The art and science of communications: From strategic to personal

Monthly Archives: November 2009

A strong case can be made that contemporary strategic communications, as ‘synchronized coordination of statecraft, public affairs, public diplomacy, military information operations, and other activities’[1], is failing to achieve its potential at the national level due to organizational failings as well as problems within its constituent parts.

Yet, there are specific areas which are immediately recognised as impediments, notably organizational and managerial issues.  At a major US-UK conference in late 2005, examining information effects in counter-insurgency and stability operations, senior military and civilian personnel rounded upon the managerial aspects of communications and information:

Participants concurred that “we should all work together,” but recognized that strong organizational challenges remain. Participants agreed that the military needs clear strategic guidance on the proposed end-state and overall information strategy to effectively fight the informational fight. However, this strategic vision sometimes has been lacking, which has meant that, by default, the military was shaping policy through its actions on the ground. Many also thought that overall coordination mechanisms are lacking.[2]

Do fancy diagrams like this really address the organizational challenge?

Organizational structure and managerial capabilities in civil-military interventions may be seen as being hampering the communication function through their functionality being framed through an industrial warfare perspective:

[T]he traditional kinetic focus of U.S. military operations often jeopardizes communication-based shaping efforts.  U.S. forces are trained primarily for kinetic operations and inflicting casualties on an enemy, not for shaping noncombatant attitudes. Both force structure and mind-set can be incompatible with shaping goals.[3]

US military doctrine is pervasive throughout most militaries operating in multi-lateral civil-military interventions and thus structures, management and ethos are often replicated.

Corncerns over organizational and managerial issues at the senior levels of strategic communication, have also been raised before.  Once again taking the US example, the DSB reported in 2008:

Nevertheless, the task force finds reasons for continued concern.  Positive changes within organizations are real, but they depend to a considerable extent on the skills and imagination of current leaders.  These changes must be evaluated, and those that work should be institutionalized. Resistance from traditional organizational cultures continues. Resources for strategic communication have increased, but they fall substantially short of national needs.  This task force’s primary concern is that fundamental transformation in strategic communication has not occurred at the strategic and interagency level.[4]

Within this management challenge is the continuing top-down management processes within the foreign policy process, out of kilter with the contemporary information environment.  Faced with a rapidly changing environment, with regard to public diplomacy, Cull claims:

none of these changes is as challenging as the reorientation of public diplomacy away from the top-down communication patterns of the Cold War era[5]

Equally, the continuing disconnect between communication efforts and policy, also present an organizational and managerial challenge.  This is nothing new, as Edward R Murrow pointed out in the 1960s, famously claiming that communication personnel had to be ‘in on the take-offs of policy’ if it was going to be expected to be ‘in on the crash landings’.   As Cull, re-iterates:

[T]he most important link in any public diplomacy structure is that which connects ‘listening’ to policy-making and ensures that foreign opinion is weighed in the foreign policy process.[6]

It is therefore seen that there are problems within multilateral communications and many of these are attributed to managerial and organizational issues.  An examinination of those specific organizational and managerial aspects of multilateral communicative efforts during civil-military foreign policy interventions is well overdue.  This work would not be done without precedent; much has been done in the corporate world, but there is little evidence of deep analysis of communications management or organization against the backdrop of corporate lessons learnt.


[1] Jones,J. B., “Strategic Communication: A Mandate for the United States,” Joint Forces Quarterly, Issue Thirty-nine (Fourth Quarter 2005), p. 109.

 

[2] Collings, D. & Rohozinski, R., “Shifting Fire: Information Effects in Counterinsurgency and Stability Operations” , US Army War College (2006), p.12

[3] Helmus, T.C., Paul, C. & Glenn, R.W. “Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation” , (2007), p.17

[4] US DoD, “Task Force on Strategic Communication: Report of the Defense Science Board”, (2008), p. xi-xii

[5] Cull, N.,  Public Diplomacy: Seven Lessons for its Future from its Past in “Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World”, (2008), p. 25

[6] Ibid (2008), p. 20


No, not many other people know who she is either ... yet

As the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, a little reflection into the perception of the European Union as a global power as seen almost five years ago (2005).  A bit of nostalgia but may be an appropriate starting point to assessing where the EU is now, and where it might be going.

INTRODUCTION

That the European Union (EU), being the world’s largest economic entity, has influence in today’s world is generally without doubt, but to be a true global actor requires influence across a wide spectrum.  In defining it as a global actor, one should consider seven, often interdependent, aspects to be fundamental in affording the EU any global influence.  These are: economics; international or regional cooperation; promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance[1]; prevention of violent conflict; fight against international crime and terrorism; and military capability.   Each should be examined so as to assess how far the EU can currently be considered a global actor. However, regardless of the EU’s potential capacity in these areas, economic, political and military weight count for little on the world stage without the political will to engage that weight and the capacity for, and autonomy of, decision-making[2].

ECONOMICS

With an annual GDP of almost 11 trillion euros, accounting for, on average, some 25% of world GDP, contained within a unique and successful customs union, in economic terms the EU can be seen as a superpower, with undoubted global influence.  Via the customs union it has largely pooled the economic trading capacity of its member states, such that it is the world’s leading exporter of goods, services and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the main export market for some 130 countries around the globe[3].  Through the European Community pillar, it possesses its most powerful foreign policy instruments: the capacity to enter into trade, economic cooperation and development agreements with other economic entities, national or regional, especially through the European Community’s General System of Preferences (GSP); and direct financial assistance to third countries[4].  Its very success in regional economic integration is held up as an example across the world, allowing for some degree of influence globally.  Its sheer trading power, economic capacity and prominence make it easy to regard as a global actor in economic terms.

With its significant economic power, it has considerable influence with the global institutions (International Financial Institutions – IFIs) which influence global trade and finance regulations, such as the World Trade organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  This is regardless of the lack of an EU seat, but due to the fact that cohesion and concensus is relatively strong over trade issues[5].  Yet, there are brakes upon the already significant EU influence, but these are less a fault of the EU than the rigid and hierarchical structures of such bodies[6].  Further, the EU is often seen as falling foul of WTO rules, being a respondent in disputes almost as often as a complainant, but this does not diminish the EU’s global influence and possibly proves its existence[7].  Regardless, technically proficient in economic management and with competent control mechanisms, expressed exclusively through the Commission, the economic weight of the EU is by far its biggest ‘stick’ and ‘carrot’, available for exercise outside the strictly economic sphere.

REGIONAL COOPERATION

Closely aligned to economics, in regards to international, or more specific to the EU, regional cooperation, the EU is most exemplary, largely through its own identity and origins.  Relying on legal frameworks and diplomacy, it rather uniquely fosters regional cooperation within its own neighborhood and further afield, to a degree that few can match[8].  With cooperation agreements between the EU and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Andean Community, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP)[9], the Central American Community, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Mercosur, there is now also a plethora of regular high level political meetings between representatives of the EU and other regional groups across the globe.  In this, the EU has considerable international profile and a modicum of global influence.

However, whilst the will is there, there is a growing ‘capabilities-expectations’ gap, in which EU institutions are finding it difficult to address all groupings, ‘to the detriment of Europe’s international profile’[10].  Further, this ‘new regionalization’, although largely driven by the EU[11], is only incumbent upon the trend of globalization which is by no means irreversible.

HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE

The promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance is seen as a significant

Talking of good governance ...

element of the EU’s international image, although rather more reactive than proactive[12].  However, detailed analysis reveals limits.  Having looked at these issues relatively late on, other European organizations stole a march on the EU and feature heavily in promoting common European standards.  The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a creation of the Council of Europe, to which the individual EU member states have signed up.  The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) also plays a significant part the promotion of democracy. Although the ideals of the ECHR have been incorporated into EU charters and conventions, they tend to be non-binding and have little legal basis, providing limited legitimacy when it comes to addressing the issue on a global stage.  Similarly, with the EU being accused itself of a ‘democratic deficit’, legitimacy here is also sketchy and good governance is difficult to codify anyway.

Although other organizations crowd into this field, the EU does possess powers unavailable to them through its economic and political weight.  The use of conditionality, the provision of aid (via the EU’s European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)) and diplomatic instruments are the EU’s strong hand.  However, conditionality can be difficult due to existing member state, especially ex-colonial, bilateral ties, EIDHR’s budget is paltry and security concerns over hasty democratization bringing civil strife mean that EU policy in this area is fairly inconsistent and decision-making is hampered.

Yet, there is a collective will, based upon largely shared history, development of common values and a perception of insecurity in not doing so, within the EU member states to promote human rights, democracy and good governance.  If the practicalities prove difficult there is a global platform which proves more amenable to the EU itself: the United Nations.  Despite recent rifts over Iraq, there is increasing convergence of EU member state voting in the UN General Assembly, approaching some 85%, making it an effective machine within the UN[13].   Despite it being accused of being mostly reactive, the EU has been seen to be a powerful UN actor when cohesive and committed, such as over the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court (ICC)[14].

CONFLICT PREVENTION

The EU itself can be seen from its inception as a mechanism designed to prevent conflict in Europe and the concept is now enshrined within the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).  Outside its own borders, the EU has become increasingly involved as a mediating element in conflicts within its neighborhood, such as the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and in FYROM, with varying success, and the Mediterranean. Increasingly, the EU features as a party, within a larger grouping, normally including the US, to conflict resolution and/or prevention, such as efforts in the Middle East[15].  However, US interests cause EU influence to wane over distance, inherently displaying the EU’s limited global scope.  Aside the Middle East and Central Asia, Africa does appear to be progressively showing on the EU’s radar, with growing commitment, although far short of direct intervention, being promised from the Council[16].  The EU’s provisions for conflict prevention have improved considerably, with the Goteberg European Council of June 2001 sparking a drive towards coherent policy in this area.

Yet, despite impressive improvements and significant will, the EU’s conflict prevention capacity is diplomatically weak.  Despite the political influence afforded by the EU’s economic standing, conditionality and sanctions often fail in poverty stricken and violence ridden areas and limits have been apparent with more developed states, such as between India and Pakistan in May 2002.  The Iraq crisis presented the epitome of a lack of vigourous and clear diplomatic signals from the EU; signals most necessary in conflict management.  Yet, some see the EU’s ‘soft’ power, without the threat of military force, as its unique strength in conflict prevention[17].

TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL CRIME

Although international terrorism is nothing new to the EU region, the full impact of international organized crime was only fully realized as the Cold War ended, allowing infiltration of crime syndicates from the former Soviet Bloc.  Thus, whilst national policies developed, the EU has had a late start in this field. Through the provisions of EUROPOL, the Schengen Agreement, European Judicial Cooperation Unit (EUROJUST) and other capabilities within the third pillar, Justice and Home affairs (JHA), the EU’s capacity in fighting international crime and terrorism, within its own borders, has been improved, especially since the events of 11 September, 2001[18].  In November 2002 EUROPOL’s competences were expanded: it is now authorized to participate with member states in joint investigation teams and request member states to initiate investigations. In February 2002, EUROJUST was established to coordinate cooperation between prosecution authorities in EU member states.  These are largely of an internal dimension but provide for some high levels of coordination, which have eased cooperation with other national governments and crime-fighting authorities.  In December 2001, the EU’s impact upon global crime and terrorism issues expanded through the signing of cooperation agreement with the US, demonstrating a new emphasis on its external crime-fighting remit, which extend to judicial cooperation, immigration and asylum[19].

The diplomatic instruments of dialogue and conditionality, such as use of GSP, are also major features of the EU’s commitment in tackling these issues.  However, JHA is largely internal and effectively tackling international organized crime and terrorism requires the evolution of significant cross pillar coordination, which is proving slow.  As a global player in this field, the EU has still further steps to make.

MILITARY POWER

Nice ... but not NATO

The legacy of the Cold war, in which Western European states, EU or not, relied upon NATO, remains problematical for the EU in terms of developing its own globally capable military capabilities.  The EU lacks deployable forces for expeditionary warfare, that is, forces for worldwide combat missions. The member states of the European Union have approximately 1.7 million men and women under arms but are capable of deploying only approximately 10 percent of these forces for missions abroad, largely through a lack of strategic resources, such as airlift capacity[20].  The’ headline goals’ of the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) and development of the more realistic battlegroup concept show commitment to the idea of EU military capability but compared to a truly global military machine, the US, the effort is rather small scale and the will to follow this path is confused by the NATO aspect.  Hence the view that the EU is still a military midget with grand aspirations.

However, many of the armed forces of the EU member states, are relatively capable in terms of the missions required of a global actor, ideally suited to and with considerable experience in peacekeeping and policing missions.  As such, EU missions to the Democratic Republic of Congo (Artemis) and Macedonia (Concordia) have demonstrated this limited but competent global capability.   Whereas the RRF may find itself vying with the embryonic NATO Response Force (NRF), the Battlegroup concept, allowing the EU much more flexibility, realistic force generation options and simpler command and control issues, from political to tactical, may allow for a truly global military capacity, worthy of a global ‘soft’ power.  Ironically, some see this ‘militarization’ of the EU as a direct threat to its agency as a ‘soft’ power and to its identity, if fragile, as a ‘civilian power’ based upon liberal humanitarian principles[21].

GLOBAL GOVERNANCE

Endorsing a policy of ‘effective multilateralism’, the EU’s ethos is well suited towards the ideals of global governance.  As previously mentioned, the EU does have influence within various global institutions such as the WTO.  Within the UN, where broad EU member state concensus exists, which, although overshadowed by high profile rifts, is common, considerable pressure can be brought to bare, especially when a powerful, if temporary, EU ‘caucus’ exists within the Security Council[22].  In the fast-growing relationship between the EU and the UN, to the extent that the multilateral UN is shifting towards a ‘soft’ power approach to global issues, the EU is seen as a major contributor to the agenda[23]. Now, as the combined contributions of the EU and its member states make the EU the largest contributor to UN programmes, the authority and recognition of the EU as a major global actor within the UN is widely recognized[24].

CONCLUSION

The EU is not a traditional global actor in realist terms, which the US epitomises, but in a relatively short time span it has developed significantly its international reach and as a ‘soft’ civilian power it has considerable global weight, across a wide spectrum[25].  Much of its weight rests upon its massive economic consequence in world terms, which is a mighty instrument capable of use outside the economic sphere.    Such use is dependent upon the cohesion of perspective of its member states but with such a concrete economic basis, it is developing politically as a global player, even though it is hampered a hazy sense of identity and interests and by the weakness of its foreign policy institutions and decision-making processes.  Despite this, although recent years have seen fragmentation, a general will to maintain cohesive foreign policy, supporting its global influence, is being maintained[26].  Many have played down the EU’s global influence, yet its development as a global player does continue, although often at a glacial rate.  Even so, the EU’s global influence across the spectrum is currently patchy, partly due to its own priorities, inherent capabilities, member state inconsistencies and external agency.  Further, its autonomy in exerting influence remains indeterminate.  In allowing the EU to exert some wide authority, some parts of the globe and some global issues are much more difficult than others.  These areas and issues are defined by the global actor: the United States.


[1] Within which are included environmental issues.

 

[2] Coolsaet and Biscop, (2004), p. 7.

[3] ‘Making globalisation work for everyone: The European Union and world trade’, European Commission Information Brochure, December 2002.

[4] Smith (2003), p. 53.

[5] This is relative, as there remain several disagreements, not least over agricultural products.

[6] ‘Critics claim structures are rigid, outdated and overly hierarchical and that working practices lack transparency and openness to input from non-governmental players.Pascal Lamy, after Seattle, described the WTO as “medieval” while Franz Fischler, after Cancun, stated that there needed to be an overhaul of WTO structures.’ Cameron (2003), p. 13.

[7] Alasdair R. Young in ‘The EU and World Trade: Doha and Beyond’, Cowles & Dinan (2004), pp. 213-5.

[8] Smith (2003), p. 95.

[9] Linked together via the 2000 Cotonou Agreement, replacing the Lome agreement of 1975. Nugent (2003), pp.433-4.

[10] Regelsberger, cited in Smith (2003), p. 91.

[11] Gilpin (2001), p. 341.

[12] Smith (2003), p. 121 & 144.

[13] Johansson-Nogues, ‘The Fifteen and the Accession States in the United Nations General Assembly,  CFSP Forum, Vol 2 Issue 1, January 2004, p. 10.

[14] Cameron (2003), p. 15.

[15] Anand Menon in ‘Foreign and Security Policies of the EU’, Cowles & Dinan(2004), pp. 231-2.

[16] Smith (2003), p.151.

[17] Smith (2003), p.170

[18] Smith (2003), p.175

[19]John D. Occhipinti in’Police and Judicial Co-operation’, Cowles & Dinan (2004), pp. 192-3.

[20] de Wijk, ‘European Military Reform for a Global Partnership’, The Washington Quarterly,  Winter 2003-04, pp. 197–210.

[21] Peterson & Sjursen (1998), p. 179.

[22] Dedring, Reflections on the coordination of the EU member states in organs of the United Nations’, CFSP Forum, Vol 2 Issue 1, January 2004, p. 3.

[23] Graham, (2004), pp. 14-15.

[24] Laatikainen, ‘Assessing the EU as an Actor at the UN: Authority, Cohesion, Recognition and Autonomy’, CFSP Forum Vol 2 Issue 1, January 2004, p. 4.

[25] Peterson & Sjursen (1998), p. 184.

[26] Hill, ‘Renationalizing or Regrouping? EU Foreign Policy Since 11 September 2001’, Journal of Common Market Studies Volume 42, Number 1,  March 2004, pp. 160-62.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cameron, Fraser. The European Union and Global Governance European Policy Paper No 7, November 2003.  Available at http://www.epc.orgp.

Coolsaet, Rik and Biscop, Sven.  A European Security Concept for the 21st Century, Egmont Paper 1 Royal Institute for International Relations (IRRI-KIIB) Brussels, April 2004.  Available at http://www.irri-kiib.bep.

Cowles, Maria Green and Dinan, Desmond,  Developments in the European Union 2  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Dedring, Juergen.  ‘Reflections on the Coordination of the EU Member States in Organs of the United Nations’, CFSP Forum, Vol 2 Issue 1, January 2004.

de Wijk, Rob. ‘European Military Reform for a Global Partnership’ The Washington Quarterly  Winter 2003-04.

Gilpin, Robert.  Global Politcal Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Graham, Kennedy. Towards Effective Multilateralism – The EU and the UN: Partners in Crisis Management European Policy Paper No 13, November 2004.  Available at ^http://www.epc.orgp.

Hill, Christopher.  ‘Renationalizing or Regrouping? EU Foreign Policy Since 11 September 2001’, Journal of Common Market Studies Volume 42, Number 1. March 2004.

Johansson-Nogues, Elisabeth. ‘The Fifteen and the Accession States in the United Nations General Assembly,  CFSP Forum, Vol 2 Issue 1 January 2004.

Keens-Soper, Maurice.  Europe in the World: The Persistence of Power Politics  Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1999.

Laaitkainen, Katie Verlin. ‘Assessing the EU as an Actor at the UN: Authority, Cohesion, Recognition and Autonomy’, CFSP Forum, Vol 2 Issue 1, January 2004

Nugent, Neill.  The Government and Politics of the European Union (Fifth Edition) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Peterson, Jogn and Sjursen, Helene.  A Common Foreign Policy for Europe: Competing Visions of the CFSP  London: Routledge, 1998.

Smith, Karen E. European Foreign Policy in a Changing World  Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003.

‘Making globalisation work for everyone: The European Union and world trade’ European Commission Information Brochure, December 2002.


See below some wise words from Major Mehar Omar Khan (Pakistan Army) from his article “Afghanistan: Seven Fundamental Questions” found at Small Wars Journal (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/319-khan.pdf)

Who should the coalition try to impress: Afghans or rest of the world?

While the pressure to present tangible results in terms that sound familiar to domestic and global audience is understandable, lives of young men should not be ‘wasted’ in pursuit of hollow ideals and empty slogans that mean woefully little to the people of Afghanistan. While there is essentially nothing bad about transparent ballot boxes, soap opera television, Afghan movies and a few dozen bold and beautiful women in the legislative assembly, the Afghan people look wearily at all these things. They are not impressed with these ‘achievements’, not just because they have an outdated mindset, but because it means so little to them in terms of alleviating some of their most basic concerns like hunger, malnutrition, disease, violence and fear. Coalition soldiers should not have to die for anything less noble than helping the people of Afghanistan forge a new future and a new destiny for themselves – a destiny that they will themselves determine in ways that they feel comfortable with.

Here are some ideas.

One, please understand the hearts and minds that you are trying to win. Most of these minds are illiterate, unschooled and locked in the last century. Most of these hearts are raw, romantic, sentimental and pure as a pearl. Help them start where they actually are and not where you want them to be. At their present level of socio-economic development, Afghans do not truly need a majestic parliament building, a palatial house for the president, five star hotels and nicely suited dummies as rulers in Kabul and Kandahar. They need small schools, clean drinking water, some pills for that headache which refuses to go away, some money to buy food for their kids and some assistance to kick-start their farming or that little shop in a mud-hut. People want their liberators to know that they need ‘electricity before they are asked to destroy their kerosene lantern’ and that they need to at least be able to read names before they are asked to choose one out of a long list of people vying to be their President.

Playing to this crowd ...

Playing to this crowd ...

Two, coalition must refuse to lock itself in a fight that tramples the people. This will involve some sacrifice in the short term but huge dividends in the long term.

Three, people need soldiers that respect their values and their traditions because, however outdated they may be, these are their values and their traditions. This land belongs to a ‘people’; it’s not the property of ‘a state’. In this context, is it not fair to ask how much of an effort, in terms of resources, has gone to ‘Afghanistan the state’ and how much to ‘Afghanistan the people’? How much of the money and resources and security has stayed and stagnated in Kabul guarding criminals and drug-lords; and how much of it has actually reached a far flung Helmand village caught in the center of the storm? How much of attention has gone to people most bitter about being ousted from power (Pashtuns) and how much of it has been lavished on communities that have generally always enjoyed a relative peace? Asking the right questions is the true test of honesty. Giving the right answers is a test of leadership. Questions carry their own correct answers as well as consequences for wrong answers.

global-crowd

... or this one?


Poignant video, winner of Afghanistan Matters video contest – appears a little military to start but moves on to the human aspect.