Sunday, May 29, 2016

Quotable: Andrew Hammond on turbo-charging U.S. soft power and Public Diplomacy

image (not from article) from

Saturday, May 28th 2016
The imbalance between America’s hard and soft power is the preoccupation of Andrew Hammond, an Associate at LSE IDEAS (the Centre for International Diplomacy, Affairs and Strategy) at the London School of Economics.  His May 3, 2016, op-ed, “Rebooting campaign on terror post Bin Laden,” ran in Dubai’s Gulf News.  Here were some of his key points:

  • One of the key challenges world leaders face is that there remains a major weakness in the ongoing US-led global campaign on terrorism.
  • That is, Washington’s response has been hyper-militarised — dominated by counterterrorism and security, while other soft power instruments such as public diplomacy have been underinvested in.
  • US policymakers have highlighted the need for a paradigm shift in the campaign on terrorism. Last year, for instance, prior to a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, US Secretary of State John Kerry called for a “shift in gears onto a path that will demand more from us… politically, economically and socially… a truly comprehensive and long-term strategy to destroy [terrorism’s] very roots”.
  • One of the most glaring gaps that now badly needs to be addressed is the need for a turbo-charged soft-power effort to win ‘hearts and minds’ around the world.
  • This is so important because the antiterrorism contest is, in essence, one whose outcome is related to a battle between moderates and extremists within Islamic civilisation. And unless this is better recognised and addressed, with the soft power elements of the campaign on terrorism dialled up significantly, the US-led international strategy will continue to face serious setbacks.
  • The soft-power roadmap for what is needed is relatively clear. Seizing the moment requires the US and international partners to give much higher priority to activities such as public diplomacy, sustainable development assistance and exchange programmes.
  • And at last year’s White House summit, Obama rightly noted that this is an expensive, demanding and complex generational project that the US government cannot achieve alone. Hence the reason why multiple US and international leaders from other arenas like the private sector, NGOs and faith communities also attended the session too.
  • . . . it is the Cold War that perhaps provides an even better comparison with what is now needed in the campaign against terrorism. Just like the Cold War, which was ultimately won by a strategy of US-led international containment and cultural vigour, the challenges posed by the campaign against terrorism need a much smarter balance between hard and soft power, with resources to match.
  • Numerous US officials, including former Bush and Obama defence secretary Bob Gates, have highlighted the gross mismatch between the current budgets of the Pentagon and other US international programmes.
  • Of course, a holistic international plan to tackle violent extremism will inevitably have a military and counterterrorism component. However, soft power needs to become a much bigger part of the overall mix, as even the former Pentagon chief Gates advocates.
  • Taken overall, the US and its international partners must urgently address this Achilles heel in the campaign against terrorism. While a very limited window of opportunity exists to get this agenda turbo-charged before Obama’s term of office ends, a sustained commitment will be required for many years beyond his presidency by his successor.
Hat tip:  John Brown

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