WASHINGTON D.C. – The United States can implement smart power if it makes better use of its civilian tools. Smart power is achieved by striking a balance between hard power and soft power. Utilizing U.S. civilian assistance abroad could potentially make military power less needed in foreign crises.
Hilary Clinton emphasized the employment of smart power at the beginning of her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State. She found that increasing diplomacy and development along with defense was the best way to implement smart power. Clinton put forth the approach as a solution to global issues.
Clinton cautioned that civilian power needed to be strengthened and amplified for smart power to be effective. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agreed that civilian power and U.S. military power must be in balance.
Gates called for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to take on a leading role.
Robert D. Lamb, director of the Program on Crisis, Conflict and Cooperation, is in agreement with Clinton’s assessment of civilian power. Lamb highlights the importance of civilian power in the resolution of the Syria crisis.
Lamb looks at military action in Syria as a last resort option rather than a first choice. He expresses that civilian power should be used to the full extent. If civilian power fails to resolve the crisis, then military tools should be taken into consideration.
Lamb confirms that diplomatic solutions can be coerced by military threat, but finds that using civilian power to address foreign policy crises is preferred.
The root cause of conflict can be grievances such as unemployment, marginalization and oppression. However, Lamb warns that it is difficult to make a clear connection between the suspected root cause of conflicts and conflict prevention.
Global Health Policy Center Director J. Stephen Morrison agrees that it is impossible for a counterfactual to be proven. He uses internal wars in central and eastern Africa in the 1990s to examine how civilian power affects conflict.
The wars spread through the region while the United Nations peacekeeping abruptly decreased. Africa did not stabilize until the U.N. Security Council recommenced its peacekeeping efforts.
The conflict in central and eastern Africa negatively correlated with U.N. peacekeeping. Conflict rose as peacekeeping declined and then conflict declined as peacekeeping rose.
The civilian tools administered by the U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Africa demonstrate that civilian power may be effective. However, Morrison says that it is difficult to determine whether the need for military action will be reduced as a result.
Global Food Security Project Director Johanna Nesseth Tuttle notes that the lack of jobs, food shortages and spiked food prices have been contributors to unrest in the past. The frustration from the toxic combination can make civilians bellicose.
Lamb maintains that it is difficult to connect lack of jobs to conflict, but mentions that most society locals blame lack of jobs for young people fighting.
Director Daniel F. Runde of the Project on Prosperity and Development states that civilian assistance programs must be administered by civilian agencies rather than have the military administer them.
Runde expounds on the success the U.S. had in improving conditions in Colombia. He credits U.S. military assistance and advisors as well as the various civilian assistance programs. This is the balance between civilian power and military power to which Clinton and Gates referred.
U.S. civilian programs in Colombia helped demobilized former combatants and provided a judicial process for transitioning back into society. According to Runde, historians and economists credit the success of countries like South Korea to the U.S. providing advice and targeted assistance.
– Brittany Mannings
Sources: CSIS, Foreign Affairs