Mobilizing American soft power for twenty-first century conflict.

Author:Bullington, J.R.
 
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The U.S. military role in Iraq will almost certainly diminish and may well end under the next president, no matter who wins the election. Yet regardless of the outcome of the war in Iraq, the requirement for active, robust U.S. engagement in difficult, dangerous areas and situations throughout the world will surely endure.

We will still need to fight violent Islamist extremists determined to attack us and our allies.

We will still need to prop up and try to reform failing states, and help re-build those that have already failed.

We will still need to assist threatened populations, facilitate political processes, and protect our citizens and interests in conflict zones.

Moreover, everyone agrees that these enduring global challenges cannot be met successfully by military force alone, no matter how strong and competent it may be. Diplomacy, intelligence, communications, economic development, and other nonmilitary instruments are also required. These instruments constitute the nation's 'soft power,' the ability to influence, persuade, even inspire, as opposed to coerce.

But even though both the global challenges and what must be done to deal with them effectively are known and generally accepted, it is increasingly clear that the Foreign Service and other civilian components of U.S. soft power lack sufficient resources and are ill prepared to meet the demands of twenty-first century conflict.

Consequently, the U.S. military has found it necessary to develop its own substitutes for the missing soft power capabilities of the civilian agencies. The Defense Department share of official development assistance, for example, has risen from 6% in 2002 to 22% currently. Moreover, more and more soldiers are doing civilian-type jobs, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in other conflict zones and potential conflict zones as well. As these trends continue, American foreign policy assumes an increasingly military coloration. The military does not want to take on these traditionally civilian roles, but is doing so by default. This was made clear in the new Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, which states the official doctrine that military force is a last resort and cannot be more than a part of any successful strategy. And Defense Secretary Gates, in a widely-noted speech November 27, called for "a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security--diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic...

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