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JUNE 2017



I was pleased to hear the admiral argue

against that false choice. He explained

how the hard power he commanded

depended on the soft power the

embassy and the career Foreign Service

deliver around the world.

I am still searching for the perfect

metaphor to describe the partnership

between the Foreign Service and our

military colleagues. Being asked to choose

between hard power and soft power

strikes me as akin to being asked by hotel

staff, when I urgently need to sew on a

button before a meeting, whether I would

prefer a needle or thread.

But that metaphor is too simplistic

to capture the richness of what can be

achieved by expertly combining soft and

hard power. When I taught the Ambas-

sadorial Seminar, I used to speak about

the role of the chief of mission as orches-

tra conductor. It is your job, I would tell

new ambassadors, to bring your entire

interagency team together around a single

sheet of music, a shared strategic vision.

When I was ambassador to Panama,

my team worked closely with the U.S.

Southern Command to develop a strat-

egy for addressing the alarming rise in

drug trafficking, which had suddenly

caused the murder rate in Panama to

double. We agreed on a desired out-

come: Panama’s Darien province (home

to a dense rainforest bordering Colom-

bia) would be free of FARC guerillas who

were behind the drug trafficking.

We sought—and received—fund-

ing for our strategy. The FBI provided

indictments that were unsealed at just

the right moment. USAID helped divert

indigenous youth from drug trafficking

by providing an alternative—a forestry

school in the Darien, an alternative to

moving to the city.

SOUTHCOM provided funding for

coast guard stations to enable Panama-

nian forces to respond instantly to reports

(usually fromU.S. counter-narcotics

patrols) of attempted landings by drug

boats. SOUTHCOM also provided MIST

support—a “military information support

team” from its Special Forces component.

Is this a set-up to a cautionary tale

about the bad things that can happen

when an ambassador invites military

partners—Special Forces, at that!—into

her country? To the contrary. Because

we had developed a clear strategy that

all partners understood (no mean feat),

we were able to insert tailored language

into the memorandum of agreement

with the MIST.

The MIST teamunderstood its mission,

brought significant resources to bear that

would have otherwise been unavailable

and worked very well under chief-of-

mission authority. It was instrumental in

achieving our shared goal, captured in an

OIG report a few years after I left: “Now

that the Darien is free of FARC guerillas … ”

I look forward every year to the update

I receive at Christmas from the Navy cap-

tain who headed our milgroup in Panama

and helped me forge this highly pro-

ductive partnership with SOUTHCOM.

Many of us remember this experience of

multifaceted interagency collaboration as

a career highlight.

I urge you to read the perspectives in

this edition of the


to think about how

you can make the most of the potential

offered by partnering with the military,

the potential of the marriage of soft and

hard power.

Every host country and every situa-

tion is different, and we count on you, the

career Foreign Service, to understand the

local context better than anyone else. We

also count on you to frame an effective

interagency strategy—it’s called the “Inte-

grated Country Strategy” for a reason—

that brings all agencies at post, including

DOD, into the effort.

Many if not most of the cautionary

tales I have heard on the theme of bad

things that happen when DOD gets

involved could have been averted or

at least mitigated by a COM-led effort

to frame a strategy in partnership with


Combatant commands often have

significant resources; and, if you don’t

produce a plan for bringing them to bear

effectively in your country, they will. Try-

ing later to explain why the plan hatched

many miles away at the combatant

command will not work where you live

and work—now there’s a time sink that is

frustrating for all concerned and usually

leaves relationships strained.

So head that off by getting out in front

and—here is my last metaphor, I prom-

ise!—leading the parade. As I used to tell

new ambassadors, it may well be that your

combatant command is resourced and

staffed to hold a parade in your country.

You can either get out in front, plan the

route, choose the participants, and decide

the order and the timing of the parade—

or you can walk behind the elephants. The

view is much better from the front.

Remember, America’s global leader-

ship role rests in large measure on your



Every host country and every situation is

different, and we count on you, the career

Foreign Service, to understand the local context

better than anyone else.