Since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the US Defense Department has essentially manipulated American diplomatic policy while the State Department has for the most part been bypassed.
As a result, Washington's foreign policies have increasingly displayed a distinct military tone.
In the 2003 fiscal year, the State Department and the International Development Aid Program gained only 1 percent of the total US federal budget, nearly one-twentieth of the allocation for the Pentagon, which received US$393 billion.
During the term of President George W. Bush, the United States has only used 0.2 percent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) for non-military purposes. During the administration of John Kennedy (1960-63), the proportion was 1 percent, which was spent on the State Department, foreign aid, the United Nations (UN) and overseas information projects.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell's lobbying of the UN and other countries for support on the eve of the US action in Iraq -- while 200,000 troops were awaiting marching orders -- only underlined the fact he was merely serving as the Bush administration's front man.
In the aftermath of the Iraq War, the power of managing the country has been completely controlled by the Pentagon.
Paul Bremer, the top US civilian official in Iraq, even has to regularly report to the Pentagon instead of the State Department, putting the latter in an embarrassing position.
This is nothing new. Pentagon-dispatched overseas military commanders often play larger diplomatic and political roles than ambassadors assigned by the State Department.
It is an indisputable fact that the US military has been trying to carry out various diplomatic activities and make friends.
It also makes a deep impression when American military presence is represented by massive aircraft carriers and squadrons of gleaming F-16 fighter planes.
In Afghanistan, local residents have seen more fully armed US soldiers than peacekeepers. The US outlay for military actions in that country is now as high as US$1 billion per month, in sharp contrast to the paltry US$2.3 million used for peaceful assistance.
The United States has become accustomed to orienting its relations with allies based on whether or not those countries provide military assistance or bases.
France, Germany and Russia, which opposed the war in Iraq, have not only received severe criticism from the Bush administration but have also been excluded from the post-war reconstruction efforts.
However, Britain, Australia, Spain and Poland, which stood firm with the United States, have gained rewards from Washington according to their merits.
To express gratitude to central European countries for their support for its war in Iraq, the United States has already begun to shift its Germany-stationed troops to Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.
To further expand its military presence in Asia, the United States has greatly increased military aid to several countries in the region, including Pakistan, the Philippines, Nepal, India, Thailand, and Mongolia.
As well, high-level officials of the Bush administration have frequently visited Viet Nam in recent years, trying to rent the country's Cam Ranh Bay as its new military base.
Obviously, current US diplomacy is mainly focused on how to ensure and expand America's global military presence and how to gain promises of military aid from other countries. This has unavoidably led to militarization of US foreign policies.
The Pentagon has also strengthened its control upon intelligence agencies, which helps it to influence the Bush administration's decision-making process.
For example, the Pentagon has allocated and managed 90 percent of the annual US$40 billion to US$50 billion of intelligence budgets, and more than 90 percent of intelligence personnel have to report to it regularly.
To analyze data provided by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other seven intelligence agencies, the Pentagon recently established a special undersecretary. According to American law, it is the director of the CIA instead of the Defense Secretary that controls the country's intelligence agencies.
This move has been widely taken as the Pentagon's attempt to increase its influence on US intelligence departments.
In addition, intelligence information submitted to the Bush administration must first be filtered through the Pentagon. Thus it is very natural for Bush to firmly believe that Iraq's Saddam regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and once gained uranium from Africa -- a claim without substantial proof even now.
The Pentagon's stranglehold on intelligence gathering and dissemination also makes it possible to submit to the White House information unfavorable to certain "rouge states" or even misinformation, if it favors using force against those countries.
The United States has also freed itself from several international arms control treaties in an attempt to ensure its absolute military superiority and security.
Washington has steadfastly refused to approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and officially withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). It even deployed an initial missile defense system in March this year.
As a matter of fact, the US is free to upgrade its nuclear weaponry while other countries should unconditionally accept a ban on their nuclear testing. At the same time, the US can deploy a defense shield to intercept missiles from "rogue states."
The United States has lowered the threshold of use of nuclear weapons and expanded its nuclear strike targets to non-nuclear countries.
In the Nuclear Posture Review released in February 2002, the Pentagon demanded an emergency program for deploying nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran, Libya and Syria on the grounds that they are either America's potential rivals, "rogue states" or nations that back terrorism.
The report demonstrated that the Bush administration was considering elevating its nuclear strategy from deterrent to actual deployment.
In the 2003 Defense Authorization Bill the Pentagon was approved funds to research and develop new low-yield nuclear weapons.
The United States has been wielding the big stick of economic and military sanctions to coerce the DPRK, Iran, and Libya into abandoning nuclear programs, while at the same time accelerating an upgrade of its own arsenal to pursue absolute security and hegemony.
The immediate effects of its militarization of foreign policy are its stationing of hundreds of thousands of troops overseas, as well as deploying aircraft and naval resources around the globe.
Despite the show of strength, America's over-stretched military will not win admiration and support in most quarters.
Its military predominance cannot camouflage its vulnerability in the face of terrorism.
The United States would do well to remember that conquest does not rely totally on armed force, but on the force of the example set by the conqueror.
(China Daily June 25, 2004)