September 28, 2010

The military voice and our national security toolkit

By John Glenn

This is the first of a series of posts tracking the USGLC”s Washington Conference. Tune in for more throughout the day.

Our first session of “Smart Power at Work” began with remarks by Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General and Captain in the Delaware Army National Guard.  He joined over 1,000 veterans and supporters who have signed a petition to Congress urging passage of a robust International Affairs Budget for Fiscal Year 2011, as part of the USGLC’s Veterans for Smart Power initiative with over 10,000 supporters throughout the country.

“It is so critical that veterans are here making their voices heard,” Mr. Biden said, talking about his own experiences with rule of law projects in Kosovo and Iraq. “I’m here not just to thank you but to tell you from someone who’s seen it up close and personal, as many of  you have, that it works.”

“Nearly 90 percent of active duty and retired military officers agree the tools of diplomacy and development are critical to achieving U.S. national security objectives and a strong military alone is not enough to protect America,” reported Geoff Garin, President of Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Bill McInturff, Partner & Founder, Public Opinion Strategies.  Garin continued, “to have been there is to be a believer in smart power,” noting that 75% of those polled who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have witnessed the value first hand of non-military tools for their own work.  The poll also found strong support for resources for non-military tools even at a moment of considerable budget restraint, with 59% of officers agreeing that cutting funding for non-military tools would be a blow to our national security.  Bill McInturff added, “shared doctrine is what’s powerful in this data.”  In contrast to other surveys which focus on the things that divide most Americans, military officers have come to a consensus “that smart power works and we should be talking more about it.”

The panel that followed was introduced by General Richard A. Cody, USA (ret.), who added his support for the “alignment and synergy” of development and diplomacy alongside defense.  Ambassador Mark Green opened the panel by noting that what’s new this morning “is our sense of urgency,” quoting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen that cuts to the International Affairs Budget prolongs military missions and put lives at risk.

Admiral James L. Loy (Ret.), co-chair of the USGLC National Security Advisory Council, noted the widespread support in the military leadership and followed up by asking, “what happens when the resources are or are not there to back up this kind of rhetoric?”  General Hugh Shelton (Ret.) agreed:  “It’s going to take a longer time if you go in without the proper tools to reach that exit strategy, which includes all the elements of our power, not just the military.  Each of our agencies needs to have the resources available to them so it can be a coordinated effort.”

General Shelton continued, “our soldiers are very good at what they do.  They can fight and win wars, but the truth is, it takes more than that in today’s world.”  Describing his experiences with the mission in Haiti in the 1990s, he identified fifty-one key tasks that had to be done outside of the military:  “things to restore power to the cities, restore the government, get the justice system working again.”  James Morin, a former Captain, U.S. Army and member of Veterans for Smart Power, spoke of his experiences in Afghanistan, saying they led him to understand that “there is a whole set of assets that the US government and NGO community has that we need to bring in to bring in synergy to our efforts.”

Admiral Loy urged those in the room to call attention to successes that have been achieved, citing U.S. investments in AIDS in Africa and figures on  USAID micro-financing that find there is an 88% success rate that these investments are contributing to the local economy four to five years later.   Jim Morin agreed, noting “just how cost effective investments can be.  Building a bridge in a village can be more effective than a cruise missile.”

We need these investments, Admiral Loy suggested, “so we don’t see the Somalias and Yemens of the world become the Iraqs and the Afghanistans of the world.”