›May 20, 2015 // By Schuyler Null
In a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy today, President Obama said “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.”
›April 29, 2015 // By Schuyler Null
It’s a bit late, but the second-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is finally here. And it’s a good thing – it’d be a shame if this effort to present a coherent strategic narrative of U.S. diplomacy and development, which was started by Secretary of State Clinton in 2010, petered out.
›February 28, 2013 // By Schuyler Null
Newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry would probably prefer his first few months on the job to be a little quieter. But – in addition to everything else – sequestration is bearing down on Washington this week, and the U.S. government is beginning to seriously take stock of what automated cuts might mean. The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are not spared. Kerry sent a letter earlier this month to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) outlining the projected effects for his charges if the March 1st deadline should pass without action.
›Over the past year and a half, USAID has been busy reinventing itself. The announcement of its USAID FORWARD initiative and the release (jointly, with the State Department) of the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in late 2010 signaled significant changes for the organization, including several reforms designed to modernize operations and improve transparency. Part of that effort is making data collection and dissemination more open.
Thus far, the results have been encouraging.
September of last year saw the launch of an awareness campaign focused on the Horn of Africa, co-sponsored by the Ad Council and called, somewhat confusingly, USAID FWD (famine, war, drought). As part of the program, USAID published a collection of regional maps, aggregating the organization’s substantial data pool and showing everything from food and water security to the movement of refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons).
Using data from its own FEWS.NET site, USAID created the maps with open-source tools, allowing other organizations and concerned individuals to leverage the data for additional aid and outreach activities. Many, including the ONE Campaign and InterAction, were quick to incorporate the maps and underlying data into their own activities.
In order to promote greater data access and transparency, USAID also collaborated with the Department of State to create the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, a website that provides sortable aid budget allocation data to the general public. Launched in late 2010 with frequent updates since, the site allows users to see easily how aid is apportioned by region, sector, initiative, or other categories.
For instance, visitors can see that USAID more than quadrupled its humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in 2010 as a result of that country’s devastating flooding. Aid then fell back to near 2009 levels the following year.
Recently, USAID has also taken its open data efforts to the Web. Faced with 117,000 records of development loans provided by its own Development Credit Authority and lacking proper geographic coding, the organization undertook a pioneering experiment in crowdsourcing this June. Civilian volunteers from the online technical communities GISCorps and the Standby Task Force pitched in to help code the data, as did unaffiliated citizens attracted by social media campaigns.
The end results were outstanding: the volunteers finished the job in just 16 hours, although USAID had initially expected the operation to take 60.
Representatives from USAID recently published an illuminating case study about the crowdsourcing experiment and launched it at the Wilson Center. “By leveraging partnerships, volunteers, other federal agencies, and the private sector, the entire project was completed at no cost,” the report noted, adding that USAID hoped to have “blaze[d] a trail to help make crowdsourcing a more accessible approach for others.” One of the case study authors, Shadrock Roberts, noted that “we need to be working as hard to release relevant data we already have as we are to create it.”
USAID’s recent experiments with transparency and greater civilian participation appear to be part of a larger organizational shift toward greater openness and collaboration. Administrator Rajiv Shah seemed to confirm this in a March interview with Foreign Policy, when he spoke at length about the benefits of partnering with the private sector as well as other NGOs.
The recently reported demise, or at least great diminishing, of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), which closed its doors amid a heated turf battle between USAID, the State Department, and PEPFAR, lends credence to this theory as well. The official GHI blog stated last week that it would “shift focus from leadership within the U.S. Government to global leadership by the U.S. Government.” This appears to indicate greater future emphasis on collaboration, with an eye toward enabling non-USAID actors to play a greater role in the development process.
It remains to be seen how USAID’s role and strategy will change over the next few years. However, results from the organization’s initial attempts at open data and open government policies have been positive in many respects, and there is reason to hope they will continue to push the boundaries in these areas.
Sources: Center for Global Development, Foreign Assistance Dashboard, Foreign Policy, Global Health Initiative, USAID.
Image Credit: Foreign Assistance Dashboard.
›“We are, what I would call, very non-linear thinkers,” said U.S. Navy Captain Wayne Porter about the white paper he co-authored with U.S. Marine Colonel Mark Mykelby, “A National Security Narrative,” launched by Woodrow Wilson Center President Jane Harman at the Center in April. “We’re almost incapable of restricting ourselves to defense and security in isolation from a much larger perspective,” he told Dialogue TV.
“I think maybe that’s why Admiral Mullen has kept me around – I can offer a perspective that maybe he wouldn’t get from conventional strategists or from conventional planners,” said Porter, who served three out of four tours with the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a special assistant for strategy.
Dialogue host John Milewski sat down with Captain Porter and Robert Litwak, director of International Security Studies and vice president for programs at the Wilson Center, for a discussion about the white paper – published under the pseudonym “Mr. Y” (echoing George Kennan’s seminal “X” article) – and its contention that the United States should move away from an outmoded Cold War-era model of containment, deterrence, and control towards a “strategy of sustainability.”
The narrative has been well received, Porter said: “I think there is an appreciation that it’s a very complex strategic environment that we live in now and that maybe we need to re-look at all of the tools that we could use as a nation to pursue our enduring national interest.”
Inflection Points in History
“The timing of such conversations is cyclical,” said Litwak. “The original ‘X’ article emerged from the end of the Second World War and the advent of the Soviet threat, which required a new conception of international relations that Kennan articulated, as well as the National Security Act of 1947 to line up the U.S. government with this new environment.”
There have also been periods of concern about American decline. “I think what one sees in the current era are both of those trends coming together,” Litwak said:
The system is changing – it’s a debatable proposition that the United States is in decline – but we see in the international system rising powers, notably China, as well as transnational trends that are beyond the sovereign control of any single state, which have called into question the nature of the international system…as well as a sense that…there’s something qualitatively different about this recession than the typical economic, cyclical recession and that has to do with the domestic sources of American strength.These conditions, as well as the source of argument – coming from the military – combined to give particular resonance to the piece, Litwak said.
The Information/Globalization Age
“I think the thing that has changed materially to us is that the information age has brought about an awareness that our environment is completely interconnected,” Porter said. “There’s a complexity to this that can’t be analyzed linearly, that has to have new tools applied.”
“I’d honestly characterize it as significant as the Enlightenment in the 1600s,” he said.
“Certainly we’ve thought in silos and debates have been too often compartmentalized,” Litwak said. “One of the strengths of this piece is that it is truly synthetic – working across the continuum of instruments of power – and talks in a really powerful way about how hard power…has its place, but that the non-military dimensions of American power have been neglected.”
But, Porter said, it’s important to focus on being proactive, rather than reactive:
The thing that bothered us most about the strategies that we see every day in our jobs on our side of the river and across the river is that they are almost universally based on anticipating and countering known risk and threat, and our sense is that we have entered an age in which we need to overcome that sense of fear and seize the opportunity to shape the environment of the future as opposed to simply being resilient to it.As Litwak points out, Secretaries Gates (now former) and Clinton – in the form of the Quadrennial Defense Review, Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and numerous speaking engagements – have both called for closer integration between State and Defense, more resources for non-military levers of power, and more holistic concepts of security. But unfortunately the greater integration called for in these documents remains unrealized.
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›The United States needs a new national security narrative, agreed a diverse panel of high-level discussants last week during a new Wilson Center initiative, “The National Conversation at the Woodrow Wilson Center.”
Hosted by new Wilson Center President and CEO Jane Harman and moderated by The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, the inaugural event was based on a white paper by two active military officers writing under the pseudonym “Mr. Y” (echoing George Kennan’s “X” article). In A National Strategic Narrative, Captain Wayne Porter (USN) and Colonel Mark Mykleby (USMC) argue that the United States needs to move away from an outmoded 20th century model of containment, deterrence, and control towards a “strategy of sustainability.” [Video Below]
Anne-Marie Slaughter of Princeton University, who wrote the white paper’s preface, summarized it for the panel, which included Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President Ford and President H.W. Bush; Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.); Steve Clemons, founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation; and Robert Kagan, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.
Framing a 21st Century Vision
We can no longer expect to control events, but we can influence them, Slaughter said. “In an interconnected world, the United States should be the strongest competitor and the greatest source of credible influence – the nation that is most able to influence what happens in the international sphere – while standing for security, prosperity, and justice at home and abroad.”
“My generation has had our whole foreign policy world defined as national security,” said Slaughter, “but ‘national security’ only entered the national lexicon in the late 1940s; it was a way of combining defense and foreign affairs, in the context of a post-World War II rising Soviet Union.”
As opposed to a strategy document, their intention, write Porter and Mykleby, was to create a narrative through which to frame U.S. national policy decisions and discussions well into this century.
“America emerged from the Twentieth Century as the most powerful nation on earth,” the “Mr. Y” authors write. “But we failed to recognize that dominance, like fossil fuel, is not a sustainable source of energy.”
It is time for America to re-focus our national interests and principles through a long lens on the global environment of tomorrow. It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence; from a defensive posture of exclusion, to a proactive posture of engagement. We must recognize that security means more than defense, and sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests and interdependencies. [italics original]
Prosperity and Security a Matter of SustainabilityThe “Mr. Y” paper is similar in some respects to other strategic documents that have promoted a more holistic understanding of security, such as the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which was partially authored by Slaughter during her time in State’s Policy Planning Office. But there’s a markedly heavy focus on economics and moving beyond the “national security” framework in Porter and Mykleby’s white paper. They outline three “sustainable” investment priorities:
“These issues have come in and out of the security debates since the end of the Cold War, but they have not been incorporated well into a single national security narrative,” Geoff Dabelko, director of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program, told The New Security Beat. “This piece is a positive step toward achieving a coherent and inclusive national security narrative for the United States.”
- Human capital: refocus on education, health, and social infrastructure;
- Sustainable security: use a more holistic, whole-of-government approach to security; essentially, expand the roles of civilian agencies and promote stability as much as ensuring defense; and,
- Natural resources: invest in long-range, sustainable management of natural resources, in the context of expanding global demand (via population growth and consumption).
To provide a “blueprint” for this transition, Porter and Mykleby call for the drafting of a “National Prosperity and Security Act” to replace the national security framework laid by the National Security Act of 1947 (NSA 47) and followed by subsequent NSAs.
A New Geostrategic Model?The panel unanimously praised the white paper’s intentions, if not its exact method of analysis and proposed solutions. All agreed that globalization and technology have helped create a more interconnected and complex world than current foreign policy and national security institutions are designed to deal with. Scowcroft called the 20th century “the epitome of the nation-state system” and said he expects an erosion of nation-state power, especially in light of integrated challenges like climate change and global health.
Kagan disagreed, saying he’s less convinced that the nation-state is fading away. “If anything, I would say since the 1990s, the nation-state has made a kind of comeback,” he said, adding that the paper lacks “a description of how the world works, in the sense of ‘do we still believe in a core realist point that power interaction among nation states is still important?’” In that sense, he said, “I’m not at all convinced we’ve left either the 20th century or the 19th century, in terms of some fundamental issues having to do with power.”
“I think there are three things that really are new,” said Slaughter. “The first [is the] super-empowered individual…the ability of individuals to do things that only states could.” We saw that with 9/11, with individuals attacking a nation, and we’re seeing that with communications as well, she said. “I can tell you, Twitter and the State Department’s reporting system, they’re pretty comparable and Twitter’s probably ahead, in terms of how much information you can get.”
Second, there is a “whole other dimension of power that simply did not exist before and that is how connected you are,” Slaughter said. “The person who is the most connected has the most power, because they’re the person who can mobilize, like Wael Ghonim in Egypt.”
Third, there are a greater number of responsible stakeholders. “What President Obama keeps telling other nations is ‘you want to be a great power? It’s not enough to have a big economy and a big army and a big territory, you have to take responsibility for enforcing the norms of a global order,’” Slaughter said. Qatar’s willingness to participate in the international community’s intervention in Libya, she said, was in part an example of a country responding to that challenge and stepping up into a role it had not previously played.
These new dimensions to power and security don’t entirely replace the old model but do make it more complex. “It’s on top of what was,” Slaughter said, and “we have to adapt to it.”
Photo Credit: Colonel Mark Mykleby (USMC), Captain Wayne Porter (USN), and Wilson Center President and CEO Jane Harman, courtesy of David Hawxhurst/Wilson Center.
›The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon: Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace, by a career U.S. Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shannon Beebe, and Professor Mary Kaldor, director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School for Economics, is the product of an intriguing partnership. Despite the fact that their respective professions have often displayed distrust and hostility toward one another, the coauthors’ combined perspectives have created a particularly prescient and non-partisan challenge to the security status quo.
Beebe and Kaldor add to the growing call to re-evaluate existing constructs of “national security” and to reconsider the roles of Western militaries and international aid agencies in the globalized 21st century world. In particular, they emphasize the urgent need for a more nuanced understanding of security that includes humanitarian considerations as an integral component in these institutions’ agendas. This “human security” is the right of all people to livelihoods, clean drinking water, nourishing food, and education and proper health care, in addition to a safe and secure place to live, free from the fear of personal crime and violence.
Such insecurity affects us all even if it does not directly result in open warfare. According to Misha Glenny in his 2009 book, McMafia, it is estimated that 20 percent of the global GDP is generated through criminal activities, which exploit the weak and the vulnerable on a global scale. It is difficult to say what role the traditional Western military can play under situations in which vast networks of tyranny through corruption are rapidly growing.
Historical and General Context
The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon is a persuasive argument in favor of deconstructing the conventional credo of war that has dominated U.S. military theory since World War II. Beebe and Kaldor argue that the political and financial capital mined from the Greatest Generation significantly influenced the “state-against-state” model of the American military machine, and then helped perpetuate and sustain it. The United States’ Cold War experience reinforced the notion that the goal of security is to defeat a great enemy, preferably in open battle using the best available military hardware.
But, the authors ask, did such displays of military superiority and readiness actually accomplish the strategic goal of maintaining our security in today’s world? Did we perhaps narrow the definition of security too much, and in using the wrong tools, did we worsen the very problems we set out to solve?
Beebe and Kaldor provide ample evidence to suggest we have taken the narrow approach, from NATO’s involvement in Yugoslavia, to the debacle in Somalia, and the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The authors are not simply out to criticize the military, but instead suggest that the lines that define nation-states today no longer hold the same power that they once did. Other forces at work, from economic globalization to climate change, must be recognized.
Definitions and Prescriptions for a Changing World
When civilians become targets of violence, their resilience is weakened, write Beebe and Kaldor, for a variety of reasons that are often difficult to ascertain without on-the-ground intelligence. For instance, is violence against civilians intended to provide opportunities for political gain by certain groups, or just cover up criminal behavior intended for monetary gain? In this kind of environment, where does the modern Western military machine fit, and how can international humanitarian institutions be more effective?
Beebe and Kaldor contend that instead of developing strategic operations focused on killing the enemy, the military should be focused instead on creating safe spaces for civilians:
A human-security approach would emphasize bottom-up reconstruction of governance and justice systems, local security capabilities, and, of course, addressing poverty, education, and health. It would, as well, have to be part of a more global strategy for dealing with the transnational criminal networks, especially drug networks, that are nourished by and that nourish conflicts (p. 196).Even if it is not the sole responsibility of the military to provide such resources, the authors argue, failure to recognize the importance of human security or to protect resources will ultimately increase our security risks.
An Unobtainable Utopia or Early Warning?
Undoubtedly, the problems that the authors describe are real; it is time to re-evaluate what kind of world we want to live in and how this might be achieved. What should we do if there is no legitimate state government to negotiate with, and yet there is clearly a violent and deadly situation, such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda? Would the American people tolerate spending money on a military operation without there being any direct sign of imminent threat or danger to them, and without the ability to declare some sort of traditional military victory? Or would their reaction be the same as Neville Chamberlain’s to Czechoslovakia in 1938, that human security merely describes “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing?”
The recent intervention in Libya is a case in point. Speaking on Meet the Press recently, Secretary of Defense Gates admitted that the country was of no vital interest to the United States, and instead defended spending money on military air strikes based upon humanitarian grounds. Despite the clear mandate from the UN, NATO, and the Arab League to respond to this human security crisis, there has clearly been little appetite in the United States to lead military interventions in Libya without an obviously defined motive of self-interest.
The difficulty lies in explaining that basic security and instability have grave consequences, even across great distances, and that addressing potential conflicts early prevents the need for making harder choices later on. The U.S. Department of State has tackled that difficult task in the recent Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which calls for greater focus on human security interventions as a way to avoid or mitigate future military conflicts.
Though a few of the solutions postulated in this book may seem overly idealistic to some, I would argue that Beebe and Kaldor’s ideas represent less a utopian vision than an early warning and plea for change in the years to come. Rather than succumbing to the easy temptation to fear globalization and the world outside our borders, we must learn to engage with and help create a thriving global civil community.
A must-read for a broad range of audiences, The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon offers a historical and contemporary basis for envisioning a broader context to security and understanding that the “ultimate weapons of the twenty-first century are, in fact, not weapons in the military sense at all” (p. 202).
Tracy Walstrom Briggs is currently the Minerva Associate Chair for Energy and Environmental Security (USAF). She has worked with the Swedish Defense Forces (FOI) and the UN Environment Programme to facilitate more sustainable peacekeeping installations using rapid impact assessment tools. She was also a professor and associate chair for the Graduate Environmental Studies Program at California State University Fullerton.
Sources: HistoryVideos101, McMafia (Glenny), NBC, U.S. Department of Defense.
Photo Credit: “3-6 Soldiers Provide Medical Aid,” courtesy of flickr user expertinfantry.
QDDR Coverage Wrap-up: Institutional Shifts, Development-as-Security, Women’s Empowerment, and Complex New Threats›
Somewhat lost in the wake of turmoil in the Middle East and the budget battle in Congress has been the State Department’s most aggressive attempt yet to reshape itself for the dynamic foreign policy challenges of the 21st century.
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