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).
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.
Corona Vaccine: A Diplomatic Tool
Covid-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities of prevailing governance set ups but it also brought the bright face of so called failure systems. Covid-19 has hit across the world and damaged political, social and economic life of entire globe but very few of them used their leadership and technical skills to overcome the catastrophe and succeeded. The most victim of covid-19 was china but few western and Asian states also faced the traumatic situation. New Zealand was the first state which declared it corona free zone under the leadership of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and later on at somehow china controlled the epidemic spread while Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan also used effective Smart lock down policies to save the valuable lives and reduced economic shocks. On contrary to this, the largest democracy India and U.S completely failed to cope up with the situation. During the 2020, major powers like china and Russia provided its medical and technical support to the far distant poor states particularly African and Asian nations and win hearts of the people. Now, 2021 is a year for vaccines and hope of a return to normalcy.
China, the first and foremost state hit by the coronavirus a year ago, just approved its first homegrown vaccine for general use and have endeavors to inoculating 50 million high priority people before early February. According to the centers for disease control and prevention, more than 4.8 million people in the United States have received vaccine dose. In the same way, states like china, Russia and U.S are going to use it a diplomatic tool. Vaccine makers are boosting their productions to produce it on large scale to fulfill the other state’s requirements. Due to outbreak of Covid-19, china had to face the bad music in international affairs but Chinese efforts reflect a desire to revamp its international image.
In May 2020, during a speech Chinese president Xi Jinping positioned Chinese vaccine development and deployment plans as a’’ Public Good ‘’health and further he added that it will be china’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. In the result of this, Chinese vaccine trials have been conducted in different African, Middle East and Asian states. The covid-19 pandemic has clearly offered a golden opportunity to china to advance itself as a reliable and inevitable actor of global governance. The Chinese government eventually is going to use vaccine doses as a strategic tool to strengthen their international relationships. A senior researcher for global health at the Washington-based council, Yanzhong huang expressed his views that
‘’The vaccine could be used by an instrument for foreign policy to promote soft power and project international influence’’
The African governments are expressing interests in Chinese vaccine, BBIBP-CorV, developed by the china national pharmaceutical group and china could use vaccine access to bolster economic and political influence in Africa and other regions which are securing enough vaccines. Thus, the vaccine diplomacy would help china to frame itself as the solution to the outbreak rather the cause of it. China’s vaccine diplomacy in Africa serves to be a high reward venture. It sinopharm’s vaccine bore fruits and restores the normalcy of life across the region, china will be praised. Recently, Sinovac biotech,drug Maker Company based in Beijing, has signed deals with Brazil and Turkey to provide respectively 46 million and 50 million doses. Sinopharm a state owned company is also active to provide the vaccine but deals are less open. China’s global vaccine campaign is in stark contrast to the ‘’America First ‘’ approach which just focuses on vaccinating its own citizens. So, china is in better position to use the vaccine to serve its foreign policy interests. The role of leaders in projecting vaccine as diplomatic tool is vital and Chinese leaders have repeatedly stressed that china’s vaccines are for sharing particularly with the poor nations. It is very evidently that how much china is interesting to build its trust among those states that are part of the development projects like BRI. Most of the countries including Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Afghanistan and Pakistan are in the priority list. In addition to this, Beijing also offered $ 1 billion dollar loan to Latin America and the Caribbean for access to its corona virus vaccine. Indonesia is another state which received 1.2 million vaccine doses from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. Chinese state owned media played very significant role in projecting vaccine a diplomatic tool and showed china as a responsible player leading global efforts to fight the pandemic.
The ambitions of china in projection of soft image are very evident as it wants to realize the world that how much china has capabilities to perform its duties to govern the world affairs. Undoubtedly, the role of Chinese leadership, state owned media and drug maker companies in the pandemic is very influential to shape the pro-Chinese narrative.
American soft power as an instrument of global hegemony
Christian Harbulot, director and founder of the Paris School of Economic Warfare, has devoted much of his work to the study of economic warfare and the role it has played in the conflict dynamic of this century. But alongside the economic war, an instrument of similar importance that has allowed the achievement of American hegemony in the so-called multipolar world is certainly soft power.
Posing as the flagship country of free competition, the United States has achieved the best influence operation of the twentieth century. They were able to disguise their economic aggression by calling attention to the denunciation of European colonial empires. This rhetorical trick worked well. The stigmatization of the major ruling powers allowed them to disguise their own conquest initiatives as happened with the colonization of Hawaii. It is in the same spirit that they were able to trivialize their multiple external military interventions for operations to protect their citizens during the crucial period between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
America’s economic soft power was built around this misconception. The United States supported the emancipation of people from colonial oppression and, at the same time, supported the “open door” and free trade. One of their main criticisms of European colonial empires was the privileged exchanges between those empires and their metropolises. The Commonwealth was particularly targeted during the GATT negotiations (1947) and Washington refused to sign the Charter of Havana (1948) which it had desired but which maintained the principle of “imperial preferences” between European countries and their colonies.
By presenting itself as the guarantor of the discourse on free competition and open markets, the United States has built an image of itself as a “justice of the peace” in international trade. This cognitive advantage allowed them to mask their conquest initiatives. The US grip on oil fields in the Middle East and Iran has been the most visible illustration of the US economic war machine. The State Department, intelligence agencies and oil companies have worked together to impose their will on interested countries and potential competitors. The means of action used were often based on the use of force (indirect and then direct participation in armed conflicts in the Middle East, coups d’etat such as the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, destabilization of regimes that supported Arab nationalism.).
The economic soft power of the United States took shape in the aftermath of World War II. Armed with its decisive military superiority, the United States seeks to establish a process of domination in some vital markets. The Marshall Plan planners encouraged European agriculture to buy American soybeans for animal feed. This desire to establish a relationship of dependence on the United States will later spread to other key sectors such as the computer industry and then information technology. Data storage (Big Data) is one of the areas in which the American system is most determined to maintain its primacy and dominance. To “mask” these logic of domination and dependence, the American elites have resorted to two types of action.
1) The formatting of knowledge. Major American universities have gradually imposed their views on how world trade works, taking great care not to talk about geo-economic power struggles. This omission was fraught with consequences as it deprived European elites of a critical view of the nature of American corporate aggression in foreign markets. Academic disciplines such as management sciences or economics have banned any analysis of the phenomenon of economic warfare from their field of vision, which the United States nonetheless practiced with discretion.
2) The capture of knowledge. To avoid being overwhelmed by competing innovation dynamics, the United States has over time developed a very sophisticated monitoring system to identify the sources of innovation in the world in order to contact foreign researchers and engineers as soon as possible and offer them expatriation or financing solutions. through private funds. If this type of knowledge acquisition fails, the use of espionage is not excluded.
3) Misinformation and manipulation
The rise to power of the European and Asian economies since the 1970s has forced defenders of American economic interests to adapt their economic warfare techniques to the post-Cold War context. The allies of the main opponents faced before the decisive phase of the emergence of the Chinese economy.
In the 1990s, the United States opened several fronts. The most visible was the economic security policy implemented by Bill Clinton under the pretext that overseas companies were victims of “unfair competition”. Europeans were the first targets. Exposing corruption has become a favorite weapon of US economic diplomacy. But behind this principle there were much more offensive operations. In 1998 the Alcatel group suffered a series of information attacks carried out on the Internet, through media rumors regarding the lack of financial transparency of the general management. This campaign led to the historic fall of a share on the Paris Stock Exchange. To address this question, American industrialists financially supported the creation of NGOs such as Transparency International. These advocates of business moralization stigmatized countries that did not abide by global rules. On the other hand, no subject of this movement was interested in the opacity of the payment methods of the main players of the large auditing firms heavily involved in the signing of large international contracts. The exploitation of a moralizing discourse is now experiencing its operational peak with the extra-territoriality of law.
But the main transformation of American soft power in the last twenty years is the total exploitation of the information society. Everyone remembers the importance of the Echelon system or Snowden’s statements about the size of American espionage through the Internet and social media. By contrast, information warfare techniques applied in economics are still unfamiliar to the general public. The United States is now at war over how to use civil society actors to destabilize or weaken their adversaries.
The Modernity of Climate Diplomacy
Proposition of Modernity
International climate diplomacy may appear to the observer as a newly forged and unknown process compared to other well-established diplomatic affairs. Still as with other diplomatic pursuits of the sovereign state, at its core it must address the need to reach global goals through logical, fair and international legal argument. Given the tremendous scope and complexity of the enterprise this would only be possible through incremental negotiation and compromise among key actors and stakeholders. Incremental progress can only be achieved within a set of global goals, which are designed to codify the relations among states with respect of management and remediation of a new and growing peril – the continuously increasing variability and presence of extreme patterns in global climate. Although the manifestations of this global peril are predictable their exact occurrences and their magnitudes in our physical reality are chaotic in nature. This very attribute of the extreme climatic peril makes the propagation of impacts in our economic, financial and social networks highly uncertain and viable to assume the nature of systemic shocks. The modernity of climate diplomacy is expressed in two proposed aspects of its character. Firstly, it is presented as a philosophically virtuous policy, fully motivated by the general public good. Secondly it is presented as the balance of two opposing forces – one of inaction and objection to engagement, and a second of constructive drive to outcomes clearly defined in the best societal interest in its most international scope. These two forces and the outcomes of their interaction are subject to contagion by the fundamental threat of extreme climate variability. Their interaction creates uncertainty and volatility of outcomes. Such attributes are well suited to be reviewed in the mathematical theory of chaotic process.
A Newly Forged Framework
A traditional, well-studied and fundamental diplomatic framework such as the Westphalian system is based on three central propositions. Firstly, international diplomacy has a currency of its own – and this is the power of states. Secondly, the diplomatic system has a measurable equilibrium among actors, which is achieved with the help of this currency, and this is the balance of power. The system is highly procedural and not substantive. Instead of engaging in a clash of ethical and cultural principles, competing actors concern themselves purely in both competing and collaborating in transactions of power, without interference of ideologies. They will outperform and challenge each other at times and thus create instability and systemic change. Then through settlement and negotiation the system will return to its equilibrium – the balance of power among sovereign actors.
The propositions of the Westphalian system most closely describe the current diplomatic framework of international security and its arrangements. It is immediately evident that the Westphalian system of balance of power, and hence of international security, would differ with an effective framework of climate diplomacy in significant and principled manner. While within the framework of international security, sovereign state power is indeed the currency of balance and stability, the same would not be true within the premises of climate diplomacy. State power and influence will still allow actors to pursue and accomplish their goals in this field, however it cannot guarantee by itself equilibrium in the task of managing the emerging risk of climate change. This equilibrium is not found in transactions among states, it is not achieved in gains and losses across the diplomatic table, but it is to be pursued in managing a global, physical threat, which originates not from the actions of a single state, but from the cumulative activity of all human civilization, where certainly not all participants contribute equally. Fundamentally, unlike in traditional balance of power diplomacy, by projecting state power in international affairs, an actor cannot gain advantage over others. The nature of the threat is such that it depends entirely on geography, locality and physical processes, whose impacts are extremely hard to forecast. The losses of one state, emanating from the damage of extreme climate, are not the gains of another. The balance, if at all and if ever achieved is not between states or alliances, but between the whole community of states and a growing global threat. This balance will be evidently expressed in a stable physical and global environment, which allows for the secure and prosperous development of all states and societies. The framework of balance of power diplomacy, even within a multilateral setting, is clearly not appropriately conditioned, or more accurately, it is not adequately equipped to shape and bring about a manageable and survivable balance of the climate threat.
The Philosophy of Public Good
Multilateral diplomacy preserves the same principles as Westphalian system, while the technical setting of the exchange is a forum, transparent to multiple actors, rather than the more traditional one-to-one diplomatic endeavors of sovereign states. The substance of the process – the currency of the exchange among actors yet remains the power of states. To create a more effective thought paradigmnew intellectual forces will need to be mobilized to motivate a sense of immediacy and inevitability of desirably positive diplomatic action. Once this process is awake, however, such forces or streams of thought do not necessarily always need to be in supportive manner of constructive proposition. They may very well be in opposition to effective action and productive outcomes. In many other areas of social and political life, the original state of public thought and hence of international diplomacy has been that of conservative inaction. Then in reality and by principles of origin there must be two intellectual and philosophical forces or traditions behind the execution of international climate diplomacy, representing two actual political forces and types of action, those of disruption and balance.
We can trace the philosophical roots of these two forces to ancient Greek philosophical thought. One tradition is of inaction and disengagement; and a second of positive, public good-motivated action. The philosophical tradition of Epicureanism justifies an absolute materialist view of personal and social life, without a higher and universal set of shared values, without the tenets of common humanism. The pursuit of pleasure, of satisfaction of all material appetites and needs of the individual becomes a primary objective, a primary reason of existence. Epicureanism is not only an individualistic philosophy, it has a political and social stance. It sees society as built out of necessity, with individuals striving for success and their existence commandeered by proto Darwinian forces. Furthermore, a political life for the citizenis not needed or desirable. Privacy, private friendships, and private relationships and contracts rather than social contracts are the desirable mode of social engagement.
In the opposing direction, the Stoic tradition of Greek philosophy can be traced as the force of equilibrium, as the stream of thought which justifies positive, engaged and decisive action. Stoicism sees order, reason and balance in the world and the cosmos, and these states are definable in precise mathematical terms. It sees order and reason in a chaotic universe. Thus, in Stoic thought exists the concept of natural justice. In a system of balance and order, there must be a force of justice, and this force must be working on the premises of universal humanistic principles. The supposition is that values of common and cosmopolitan humanity do exist, and they are universal and shared.
A civic and international regime of positive action, of duty and commitment with meaning and purpose of serving the community virtuously is fundamentally existent in Stoic philosophy. A utilitarian streak could add some strength to this stream of thought by defining active climate diplomacy making to be in the best interest of the public good, and hence being perceived as a virtuous act. Such public perceptions should give public service of this kind additional degree of veracity. The utilitarian aspect comes in the perception of a virtuous policy as always seen to be a just policy. On an international stage among many actors and under the observant eye of many and various societies of experts just and honest diplomacy acts are always the best policy. Hence it is always rational and prudent to be honest and just in dealings of international affairs and diplomacy.
This argument itself exhibits an underlying streak of the Machiavellian tradition, which is not necessarily a disadvantage in this case. This tradition has been interpreted more often to promote a degree of calculated cynicism. A closer examination however, may lead to redefine this attitude as practical and working realism, which is effectively conditioned to produce results for the common good of society. The Machiavellian reinforcement of the argument of the benefits of a just and fair climate diplomacy is justified on the premise that these actions are in fact taking place on a stage, and thus political actors are always on display, always being studied and judged by local and foreign societies and groups. If he were a contemporary of ours, Machiavelli would very likely maintain that on such a stage of the grandest and broadest making, the legitimacy of climate diplomacy can only be derived from its established essence of being a political action designed in the best interest of the whole of the people. Thus, the process must be perceived as a true instrument for social justice with a highest order of purpose to produce the common good.
These two opposing forces – one of inaction and disengagement, and a second searching for equilibrium in the promise of the public good, which shape the process of climate diplomacy making require a more technical and systemic analysis. Such analysis is needed to better evaluate the shaping of balance between these forces, to define the constructive and deconstructive tendencies of their interaction. If such exploration contributes to clarity of understanding, to more granular visualization of detail and process, then it would be well worth the investment. The various modern theories of the mathematical sciences are well suited to provide tools and insights to set some foundation for such type of analytical review.
Forces of Mathematical Chaos
Independent and parallel risk factors of economic, security and social nature coexist in physical reality. At times of smooth and undisturbed operations of the international financial, security and political networks the interdependence between such risk factors does not seem evident. At such times this interdependence is generally not observed by actors of international diplomacy, simply because it is not a source of systemic tension. Such interdependence however is revealed at times of extreme and catastrophic events of natural and man-made origin. At such times of systemic stress networks’ interconnectedness serves as a source for risk contagion and becomes a point of political and public debate and oftentimes contention.
Global crisis such as the current pandemic serve to increase the comprehension of interconnectivity among global actors and nodes. The speed and magnitude of propagation of political and economic risk across seemingly otherwise independent networks is affected by inherent properties, which facilitate branching and cascading of climate risk into other socio-economic and security forms of risk. Hence to properly design effective diplomatic practice to address such global and agile threat a mechanism and function of solid theoretical nature needs to be developed and formalized. Systemic properties of interconnectedness are key to facilitating the propagation of climate risk across security and socio-economic networks – a process defined as chaotic contagion. Then the task for international diplomacy practitioners and researchers is to understand the properties of interconnectedness of economic, financial, insurance, social networks, such that diplomatic practices, tools and continuous processes are developed and validated.
From first principles of the mathematical theory of chaotic processes one expects that there is order within every seemingly chaotic system. This sense of order is maintained by comprehensive and measurable patterns and rules of behavior of processes and explainable trends in outcomes. The very physical nature of the underlying global peril, and the corresponding diplomatic tasks and actions for states, which arise from this peril, dictate and define the nature of climate diplomacy. Thus, there are rarely repetitive and regular activities in this sphere of international relations. An international diplomatic system of this nature, a system which can be described as driven by chaotic processes, which govern the interaction among its actors, would be characterized as a complex and dynamic system, with inherent capacities to adapt. Such a framework of diplomacy would be naturally conditioned to perpetuate turbulent and significant changes, much more so, and much more often than a traditional security diplomatic framework. At the same time such a system is capable to bring order in an irregular environment, all be it, a sense of chaotic order.
Chaotic systems in theoretical sciences are the subject to two contradicting and counter-positioned forces. One force and its characteristic expressions work towards increasing unpredictability, complexity and constant disruption. The main attribute of these forces of unpredictability is non-linearity of direction. This is coupled with excessive contagion and propagation of risk and peril, enabled by interconnectedness of nodes, which further brings about systemic uncertainty in general. A second trend and set of systemic attributes balances the chaotic framework by exercising continuous transformation towards self-organization, self-control and innovation towards equilibrium. This vigilance of state of actors and of nodes, combined with diversity of state of the entire system has a positive balancing effect on the most extreme trends of excess shock and of uncertainty of the chaotic framework.
Compared to traditional security challenges, climate change is a more complex threat – it involves more actors and more nuanced trade-offs. Still the existing general diplomatic order prevents undesirable collapse of climate diplomacy networks at times of excessive stress and tension. At its core international diplomacy is as much about statecraft and leadership as it is about institutions and protocols. The chaotic and uncertain nature of policy moves and of the policy positions of sovereign states provide a clear opportunity for execution of precisely such statecraft by actors with the needed invested interest, resources and capabilities. A sense of urgency and a sense of pending crisis, which always accompany climate change discussions, would further support actors seeking constructive outcomes. Once more the need for timeliness – itself the pressing requirements of action in the immediate present, provides another chance to display leadership in diplomatic action.
At time of severe crisis, as the current experience of the pandemic shows, the first reaction of states was to protect their own borders and to ensure equipment for their own citizens. This is a rational reaction of self-defense and self-preservation. However, it is against the norms, treaties and agreements of multi-lateral collaboration, and particularly so within communities and organizations such as the European Union, where such inter-state relations are the ethos and mode of operation. Furthermore, if the institutional and statist instinct of self-preservation is combined with an identifiable and already existing lack of confidence and suspicion ofmulti-lateral frameworks of collaboration and of treaty making, the effect would be only further disruption and unpredictability.
The same conclusions and experiences are transferable and applicable to the climate risk crisis, which is unfolding at a much slower pace and thus its physical impacts are measurable over longer periods of time. On the other hand, because of the network and contagion properties between climate risk and socio-economic networks, a propagation of climate risk to these networks is expected to have a much more dramatic and sudden impact. A most evident case in point is the impact of rising temperatures and draught intensities in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of Africa on armed conflict and thus on population migrations. Here a gradual and slow unfolding risk factor through propagation and projection into socio-economic realities causes a measurable event of new and completely different nature.
Such a socio-economic shock is expected to have dual impact on both the philosophical and onthe mathematical theory of chaos planes. In one of its expressions, the shock will have disruptive and divisive effect on diplomatic networks, triggering state actions of self-insurance and of defending of one’s own interests and assets, which overshadows and takes precedence over existing practices and networks of multi-lateral collaboration. In the theory of chaos this will be the arrival of a disruptive, unpredictable and turbulent event, which has the potential to change the regime of operation of clearly otherwise independent socio-economic networks. The duality of expected expression may come in the second phase of self-organizing and remediating action towards achieving equilibrium and balancing out the effects of the initial shock.
This action of self-balance, with a degree of innovation, toward systemic equilibrium may become effective only if it is driven by actors of international diplomacy and presented asa contribution to the common good. On a global scale it is very hard to define the concept of the common good even in areas of international relations, where states have much longer experiences of engagement, of defining norms and treaties, such as security, crisis management and peace keeping. Such a task is further complicated by the general and evident abandonment of the moral vocabulary of the interest of the people and of the common good.International diplomacy such as climate diplomacy would manifests itself in most confident and unequivocal manner when it is executed in the name of the public good.
The predominant methodology of traditional international diplomacy is that of the balance of power,of zero-sum games. The vision and practice of climate diplomacy must be that of non-zero-sum game, of the alternative – of a positive sum game. At the same time this vision needs to be directed by informed and innovative pragmatism, which evaluates and directs streams of unilateral and collaborative behavior by states on the merits of their outcomes. Such diplomatic action needs to emphasize that false belief leads to failure of reasoning and this in turn may lead to counter-productive unilateral action.Such enlightened pragmatism will need to establish the link between diplomatic action and scientific and statistical facts. Reality outside and underneath many common perceptions needs to be uncovered. Policy and diplomacy engagement would become more than a mere accumulation of facts and actions. At the same time, it is logical to see opposition to climate diplomacy. In a time of crisis, people retract to basic values and known quantities and entrench to defend them.
The objective of all diplomatic activity, and that of climate change included, is to achieve its end goals. This is much more important than the preservation of its virtuous nature, at all time, in all engagements, and among all actors. It is acceptable that most of the time, on the big scenes of international relations, it is perceived to be virtuous. This is only possible if there is a single or few sovereign authorities behind these endeavors, which will gain from success, and will gain from the public perception of being seen to act in the common good, being directed by virtuous principles of common humanitarian nature. At times the classical thesis of political morality may prove to be naïve. Then the use of social, economic and environmental justice must be seen to be effective, instrumental and inevitable to balance the unveiling of this naiveté. In the rhetorical tradition we see that it is possible to excuse vices by presenting them as neighboring virtues. Naivete is one of these a borderline attributes of international climate diplomacy, liable to be interpreted either way, depending on the skill of the actors and the circumstances of the engagement. Despite the perception of naivete, on the technical level, the diplomatic actors will need to feel skillfully the temper of the big stakeholders – the major sovereign powers of the day, almost at once as the diplomatic engagement of the day takes shape. Then the task of the proponent, of the power behind the constructive engagement is to drive this sentiment, refining the movement of the argument, refining the pace of collaborative and multilateral events. For the diplomatic engagement to be effective, it needs to constantly evolve and improve.The message of climate diplomacy needs to cover from the deepest and technically most sophisticated argument to the most accessible level of common and simple moral grounds. Thus, the engagement of climate diplomacy will seamlessly fit into the needed pattern for any relevant audience. A truly strategic diplomatic engagement would be able to score well and make big gains from small premises.
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