Friday, August 16, 2013

Re-Inventing Political Warfare By MICHAEL P. NOONAN

An important article by Michael.  Although he does not directly state this, unconventional warfare is, at its heart, a form of or a contributor to political warfare. We really do need to understand and think about political warfare. I look forward to Nadia Schadlow's article in Orbis.


Re-Inventing Political Warfare

August 16, 2013 RSS Feed Print
U.S. soldier
Last week, I wrote here that the U.S. can't only deal with al-Qaida militarily and stated that: "The U.S. military will be a player in all of this, but it should really be supporting the other interagency actors involved in assisting the regional governments under threat." Hours after submitting that blog entry a colleague alerted me to the fact that in the forthcoming fall issue of FPRI's quarterly journal of world affairs, "Orbis," an article will appear that deals with the very issue of using other governmental means to competitively engage with our threats, challengers and competitors abroad.
In "Competitive Engagement: Upgrading America's Influence," Nadia Schadlow, a former Defense Policy Board member and Senior Program Officer in the International Security & Foreign Policy Program at theSmith Richardson Foundation, argues that organizations across the U.S. government that work overseas have to think about the challenge of their operating environments in ways that deal with the competitive nature of those interactions. From her introduction:
Being successful in a competition requires knowing and understanding both one's competitors and oneself. Yet in those areas where non-military instruments of power dominate, the culture and the organizations needed to act competitively to achieve desired outcomes is generally absent. For the most part, competitive thinking is left to the realm of hard power. Only our military and intelligence agencies are structured to think and act competitively. The imbalance between military and non-military instruments of power is likely to continue unless civilian agencies develop approaches which account for the contested landscapes in which they function.
A posture of competitive engagement would require that the civilian actors who oversee U.S. economic and humanitarian programs account for the fact that new ideas, economic strategies, civic action plans, and even public health-related initiatives are contested by vested interests or ideological or political opponents. This is true in a range of countries—from Pakistan, to Egypt, to Uzbekistan, to Somalia. It requires the recognition that even the building of a girl's school in Afghanistan or a health clinic in the Sudan is a political act. As the head of the Australian government's aid agency put it, "aid is 10 percent technical and 90 percent political."
In order to make these non-military and non-intelligence agencies more capable of operating in competitive environments she argues that:
  1. There needs to be a cultural shift in U.S. civilian agencies: "A shift in the prevailing mindset would recognize that the use of civilian tools to shape, build, or influence often encounters some opposition or generates a contest between competing ideas or approaches."
  2. Such a shift will make distinct information requirements. But while "intelligence" is seen as anathema to some civilian agencies, "information grounded in history and the political context of any engagement effort is critical. Tools that seek to influence political outcomes require a serious inventory of political actors in the formal and informal domains."
  3. Such agencies must have the flexibility to respond and change with the unfolding contests on the ground: "This approach recognizes that the character of an engagement will unfold in different ways since U.S. actions generate responses—by allies as well as adversaries."
She both recognizes and elaborates the barriers in the way of preparing for such competitive engagement, but she advances an important argument. This is particularly the case when one stops to consider just the scope and breadth of competition in the contemporary Middle East.
Complementing her argument in many ways was a piece written on back in late June of this year by Michael Doran of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution and Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations. They argue that the United States really needs to re-invent and empower the United States government's ability to conduct political warfare which died with the end of the Cold War. In their words:

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