we provide for economic growth and vitality," Kerry told a University of Virginia audience.

"It's not just about whether we'll be compelled to send our troops into another battle, but whether we'll be able to send our graduates into a thriving workforce," he said.

The venue in Charlottesville, Virginia, was notable as the state's flagship university was founded by Thomas Jefferson, America's first secretary of state and its third president.

The address was delivered with Kerry set to leave Sunday on a nine-country trip to Europe and the Middle East.

The appearance also came with government-wide spending cuts set to take effect on March 1 absent a congressional agreement to avert them.

The State Department, along with many other federal agencies, has warned about the impact of the deep, automatic cuts, called sequestration.

"It's often said that we can't be strong at home if we're not strong in the world, but in these days of a looming budget sequester that everyone wants to actually avoid, we can't be strong in the world unless we are strong at home," he said.

Kerry said it was his job to explain how a reduction in foreign affairs spending could open a dangerous vacuum where terrorists could exploit the absence of American values globally, and where American businesses could not compete.

American diplomats operating in embassies and consulates have laid the groundwork for American companies to win businesses in countries like Thailand, Cameroon, Bosnia and South Africa, Kerry said.

With some of the fastest emerging markets located in the developing world, Kerry stressed that American engagement abroad is essential to maintaining economic prosperity at home.

"Let me be very clear, foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It is not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and free world," he said. "And if we're going to seize this budget crisis as the great opportunity it can be, we can't shy away from telling this story to the American people, to your members of Congress and to the world."

And with daily threats directed at the United States from Northern Africa, Pakistan and the Arabian peninsula, he said that "deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow."

American promotion of education, gender equality and health and nutrition overseas also serve to keep the country more secure, Kerry said.

Kerry aides signaled what he intends to emphasize during his tenure at the State Department.

"The secretary is not only looking abroad as he conducts his job, but also domestically, as he connects his diplomacy with daily life and the American economy," his aides told CNN.

CNN's Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Pete

    Kerry is a man on a mission similar to Hillarys trying to show both countrys strength as well as compassion,patience ,diplomacy something Bushs or his secretaries fail to do..Bush decided to play world bully at our militaries expense and look what it got us,nothing just foriegn countries friendships that were damaged that other presidents had built on over the years but Bush refused to work with..He wanted world domination starting with Iraq and Afghanistan and possibly other middle eastern countries,but no one will ever know because he was never able to extend his presidency past the 8 year term limits and God help us if he could!!All Bush was is a frustrated dictator that couldn't dictate in his own country but with wiretaps,TSA at airports,Patriot Act, Big Brother at every turn and you can bet your bottom dollar he had more extremist agendas in mind,just not enough time or ignorent minions to carry them out..Now with Hillary and now Kerry we're mending friendships and creating new ones that are needed if we're going to keep this country in a peaceful coexistence in the world much like Switzerland and Norway two neutral countries you seldom ever hear negetives about but keep on existing without the help or seldom need of others..

    February 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  2. helenecha

    He is great, as his speech was not the slogan. Does he prefer picking the visible fruits to knowing orchard?

    February 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.