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Military Diplomacy as a Hybrid Instrument of National Power

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Today’s complex security environment requires the United States to use all of its instruments of power to maintain its status in the world, as well as to protect its own interests and the interests of its allies.  Traditionally, the instruments of power are separated into Diplomacy, Intelligence, Military, Economic, Financial, Information, and Law Enforcement, abbreviated as DIMEFIL in nearly every United States military Professional Military Education (PME) school.  In almost all cases, the Military is considered the strongest of those instruments of power while Diplomacy is too often give short shrift.  However, the continued use of Military Diplomacy offers a hybrid instrument of power to help connect with allies across regions while advancing the interests of the United States. This article will look at military diplomacy as a potential hybrid instrument of national power and how the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I), under the U.S. Embassy Baghdad and U.S. Central Command utilized military diplomacy to reconnect Iraq with its neighbors in the Middle East. 

The current United States National Security Strategy (December 2017) lays out the importance of continuing to engage with our partners and potential allies.    It states, “Diplomacy catalyzes the political, economic, and societal connections that create America’s enduring alignments and that build positive networks of relationships with partners.”  The Diplomacy and Statecraft section goes on to identify three different types of diplomacy: Competitive Diplomacy, Tools of Economic Diplomacy and Information Statecraft.

Similarly, the Military instrument of national power is mentioned throughout the 2017 National Security Strategy.  From protecting the American people to defeating Jihadist terrorists, the military instrument of power is weaved throughout the document. However, there is a gap within the 2017 National Security Strategy.  The article attempts to draws a cleaner line between the use of the United States military and its diplomatic efforts.  The use of military diplomacy is an important tool not addressed in the National Security Strategy and one that can help bridge this gap.

What is military diplomacy

There is not a standard definition of military diplomacy.  Erik Pajtinka defines military diplomacy as,

“A set of activities carried out mainly by the representatives of the defense department, as well as other state institutions, aimed at pursuing the forcing policy interests of the state in the field of security and defense policy, and whose actions are based on the use of negations and other diplomatic interests.” He goes on to define military diplomacy as “a specific field of diplomacy which focused primarily on the pursuit of foreign policy interests of the state in the field of security and defense policy.”

Amy Ebitz, in her paper from the Brookings Institute titled, “The Use of Military Diplomacy in Great Power Competition: Lessons Learned from the Marshall Plan,” states Military diplomacy can also be referred to as “defense diplomacy,” soft power,” “military public diplomacy,” and “strategic communication. Her terms of either defense diplomacy or military public diplomacy align well with the above definition of military diplomacy. However, use of soft power and strategic communications do not.  Soft Power, as originally coined by Joseph Nye, refers to, “the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion.”   This often is accomplished by projecting soft power through companies, foundations, universities, churches, and other institutions of civil society.  I would argue soft power falls more in the information instrument of national power and not within the military instrument.

Strategic communications is defined in the International Journal of Strategic Communications as,

“The purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission.  Six relevant disciplines are involved in the development, implementation, and assessment of communications by organizations: management, marketing, public relations, technical communications, political communication and information/social marketing campaigns.”

Using this definition as a base, military diplomacy does not fit well into these categories of strategic communications.

For the purpose of this paper, Erik Pajtinka’s definition, “A set of activities carried out mainly by the representatives of the defense department, as well as other state institutions, aimed at pursuing the forcing policy interests of the state in the field of security and defense policy, and whose actions are based on the use of negotiations and other diplomatic interests,” will be used to guide this article.

There are three main parts of Pajtinka’s definition of military diplomacy.  First, “The activities are carried out mainly by the representatives of the defense department.”    This is a critical difference between traditional diplomacy.  Rather than traditional diplomats in the lead, different representatives from the Department of Defense are leading these efforts. 

Next, the activities are, “Aimed at pursuing the foreign policy interests of the state in the field of security and defense policy.”   As with most actions at the strategic level, the activities of military diplomacy must focus on the foreign policy interests of the government. However, a key difference is these foreign policy interests are in the fields of security and defense policy.  The focus on these two traditionally military related fields helps clarify where traditional diplomacy ends and military diplomacy begins. 

Finally, those implementing military diplomacy conduct their activities, “Based on the use of negotiations and other diplomatic interests.”   Unlike other traditional military activities to work with partner nations, military diplomacy leads through negotiations and other diplomatic interests before entering back into traditional military endeavors.  This will be explained further in the example of the Office of Security Cooperation-Baghdad’s efforts. 

The Department of Defense has a variety of tools available to promote military diplomacy. First and foremost are the Combatant Commanders themselves. These four-star General Officers are responsible for specified geographic regions across the globe.   Within each combatant command, the leadership interacts with numerous countries across their footprint.  For example, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has an area of responsibility of more than 4 million square miles, populated by more than 550 million people from 22 ethnic groups speaking over 18 languages.  Equally important, CENTCOM partners with 20 nations from Kazakhstan to Egypt. Each United States combatant command has similar footprints, getting to interact with nearly every nation on the globe in some capacity. 

The Commander of a combatant command interacts with all of the nations within their footprint.  When visiting one of the countries in their area of operations, they coordinate with both the U.S. Ambassador responsible for the country team and the security cooperation office within the host nation.   The result is a high ranking military diplomat, synchronized with the leading Department of State person in country, and bringing a massive capability to work with partner nation security forces. 

Combatant commands have a large tool kit from which to pull from to help move U.S. interests forward.  This includes all branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) as well as the ability to serve as a coordinator between nations who may not have the friendliest of histories.  Each branch of the service under the combatant commands carries with it leadership, units and expertise within their respective regions. The result is a massive amount of capability to conduct military diplomacy. 

Military diplomacy in Iraq 2017-2018

As Iraq achieved success against Islamic State (IS) forces in 2017, there was a palpable shift from the use of military power to military diplomacy.  After decades of isolation brought by previous Iraqi actions, United Nations sanctions and violence following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Government of Iraq only had one neighbor to turn to for help within the region: Iran.  Sharing a major border of nearly 875 miles, these two countries have always been and will always be neighbors. As a result, there is a massive amount of legal and illegal trade crossing their borders.  Additionally, the commonality of the Shia religion in both countries connects them on another level. The two have been, and will be tied together due to their proximity and shared backgrounds. 

However, Iraq needed other partners in their region besides Iraq.  As a result, the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq(OSC-I), located within the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, focused on using military diplomacy to help Iraq break out of its isolation. Traditionally, Security Cooperation offices focus on the sale of U.S. military equipment to a host nation.  OSC-I works for both for the U.S. Chief of Mission in Iraq, and for U.S. CENTCOM.  This placed it in a perfect position to facilitate military diplomacy.

In mid-2017, OSC-I had two main lines of effort. The first was traditional security assistance: the sale of equipment and parts to the Iraqi government.  The second, defense institution building, focused on security sector reform and the building of the necessary institutions to sustain their security forces. Eventually, the priority of effort shifted to the important work of ensuring the sustainability of defense institutions.  However, as the ISIS fight within Iraq concluded, senior leadership within both Department of State and Defense realized Iraq needed local partners to break out of its isolation. As a result, OSC-I developed a third line of effort: Regional Engagements (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, Line of Effort #3: Regional Engagements. From OSC-I Command Brief, 28 May 2018.

The regional engagement effort became a classic case of implementing military diplomacy to help a partner nation, Iraq.  Knowing Iraq was isolated with only Iran as a local partner, the use of military diplomacy became a critical component of reconnecting Iraq with their other neighbors more friendly to the United States. The goal was to reconnect Iraq with its neighbors through military-to-military engagements to encourage a confident, independent Iraq and reduce Iraq’s isolation.  As a result, military diplomacy became a major effort between the United States and Iraq. 

OSC-I, working with the Department of State and CENTCOM, reached out to surrounding neighbors and their militaries to increase military-to-military cooperation.  This was the first step of military diplomacy. The initial plan was to engage at the Chief of Defense level between neighbors.  With direct access to the Iraqi Chief of Defense, OSC-I was perfectly positioned to use military diplomacy. 

First and foremost, this effort was coordinated through and approved by both the U.S. Ambassador and the CENTCOM Commander.  The coordination between the two leads for both the diplomacy and military instruments of national power already had a solid relationship OSC-I was able to benefit from. 

Getting the process started was not as easy as a phone call.  The military diplomacy process began by coordinating invitations through the Department of State and the Iraqi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Additionally, CENTCOM was able to leverage its “power to convene” through its Commander at the time, General Joseph Votel.  He and his staff served as the coordination link between the U.S. Embassy, OSC-I and the Iraqi Chief of Defense.   Once coordinated, formal invitations were sent from the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to their corresponding Ministries of Foreign Affairs in both Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Once the invitations were received, and confirmed by the Security Cooperation offices in both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, CENTCOM contacted both Chiefs of Defense to emphasize the importance of the upcoming meeting, and added the CENTCOM Commander would serve as the host. 

The first result of this military diplomacy effort was a tri-lateral engagement in July 2017. The Chiefs of Defense of both Jordan and Saudi Arabia met with the Iraqi Chief of Defense in Baghdad.  This initial meeting set the groundwork for future bi-lateral meetings between the Chiefs of Defense, and their respective staffs to improve communications and coordination between the neighboring countries.  For OSC-I, this successful tri-lateral engagement demonstrated the power of military diplomacy when properly coordinated and supported by both Department of State and Department of Defense.

Another meeting rapidly followed, this time a bi-lateral between the Iraqi and Jordanian Chiefs of Defense. Discussion focused on the reopening of the Treybil border crossing between Iraq and Jordan. Closed during the Iraq War in 2003, the Treybil Highway served as a main trading route between Baghdad and Amman. A similar process occurred: coordination between embassies, the security cooperation offices and CENTCOM.  Invitations were coordinated through the U.S. Embassy then the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The invitation went to the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and once the Security Cooperation office confirmed receipt, CENTCOM connected with the Jordanian Ministry of Defense to offer their support for the conference.  A meeting soon followed.  As a result of this meeting between the Jordanian and Iraqi Chiefs of Defense, staff working groups were established. Their work resulted in the Treybil border crossing reopened in August 2017, serving as a main trade route between the two nations and taking a major step towards normalizing relations. 

Next, the Saudi Arabian and Iraqi Chiefs of Defense met in a bi-lateral engagement hosted by CENTCOM and coordinated by the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq.  The result of this military diplomacy effort was the reopening of the Arar border crossing for the first time in 27 years. This key border crossing was closed in 1990 after the countries cut ties following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.  The reopening assisted Iraqi religious pilgrims headed to Mecca during the Haj season.  The governor of Anbar province, Sohaib al-Rawi said, “This is a great start for further future cooperation between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.” Again, coordination occurred between both U.S. embassies in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, between the Security Cooperation offices overseen by CENTCOM made this important military diplomacy success story a reality.  

After the September 2017 Kurdish referendum, tensions between Iraq and Turkey were extremely high.  Turkey moved additional forces to the Iraqi border in response to the Kurdish vote for independence.  Conflicts flared up between Iraqi troops and Kurdish fighters.  The need for military diplomacy was needed more than ever. 

Again, through military diplomacy, a tri-lateral discussion between the Iraq, Turkey and the United States was set up.  Senior leaders in attendance included European Commander, General Curtis Scaparrotti, Turkish Chief of Defense General Hulusi Akar, Iraqi Chief of Defense, General Othman al-Ghanimi and U.S. Central Command Commander General Joseph Votel.  The meeting occurred in Ankara, Turkey on December 14, 2017.   This was again coordinated across both U.S. embassies, and in this case, two Combatant Commands to make this example of military diplomacy occur. 

The result of this meeting was the reopening of communications between the Turkish and Iraqi Chiefs of Defense. This was both extremely important and timely as Iraqi and Turkish troops faced off against one another on their border. The two Chiefs of Defense, shepherded by their U.S. combatant command counterparts, were able to meet face-to-face and reestablish a civil dialogue. The result was an increase in positive communications between the two military Chiefs and a reduction in tensions between the two neighboring militaries.

With a taste of success, the Iraqi Chief of Defense then asked through the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq to meet with his Kuwaiti counterpart, a meeting that had not happened between the two countries since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Again, coordination between the Iraq and Kuwait embassies started the process. Invitations followed and the meeting was set up.  

The meeting between the Kuwaiti Defense Minister and the Iraqi Chief of Defense occurred on January 23, 2018. U.S. Central Command Commander, General Votel hosted the historic meeting, helping to reopen the lines of communication between these two former enemies.  The result was an agreement for both militaries to continue to work together and begin developing longer-term security cooperation arrangements, an important step to normalizing relationships between two former enemies.  This and the other examples demonstrate what can be accomplished by military diplomacy when coordinated properly. 

Key to these military diplomacy successes was ensuring the Department of State Chief of Mission was tied into all discussions and approved of these efforts. In Iraq, there were weekly video teleconferences between the CENTCOM Commander and the U.S. Ambassador where current issues were discussed. Prior to any visit to Iraq, the CENTCOM Commander coordinated with the Ambassador to better, understand the priorities of the Department of State, and ensure CENTCOM was on the same message as the Chief of Mission. 

Combatant Commands also have the ability to host regional ambassador conferences, such as the one hosted in Qatar by CENTCOM on October 19, 2018.  The conference included chiefs of defense from the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arabian States of the Gulf Region Countries: Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia ad United Arab Emirates, as well as Jordan and Egypt. The respective U.S. Ambassadors from each country attended and the U.S. CENTCOM forward headquarters in Qatar was a perfect spot to host the meeting.  These conferences are another great example of military diplomacy in action. 

Principles of Military Diplomacy

The examples above highlight the capabilities of using military diplomacy to further the interests of a country, in these cases the United States.  Based on the previous definition of military diplomacy and the actions of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, this article recommends four principles of Military Diplomacy.

First, the Chief of Mission/U.S. Ambassador/Chief Diplomat is in the lead.  Within a host nation, it is the Chief of Mission responsible for all U.S. actions.  Coordination through the Embassy is a necessity and must be paramount for any military diplomacy effort to be successful. Efforts at military diplomacy without this coordination at the highest levels will not only result in failure, but also sour the critical relationship between State and Defense elements on the ground. 

Second, military diplomacy requires the support of the military. While this may sound like an obvious principle, military diplomacy requires elements of the Department of Defense to be involved, and to have something to offer.  As mentioned earlier, Defense elements have a large toolkit to tap into. From traditional security cooperation efforts to hosting military to military engagements, military diplomacy requires the military. Militaries throughout the world have common experiences and shared languages.  They are most adept at working with fellow militaries. 

Third, any military diplomacy efforts must work through the host nation process.  In the case of Iraq, invitations to bring in senior ranking military members from neighboring countries required an invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was the same for when the Iraqi Chief of Defense was invited to other nations:  the inviting nation would send an invitation through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Iraqi MFA.  These efforts took time, and sometimes resulted in frustration on the American side as invitations were lost, or caught up in bureaucracy.  That being said, the U.S. State and military members were able to keep tabs on the status of the invitations and query to the status. 

Fourth and finally, set small goals.  Sometimes just having the two senior leaders meet is an accomplishment in itself.  Many involved in military diplomacy expected rapid results from all the coordination efforts. However, this often is not the case.  Goals are not often met in the first or second meeting of these senior leaders. However, as demonstrated above, sometimes just having those two senior military leaders meet results in positive press, increased dialogue and the thawing of long cold relationships.   

When properly coordinated with the Chief of Mission, military diplomacy is an effective instrument of national power.  The combatant commands have the leadership, the staff, and resources to enforce their “power to convene” utilizing military diplomacy. Bringing key military leadership from different nations together is one of the important components of military diplomacy.  This is not limited to the United States. Recent tensions between North Macedonia and Greece were reduced by military diplomacy between the two nations.  Most militaries have the capacity, with the support from their diplomatic branches, to successful utilize military diplomacy.  

More studies and research needs to look at the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing military diplomacy to help the United States achieve its stated policy goals, especially as we move back into an era of great power competition.  The use of military diplomacy as a hybrid instrument of national power for the United States has provided tangible achievements in achieving foreign policy goals in the past.  It must continue to do so in the future. 

Michael D. Sullivan, a colonel in the U.S. Army, served five tours in Iraq between 2004 and 2018. He holds a doctorate in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and currently works at the College of International Security Affairs at National Defense University. His views are his own and do not represent the National Defense University, U.S. Department of Defense or any other government agency.

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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Analyzing the role of OIC

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oic

Composed of fifty-seven countries and spread over four continents, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second-largest intergovernmental body following the United Nations (UN). And it is no secret that the council was established in the wake of an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Safeguarding and defending the national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of its member states is the significant provision of the OIC’s charter. OIC charter also undertakes to strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among member states. Uplifting Islamic values, practicing cooperation in every sphere among its members, contributing to international peace, protecting the Islamic sites, and assisting suppressed Muslim community are other significant features of its charter. 

Recently, the world witnessed the 11-days long conflict between Hamas and Israel. In a recent episode of the clash between two parties, Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, claiming many innocent Palestinian lives. The overall death toll in the territory rose to 200, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1305 injured, says Hamas-run health ministry. This event was met with resentment from people across the world, and they condemned Israeli violence. After 11 days of violence, the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. The event of Israeli violence on Palestinians has called the role of OIC into question. The council, formed in the aftermath of the onslaught on Al-Aqsa mosque, seemed to adopt a lip service approach to the conflict. However, the call for stringent measures against Israeli aggression by the bloc was not part of its action. 

Likewise, the Kashmir issue, which has witnessed atrocities of Indians on innocent Kashmiris, looks up to the OIC for its resolution. Last year, during the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5 to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jam­mu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps. However, the global community seems to pay deaf ears to the OIC’s resolution. The Kashmir issue and the Palestine issue are the core issues of the world that are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. And the charter of the bloc that aims to guard the Muslim ummah’s interest rings hollow. About a year ago, the event that made rounds on electronic and social media was the occurring of the KL summit, which reflected another inaction of the OIC. The move of influential Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia), to sail on the idea to establish another forum to counter the OIC, manifested the rift in the bloc.  

Many OIC countries are underdeveloped and poorly governed and are home to instability, violence, and terrorism. The consequences of the violence and terrorism in the OIC countries have been devastating. According to Forbes, 7 out of 10 countries, which suffer most from terrorism are OIC members. The Syrian conflict is another matter of concern in the Mideast, looking up to OIC for a way out. An immense number of people have lost their lives in the Civil war in Syria.

Several factors contribute to the inefficiency of the bloc. The first and foremost reason is the Saudi-Iran stalemate. Influential regional powers (Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in the Mideast share strained links following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Both sides dissent each other on many fronts. Saudi Arabia accuses Tehran of interfering in its internal affairs, using terrorism as a tool to intimidate neighbors, fuelling sectarianism, and equipping proxies to de-stabilize and overthrow the legitimate government. Locked in a proxy war in the Mideast, the KSA and Iran vie for regional dominance. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program is met with strong resentment in the KSA since it shifts the Balance of Power towards Iran. Such developments play a vibrant role in their stalemate, and the bloc’s effectiveness is hostage to the Saudi-Iran standoff.

Political and social exclusion in many OIC states is the norm of the day, contributing to upheaval and conflict. In OIC countries, the level of political participation and political and social integration is weak. This fact has rendered OIC countries vulnerable to unrest. Arab Spring in 2011 stands as the best example. Furthermore, conflicts, since the mid-1990s, have occurred in weak states that have encountered unrest frequently. 

Saudi Arabia has tightened its grip on the OIC. The reason being, the OIC secretariat and its subsidiary bodies are in the KSA. More importantly, the KSA’s prolific funding to the bloc enhances its influence on the bloc. One example includes, in the past, the KSA barred an Iranian delegation from the OIC meeting in Jeddah. Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman, says Abbas Mousavi. “The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the deal of the century plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported. Given the Iranian growing influence and its access to nuclear capabilities, the KSA resorted to using financial leverage to reap support from Arab countries against Iran. For instance, in past, Somalia and several other Arab states such as Sudan and Bahrain received a commitment of financial aid from Saudi Arabia on the same day they cut ties with Iran. Furthermore, the summits of OIC, GCC, and Arab League are perceived as an effort by Saudi Arabia to amass support against Tehran. 

Division in the Muslim world and their clash of interests is yet another rationale behind its inefficacy. These days, many Muslim countries are bent on pursuing their interests rather than paying commitment to their principles, that is, working collectively for the upkeep of the Muslim community. Last year, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations. Following this, the Kingdom of Bahrain became another Muslim country to normalize its links with Israel. Such moves by the Islamic countries weaken the OIC agenda against Israel. 

OIC’s efficacy would be a distant dream unless the Saudi-Iran deadlock finds its way. For this purpose, Pakistan can play a vital role in mediating between these two powers. Pakistan has always been an active player in the OIC and played its role in raising its voice against Islamophobia, Palestine Issue, and the Kashmir issue. Shunning their interests and finding the common goals of the Muslim ummah, should be the utmost priority for the members of the bloc. Every OIC member ought to play its part in the upkeep of the bloc. Furthermore, a split in the bloc should come to an end since it leads to the polarization of member states towards regional powers. Many OIC countries are rich in hydrocarbons (a priceless wealth, which is the driver for the growth of a country); if all OIC members join hands and enhance their partnership in this sphere they can fight against energy security. And OIC is the crux for magnifying cooperation among its member states to meet their energy needs.

In this era of globalization, multilateralism plays a pivotal part. No one can deny the significance of intergovernmental organizations since they serve countries in numerous ways. In the same vein, OIC can serve Muslim ummah in multiple ways; if it follows a course of adequate functioning.

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Public Diplomacy: A Case Study of Korean Popular Music

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In recent years, the boom of South Korean culture is being observed globally, especially through global sensation BTS, a K-pop group. As the country is the 13th largest economy in the world, Hallyu wave has reinforced South Korea’s soft power projection. The global fame of the country has risen to its current position as a consequence of its long foreign policy composure that was based on public diplomacy under Lee Myung-bak’s vision of “Global Korea”. Public Diplomacy focuses on achieving persuasive power by targeting foreign people using different channels and tools. In this respect, Republic of Korea (ROK) has been successful in spreading its language, cultural values and ideas across the world. This paper aims at highlighting significance of public diplomacy as it helps states in achieving national interests more efficiently.

Introduction:

Public diplomacy is the public management of international relations, engagement and interaction with foreign peoples. This is a long-term goal of achieving favourable relation-ships with other states by transforming perceptions and ideas of the public. In the following section, public diplomacy of South Korea is analyzed, first, through four approaches, i.e. how it understood the role of PD in achieving national interest, how it planned about conducting PD itself, how it engaged with people abroad, and finally how it advocated its public diplomacy using influence of non-state actors. South Korea, a small East Asian state, has been successful in implementing its public diplomacy. The second section of the paper focuses on the global takeover of Korean popular music. K-pop, with its indigenous linguistic and cultural elements, has truly globalized the Korean soft image. There are a number of goals that South Korea envisages to achieve through its tool of public diplomacy, among which there is varying success while the process is continued.

In order to grasp over the subject, a number of books have been consulted both related to significance of public diplomacy in the modern world and how SK has been successful in spreading its soft power through K-pop. This paper will add to it by linking all with a more contemporary scenario, and by discussing the goals of South Korea, which it could envision while conducting public diplomacy like any other state.  

Background:

Modern diplomacy emerged after WWI following the proposition that diplomacy should be conducted publically for better accountability and public scrutiny, by the then President of USA Woodrow Wilson in his famous fourteen points. It remained highly formal, institutionalized and subjected to public scrutiny. However, by the end of twentieth century, diplomacy saw a shift in its mode of conduct, goals and tools as a result of increasing globalization and emergence of network society. The importance of public opinion in shaping both domestic and foreign policy started becoming evident with the revolution in IT, communication technology and media mass coverage. Persuasion of foreign public became the key in this ‘new’ diplomacy referred as Public diplomacy. Unlike propaganda used during Cold War, public diplomacy is a two-way process where feedback is necessary. It also takes into account morality and focuses on ‘positive’ image projection of state and its policies, thus it does not necessarily promotes the negative image of the host country. Public diplomacy also differs from international lobbying in which only particular policies are targeted and the people related to it. Public diplomacy is the about the general positive change in perception of the foreign public.

Public Diplomacy:

The concept of public diplomacy emerged under the umbrella of soft power and is considered as its important instrument. According to Joseph Nye, there are two hard power forms, i.e. sticks (military) and carrots (money). The third is the soft element. He stated that now those countries are becoming more attractive in the world “whose culture and ideas are closer to prevailing international norms, and whose credibility abroad is reinforced by their values and practices” (Melissen, 2005, p. 1). This is the essence of soft power. Public diplomacy is also one of the five critical areas of smart power that focuses on the elements of both soft and hard power. Even E. H. Carr acknowledged the effectiveness of “power over opinion” for political purposes.

‘Public diplomacy’ term was coined by Edmund Gullion (American diplomat) in mid-1960s (Melissen, 2005, p. 6). According to him, flow of ideas and information is central to public diplomacy, so we can say that it is the intervention through information. It involves communication with foreign public directly, aiming at affecting their perceptions, first, and then that of their respective governments. It is a “bottom-up political mechanism” in which people or civil society has a say in government’s domestic and foreign policy-making that “will indirectly influence one’s national security and prosperity” (Trisni, 2019).

Traditionally, diplomacy was the expertise of states, but with economic globalization, relevance of non-state actors has increased. They also have goals, and resources to achieve them. Actors of public diplomacy include both state and non-state actors including individuals and business corporations. Their collaborations and partnerships are making the target achievement easier. Public diplomacy, as a foreign policy tool, has been utilized by all types of states whether they are democratic (e.g. USA) or not (e.g. China), big (e.g. India) or small (e.g. South Korea) irrespective of their ideology, political system and size. However, it has been successful and conducted mostly in democratic societies. Content of public diplomacy includes education and cultural activities, teaching languages, maintaining and building cultural centers, collaborative business associations, exchange of artists, students, scholars etc. Channels used for public diplomacy are international broadcasting, use of international electronic, print and social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc.)

Stages of Public Diplomacy:

There are three stages of public diplomacy, given by M. Leonard, that are dependent on the goals of the state (Kayani, 2015, p. 53). Reactive PD involves the most short-term communication with the foreign public for instance, a press conference. Proactive PD involves the medium-term goals in which a state, for instance, gives a policy briefing. The last stage, which is goal of most states doing public diplomacy, involves long-term relationship-building with the host state. Its time period spans to a few decades as in case of South Korea where this policy orientation was adopted in 1990s and is at peak now in 2021. In relation building scenario, state has a more long-term goal which could extend to the required transformation of attitude and ideas in the next generation. Joseph Nye also gave stages of public diplomacy. He named them as: daily communication, strategic communication and lasting relationships.

South Korea’s Public Diplomacy:

South Korea is a small state in East Asia which was unknown to world before stepping into the second half of the twentieth century. In the first two decades of 21st century, however, Korean wave or what is called as “hallyu” wave has taken the whole world by storm, going against all cultural odds, spreading its own values, culture and language across the world.

Bruce Gregory gave four approaches to analyze the overall public diplomacy of a state (Kayani, 2015, p. 54). These approaches will be applied to look into this instrument of South Korea’s soft power. First is the understanding of foreign opinion and information collection with the help of different tools like survey, media etc. South Korea suffered from bitter past experience most of the twentieth century as it went through Japanese colonization and Korean War. This devastated the whole economic and social fabric of Korean society. In 1970s, South Korea went through industrialization and privatization which boosted its economy. It opened its society and economy to the external world which eased the import of foreign cultural products especially from USA. In 1990s, after stabilizing economy, interest of South Korean government shifted to society and cultural reconstruction. Last four presidencies in South Korea have made public diplomacy a major priority of their foreign policy and national strategy. A report appeared, in 1994, to the Presidential Advisory Board on Science and Technology which discussed that Korea should also build economy using cultural industry following example of America. (Paik, 2012, p. 200) At that time, Hollywood film Jurassic Park earned as much as “selling 15 million Hyundai cars” (Paik, 2012, p. 200). This led to their understanding about significance of attracting global public through public diplomacy.

Second approach is the planning which involves carrying out plans by the actors. In 1995, Culture Industry Bureau was established as a result of report submission that led to Motion Picture Promotion Law. This law imposed a quota for representation of Korean films in theaters. Becoming member of world’s top five content makers was the prime national objective of President Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2007). (Paik, 2012, p. 201) The third approach is engagement whereby actors invite and collaborate with other actors for successful execution of public diplomacy. Financial crisis of 2008 devastated the economy of South Korea among other Asian states. The then President Lee Myung-bak launched “Global Korea” slogan to bring Korea’s economy on advanced level and to achieve soft power status globally. In his February 2008 address, he said that South Korea should strive for competitive “content industry, thereby laying the foundation to become a nation strong in cultural activities.” (Hankyoreh, 2019) According to him, country’s technological strength combined with power of traditional culture would project a more “attractive Korea” across the world. He, then, went on to say that it “is the vision of a Great Korea that Lee Myung-bak’s administration will work for” (Hankyoreh, 2019).

To rebuild the economy, government acted as a stimulator, efficiency regulator, process accelerator and facility provider for the development of Korean cultural industry. It also engaged Chaebols (conglomerates in South Korea) by investing in cultural industry which acted as incentive for them to do the same. Groups like Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, LG etc. started entering and investing in cultural industry that not only improved the budget allocation but also the overall efficiency of associated companies in hiring talents. The government also facilitated in the expansion and advancement of ICT industry to strengthen the associated internet infrastructure. Kim Jong-deok, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, stated in favour of non-state actors’ involvement in the success of South Korean public diplomacy that this all is the “working of people” who have played role in promoting the “Korean wave outside South Korea” (Trisni, 2019, p. 39).

The influence of Korean celebrities (entertainment, sports etc.) also acted as catalyst in the propagation of K-wave across the globe. Their role in advocacy of the Korean public diplomacy has been crucial. This, ‘mutual symbiosis’, was enabled by supporting them as ambassadors for different programs and activities. Some examples include: The Wonder Girls group which was named as Korean Food Ambassador, Kim Hyun-Joong who was named as UN Ambassador for Social Welfare Program, actor Song Joong-Ki who was named as Honorary Ambassador for Korean Tourism in 2016 and actor Hyun bin who was named as Korean Defense Ambassador (Trisni, 2019, p. 37).

Currently, South Korea is one of the four Asian tigers due to its economic leap as it stands at 12th biggest economy in the world. President Moon Jae-In launched “New Southern Policy” whose priority is ‘three Ps’, i.e. people, prosperity and peace by diversifying diplomatic and political relations with East and Southeast Asian states (Anantasirikiat, 2018). One of the major policy objectives is to enhance and strengthen the public diplomacy capacity and collaboration. Lee (2011) stated that despite its small size, South Korea has left behind China and Japan when it comes to cultural success. The Twenty-first century is cultural century and SK has “already emerged as a leader” and it would continue to “lead the world” in future as well.

The term “Hallyu wave” emerged in China (Hanliu in Chinese) as appreciation and reference to K-pop culture. Korean wave, initiated by Korean dramas but propagated by Korean pop music groups, has taken the world by storm since last decade.

Global takeover of K-pop:

K-pop is the Korean popular music which comes in different genres. This industry flourished as the production companies hired aspirant musicians, dancers etc. in the form of groups, which performed internationally garnering millions of fans. Both the group culture and the music are part of Korea’s long historical cultural identity. People sang together in groups and danced to the tunes for celebration of events such as a fall harvest. There is high group consciousness in agricultural community, Buddhism and Shamanism. This collective sense has been manifested in the K-pop groups. Lee Bae-Young who was the Chief of the Presidential Council on Nation Brand, said that the Korean wave is the manifestation of Korean traditional culture. The way idol groups have assigned different roles like leader, rapper, singer, visual etc. are “inheritance” of historical “agricultural community” (KCIS, 2011, p. 1).

Korean wave has, nevertheless, adopted different foreign cultural elements as it experienced colonization and international exposure. Time period from 1960s to 1980s laid the basis for reconstruction of Korean culture, its identity development, and overall participation in the project that would lead towards modernity (Giddens, 1991). Hence, Korean wave is not truly ‘Korean’, rather it is an amalgam of Chinese Confucian values and Western culture. K-pop borrowed “the best of western culture and recreated it according to Korean tastes” (Cai, 2011). This cultural hybridization and adaptability is actually the strength of contemporary Korean culture. This very modernity amalgamated by its own cultural essence is the reason that K-pop music was welcomed internationally and has received much applause. Thus, recently K-pop has started spreading from its comfort zone, i.e. Asia to global audiences such as those in Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

K-pop first entered in China and Japan with the groups like H.O.T, Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls. Japanese Current events magazine AERA stated that the Korean music groups dominated the Japanese market in the same way as the British group Beatles took American market by storm in 1960s (KCIS, 2011, p. 37). It, then, went on to spread in Taiwan, Hong Kong etc. with groups like Shinhwa, Baby Vox, and NRG. The role of social media has been immense in K-pop’s expansion, first, in East Asia and then beyond. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have been used as tools by South Korean content producers to disperse their “soft image” of Korea through K-pop. Girls’ Generation’s “GD & TOP” was watched by 390,000 people simultaneously on the YouTube Channel of SM Entertainment (Trisni, 2019, p. 199).

The entry in US market was marked by entry of Big Bang’s mini album “Tonight” that landed on No. 6 of US’ iTunes store (Trisni, 2019, p. 199). Currently, the global sensation BTS has even made historic achievement by landing among Nominees’ list of Grammys 2021 (Mitchel, 2021). The girl group BLACKPINK has also emerged among the top global pop stars like Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish (Belmis, 2021).

Middle East, which is the region mostly marked by cultural conservatism, has also opened up to the K-pop world. It has been said that there are certain values that are relatable in both Arab and Korean culture that has paved the smooth way for its entry into the region. These include respect for family bonds, implicit love stories, enduring friendship and altruism. Not only Middle East, but Africa has also embraced Korean Wave. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria are top five MENA streamers of K-pop, according to Spotify dials. (Nagy, 2020) Groups like BTS, EXO and Super Junior have held concerts in Middle Eastern countries. In 2019, KSA’s crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman (aka MBS) invited BTS to perform in Saudi Arabia and they did (BBC, 2019).

Similarly, in Europe, K-pop is emerging as mainstream. Countries like Nepal, India, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. have also greater affected by K-pop storm. Indonesia has the largest K-pop fan base in Asia (Trisni, 2019, p. 32). South America is no exception. Countries like Brazil have huge K-pop fan base.

The simultaneous effect of K-pop across the world—it’s truly global reach—started  in 2012 when PSY’s “Gangnam Stule” struck global (music) market by entering in Britain’s pop charts at number 1 position and at number 2 position in USA (Trisni, 2019, p. 32). It is, then, followed by BTS which has sold three albums at No.1 position in USA (Deboik, 2020).

BTS is the most popular music band in the world since 2018 (Suntikul, 2019). The group’s influence reflects height of Korea’s soft power by delivering universal optimistic messages of persistence, loving oneself and voicing one’s fears etc. through its music. These are the messages that transcend cultural boundaries and are relevant to most of the young people globally. They launched “Love Myself” campaign. In 2018, BTS was invited to speak at UN headquarters for a global partnership by UNICEF, Generation Unlimited (Suntikul, 2019). At UN platform, BTS leader Kim Nam-Jun aka RM stated:

“No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, gender identity: speak yourself… Find your name, find your voice, Speak Yourself.” (unicef, 2018)

They have also partnered with UNICEF for its “End Violence” Campaign (Suntikul, 2019). In November 2020, the group was invited to 75th UNGA Assembly for giving positive message to the youth across the world during COVID-19 pandemic. The leader of the BTS, RM, said: “Let’s reimagine our world… let’s dream again. Let’s dream about a future where our worlds can break out of our small rooms again.” In other words, let’s not give up in these darkest and solitary times during COVID-19. He gave the message of hope, courage and determination because no matter what happens, “life goes on”. So, “let’s live on.” (YouTube, 2020) Their invitation to global platforms like UN reflects BTS’s influence on the young minds across the world.

The group’s global soft image reflects the soft power of South Korea. BTS’s influence reflects the power and influence of “people to people diplomacy.” In 2020, it arranged first ever virtual concert named “Bang Bang Con”, which garnered 2.24 million concurrent views and 50 million views over 24 hours. (Yeo, 2021) The group members engage routinely on their social accounts and have more likes and views on their posts than even US Presidents like Obama and Trump. In April 2018, BTS’s twitter account made to the Guinness World Record for its most engagements (Suntikul, 2019). Domestically, too, BTS has contributed positively to South Korean economy. According to Hyundai Research Institute, BTS almost brings in more than 4.9 billion dollars to South Korean economy. Also, its role in enhancing tourism of country is also immense. BTS members were named as Seoul’s Honorary Tourism Ambassadors with their “Live Seoul like I do” initiative. In 2017, it was estimated that about 7% of all tourists (about 800,000 people) were motivated to visit the country due to their interest in BTS (Suntikul, 2019). In 2014, former President of Arirang TV (the only English language government-affiliated network of South Korea), Sohn Jie-Ae stated: (Hong, 2014)

“It’s not [the government] trying to fuel K-pop, but K-pop fueling Korea.”

In its report “BTS and Globalization,” World Economic Forum highlighted that despite Korean language’s absence among top 10 languages of the world, BTS has gone against all “cultural odds” as it is communicating not in English, the official global language, but in its own native language with the world.

Goals of South Korean Public Diplomacy:

Soft power projection is the main purpose of every state involved in public diplomacy. There are three variants of public diplomacy based on the goals, methods and participants involved (Gilboa, 2001). Goals of South Korean PD will be analyzed using these three variants as prisms.

Foremost is the basic variant in which the primary target is the public of mostly authoritarian regimes. The purpose is to show a soft image of the host country and to counter the recipient country’s domestic propaganda. The Goal is to provide a balanced view to the target society about country’s policies, vision etc. which can then pressurize its own government to alter its policies towards host state. In case of South Korea, this basic variant is active against North Korean regime. It wants to show its development, soft power to the North Korean public through its cultural content. Since both states have same culture, so North Korean people could influence or pressurize their government to engage in negotiations with the South Korea. In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un came to attend Red Velvet’s concert in Pyongyang after “adjusting” his schedule (CNN, 2018). More recently, North Korea has banned foreign media including South Korean. Any person caught as smuggling or accessing foreign media can be “sentenced to a stint in a labour reeducation camp or, in the most severe cases, public execution” (BBC, 2020). Similarly, China also blocked South Korean content because of its security policy despite its huge demand among Chinese people. With China, South Korean cultural content (music, food, dramas etc.) has been more leading to a cultural rift.

Second variant is the transnational variant, which focuses on the government partnership with the corporate enterprises, individuals and groups to influence both the people and government of the other state. In case of South Korea, government-conglomerate partnership has played important role in the promotion of the Korean content globally and improvement in its quality. In 2015, Korean Development Bank (KDB) provided 100 billion won of funding to Korea Broadcasting Station (KBS) for promoting creative content (Trisni, 2019, p. 38). The promotion of Samsung, Hyundai products by K-pop groups like BTS, EXO, BLACKPINK etc. help in promotion of these businesses across the world. Transnational partnerships among corporations of different countries have also seen in this case. Recently, HYBE (whose former name was BigHit Entertainment) has merged itself with Ithaca Holdings (Scooter Braun’s media company) to enhance and streamline its music artists’ entry within US market (Soompi, 2021). Now the artists working under HYBE label include: BTS, TXT, ENHYPEN, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, CL, JBALVIN, NUEST, DAN+SHY, Nana, WATT, SEVENTEEN, GFRIEND, Zico, Lee Hyun, Black Eyed Peas, and Carly Ray Jepsen (Soompi, 2021).

Third variant is the domestic public relations variant, which focuses on using of a country’s own lobbyists and PR firms to gain support in the target country and for strengthening legitimacy and authority. This is a form of strategic public diplomacy where role gets reversed. Instead of changing government’s perceptions and policies, the aim is to prevent changing that perception and policies. If we talk about South Korea, this could be a long-term goal as it is dependent on USA for its latest defense technology and strategic alliance in the region against North Korea. In order to prevent any change in USA’s attitude towards South Korea, latter has successfully tried to gain public confidence. While direct lobbying is always there for diplomatic relations, public diplomacy has made indirect lobbying easier with more effective and successful results. It involves long-term coalition building, relation-building and grass-root level mobilization to gain public support.

Conclusion:

Korean popular music groups have made South Korea’s public diplomacy, a successful national policy. They have played role in the expansion of Korean culture, language and universal values like friendship, respect etc. Thus, their role in emanation of South Korea’s soft power is immense as the country is already on the economic roller coaster. In addition to it, SK can also achieve strategic goals by conducting public diplomacy in the longer run.

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