Sunday, December 9, 2007

United States Defense Strategy

Can you defend America with ham-strung hard power tactics and realist-driven soft power half-measures? The mixture of the two has been a witch’s brew of chaos. Real “Smart Power” is the result of a viable coercive force and the willingness to employ it and a viable attractive force that recognizes the paradigm change from state-security to human-security in a globally interconnected world.

It is the manifestation of "Walking softly but carry a big stick..." It is hard power that provides the time and space for soft power to be effective. This relationship is called Smart Power if both work in concert.

Going forward US defense will be a mixture of public diplomacy, diplomacy, and quick and decisive coercive force. This will not include state building or other "construction" projects that require troops on the ground for long periods of time. Nor will it include projects of attrition like insurgency engagements or peace keeping in hostile areas where it is impossible to tell friendly from foe.

To participate in these building and tearing down projects the US will have to work with regional organizations and/or the UN. Unilateral or Bilateral action is too easily hijacked by liberal global opinion no matter how justified the action. Until the US can bridge the pubic diplomacy divide global opinion will remain heavily against the US and any coercive action it takes.

Anytime the US as the world hyper-power uses force unilaterally or bilaterally it will be characterized as unjust, imperial, colonial and disproportional. Our allies are powerless to come to our aid after the fact because their actions will be seen as unauthentic and forced.

Regional multilateral alliances with significant multinational troop deployments are the only option for any extended ground engagements.

Next, disengagement is not an option in the foreseeable future when it comes to energy security. Until a comprehensive energy program is online engagement with unsavory regions and nations is necessary. Coercive measures by the world’s largest consumer of energy will be seen as imperial, colonial and disproportional. Success in Jerusalem, Beirut and Baghdad is much more important than anything done in Riyadh, Tehran or Damascus. Therefore current coercive measures should be finished only when mission objectives are complete and further coercive engagements should be handled at 30,000 feet with minimal troops on the ground for targeting and bomb damage assessment. All haste and earnestness should be deployed to bring resolution to the continuing problems in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Without these three countries at peace there is no chance for energy security until and unless comprehensive energy alternatives are found.

At first blush this looks like we are hanging our national security on whether we upset a global audience. Quite the contrary. My assessment takes into account that no matter what we do coercively as a hyper-power there will be a great deal of blowback from a globally liberal and vocal group. The din of this globally liberal group provides time and space for our enemies to operate. By countering with public diplomacy we lessen the enemy’s time and space and increase our own for necessary and justified coercive measures. Unfortunately the US does not participate skillfully or at the numbers necessary to be effective in direct public diplomacy. Therefore, currently, to have any time and space to operate by force we must join regional alliances and other multinational solutions so that we do not, by unintended consequence, provide for our enemies the very arena we work so hard to destroy.

Benjamin Cook

Director, the Organization for Public Diplomacy

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