Ever wonder what happened to public diplomacy?Â â€œHeartsâ€ and â€œmindsâ€ clogged the talk showsâ€™ airwaves and pundits pontificated about soft power until an Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy was finally appointed in July 2005.Â I think they still hate us out there, but the closest Washington gets to public diplomacy nowadays is proclaiming the limits of a â€œmilitary solution.â€Â
Changing hearts and minds starts with one thing: shared interests.Â If we can identify that shared interest, then nothing should stop our diplomats and others from taking it and running with it as far as possible.Â The problem these days is that shared interests are too often viewed as rare, and resident primarily among the willing coalitionists.Â We are missing a great opportunity.Â
The most widely shared interest among nations (albeit with a few exceptions) is the protection of their civilian populations.Â Thatâ€™s what homeland security is for.Â The U.S. happens to be a late comer to this game, but weâ€™ve dumped more treasure and energy into the antiterrorism pursuit that any other nation.Â Today, weâ€™ve made significant progress in a wide range of capabilities crucial to protecting against terrorism attacks on our civilian population.Â We ought to do a better job of sharing those capabilities with others, especially reluctant partners facing the political turmoil and violence threatened by terrorism.Â
I wrote about this in a paper for the Center for the Study of the Presidency in 2005.Â In suggesting NATO is a sunk cost that could be engaged better by the U.S. to meet more relevant threats, my point was that the global pursuit of homeland security could help to combat the global discontent with the West, and the U.S. in particular.Â NATO is an easier starting point for the U.S. because there we still have a significant amount of political influence with the governance structure in place to combine resources focused on mutual security.Â Â Hereâ€™s an excerpt from that paper:Â
NATOâ€™s unique map of nearly sixty countries represents the only multilateral consultative environment in the world wherein the U.S retains a significant â€“ albeit underutilized â€“ political advantage.Â Creative U.S. leadership of NATO in the 21st century can foster a better consensus between the U.S. and the many other countries within that framework for how to combat the evolving threat posed by terrorism.Â This would include a targeted mix of security cooperation efforts and deeper dialogue on counterterrorism best practices.Â Ultimately, such leadership must serve as the basis for greater cooperative efforts in crucial regions that serve U.S. security and foreign policy interests.Â
The first five years of the war against terrorism demonstrated the importance of developing trust and confidence with non-traditional allies, namely those in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Â U.S. national and homeland security interests would benefit from developing innovative security assistance relationships as it would garner more confidence and trust among countries in those regions that have not assumed entrenched anti-American positions.Â NATO offers the potential to assist in developing capabilities for counterterrorism (defeating terrorists) and antiterrorism (protecting civilians) as the new currency of cooperation.
NATO already pioneers a set of targeted programs for this purpose, including the Program of Work on Defense Against Terrorism, the Mediterranean Dialogue, Security through Science, the NATO Counter-terrorism Technology Development Programme, and their partnerships through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center.Â
Other options exist for developing capabilities and a shared understanding of the threat posed by terrorism and other 21st century dangers.Â The U.S. should take a leadership position by exporting the best practices, capabilities, and even technologies to countries susceptible to both the threat of terrorism and anti-western sentiment, which is not restricted to the Middle East.Â
A promising recent example is a small scale partnership that led the Dominican Republic to develop its port and maritime trade infrastructure in ways that both secure the infrastructure and better facilitate vital trade.Â The U.S. joined with the support of SOUTHCOM and the U.S. Coast Guard.Â
The director of the International Harbor Security Program in the Atlantic said according to this release that â€œsince 2004 Dominican Republic has utilized mechanisms and procedures in harbor security, and even managed to have the sanctions lifted, which had prevented the countryâ€™s ships to use U.S. ports freely.â€Â
Now the DR is being encouraged toÂ share those practices, know-how, and basic return-on-investment rationale with neighboring countries.Â It could be a sign of whatâ€™s come if the U.S. actively joins the effort on a broader scale.