Wednesday, October 1, 2008

AFRICOM: Open for Business

The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), launched in February 2007 becomes fully operational today (Wednesday) as it takes over all U.S military operations in Africa. The unified command has administrative responsibility for U.S. military support to U.S. government policy in Africa, to include military-to-military relationships with 53 African nations.

Todd Pittman for AP writes: "Resistance to Africom among African governments has been so strong that commanders abandoned initial ambitions to install a headquarters on the continent. It is based in Stuttgart instead, with about two dozen Africom liaison officers posted at embassies."

The report quoted AFRICOM's deputy for military operations, Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller as saying that counterterrorism is a priority, but that it is not the only one. "Our primary responsibility ... is working with our African partners to help them build their security capacity" — mainly by training armies and peacekeepers.

Pittman writes that "from the beginning, AFRICOM was cast as a different kind of command, one that would focus American military might not on fighting wars, but on preventing them through "soft power." And that as part of the new approach, a civilian deputy equal to Moeller was appointed to coordinate humanitarian operations with other U.S. agencies. AFRICOM's "interagency" makeup was trumpeted as a better way to meet the continent's development needs."

The civilian deputy equivalent to Moeller has the official title, "Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities," and that is Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates. She will reportedly direct the command's plans and programs associated with health, humanitarian assistance and de-mining action, disaster response, security sector reform, and Peace Support Operations. She also directs Outreach, Strategic Communication and AFRICOM's partner-building functions, as well as assuring that policy development and implementation are consistent with U.S. Foreign Policy.

That makes me feel better. I guess I should say, congratulations for coming into being. But now this is getting me a tad confused. I thought State has the "soft power" while Defense has the "hard" part. Hmmn....that must have changed during the commercial. I hate it when they do that, don't you?

Militarization of our foreign policy? Now don't you believe what you read. In individual countries, U.S. Ambassadors will continue to be the President's personal representatives in diplomatic relations with host nations. State will continue to be the primary foreign policy arm; USAID will continue to be the development arm. Yup! Yup! Except that State is counting pennies and paper clips (don't know about AID, too many stubbed toes under one confusing roof right now) and DOD has the money.

But hey - why quibble over a minor thing?

ONLINE MATERIALS: Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report: updated 08/22/08 Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa (PDF file)

AFRICOM Activation Ceremony Speech Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Wednesday, 10/01/08


Digger said...

I have quoted and linked to you here:

T. Greer said...

You might be interested in this post over at MoutainRunner:

American Public Diplomacy Wears Combat Boots: the Pentagon's $300 million to "engage and inspire"

American public diplomacy wears combat boots. Not only is the Pentagon in the critical last three feet of engagement virtually and in person with audiences around the globe, especially in contested areas, but it is the Defense Department that is putting up the money to expand public diplomacy. The Pentagon’s 3-year, $300 million contract for private companies to “engage and inspire” Iraqis to support U.S. objectives and the Iraqi government, described by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post, is more than an effort five years too late....

Our national security, which includes our economic security, depends on the ability to effectively counter misinformation, create understanding of our policies, and develop partnerships. We are nearly a decade into the Second Great War of Ideas and the Pentagon remains the America’s unwitting public diplomat engaging the world’s audiences. American public diplomacy will continue to wear combat boots until the top leadership at the Department of State realizes that it must fully and aggressively commit to engaging and challenging non-state actors from individuals to armed groups.

The Defense Department has come to understand the essence of this struggle, but the State Department has not. With the exception of the current Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, the senior leadership at State remains detached from the requirements of the psychological struggle for minds and wills. In hindsight, however, it is not surprising. American public diplomacy was formally established in 1948 by the Smith-Mundt Act but problems similar to those today within the State Department contributed to the decision create what was operationally and conceptually a Department of Non-State, the United States Information Agency, to engage the non-state actors of its time. The horse-trading that led to the abolishment of the USIA was supposed to merge the non-state with the state, but recent reports and testimony show this has yet to be realized.

So it should be of no great surprise that America’s real public diplomats increasingly come from the Pentagon, ironic considering that few Americans today know anybody in uniform. There are several reasons for the leadership and initiative by the Defense Department in engaging foreign publics. The obvious is that the so-called Global War on Terror has been fought largely by the military. Neither the President nor the Secretary of State took the podium to describe what was going and why. It was the Secretary of Defense. The President also demurred to General Petraeus to report to the country and Congress on the status of Iraq. Present day debates over the nature of the threat and how to prepare for the future even challenge the civil-military relations in our country.

The $300 million contract may be surprising to some, but it makes sense the the Defense Department would make the substantial investment to counter adversarial misinformation as well as to penetrate psychological firewalls that have gone up in Iraq before the Pentagon realized and internalized the importance of public opinion. That the Defense Department has taken the lead in this area is more than just a fatter budget than State. It is because they have the imperative to act and the time to deliberate on their experiences. The resurrection and update to population-centric counterinsurgency (which today defies geo-political boundaries) has led the appreciation that public opinion matters. Success in the struggle for minds and wills means fewer warfighters get killed and cleaving the enemy from their base and “engaging and inspiring” locals to participate in the fight. The Defense Department has the luxury of people and money and infrastructure to send its people to “internal” academic institutions (in addition to public institutions), such as the National Defense University, the different War Colleges, the Command and General Staff College, the Naval Post-Graduate School, etc., where experience is built on experience as lessons learned are shared, analyzed, and refined. It is in this atmosphere that the Defense Department can convert lessons learned into doctrine, publish thought pieces in the many peer-reviewed journals and magazines, and collaborate in conferences and symposiums. This does not make their policies perfect, or at times any good, especially as they relearn painful lessons once tried before, but nobody else is doing what needs to be done....

As it is too late for much change this Administration, we can only hope the next President and Secretary of State will push for and receive the support necessary from Congress to make the necessary changes to empower and resource a civilian Department of Non-State, either within or without the existing State Department, to remove the combat boots that prevents deeper and fuller engagement with partners and locals. It is not just the Defense Department that must be aggressive in this global struggle, but the State Department and the Department of Non-State, wherever form it takes. Until we grasp the fundamentals here, the “guy in a cave,” populist leader of a state, or social outcast with a keyboard will continue to out-communicate the United States.

~T. Greer

DS said...

Thanks for the link and the comment, Digger!

DS said...

TG, thanks for the piece from Mountain Runner. We have been talking about the three legs of national security - defense, diplomacy and development for a while now. It worries me that those legs are not standing straight for a balanced stool. Unless Congress decides that the other two components are just as important in terms of funding, it will continue to be a lopsided strategy.

T. Greer said...

See, the thing I find funny about this all is that DoD understands that. They realize that for their goals to succeed they need diplomacy and development- and seeing as State doesn't have the money to get it done, they are moving forward and doing it themselves. And while I am all for one agency-efficiency, it seems to me that this is a roundabout way to get things done.

~T. Greer, noting that saying, "I voted to fund the troops" is quite a bit sexier than saying, "I voted to fund our diplomatic efforts."