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.
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; 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. With cooperation agreements between the EU and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Andean Community, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), 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’. Further, this ‘new regionalization’, although largely driven by the EU, 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
element of the EU’s international image, although rather more reactive than proactive. 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. 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).
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
 Within which are included environmental issues.
 Coolsaet and Biscop, (2004), p. 7.
 ‘Making globalisation work for everyone: The European Union and world trade’, European Commission Information Brochure, December 2002.
 Smith (2003), p. 53.
 This is relative, as there remain several disagreements, not least over agricultural products.
 ‘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.
 Alasdair R. Young in ‘The EU and World Trade: Doha and Beyond’, Cowles & Dinan (2004), pp. 213-5.
 Smith (2003), p. 95.
 Linked together via the 2000 Cotonou Agreement, replacing the Lome agreement of 1975. Nugent (2003), pp.433-4.
 Regelsberger, cited in Smith (2003), p. 91.
 Gilpin (2001), p. 341.
 Smith (2003), p. 121 & 144.
 Johansson-Nogues, ‘The Fifteen and the Accession States in the United Nations General Assembly, CFSP Forum, Vol 2 Issue 1, January 2004, p. 10.
 Cameron (2003), p. 15.
 Anand Menon in ‘Foreign and Security Policies of the EU’, Cowles & Dinan(2004), pp. 231-2.
 Smith (2003), p.151.
 Smith (2003), p.170
 Smith (2003), p.175
John D. Occhipinti in’Police and Judicial Co-operation’, Cowles & Dinan (2004), pp. 192-3.
 de Wijk, ‘European Military Reform for a Global Partnership’, The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2003-04, pp. 197–210.
 Peterson & Sjursen (1998), p. 179.
 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.
 Graham, (2004), pp. 14-15.
 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.
 Peterson & Sjursen (1998), p. 184.
 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.
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.
The UK’s new Minister of Defence, Bob Ainsworth, gave his first public speech on Wednesday 8 July at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), wordled below. Now, Ainsworth, unlike his predecessors, has previous in the area of defence, as in he was Minister of State for the Armed Forces from June 2007, so he’s pretty much up to speed on what it’s all about. Further, he’s known as a straight talker.
So his first speech as Minister of Defence could have been expected to be a no-nonsense justification of UK military operations and presence in Helmand, especially with casualty rates amongst his troops currently so appalingly high, which has given the media extra focus on Afghanistan. The circumstances, unfortunate and saddening as they are, the timing and the platform gave an opportunity for the MoD to give heightened voice to a message which is not being heard by the British public, a message clearly articulating why the UK is doing what it’s doing, and suffering because of it, in a far off counry.
Indeed, Ainsworth was refreshingly forthright, admitting that the problems faced are grave and serious. Further, he did attempt to show signs of a strategy, articulating several steps necessary, many already under way, to stabilise the situation and reach an ‘end state’, not an end date. Indeed, he stated that ‘more lives will be lost and our resolve will be tested’ – no pulling of punches here. In fact, that was the message received by the media, as scores of headlines, from the BBC to the tabloids reiterated the warning of further lives being lost.
Yet as to explaining why, an opportunity was missed. Of the 2943 words of the speech, only 220 words, less than 10%, were invested in that crucial element of explaining why. Any message explaining why it is vital that the UK continue to puts its people in harm’s way was drowned out, if really attempted at all.
The MoD itself seemed to be caught up in its own tight worldview, panglossian in its attempt to be seen to be filling this yawning information gap. As can be seen from its own website, despite the lack of real attempt to deal with the ‘why’ question, MoD were keen to portray the speech as one in which “Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has given a speech today explaining why the British Armed Forces are on operations in Afghanistan”.
Unfortunately he didn’t. A fine speech it may have been, but it didn’t do what it says on the tin.
Of course it would be naive to think that good old-fashioned politics would merely allow such a speech to go ahead. Yet politics is about power and influence and retaining it. And modern democratic politics cannot achieve such things without an informed public. With operations at high tempo, and serving personnel working bloody hard to achieve their objectives, and suffering in order to do so, the media ensures that Afghanistan remains in the spotlight in the eyes of the public. Under this spotlight and with a new, straight talking Minister, there is a window of opportunity to articulate the governments reasons for pursuing such a difficult course, to inform its public so they may at least understand. Those at Chatham House might understand (and remember this was a public speech – Chatham House was the location not the audience), CB3 might understand, most journalists might understand, but the majority of the British public remain unclear as to why our Armed Forces are being asked to do what they are doing. The window of opportunity for changing that won’t stay open for long.
Interesting snippet caught on Newsnight last night (28/04/09) about energy and climate change issues in the US. Ethical man Justin Rowlatt covered Powershift 09 as part of his series. But the crucial communications aspect of Powershift seems to be that a green activist movement, normally shunned by mainstream governments, is being seen as a method of encouraging and persuading American voters of Obama’s climate change agenda, using activists (seen being trained in how to resist arrest) as ambassadors for a government policy.
Now this proximity of traditional enemies is not new – Shell and BP have taken considerable steps to be seen as green through apparent (and only occasional) connectivity with activist groups like Greenpeace, although emnity is deep and remains for obvious reasons. And there are many political groups who will support political pitches, including that of the incumbent government. But the use of strident activists to promote a government policy against a generally accepted stance i.e. the fossil fuel economy, seems to be a new leap. This is not Astroturf but using genuine activism for policy endorsement.
The circumstances may be unique to the cap and trade issue in the US, but this approach does beg several questions – are there other circumstances where political policy can be matched with vocal activists against a form of accepted, conventional wisdom? And further, are there circumstances in developing and post-conflict countries which can be used in a similar way?
This is not necessarily countenancing covert support to student groups under totalitarian regimes, but where foreign agencies are already engaged (be they UN, NATO etc) do we make full use of grass roots activism (as limited as it may be) to achieve policy goals, or do we still tend to go down the route of mainsteam key leader engagement because it’s easier, more straightforward (relatively!) and more in line with our conventional
Western way of doing things? Are developing embryonic government institutions, struggling with democracy, encouraged to look towards the power of activist groups or are they merely maintaining their traditional opposition towards them? Are they, and therefore we, missing a trick?
After all, most governments have always had difficult relationships with autonomous grass roots organisations, unless, of course, they’re onside already. As ever with trying to improve the performance of public diplomacy and foreign policy communications in a rapidly changing information environment, the above requires some serious unconventional and politically risky thinking.
But that thinking, at the very least, should be done.
Renowned and prolific blogger Mountainrunner recently posted on ‘The False Hope of the President’s Public Diplomacy’ and it’s well worthwhile a perusal.
CB3 largely concurs with Mountainrunner’s sentiments. The points are well made and for the most part entirely valid, although the comment ‘Public diplomacy must be re-framed as direct or indirect engagement of foreign audiences to further America’s national security’ seems to back up a DoD-centric view. This may be mere semantics but security can be a loaded word and PD operates across a policy spectrum – albeit all contributing to security.
The phenomena of ultimately leaving much foreign policy communicative effort to the military, who at least have the resources (but not necessarily the expertise), appears to be common, not only in the US but also, maybe to a slightly lesser degree, in the UK. NATO and the EU (within ESDP civ-mil operations) are also not immune to this.
Further, the narrowing of the word-deed gap is critical to the success of PD, which requires it to be deeply ingrained in policy-making (as Murrow appreciated). The corporate world has taken this on board but political institutions, even in the most developed nations on the planet, still don’t fully appreciate this fact, despite the recognition of the monumental societal changes being braought about by the information age. The Obama administration is good on the word but still has to follow upon the deed (good intentions lead the way to hell etc).
The US is now in a good position to make good on the Obama effect and take PD seriously, but I fear that political infighting is taking its toll. State needs to take a stand if the US is to capitalise on this window of opportunity.
Conflict Prevention in the Multimedia Age
3-5 June, Bonn/Germany
Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum
The conference secretariat is busily finalising content and organisational matters – as you can see in the attached programme overview we have about 45 panels and workshops lined up so far. In terms of content the number of events has nearly tripled compared to last year. A topical overview is online available here
Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union will open the conference (tbc), Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union has also agreed to join. Moreover we have lined up a number of German politicians and we are still waiting for a decision of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. We also have asked the Jordanian queen and some other international political VIPs who have not yet confirmed.
In terms of content experts and speakers it looks better and better nearly on a daily basis. Just two colleagues who have agreed to join recently are Howard Rheingold, the Internet visionary and Brian Storm, multimedia guru from New York . Ahmed Salim, CEO A24 Media has also agreed to come. We have started publishing all those names on our website.
An attractive evening programme will give you a chance to enjoy the scenery of the Rhine river and the hospitability typical for this German region.
Partners include (in no special order): German Armed Forces, Stanford University, Reuters, University of Saarbrücken, University of Melbourne, Eyes and Ears of Europe, Intermedia, FoeBud, Chaos Computer Club, Radio Nederland, Media21, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Committee for the Protection of Journalists, InWEnt, Commonwealth Broadcasting Organisation, FiFF, Interdisc. Fora RWTH, GPACC, SIGNIS, Friedrich Ebert Foundation , DART Centre, n-ost, Thomson Reuters, Oxford University, OECD, UNHCR, Nokia Siemens Networks, IPI, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, EBU, Zurich University of Applied Sciences
The conference is generously supported by the German Foreign Office, the Foundation for International Dialogue of the savings bank in Bonn , the State Government of North-Rhine Westphalia, the City of Bonn and DHL
Contact / Conference Secretariat:
DW – MEDIA SERVICES GmbH
53113 Bonn , Germany
P +49.228.429-2142 (Press inquiries: +49.228.429-2148)
When the miltary do their business, they regularly ‘engage targets’. When a missile is thrown into a surface-to-air missile site, it is very much a one-way transaction, precisely designed to prevent two-way transaction of fires! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having the ability to put steel onto a target rapidly, precisely, decisively and overwhelmingly – hard power has its place. But the very wording of this phrase causes problems for those in military public affairs, media operations and public diplomacy.
Engagement should be, and is in political and foreign policy circles, a two way process. Further, when communicating in military interventions, peacekeeping, post-conflict reconstruction and development, all too often we refer to ‘target ‘audiences, normally referred to as ‘publics’ amongst public relations professionals. However, a target is something to aim at, to attain, to achieve; it infers a one-way, omni-directional action. Referring to an audience as a ‘target’ encourages, in the a parlance of PR Guru James Grunig, one-way communication. Even if military or foreign policy communicators do conduct two-way asymmetric communications,i.e. conduct deep research and cultural analysis, before conducting comms campaigns, they often still end up aiming at a ‘target’.
The cornerstone of effective communications relies not only in knowing what those ‘publics’ are about – how they think, what makes them tick – but also what they want and need (eg, marketing will fail utterly if the product is not what the publics/consumers want or need, no matter how good the product is). This requires two-way symmetrical communications, or dialogue, with people, not targets. Otherwise, one ends up communicating messages, ideas and products that simply will, at best, not resonate and, at worst, produce animosity.
Strategic communication itself is a multi-facted beast, which includes internal conversation in order to distil one’s raison d’etre. Without that essence, strategic guidance and objectives will be ill-formed, creating inefficiency, even harbouring unseen but certain failure. Without understanding what can be achieved – in other words finding those objectives which serve both one’s own and the concerned public’s (in this case a foreign population’s) needs – achieving policy aims will always be hampered. Vague, unachievable objectives, as a result of a failure to broach coincident needs after neglecting to engage in a dialogical communications, are harbingers of policy disaster. The targeting mentality of communications can only encourage this. As a practical example, such results are summed up by a US Civil Affairs officer:
‘We have built so many schools that the Iraqis do not need. You
know what happens to them? They get blown up, because no
teachers show up, because no students come, no books are there,
the [mujahideen] walks in, they blow them up. It happens time
and time again, we give them something they do not ask for, they
do not need, because it’s something that we can do.’
They may not have asked for them but did anyone even hear what they did ask for? A little bit of dialogue with people, not dictating to targets, would go a long way to prevent such policy failures.