Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2018-08-01

Implementing Strategy: Cross-cutting National Efforts

By: Dr. John R.Ballard
Former Dean of the National Defense College

Focusing national power is a complex task, particularly when the objective is designed to influence another nation or its leadership. Cross-cutting national capabilities can often be powerfully effective in such complex work. For example, using force can be powerful but comes with great potential cost; fortunately, defense capabilities can also be used to augment diplomacy and influence other states without the use of lethal force. Today we face unrest in many parts of the region; solutions to these challenges will require the employment of cross-cutting national tools such as strategic defense communications to reassure friends and dissuade opponents.  

The objective of strategic defense communications is to engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions to advance national interests through information and supporting defense actions synchronised with other elements of national power. The United States believes that strategic defense communications have been critical in countering the radical ideologies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and other extremist organisations in the 21st century. Strategic defence communication efforts can include both high-level dialogue among defence leaders (such as the Chief of Staff traveling to meet with other national leaders), sometimes known as defence diplomacy, and a range of other coordinated actions, messages, and forms of military engagement used to inform, influence, or persuade other states in support of national objectives. Such strategic defence communications may include public or civil affairs, information operations, defence support to public diplomacy (often conducted by defence attaches overseas), and diplomacy itself (for example when defence officials contribute expertise to treaty and peace discussions). When well aligned to UAE policy and our regional context, strategic defence communications have proven very useful in countering Iranian influence in the region, for enhancing regional understanding of the current issues with Qatar, for building international support for the war combatting the Houthi opposition in Yemen, and for demonstrating patriotic commitment to national objectives. Thus, strategic defence communications have applications in peacetime, crisis and in war.

Each of those activities can influence or persuade selected audiences in significant ways, but they are much more powerful when used in coordination with diplomatic efforts. Many government organisations can and do support strategic communications, under the overall responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but defence officials have particularly useful expertise to contribute in this area, potentially expanding the breadth and impact of a national influence campaign. The key task is to ensure all government efforts are coherent and mutually reinforcing.

The world order is complex now and growing even more dynamic over time; managing multiple potential threats will test even the best strategic leaders as they seek to influence with so much activity around the region. Global power struggles will continue, but the UAE’s ability to employ strategic defence communications in concert with traditional diplomacy will continue to help it succeed, particularly because UAE leaders act in concert with national values, with deeds not just words, thus reinforcing the integrity of UAE strategic actions with a range of effective communications. 

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