Friday 01 August 2014

Strategies are useless without effective implementation, so strategic leaders need an understanding of the tools of national power and the ways they may be used to implement policies. National power is best defined by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. as “the ability to effect the outcomes you want and, if necessary, to change the behavior of others to make this happen.” Most commonly, implementation at the national level involves one or more of four key instruments of power: diplomacy, economics, military and information. Diplomacy is the continuous conduct of negotiations with regard to the full range of national issues between representatives of states. International treaties are usually negotiated by diplomats prior to endorsement by national leaders. Diplomats represent their nations in embassies worldwide and within international organizations, maintaining the dialog that dominates foreign relations; cessation of diplomacy traditionally leads to conflict. More informally diplomacy uses tact to gain strategic advantage or to find acceptable solutions to national challenges. 

National economic power is the allocation of resources and the apportioning of goods and services, for reasons of policy or to foster national goals. It may include economic pressure or sanctions, as well as economic incentives such as aid and favorable trade relations. The economic instrument of national power is only partially controlled by governmental agencies, indeed, the private (business) sector wields significant economic power through foreign investment and trade, which may not be subject to national controls. Even so, for many nations, economic power is their most influential tool of statecraft.

Military power is more than the sum of the armed forces of a nation. Military power should include the capabilities of intelligence, surveillance, arms sales, international military training and education and other like capabilities that nations can use to influence other states using defense resources. In its ultimate form, military power dominates (but never replaces) the other instruments in time of war, but it can also develop significant leverage in peacetime.

National information power includes efforts to engage audiences to develop conditions favorable for the advancement of national interests through the use of tailored messaging. It traditionally includes public affairs, public diplomacy, information operations and other communications efforts. From the most simplistic press release, to speeches given by national leaders, to messages sent via Ambassadors or other emissaries, to more complex approaches such as disinformation, propaganda and even national branding, information can be a tremendously powerful instrument of foreign policy. 

Some analysts argue that law enforcement or intelligence should be considered as tools of statecraft, but in most cases those capabilities are subsumed within one of the other four instruments mentioned above. For example, international law has been used as tool to obtain the return of the UAE’s three occupied islands, but to date that effort has been pursued largely using diplomatic tools. Scholars such as Colin Gray have used the terms “hard” and “soft” power, with the former being achieved through military or economic threats or use, and the latter gained through influence or by co-opting others to share values (mostly using diplomacy and information) and ascribe to a common agenda for international security. Hard power in Gray’s view involves calculable costs and benefits, while soft power works more subtly through persuasion and attractive ideas. In the case of the UAE, cultural influence may also play an important role in exerting power. There is no doubt that the UAE can exert significant soft power among other nations by setting an example or by taking a stance designed to align with cultural values. The effective coordination of these four instruments to achieve national interests is the utmost challenge of national leadership.