Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Diplomat-Warrior: A Military Capability for Reconciliation and Peace

 By Rudy Barnes, Jr., September 3, 2016

            With the end of the Cold War in 1991 the forces of globalization began to reshape the world’s threat environment.  It began with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which initiated a U.S. response with Desert Shield/Storm—the first invasion of Iraq under President Bush, the elder.  It was successful in liberating Kuwait, but the later humanitarian assistance mission into Somalia by President Clinton was aborted after Blackhawk Down.  Then came 9/11.  It put the threat of Islamist terrorism into sharper focus—one that demanded an immediate military response.

            After two major invasions in the Middle East (euphemistically referred to as military interventions), first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, it now seems clear that a containment strategy is needed to replace one of military intervention.  The military capabilities needed for a containment strategy are unique since their primary mission is indirect.  It is to advise and assist indigenous (Muslim) security forces, and requires that U.S. advisers and trainers have the cultural and religious background and language capabilities needed to gain the trust and confidence of their counterparts while keeping a low profile in a hostile cultural environment.

            The diplomat-warrior is required to bridge the chasm between the diplomat corps of the State Department (DOS) and the military corps of the Defense Department (DOD).  To bridge that formidable interagency gap the diplomat-warrior must have attributes unique to military personnel.  Among existing military personnel, those attributes of Civil Affairs (CA) personnel most closely correspond to the diplomat-warrior; but the CA mission relates to local civilians, and does not include advising and training indigenous military personnel.

            The capability for diplomat-warriors could be a mix of CA and Army Special Forces (SF) personnel, since both are Special Operations Forces (SOF) within the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).  In fact, integrated CA and SF teams were commonplace in regional Special Action Forces that predated Geographical Combatant Commands and the creation of USSOCOM in 1986.  But since then turf wars within DOD have made the status of CA—whether it is a conventional or unconventional force—ambiguous.  It’s time to clarify that ambiguity and match military capabilities with the missions of a containment strategy.

            Conflicting bureaucratic cultures in DOD and DOS represent a daunting challenge for the diplomat-warrior.  Within DOD, the cult of the warrior prevails.  The direct action missions of the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s Seals are given priority within USSOCOM, but those super-warriors are unsuited for the indirect action missions of diplomat-warriors who must understand a foreign culture, speak its language and build the trust and confidence of indigenous forces to achieve their political objectives.  Too much emphasis on direct action missions within USSOCOM can undermine the support needed for the indirect missions of the diplomat-warrior.     

            Then there is the age-old friction between DOS and DOD personnel to further complicate matters.  Interagency conflict often jeopardized mission success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Diplomat-warriors must operate within the realms of both DOS and DOD to achieve U.S. political objectives, so that interagency bureaucratic conflicts must be reconciled to avoid jeopardizing mission success.

            Overcoming U.S. bureaucratic dysfunctions is only the beginning.  The primary challenge for the diplomat-warrior in the Middle East and Africa is a complex and shifting environment of conflicting national, ethnic, religious and tribal interests that defies peace in the region.  In the past only oppressive dictators like Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and Bashar al-Assad of Syria were able to maintain any semblance of order in the region.     

            The success of a U.S. containment strategy in such a volatile region requires diplomat-warriors who can navigate the hostile human terrain to promote political reconciliation among those seeking to divide and conquer their many—and constantly shifting—enemies.  The objective must begin with creating a semblance of order out of chaos and anarchy within realistic boundaries; and it must be based on Islamic principles and law (shari’a) that embrace fundamental freedoms that begin with the freedoms of religion and speech.

            Promoting reconciliation and peace in such a divided and violent environment requires a mix of religion and politics that may seem anathema to most Americans, but is the norm for most Muslims.  The beginning point should be the greatest commandment to love God and neighbor—with our neighbors including those of other religions.  It is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and it can be the foundation for a politics of reconciliation and peace in Islamic cultures since it supports the fundamental human rights essential for liberty in law.

            Islam is a religious and political ideology that can bring reconciliation, peace and justice to Islamic cultures, but only if shari’a embraces fundamental human rights that begin with the freedoms of religion and speech.  That can happen if Muslims in Islamic nations acknowledge the greatest commandment to be at the foundation of shari’a; and the first evidence of that will be the elimination of apostasy and blasphemy laws that are now so prevalent in Islamic nations.   

Notes and references:

On the need for the diplomat warrior whenever public support is a political objective of U.S. military operations, see The Diplomat Warrior, Military Review, May 1990, pp 55-63, at; see also Civil Affairs: Diplomat-Warriors in Contemporary Conflict, Special Warfare, Winter 1991, at  Generally, on the background and role of the diplomat warrior and concepts of legitimacy in U.S. policy and strategy, see Military Legitimacy: Might and Right in the New Millennium, chapters 5 & 6, at

For a more recent article on diplomat-warriors in Islamic cultures since 9/11, see Back to the Future: Human Rights and Legitimacy in the Training and Advisory Mission, Special Warfare, Jan.-Mar. 2013, pp 42-47, at

On the relationship of the greatest commandment to liberty in law, beginning with the freedoms of religion and speech, see

No comments:

Post a Comment