Chilean airmen examine a U.S. Air Force unmanned aerial system Oct. 29 at Quintero Air Base, Chile during an information exchange for Operation Southern Partner.

Chilean airmen examine a U.S. Air Force unmanned aerial system at Quintero Air Base, Chile during an information exchange for Operation Southern Partner.

3 out of a 3-part series. 

Today, USNI Blog concludes its interview with Lt. Gen. Seip.

Q: What are the costs of ignoring Soft Power?

Seip: Great question – and that’s the case AFSOUTH (and many other commands) have to make when proposing new initiatives or funding requests. The future costs of inaction can be quite high. Soft Power done correctly goes a long way towards keeping US forces out of a future Iraq or Afghanistan fight. Soft Power can also assist partner nations in seeking regional solutions to common issues before these problems grow in magnitude and evolve into a ‘must-act’ crisis.

One example is the Regional Aircraft Modernization Program. In short, RAMP is an initiative to assist Central American nations in recapitalizing aging aircraft fleets. Budgets, manpower and significant ongoing costs can quickly make these types of purchases out of reach for some of these militaries. By regionalizing the solution, participants are able to work together to pool their resources and purchase helicopters, airlifters and multi-role aircraft.

Maintenance operations, pilot training and procurement costs are shared among RAMP participants. (For example, one nation may house depot maintenance facilities, while another concentrates on pilot training – nations share these resources instead of building all required pieces from the ground-up.)

During a natural disaster such as hurricane relief efforts, these nations will be able to assist themselves and each other – responding together using common training and equipment. Once these professionals have the tools for success, they’ll unlock a host of sovereign options for their nation.

What would be the cost of inaction? If we were to allow these aircraft to deteriorate to a level where they’re unable to assist their citizens during a disaster, the USAF would become a surrogate Air Force for these nations. Partner nations have the skills and ability to assist themselves – in fact, many Latin American Air Forces are older than the US Air Force – but if we don’t work together to address issues today – these ‘cracks’ could turn into ‘fractures.’

Q: What soft power books are on your recommended reading list?


Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat
By Robin Higham and Stephen Harris
By looking at how Air Forces have failed, we can help to put in place programs to assist our partner nations to address issues today – averting future catastrophes.

Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power Is Transforming the World
By Joshua Kurlantzick
The United States is not the only nation employing Soft Power – understanding the Soft Power operations of other influential nations is prudent.

The Battle for Peace: A Frontline Vision of America’s Power and Purpose
By General Anthony Zinni
General Zinni argues that working together with our partner nations is key to America’s future success. I couldn’t agree more.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Seip: Yes. It’s important to understand Soft Power is not a ‘silver bullet.’ Smart Power, the timely and well thought out employment of Soft Power combined with a nation’s diplomatic, economic, political, private sector and non-governmental orgs, as well as military capabilities, is the means by which our nation will be successful in engaging with partner nations across the globe.

By using Smart Power, the United States can help to address the regional and global emerging challenges of the future – averting a potential crisis years in advance. The men and women of Air Forces Southern are excited to be a part of these initiatives….they’re making a positive difference in Central, South America and the Caribbean every day.

The U.S. Air Force is indeed making a difference and I sure hope their soft power budgets are increased dramatically. I am talking about adding several zeroes to the end of whatever they spend today.

I plan on blogging extensively about Soft Power on these pages in the coming months especially about New Horizons, Operation Southern Partner, and Continuing Promise. I am biased but I feel Seip’s responses to my questions on this new mission are so thorough that they are indeed worthy of inclusion in any and all soft power textbooks! 

My sincere thanks to Lt. Gen Seip and Captain Nathan Broshear of his staff for making this interview happen. I suspect Lt. Gen. Seip won’t be a stranger to USNI Blog.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Soft Power

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  • davod

    Did the US ever stop using soft power?