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Pentagon Pushes for ‘Soft Power,’ Interagency Cooperation

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2008 – The Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy is the latest in a series of Defense Department messages highlighting the need to develop a U.S. foreign policy with greater emphasis on so-called “soft powers” such as diplomacy and international aid.

The broad-brush document released yesterday includes a section that strikes at the need for greater cooperation, or “jointness,” between the department and its interagency partners if American operations abroad are to succeed.

“Iraq and Afghanistan remind us that military success alone is insufficient to achieve victory,” the strategy reads. “We must not forget our hard-learned lessons or allow the important soft power capabilities developed because of them to atrophy or even disappear.”

Beyond security, the “essential ingredients” of long-term success include economic development, institution building and enforcing the rule of law, the document states.

To achieve these ends, the strategy recommends closer coordination among other U.S. departments and agencies, state and local governments, partners and allies, and international and multilateral organizations.

“A whole-of-government approach is only possible when every government department and agency understands the core competencies, roles, missions, and capabilities of its partners and works together to achieve common goals,” it states.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill yesterday, Eric S. Edelman, the undersecretary of defense for policy, testified before Congress on the U.S. military’s role in foreign policy.

Edelman, who is a top official at both the Defense and State departments, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a “militarized foreign policy” is contrary to American interests.

“From our point of view, such an agenda would be counterproductive, wasteful and dysfunctional,” he said. “It would send exactly the wrong message to those nations who are striving to build democracies with civilian oversight and to be able to partner with us.”

The departments of Defense and State have made some significant strides in improving coordination on nonmilitary functions such as humanitarian assistance and interagency information-sharing, he said. But that represents only the first step, he added.

“Far too often, we find our military assuming missions for which it's not best placed,” Edelman said. “And while we've filled these gaps admirably, I believe, there's no substitute for civilian expertise and experience, whether it's building schools, advising city councils, or [engaging] in other activities in complex operational environments.”

Edelman’s comments echo Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who earlier this month said diplomacy and development should lead American efforts abroad and warned against a “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy.

“Broadly speaking, when it comes to America’s engagement with the rest of the world, it is important that the military is -- and is clearly seen to be -- in a supporting role to civilian agencies,” Gates told an audience at a dinner organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign.

The secretary -- who in the past has been a strong advocate for increasing the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budgets and increasing their manpower rolls -- encouraged greater flexibility within the tools of U.S. power.

“The challenge facing our institutions,” he said, “is to adapt to new realities while preserving those core competencies and institutional traits that have made them so successful in the past.”

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates
Eric S. Edelman

Related Sites:
National Defense Strategy

Related Articles:
Balance at Heart of New Defense Strategy, Gates Says
Gates Highlights Role of Diplomacy, Development in U.S. Foreign Policy



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