An Enduring Tradition: ‘Hard Power’ Support for ‘Soft Power’

July 2, 2015 By David Stein

“Whether we like it or not, we find ourselves, our Nation, in a world position of vast responsibility. We can act for our own good by acting for the world’s good.” With these words, Secretary of State George Marshall called on Congress to pass what would become known as the Marshall Plan, the economic recovery plan to rebuild Europe following World War II. Many of the beneficiaries have since become some of America’s strongest allies and trading partners; models for how foreign assistance can transform countries and unlock their potential.

What is sometimes forgotten is that before he was Secretary of State, the man who laid the foundation for U.S. foreign assistance was an Army General, serving as Army Chief of Staff from the day Germany invaded Poland in 1939 until the end of the war in 1945.

Marshall understood that America held a unique position in a world where threats and challenges were not solely conflicts between great powers. “Along with the great problem of maintaining the peace we must solve the problem of the pittance of food, of clothing and coal and homes,” he said during his farewell address at the Pentagon in November 1945. “Neither of these problems can be solved alone. They are directly related, one to the other.”

Since that time seven decades ago, the military has continued to be one of the strongest voices of support for America’s development and diplomacy programs. Today, the USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council includes over 160 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals. They are joined by nearly 30,000 “Veterans for Smart Power,” a group of former service members of all ages and ranks who share the commitment to elevating and strengthening America’s non‐military tools of global engagement.

Military leaders know that we must address today’s global challenges with every tool in our arsenal. Just last month at the USGLC’s Tribute Dinner, Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “We have been leading with the military for far too long. We need to get diplomacy, development, fiscal, economic, financial, educational tools out in front… We cannot kill our way to victory. It’s not going to work.”

Take it from the military: our foreign policy requires the right combination of hard and soft power.

Photo Source: USGLC Flickr