Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey Emphasizes Smart Power

February 15, 2012 By Jane Kaminski

In today’s turbulent world, new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, reinforced that today’s global threats cannot be solved by the military alone. In his recently released Strategic Guidance, the General said:  “Discontinuous change, such as the Arab Spring and systemic competition over nonrenewable resources are upending conventional geo-political wisdom. Expected economic trends and unexpected global events invite us to re-think the military’s role in mitigating the risk to our Nation.” As the military transitions out of Iraq and Afghanistan, effective civilian-military coordination is more important than ever.

General Dempsey emphasizes that a comprehensive approach to national security is vital to achieve U.S. objectives in our current conflicts. “In response to these challenges and others, we will lead, and we will enable others to lead,” he writes.  “Moreover, we will do this—always—by coordinating military power with the diplomacy and development efforts of our government and those of our allies and partners.”  The challenge of effectively balancing the roles of diplomacy and development with the military in frontline states is playing out right now in the military drawdown in Iraq.

Civilian agencies have stepped in to maintain the gains in security and stability made by the military.  Last week, there were conflicting reports over a New York Times story that inaccurately announced that the staff at the embassy would be cut in half.  The subsequent criticism reflected the challenges the State Department and USAID face (Deputy Secretary of State Nides called it “the largest transition since the Marshall Plan”), but also underscored the widespread consensus of the critical role for diplomacy at this decisive moment in Iraq’s political development.

Military leaders in are among the most outspoken supporters of strong and effective development and diplomacy.  General Dempsey’s Strategic Guidance, which builds on a letter released on October 1, 2011, comes at a pivotal moment.  Beyond the frontline states, U.S. civilian agencies must step up to continue the progress by our military to continue to improve stability and foster peace.  To succeed, they must have adequate resources to meet the challenges.  As the previous Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, wrote last year, “We are living in times that require an integrated national security program with budgets that fund the full spectrum of national security efforts, including vitally important pre-conflict and post-conflict civilian stabilization programs.”