Tags: Allies, Cooperation, Navy, Soft Power
Against future irregular threats, cooperation is the name of the game. This is the message of a new Navy Vision [pdf] signed off by chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead in January. The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower highlights the unique position of the US Navy to “leverage access to the maritime domain and cooperate with partner navies and security forces to dissuade, deter, and defeat irregular threats at sea and ashore”. Specifically, the Vision argues for confronting irregular challenges with:
- “Increased effectiveness in stabilizing and strengthening regions, by securing and leveraging the maritime domain, with and in support of national and international partners.”
- “Enhanced regional awareness of activities and dynamics to include a deeper understanding of ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic characteristics and norms.”
- “Increased regional partner capacity for maritime security and domain awareness.”
- “Expanded coordination and interoperability with joint, interagency, and international partners.”
These objectives are spot on and follow my own thinking. However, probably the most important point is buried in the middle of the paragraph on the last page:
“[The Vision] recognizes the value of presence, of “being there,” to maintain adequate levels of security and awareness across the maritime domain, and restrain the destabilizing activities of non-state actors”.
Discussions of grand strategy and national security so often devolve into debates over hard power. Yet, however unsexy, the most powerful weapon is most often found in allies and relationships. Using the US military to train Brazilian medics or rebuild Nicaraguan health clinics is not about humanitarianism, it is about making friends and making friends stronger. In the domain of irregular threats, knowing whom to call can be more powerful than any weapon system. Call it Rolodex power, and more than any other branch, the Navy’s got it.
Crossposted on Conflict Health.