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Making Smart Power Smarter

By March 12, 2010

Region: North America

Topics: National Preparedness, Bipartisanship

The world is a dangerous place. Two things make it safer for freedom and families: strong leadership, and charitable giving. The United States military has provided strong leadership that is capable of creating a window of stability even in a failed state. Inside that window of stability, as in the eye of a hurricane, we can try to help the people of the region build strength of their own. That requires charity.


If the military is our strength, the civilian agencies are often better equipped to be the directors of humanitarian assiatance. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has reached out to the farthest corners of the world: I have seen docks and water pumping stations built in places like Tawi Tawi and Sanga Sanga in the Philippines. The State Department in Iraq has directed the formation of embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs) that work alongside the military. I have attended meetings where a Brigade Commander sat alongside a Foreign Service Officer, negotiating with tribal sheikhs for the building of drip irrigation projects, support for the poultry industry, or sewing centers.


Both the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, have endorsed ‘smart power,’ but it remains in an early stage of execution. It will require many more of the new breed of Foreign Service Officer, those who are willing to undertake a career working far from cities and embassies. But ePRTs typically have only one such position; the rest are contractors or short-term hires, whose job is to provide particular expertise for a given mission. This allows maximum flexibility for shifting mission requirements. That model is the best one for quickly building a ‘smart power’ program at State. The budget need not pay for a huge pool of civilians to serve as full time expeditionary operators, but only for the ones we need right now.


This is not the only way in which the military and civilian agencies must work together. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) underlines the importance of the interagency approach to two of the most critical parts of our national security. The first of these is preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) smuggling. The military has capacity to disrupt these networks, but the civilian agencies have the authority. In matters of law, often it is the Customs Service rather than the military that are authorized to take action. We need both parts of this team to work together.


The second of these critical parts lies in helping developing, failing or failed states to develop greater internal stability. Pakistan, for example, faces many internal security and development challenges, and will benefit from a broad partnership designed to help address them. Pakistan’s stability is important because of the war in Afghanistan and its own status as a nuclear power. The same “whole government” approach to partnership is a wise way to approach many other states as well.


An example that combines all these elements is the just-finished Operation Leading Edge 2010, which trained partner nations in how to conduct their own maritime operations to prevent the smuggling of WMD. It was an interagency operation in which the Navy and Department of Homeland Security worked together. We helped partner nations learn how to have their civil and military officers work together. We also made it more difficult for smugglers seeking to slip WMD materials through those partner nations.


-B.A. Patty has deployed multiple times as an information operations specialist and is a Fellow of the Warrior Legacy Institute.

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This entry posted on Friday, March 12th, 2010 a31 10:04 AM and is filed under National Preparedness.