What does it mean for the US to take a 3D -- development, diplomacy, and defense -- approach to foreign policy?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Do we use development funds and diplomacy to bend hearts and minds toward political leaders abroad, giving the U.S. short-term access to natural resources or protecting geopolitical interests related to global power dynamics? Or are development and diplomacy fundamentally about building a shared vision of freedom, participatory governance, and human rights? Does civil society have a role in security sector oversight, or are civil society groups simply implementers of a government-defined foreign policy?

The debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan created a space in Washington to ask bigger questions about US foreign policy. Realist theories that viewed international relations solely as a calculus of balance of power lost ground as the fantasy of quick firepower solutions failed. In both of these countries, constructivist theories of foreign policy--where government creates systems to address human needs--began to take shape. Military and civilian government leaders reached back through history and pulled the concept of nation-building out of its grave. The rhetoric in Washington began pairing the soft power, persuasive strategies of development and diplomacy with the military's hard power, defensive strategies.

Against the backdrop of the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil society also entered the conversation by supporting greater rhetoric linking human rights, participatory democracy, and sustainable, locally-led development. Civil society put forth a broader human security agenda focused on both civilian protection and the rights of individuals and communities. Shifting conceptions of security mean the possibility of greater investments in development and diplomacy and the recognition of the links between national and global security.

Thus, military, government, and civil society leaders alike came to condemn the severe imbalances between civilian and military actors' resources, capacity and expertise. Many argued for new measures to fund, identify, recruit, train and deploy civilian experts in both government and civil society at both the strategic planning and operational planning levels. Strategic planning for civilian missions requires knowledge and experience in the areas of civilian-crisis response, such as strengthening police, the rule of law, civilian administration and civilian protection. In this new policy context, the best practices and lessons learned by civil society organizations, many with decades of experience in preventive action, peacebuilding, reconstruction and stabilization efforts, were thought to be particularly valuable to government and military personnel with less experience in these areas.

But the initial enthusiasm about a new "soft power" approach to security faced complications.

Different Versions of "3D"

What does it mean for the US to take a 3D--development, diplomacy, and defense--approach to foreign policy?

To some, a 3D approach means orienting all elements of national power around short-term political and security goals, defined by a very narrow interpretation of what constitutes US national interests. On the ground in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Colombia, this means orienting development and diplomatic efforts toward counterinsurgency military efforts. As a result, USAID dollars get spent in nations and communities where insurgency is growing rather than where development is most needed or possible. In this view, the Department of Defense "pushes a plough at the tip of a spear."

Many civil society groups shudder at the concept of a 3D or whole-of-government approach: for them, it has come to mean navigating a quagmire of hijacked NGOs and development dollars to fight the war on terror. They point to ever-increasing violence against humanitarian aid workers and shrinking humanitarian space, along with the increasingly blurry lines between civil society, political and military personnel and goals.

NGOs rightly resist being used as implementers in someone else's foreign policy strategy--especially when the strategy has little to do with principled poverty reduction and sustainable peace and development.

Thankfully, this is not the only model of a comprehensive approach to foreign policy. Ideally, a 3D approach to foreign policy means a more balanced budgeting of resources among development, diplomacy and defense; while bringing all elements of national power to issues of civilian protection and the broader human security of people and communities.

Today, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum (CPRF) launches its final report on A 3D Approach to Foreign Policy.

The CPRF is a facilitated, public forum using the principles of respectful listening and dialogue where this civil society-military dialogue and civil society-government dialogue can take place. The CPRF undertook this year-long series of dialogues because there seemed to be a small but growing discussion among policymakers in Washington DC supporting the goals of preventive action and identifying the need for greater investments in development and diplomacy.

What surfaces from the diversity of thought in this report are three more specific questions. First, "What are U.S. interests and goals for security and foreign policy in the 21st century?" Many speakers in the CPRF forum point to this underlying question. After all, development, diplomacy and defense are tools, not goals. These tools can be used to protect human security or to maintain US global dominance. While these goals may not be mutually exclusive, some have argued--as reported in the pages here--that there are times when we have to choose between overall human security and more narrowly-defined national interests.

This report also asks a second deeper question: "Will government, military, and civil society engage with each other in an approach that integrates development, diplomacy and defense strategies or rather, will a 3D approach recognize the importance of each and protect the unique mission and approach of development, diplomacy and defense strategies?" This ongoing discussion in Washington's policy corridors is far from over. One strand of this conversation is touched on here: this report covers some of the historical struggle between locating USAID under the control of the State Department's shorter-term political imperatives and creating a separate US Department of Development that could focus on longer-term development issues.

Finally, the report draws attention to the role of civil society in US foreign policy efforts to build global peace and security. What is the role of civil society--including religious leaders, media, NGOs, universities and other nongovernmental and nonprofit groups--in addressing the root causes of conflict and fostering processes for peace? How does civil society's unofficial diplomatic and development efforts in conflict-affected regions relate to the US interagency or whole-of-government approach? While civil society is not often "at the policy table" when assessment and planning takes place in Washington, they have much to offer these discussions. Specifically, civil society aims to influence the definition of security by highlighting core national values of democratic decision-making, human rights, and human development. How do relatively small but experienced civil society organizations have an impact on how conflict and security are understood; what goals for security are set; and what methods are used to achieve said security?

Conflict Prevention and Resolution Approach to Dialogue on US Foreign Policy
There is no consensus in these pages or among Washington's policymakers. What is clear is that the dialogue must continue. The sponsors of the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum draw on principles and practices that define our profession.

The field of conflict prevention and resolution, also known as peacebuilding, includes NGOs, religious leaders, media professionals, business and other public sectors. While this "peacebuilding community" shares many principles and programs with the development, human rights, and humanitarian sectors, it is also unique in a number of ways. These underlying principles of conflict prevention and resolution, rooted in the wider field of peacebuilding, form the foundation of the CPRF model.

1. Multi-Stakeholder Processes

Government, military and civil society are all necessary stakeholders when discussing foreign policy; no single group can build lasting peace or security without a comprehensive approach. Civil society actors heavily debate the principles and protocols for this multi-stakeholder comprehensive approach in terms of leadership and group relations. However valid these conflicts and concerns may be, they do not discount the core value of creating multi-stakeholder policy dialogues. The CPRF exists precisely because there are different points of view, and in order to find effective solutions, these diverse viewpoints must engage.

2. Engage and Build Relationships and Networks

The basic theory of change in conflict prevention and resolution is a strategy of engagement: change comes not out of isolation or separation, but from relationships, even when groups perceive themselves as vastly different from each other. Communication and networking among diverse stakeholders is also seen as important.

Civil society organizations involved in security sector reform; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and other reconciliation and broader peacebuilding efforts already share space and some goals with military actors in some regions of the world. Many of these civil society organizations have already determined that it is in their interest to set up clearer lines of communication with military actors and remain more open to the possibility of collaboration in certain contexts.

3. Conflict Assessment - Identify Differences & Common Ground
Dialogue forums such as CPRF serve as ongoing mechanisms for multi-stakeholder conflict assessment. At an operational level, conflict assessment processes increase understanding and transform perceptions between polarized groups by both identifying differences and exploring common ground. In this forum, the principles of facilitated dialogue help address conflicts in public and foreign policy.

At a time when many in the humanitarian aid community are ending or limiting any communication with the military, civil society organizations coming from the field of conflict prevention and resolution approach these challenges by walking toward the conflict rather than away from it. Conflict prevention and resolution processes help people with vastly different sets of experiences and beliefs find a way to both listen and talk with each other to foster better understanding. Learning to see the world from a different point of view is a first step in identifying key issues and exploring options for addressing tensions.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community