Countering Terrorism via Smart Power

Countering Terrorism via Smart Power
June 5th, 2016  

Topic: Countering Terrorism via Smart Power

Countering Terrorism via Smart Power
As combating terrorism is increasingly becoming complex and involves different dynamics, I have decided to post this mirror thread from my website to engage the members in this forum to debate about how to approach the phenomena anew and to rethink strategy. While counterterrorism is most often linked with the exercise of "hard power", which includes intelligence, law, policing, and military power, it must gradually make use of "soft power" that consists of political, social, cultural and economic control, together with broader policy initiatives dealing with the environment, development, critical infrastructure, migration, and humanitarian intervention, in which a nation's civil society plays a vital role. That's why Professor Joseph Nye, who coined the term "soft power”, wrote that a viable civil society would help mitigate violence. As Nye concluded, a great nation’s interests in world politics can be better achieved through the use of "smart power", a combination of both soft and hard power!
June 17th, 2016  
In defence of soft power: why a “war” on terror will never win

Although the EU and UN’s “soft” approaches, which called for “addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism” in the first place, held great potential, they were watered down by the continued prevalence of hard military approach worldwide. The United States, for instance, has never bought into the “soft” approach and continued to follow a military strategy, despite noticeable change in terminology. As a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group concluded in 2001, the US government has shown little interest in “soft” counter radicalisation and de-radicalisation policies.

This is despite the fact that home-grown terrorism has become more prominent in America. The American government has also ironically been active in promoting “soft” de-radicalisation programmes abroad (such as in Afghanistan and Iraq), as well as the establishment of several regional centres and forums allegedly aimed at countering the global rise in violent extremism through “soft” power. This contradiction has undermined the credibility of the US as a genuine leader of, and believer in, the role of “soft” power in countering violent extremism, including the upholding of the rule of law, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights.
September 17th, 2016  
Rethinking countering violent extremism: implementing the role of civil society

Hard power, soft power and smart power

The current theoretical framework for conceptualising CT has its origins in the
school of thought of international relations and politics where approaches have been
understood in terms of the exercise of power to “affect others to obtain the outcomes
you want” (Nye Jr., 2009, p. 160). Nye defines power as the ability to influence
others to get them to behave in ways that you want them to behave by either
coercion and/or payment (hard power), or through attraction (soft power).
Hard power instruments include military, financial incentives, economic sanctions
and legal options. Soft power on the other hand encompasses a rather broader
range of instruments that either directly or indirectly improve relations between
nations or bring about desired social change. Most governments possess soft power
diplomatic tools. Beyond government, soft power also resides in the institutions that
promote cultural or educational exchange. For Nye (2003), soft power encompasses
the range of civil society instruments. Speaking in the context of the USA he cites
Hollywood movies as an example of soft power. Although the cultural concepts and
understandings of US values and ideals that are exported by Hollywood can also do
damage to the image of the USA in countries it wishes to influence, such negative
soft power effects can often be neutralised or negated through other soft power tools
such as cultural exchange, education and the active promotion of democracy. Nye
argues that the instruments of civil society—films, higher education and cultural
exchange—are far more effective in presenting the USA to other nations. He
contends that the government should not try to stymie exports of popular culture,
but should use cultural exchange as a vehicle for communicating the positive aspects
of American values and culture (Nye, 2003). Despite growing anti-American
sentiment across the Arab world, Nye (2003) cautions against the use of concerted
propaganda campaigns as soft power:

Attraction depends on credibility, something a Pentagon propaganda campaign would
clearly lack. On the contrary, by arousing broad suspicions about the credibility of what
the American government says, such a program would squander soft power.
Hard and soft forms of power are not neutrally wielded, as Wilson (2008) notes each
form of power is constituted by “… separate and distinct institutions and
institutional cultures …” which regulate member’s “… attitudes, incentives, and
anticipated career paths” (p. 116). As a consequence, hard and soft power is often
seen to be in opposition to each other, with proponents vying for resources and

[N]either the advocates of soft power nor the proponents of hard power have adequately
integrated their positions into a single framework … Advocates of soft power and public
diplomacy tend to frame their arguments poorly; their positions are often politically
naive and institutionally weak. Meanwhile, hard power proponents, who are politically
and institutionally powerful, frequently frame their arguments inadequately because
they either overlook or believe that they can incorporate the soft elements of national
power that lie outside their traditional purview. (Wilson, 2008, p. 110)
4 A. Aly et al.

Hard power advocates argue that hard power is the most effective means of
achieving desired results particularly when dealing with rogue states. Coronado
(2005, p. 322) suggests that the reasons why hard power might be preferred to soft
power lie in the short term, often immediate results that hard power offers in
contrast to the long term more diffuse results of social change approaches: “For
some, it [hard power] is a ‘swifter’ and more efficient method to attain objectives,
bypassing the formal and substantive legitimacy of consensus building required by
international law and institutions”.

Soft power proponents on the other hand, argue that it is a more ethical
approach providing an “alternative to raw power politics” (Nye, 2011, p. 81). Soft
power, not only limited to government, can be employed by NGOs, corporations,
institutions and transnational networks. Unlike hard power tactics, soft power
measures are much harder to quantify and often take years to implement before any
measurable results become evident.

Hard power and soft power are far more nuanced than simple definitions of
coercion versus attraction. Soft instruments can be used in hard ways and vice versa.
It is instead, more useful to think of hard power as being purposeful in its application
and finite in its effect. Soft power can be both purposeful and non-purposeful and
potentially infinite in its effect. Neither soft power nor hard power alone is very
effective in achieving the goals of foreign policy. As Wilson (2008) suggests the
integration of these two approaches into a single framework that effectively balances
hard and soft power is challenged by the institutions and contexts which govern each
form of power. Armitage and Nye (2007) refer to the combination of hard and soft
measures as “smart power”: “by complementing US military and economic might
with greater investments in soft power, America can build the framework it needs to
tackle tough global challenges” (p. 1). Their recommended approach calls for a shift
in the way the US Government thinks about security. Although Nye recognises the
significance of coercive tools, he contends that the US Government must develop
ways in which to grow the US soft power to harness the dynamism found within civil
society and the private sector.

Hard and soft are comparisons that are also made in the CT space. Hard CT
most commonly refers to defensive measures such as target hardening, military
intervention, intelligence and punitive measures. Soft CT is proactive, designed to
address root causes and support for terrorism. More recently, soft CT has come to be
referred to as CVE—encompassing measures as varied as de-radicalisation programmes,
education, development programmes, conflict management, community
empowerment and counter narratives. In the CT arena, the disconnection between
hard and soft measures is also evident. Punitive measures introduced in Australia,
Canada, the UK and elsewhere respond to the phenomenon of foreign fighters in
ways that reflect hard power. The confiscation of travel documents of those
suspected to be planning to travel to Iraq and Syria in support of the Islamic State
is implemented by State institutions and law enforcement agencies who have limited
authority or interest in prevention and intervention. Meanwhile, broad-based
prevention initiatives that have the potential to interrupt radicalisation in the early
stages are reliant on the capacity of the non-government sector.
Countering Terrorism via Smart Power
February 8th, 2017  
The following article is co-authored by me with Professor Matthew Crosston for the ModernDiplomacy.EU, and we hope you enjoy reading it.

Strategy Silos and Counterterrorist ‘Smart’ Power: Fusing Hard Militaries and Soft Cultures to Fight Extremism
February 8th, 2017  
I have only skimmed over it but my initial argument is that while it is technically accurate it overlooks a fairly important point, most of the countries fighting insurgencies are run by governments that are just as corrupt and barbaric as the terrorist organisations they are fighting.

The West devotes far too much of its time supporting ideologies and self-interest over doing what is morally right, we arm anyone that will either do our bidding or fight someone we are ideologically opposed to consequently we have armed and trained the two most destructive terrorist organisations of our time.
March 2nd, 2017  
Stavridis: Mistake to increase defense budget over soft power

I agree with the Admiral, even though he is not the first one to state this. Many scholars and strategic thinkers foretold that the fusion of hard and soft power systems, which is known as the “smart power” is the one that is ideal for advancing America’s foreign policy. But it is no surprise that Trump administration is doing this, because in higher academia, it is the “Realist” school of thought (republicans) that tend to emphasize hard power, especially the hard power of states, while “Liberal” institutionalist scholars (democrats) emphasize soft power as an essential resource of statecraft. Therefore, the current administration must strategize a combination/fusion of “Realist-***-Liberalist” doctrine to survive and succeed in this new global information age. Here’s a paper I wrote on this subject:
March 2nd, 2017  
The biggest problem I think the west faces in getting involved in some of these affairs is that most of the areas involved do not have the "shining beacon" we need to support in order to bring about ideological change.

Let's assume we wanted to sort out Africa name one country there you can point to that isn't a corrupt, crap hole of epic proportions that could be used as the example of an Africans doing it for themselves success story and the Middle East is no different.

The Afghan government are just as shady and untrustworthy as ever, Iraq is no different, we are ideologically opposed to Iran and Syria is a mess because we are more interested in reigniting the cold war than finding a solution.

The reality is that for soft power to work you need to be able to give people something they can relate to that is working, you can't just drop a megaton of bombs on them, build 50,000 McDonalds, hand over a truckload of weapons to the first pro-western warlords you can find and go home.

If the psycho's that make up ISIS, Al Quaeda and the other tinpot suicide organisations of the region would just stick to blowing up locals and not try and blame the world's evils on me I would be more than happy to stay the hell out of the region and leave them to fight it out amongst themselves.
October 23rd, 2020  
Sharing an article that has been published on the Project O Five Blog, thanks to Jasmin Sweeney for sharing her thoughts. A great read on the implications of hard power approaches in responding to terrorism. Please take a look!

To What Extent Is Military Force An Effective Response To Terrorism?
August 9th, 2021  
'War on Terror': Are big military deployments over?

Western forces are racing to leave Afghanistan this month. France has signalled a significant scaling back of its military commitment in Mali. In Iraq, British and other Western forces no longer have any major combat role.

Twenty years after President George W Bush's so-called War on Terror, is the era of big "boots-on-the ground" military deployments to distant warzones coming to an end?

Not yet - there is still a substantial commitment to fighting jihadists in the Sahel - but there is now a radical rethink in how these missions are conducted.

Large-scale, long-term deployments have been hugely costly, in blood, in money and in political capital at home.

The US-led military presence in Afghanistan has cost more than $1tn (£724bn) and thousands of lives on all sides - Afghan forces, Afghan civilians, western forces as well as their insurgent foes.

At their peak in 2010, Western troop numbers topped 100,000. And yet now, after 20 years in the country, the few thousand remaining forces are leaving just as the Taliban looks set to take over more and more territory.

Achilles' heels

The longer and larger a military commitment is in fighting an insurgency, the more vulnerable it becomes to a variety of potential "Achilles' heels".

The most obvious of these is the casualty rate, a trend that can become seriously unpopular back home.

More than 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War and nearly 15,000 Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan - factors that hastened the end of those campaigns. France has lost just over 50 soldiers in Mali since 2013 and its mission there has largely lost its support at home.

Then there is the financial cost, which almost invariably exceeds expectations.

When Saudi Arabia began its intervention in Yemen's civil war in 2015 it never expected to be still fighting there six years later. Estimates of the running cost to the Saudi treasury to date range as high as $100bn (£72.4bn).

Concerns over human rights can also derail a military campaign when least expected.

US air strikes hitting Afghan wedding parties, Saudi air strikes killing civilians in Yemen and human rights abuses by the UAE's allies there have all carried a reputational cost for those countries.

In the case of the UAE, the stories emerging of prisoners being suffocated to death while locked inside shipping containers had a major influence in prompting it to withdraw from the Yemen war.

Then there is the possibility that the host government could end up sharing power with a hostile entity.

In Mali, reports that the government is engaged in secret talks with the jihadists were enough to cause President Emmanuel Macron to threaten to pull out French forces altogether.

In Iraq, says retired British Army Col James Cunliffe, "there is still a real concern about Iranian influence, especially when it comes to the Shi'a militias".

In Afghanistan, the Taliban, who were driven out of power in 2001, are expected to make a comeback. Western security officials say if they end up being a part of the government then all intelligence co-operation would cease.

The Future

So if big, open-ended military deployments are no longer going to be in vogue, then what replaces them?

One clue can be found in the speech delivered on 2 June at the Royal United Services Institute's Land Warfare Conference by the UK Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith.

Today's Army, he said, will be "more networked, more expeditionary and more rapidly deployed, more digitally connected, linking satellite to soldier and centred on a Special Operations Brigade".

Fewer boots on the ground inevitably means a greater reliance on cutting-edge digital technology, including artificial intelligence.

Trends emerging from recent conflicts have prompted a radical rethink in strategic priorities. The brief war in the Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia saw the latter's tanks getting decimated by cheap, unmanned, armed drones supplied by Turkey and directed to their targets at almost no risk to the operators.

Mercenaries, once considered a throwback to a bygone era in Africa, have been making a comeback.

The most obvious example here is Russia's shadowy Wagner Group which has allowed Moscow "plausible deniability" while operating with few restrictions in conflict zones from Libya to West Africa to Mozambique. "A state-centric world order," says Dr Sean McFate, senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, "is giving way to a war without states."

None of this means an end to military missions overseas. In Mali and the Sahel the French may be winding up their single-nation Operation Barkhane and sending thousands of troops home. But the UN mission continues and the French are retaining a reduced force committed to a multinational counter-terrorism mission.

In Iraq, the Nato mission will continue to train local counter-insurgency forces and offer them technical support.

In Afghanistan however, the western military presence is disappearing over the horizon at the very time it may be needed most to confront a combined threat from the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Well said—a new way of thinking on the changing military paradigms.
August 12th, 2021  
The West should have left Afghanistan 20 years ago .

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