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
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.
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
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
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
communications is defined in the International Journal of Strategic
“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.”
definition as a base, military diplomacy does not fit well into these
categories of strategic communications.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.