In recent budget hearings top military advisers stated that the US would no longer engage in conventional warfare, such as, Iraq and Afghanistan
Eric LaMont Gregory
The next US President will inherit a more difficult set of international challenges than any predecessor since World War II Richard Holbrooke
Smart Diplomacy is a failed doctrine
Smart Diplomacy emerged during the first Clinton administration and is the failed, although working doctrine of our current administration, and will be the doctrine (both diplomatic and military) until the American people examine it closely.
The American public struggles to decide, given the current situation in Iraq, if our engagement there was worth the loss of so many lives.
While there is some hope that the economy is turning around, the determining factor in how well the American public believes in our current executive and congressional leadership comes down to can they guide the United States of America through the tepid waters of US foreign relations. That is to say, can they lead our diplomatic efforts and, when called upon to do so command the Armed Forces of the United States properly.
Naturally, it is of paramount importance to understand what our current diplomatic and military doctrines are. Many will be surprised to learn that over the last two decades the once clear distinction between the role of the military and that of our diplomats has changed to such an extent that for all intents and purposes the distinction in practical and operational terms no longer exists.
This is a mistake, (witness Benghazi) and the tearing apart of this nexus is an urgent matter of state.
A brief history:
The opportunity for change in our foreign relations which presented with the fall of the Soviet Union came suddenly and dramatically. Although the demise of the Soviet Union began in 1957 when Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev denounced Stalin in a speech before the Politburo, however it would be more than three decades before the walls came tumbling down actually.
The rapidity with which things unraveled once they began to unravel was unexpected, but not unusual in the history of the collapse of empires especially relatively young ones, the Soviet Union lasted only three score and ten years. Although not central to this premise it should be remembered that the rise of the Bolsheviks to power in Russia in 1917 was preceded by a reign of terror that lasted for 100 years.
By the mid 1990's, after nearly five years of trying to come to grips with the enormity of the challenges that the fall of the Soviet Union had unleashed, a post-Soviet Union, American foreign policy began to emerge. Its unveiling took place in 1995 during the third quarter of the first Clinton administration. Little attention was paid to what was at that time a significant shift in the direction of US foreign policy away from reliance on diplomats of the caliber of John Kenneth Galbraith and Ralph Bunche, to one in which the State Department and the Department of Defense would become merged into a seamless alliance from the development of strategy in the situation room to its on the ground tactical implementation.
For all intents and purposes the Department of State had become imbedded within the US military apparatus. No longer would we engage in military operations and then turn matters over to the diplomats but the entire range of Department of State capabilities would be an integral part of all military operations from their inception.
This doctrine was coined 'Smart Diplomacy' (capital S), the details of which we will explore later in this article, but it is important to acknowledge that this new approach continued to gain force throughout the second Clinton Administration. Many of the adherents to the new policy remained in the State Department and served under Colin Powell. It is difficult to surmise what direction Powell would have taken American diplomacy as Secretary of State, had not the events of 9/11 sealed the tenure of the former joint chief of staff and National Security Advisor Rice to the war in Afghanistan and the opening of a second front in Iraq.
Without direction to the contrary the Smart Diplomacy doctrine continued to develop during the first term of the GW Bush Administration, an administration focused primarily upon terrorism, homeland security, and two war fronts.
When National Security adviser Rice assumed the helm at the State Department in 2005, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were in there fourth and second year respectively, and the adherents of Smart Diplomacy had been gaining momentum within the upper chambers of State and Defense for a decade. Rice was not a willing participant in the Smart Diplomacy movement.
In a 2006 speech at Georgetown University, Rice laid out a doctrine for US foreign policy which she had begun as National Security Advisor. A policy which contained a new direction for US relations with the greater Middle East, she termed that policy - Transformational Diplomacy.
The 11 September 2001 attacks, according to Secretary Rice, were rooted in oppression and despair, and therefore, the US should advance democratic reforms and support basic human rights throughout the greater Middle East.
To achieve a fundamental change in Middle East governance, Rice envisioned the US cooperating with 'partners around the world' to assist in building and sustaining democratic, well-governed states, that would respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. And, as all such policies, Rice envisioned and help to foment the undoing of many current leaders in the Middle East. This should not be surprising since our military establishment is very large and our diplomatic apparatus is relatively small.
Current realities however, paint a much different picture of the greater Middle East. Hamas is the government in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood had taken control in Egypt (only to be replaced by a military government) and has emerged as a dominate player in troubled-Assad Syria. These are hardly the ingredients for well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people.
Diplomacy unfortunately is all too often a history of missed opportunities and a lack of appreciation for the stages that a change in a regimes often presents. Stage one being the overthrow of the authoritarian regime which leaves those who are most heavily armed in charge. The second stage begins when the population demands the removal of the armed militias and the establishment of truly representative governments. The sacking of the radical Islamist militia's headquarters in Benghazi, an act of defiance against the radical Mullahs and Imams and their desire to form an Islamic emirate, presents a case in fact.
However, we are still witnessing major lost diplomatic opportunities as an all-out civil war in Syria festers. And yet, Rice must find some solace in the final communique issued by the world's two most powerful leaders at the close of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
In a joint statement delivered by Obama and Putin, both leaders committed to the shared goal of bringing about a “political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system that would be implemented by the Syrians themselves.” The significance of Putin joining in on a statement that could have been written by former Secretary Rice should not be undervalued.
Progress in the Syrian crisis will come when both Obama and Putin accept, given the failed Kofi Anan UN mission, that the only realistic option to try to stop an all-out civil war in Syria is to allow Putin ( as a good guy, not the aggressor that our current Secretary of State Kerry bellows out in his silly speeches) the world-stage diplomatic role he craves as mediator. All other contingencies having been mapped out this approach is the only logical one to pursue. Putin has arrived on the world stage as a significant influence and his cooperation in Syria can only increase the effectiveness of American involvement in the region.
While the Syrian chess match continues, Libya teeters, Mali has been overthrown with weapons and by fighters returning from the 'revolution' in Libya, the newly emerged North and South Sudan are again a very troubled region. The first North African state to tumble, Tunisia, fairs well, but their neighbors have all seen increased unrest and low level continuous and escalating violence.
The US Fifth Fleet is armed to the teeth in and around the Strait of Hormuz, and Israel and Iran are on a collision course. Iraq is an ethnic and religious battleground steadily slipping into all out multiple factioned civil war. China, our military dictatorship trading partner, is not playing by the rules on currency valuation, and Europe will need our help to stave off its growing economic crisis. Russia is also emerging from the chaos of its own dramatic change in governance and its southern Central Asian States are teetering between rational and irrational forms of government. North Korea is a question mark at best, and Indonesia a nation with the world's largest Islamic population may or may not remain stable. Nigeria is in the midst of a religious war that also engulfs many of its neighbors. East Africa is still the paradise of pirates, and another famine in Ethiopia is not far in the future.
This myriad of pressing and unavoidable international challenges comes at a time when many Americans want to see their leaders sorting out our own domestic problems. Veterans, upon whom the obstructionist majority in the House constantly heaped praise were being treated as second class citizens by the VA Hospitals, and many are homeless, others suffer from nervous disorders, but previous conservative led congresses closed the doors of the hospitals that could serve them.
In reality, however, as soon as one enters the White House and the Congress and assumes the role of President of the United States and Commander in Chief of US Military Forces, and the peoples representatives one must play the hand that one is dealt, and often no one has cut the cards beforehand.
The next president and congress must come to grips with the fact that our military leaders have since the Clinton years, brought the State Department into a more active role within its areas of operation. And, the last two occupants of the White House have not interfered with the military's desires in this regard as a result of the on the ground realities of the years-long war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secretary Rice had different ideas, "We will not meet the challenges of the 21st century through military or any other means alone. Our national security requires the integration of our universal principles with all elements of our national power: our defense, our diplomacy, our development assistance, our democracy promotion efforts, free trade, and the good work of our private sector and society. And, it is the State Department, more than any other agency of government that is called to lead this work."
However, Rice by the time she returned to Georgetown University in February of 2008, less than a year before the end of her term as Secretary, appears to have acknowledged, albeit with reservations, much of the thrust of what is now the operative Foreign Policy Doctrine of the United States 'Smart Diplomacy.'
'America will need to forge a partnership between our civilians and our military', Rice stated. We are urging Congress to meet the President’s request to double the number of our positions for political advisers to military forces, diplomats who can work not only with four-star generals, but also deploy as civilian experts to Navy SEAL teams and to North Africa (again, witness Benghazi).
However, most illustrative of Secretary Rice not wishing to stand in the way of the then decade old Smart Diplomacy movement came when she called for the 'Establishment of a Civilian Response Corps. This expeditionary group will be led by a core team of diplomats that could, deploy with the 82nd Airborne within 48 hours of a country falling into conflict. These first responders would be able to summon the skills of hundreds of civilian experts across our federal government, as well as thousands of private volunteers – doctors and lawyers, engineers and agricultural experts, police officers and public administrators.
Rice's 2008 Georgetown speech, unlike her 2006 attempt to redefine American foreign policy, reads like the definition of 'Smart Diplomacy' as defined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1995. Smart diplomacy is 'an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships, and institutions of all levels to expand American influence and establish the legitimacy of American action.' The operative words being 'a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances'.
In short, the military doctrine that envisions the State Department as an integral part of military operations has become the predominant one.
Smart Diplomacy emerged during the first Clinton administration and is the failed, although working doctrine of our current administration, and will be the doctrine until the American people examine it closely.