Friday, February 5th 2016
“The challenges that American national security policy has encountered in recent years have also revealed some significant gaps in our foreign and defense policy toolkits. Three particularly acute needs [include] . . . building an institutional ability to wage ideological warfare, especially the battles of ideas against jihadism and the propaganda of expansionist authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China.” Thus closed the final chapter of the John Hay Institute’s report, Choosing to Lead: American Foreign Policy for a Disordered World, issued in September, 2015. It is “dedicated to the next President of the United States.”
The John Hay Initiative was founded in 2013 by Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Brian Hook. A “volunteer network of over 250 foreign policy, defense, and intelligence experts,” it has “countered the neo-isolationist strains of thought in both of our major political parties by articulating and defending conservative internationalism. . . . It emphasizes the importance of self-confident American leadership to secure our country, foster international peace and economic prosperity, strengthen our friends, and uphold values of liberty and the rule of law.”
The 284-page report opened with an introduction by Cohen, Edelman, and Hook, followed by chapters on “Rebuilding American Alliances,” “National Defense,” “Addressing Threats to National Security,” “China,” “International Economics,” and “Functional Challenges” (which include cyber deterrence, intelligence, nuclear threats, energy security, international organizations, development, and democracy and human rights). The final chapter is “Organizing for Success: implementing an effective foreign policy.”
My cursory word search of the full report may provide an indicator of the authors’ sense of priorities. There are 22 mentions of “diplomacy” but only one for “public diplomacy.” Here are tallies for some other keywords: exchanges 0, Fulbright 1, broadcasting 2, information (non-IT) 2, information warfare 2, culture 3, soft power 5, social media 6, message or messaging 6, propaganda 13, and ideology 26.
Perhaps must informative for Public Diplomacy is the book’s final chapter, “Organizing for Success,” written by Peter Feaver and Will Inboden. Feaver now teaches at Duke University, but he served on the NSC staff in the Clinton and Bush43 administrations. Inboden, now at the University of Texas, also served on the NSC staff and at the State Department.
Foreign Service officers who mostly served at embassies and consulates will find the discussion of the size and organization of the National Security Council staff over several administrations to be informative, I am confident. So will the discussion of the relationship between White House principals and executive departments and agencies. The chapter closes with a few specific thoughts of interest that relate to Public Diplomacy:
- The challenges that American national security policy has encountered in recent years have also revealed some significant gaps in our foreign and defense policy toolkits.
- Three particularly acute needs are improving our Military Assistance Programs for training and equipping foreign fighters; developing a permanent stability-operations capacity that harnesses civilian and military power for failing states and post-conflict situations; and building an institutional ability to wage ideological warfare, especially the battles of ideas against jihadism and the propaganda of expansionist authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China.
- The Cold War stands as the high-water mark of American engagement in the contest of ideas, with dedicated institutions such as the United States Information Agency, numerous broadcasting entities, and active participation by the intelligence community in covert information warfare—all of which contributed to countering communist ideology and enhancing America’s reputational power. Countering our various ideological adversaries today may not entail replicating the USIA, but it should entail building new institutions and capabilities (including reforming or scrapping the feckless Broadcasting Board of Governors) adapted to the challenges of 21st-century information warfare.