Power And Its Influence On Global Issues: The Perils of Soft Power
Maitland, President, Defence and Security Forum
1st and 2nd
GREEKS BEARING GIFTS. The phrase is serves as a warning
against potential deception by an adversary.
in 2016 – a force for common good,
can only go so far. There are times when it slips.
power - peacekeeping operations. Can be
hugely worthwhile, but there are human
frailties. Expectations can be too
high. Peacekeeping usually only works in a context of
resolved conflict. In unresolved conflicts they are
often produce more problems than they solve.
the point of peacekeepers if they do not keep the
From Rwanda to Bosnia, Haiti to Congo, failures raise questions about
UN Operations and their mandates.
just two weeks ago, ‘Violence in South Sudan kills two Chinese U.N
Peacekeepers.’ A third Chinese peacekeeper had been killed only weeks
before. The deaths illustrate the vulnerability of peacekeepers.
2016 until June, 3,499 Peacekeepers have been killed .
is that peacekeeping – soft power, can pay a hefty price,.
indeed real perils to soft power. It need not go the way it
Peacekeeping Mission is soft power at its best. They are
there to help countries torn by conflict to create conditions for
lasting peace. Last decades successes include Liberia, Sierra Leone and
Ivory Coast. To work, this requires local consent of the
parties, impartiality and non-use of force.
ago Ethiopia, China and Nepal Peacekeepers failed to act while foreign
women aid workers were raped by South Sudanese soldiers. A journalist
lies the dilemma
One of the
most vexing issues is the use of force by the United Nations
intervention in civil wars such as Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and
Rwanda has thrown into stark relief the difficulties faced by
of peacekeepers operating in situations where consent to their presence
and activities is fragile and where there is little peace to keep.
real failures and with it recriminations. Complex
- Is a peace
enforcement role for peacekeepers possible or is this simply war by
Nations find themselves on a soul-searching mission: how and
when should our blue-helmeted troops respond when civilians are under
threat or attacked?
- Should or
can the Rules of Engagement be changed?
to intercede with force in the 10 deadliest attacks between 2010 and
2013 in the warzones where they were sent. This included a
clash in South Sudan that killed 600 civilians, one in Darfur that
killed as many, and another that left 100 dead in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
perils are worse than ever. There are
currently 16 UN Peacekeeping operations...And there
is a price.
deaths recorded to end of June, 3,499 peacekeepers have been killed.
face different risks: terrorist groups, transnational criminal gangs,
and hateful ethnic militias.
becoming more complicated: increasingly involved with protecting
civilians, - and not as was the case 20 years ago, keeping warring
armies at bay.
mandates are not clear. The Peacekeepers can fire
when under personal attack yet they responded with
force in only one case in five when civilians were attacked.
There is a
constant refrain: why did not they respond when a village in the
Eastern Congo was attacked, 30 civilians killed.
Human Rights Watch said the UN troops just five miles away were ‘aware
of the attack but did not intervene’.
up two days later.
in 1994. The nadir of many lows of UN Peacekeeping.
desperate Tutsis sought refuge at a school where 90 UN troops were
based. Surely they were safe. The UN flag flew over the
peacekeepers were armed with a machine gun, planted at the entrance.
The Tutsis could not imagine they would stand by while people were
the UN command decided that despite warnings of impending genocide,
there were other duties to be done. The peacekeepers were ordered to
abandon the school and escort foreigners to the airport and out of the
soldiers left, Tutsis begged to be shot rather than be left to the
militia’s machetes. Within hours, 2,000 people at the school
were murdered by gun, grenade and blade.
later, matters were even worse. A detachment of
Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop a massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in
Srebrenica, a supposedly UN ‘safe area’ .
They were in fact overwhelmed by sheer numbers. When they did call for
help from the French in the area, it was refused. The Dutch
were forced to watch as the killings began before they
withdrew. The stench of shame about the abandonment has
remained to this day.
have been egregious failures elsewhere. The Somalia Tragedy in 1993
where the UN peace keeping mission failed miserably, resulting in the
tragic deaths of 25 Pakistani soldiers (54 injured) and followed by 18
US soldiers some of whom were dismembered and dragged through the
forward Ibrahaim Brahami with his report in 2000, when he said that the
UN had repeatedly failed to meet the challenge,’
reforms then began.
UN produced a new model including the ethos of ‘responsibility to
protect’. No longer would UN forces stand idly by while innocent people
Issues have still persisted
British forces landed in Sierra Leone after UN peacekeepers stood aside
or fled an advance on the country’s capital., Freetown, by a
notoriously brutal rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front. Indeed
several hundred Indian peacekeepers actually surrendered to the rebels.
A bitter row broke out between the British General Sir David Richards
and the Indian Major General Jetley as to the terms of
engagement. According to Richards, the Indians were
determined not to risk or lose a single Indian soldier’s life.
In truth the majority of peacekeeping soldiers conduct themselves
But In the
end it boils down to the fact that it goes against human nature to
expect foreigners to risk their lives to protect people they don’t
know, and to whom they have no relational connection or
Hence the importance of clarity UN peacekeeping missions .
They create the illusion of safety and doing something good,
but keeping up to that is tough.
Soft Power in the Middle East
Unintended consequences’ of the US led war on Iraq.
war, the idea was that soft power would bring stability and democracy. It did not.
new. Since the end of the Cold War, both Democratic and Republican
administrations have, in varying degrees premised policy on the notion
that economic incentives and other soft power can cultivate peaceable
democracies through the world, and friendly societies adhering to
Western liberal values.
Obama is correct to warn that flexing military muscle is not a
stabilising solution everywhere.
Iraq best epitomizes the dilemma that terrorism poses. The US can
provide air transport, put troops on the ground to defend Baghdad, it
may halt the advance of ISIS, but it can’t defeat it.
ideology is a tough one, because it cannot be controlled with the
bullet. It will just move elsewhere, such as Syria for instance.
Russia on the other hand, takes a robust military view. No soft power
here. Like it or not, in their view the Syrian situation can only end
with grinding the people down to a standstill. Not a pretty sight.
In the end,
the US must see that no amount of nation building
and economic aid will change the Middle East. It has to find its own
roadmap which is painful and frustrating to watch.
And sadly armies still trump economics. The reality
is that soft power cannot be a major diplomatic tool , it is only
effective when tempered with hard power.
power versus hard propaganda
you trust for reliable, honest and independent information?
BBC News is
the one that beleaguered people struggle to switch on to on their
radios. Citizens caught in war zones are
desperate to tune it. They know that the BBC is not pushing a
government political message.
of soft power surface in state orchestrated cultural programmes – which
often come across as just propaganda.
Pentagon calls it ‘psy-ops’, but the State Dept. and USAID
call it ‘information, ‘ all of it intended to influence local
funded Arts projects such as promotional films are seen as
propaganda, not helpful diplomacy.
in war zones want tangible improvements to their lives: fewer drone
attacks, night raids and airstrikes. When food, electricity, housing ,
transportation, water and sanitation are lacking, no amount of reality
TV will bring America’s adversaries closer to the American perspective.
The fact is
the US is not shy in using any resources at its disposal. Take the
USAID programme. Officially it is an international aid
programme, and does indeed useful work. But there is a darker side. It
operates subject to the foreign policy of the President, the
Sec of State and the National Security Council. Add to
that, the CIA.
USAID has run a multi-million dollar programme, disguised as
humanitarian aid, but in fact it was intended to incite rebellion in
Cuba and overthrow the government. The programme had two operations:
one to establish an anti-regime social network called ZunZuneo, and the
other to attract potential dissidents contacted by CIA agents posing as
tourists and aid workers. Indeed one ‘aid worker’
masquerading as a subcontractor was jailed for spying by the
Cubans in 2011.
The fact is
that where the US government is hostile to the government of a
country, USAID may be asked to undertake programmes that the
US govt. cannot be formally associated. This might include support for
opposition political movements that seek to remove the government, (Bay
of Pigs all over again, but failed). Such
‘political aid’ is criticised as being incompatible with USAID’s
their engagement with the US military has been severely criticised for
exposing USAID workers to the dangers of military
combat. For all that, the US government overall has
no qualms for political aid and joint-civilian military programmes to
go ahead in the interest of US geopolitical interests and to build
also have influence at the United Nations. The US can
use aid as a political weapon. Take
Yemen. In 1990 the Yemeni Ambassador to the UN
voted against a resolution for a US lead coalition to use force against
Ira1. The US Ambassador, Thomas Pickering
walked over to the Yemeni Ambassador and retorted, ‘That was the most
expensive No vote you ever cast.’ Immediately
afterwards USAID ceased operations and funding in Yemen.
Iraq. This time no pretence than that USAID’s
budget of $5.1b included a massive sum devoted to setting up democratic
elections. In hindsight – voting played a limited
role in reconciling religious divisions or combatting corruption in
went from bad to worse. Insurgency spread and
remains persistent with killings to this day. ISIS became the
unintended consequence of the US led war work. They
never understood the local culture, or sectarian identities. Their
mission was fatally flawed. They were carried away by ideals which
could not be met.
takes different tack
soft power means trade as well as development programmes.
is trading with the Philippines at the rate of $60 b. a
year . But soft power to merge into hard power as China seeks
to consolidate its position in the
region. In 1994, in an attempt to claim
disputed territory in the South China Sea, China built a massive
military base on Mischief Reef, well within the Exclusive Economic Zone
of the Philippines.
could not respond militarily to this provocation.
But, after a series of incidents it took the matter for adjudication by
the United Nations International Tribunal in Hague.
The finding came down overwhelmingly in favour of the
Philippines. Beijing firmly rejected the finding. Its state
news agency described the ruling as both ‘ill founded’ and ‘
null and void.’
is unlikely to rest there.
in the South China Seas has turned into hard power. Military spending
is up – both on the China side and the US. Manila has sought
more US military funding and made its bases more accessible to US
So long as
China continues to harbour a highly aggressive military strategy in the
South China Sea, its soft power initiatives will appear ineffective and
illegitimate. As an example, on the say day that
Chinese philanthropists established a Confucius Institute in Manila,
Chinese warships were believed to have tracked and targeted Philippine
ships just off Subic Bay.
about Chinese aid and the development programmes? Are there any strings
attached? First no questions are asked about the host
government structure, it could be murderous, autocratic, but the
Chinese policy, unlike US and Russia is to take no part in internal
politics no matter how unsavoury they might be.
comes in all shapes and forms, some are complete loans, debt
relief, others deferred long term repayments, above all
development finance which blurs aid with trade . They are building
biggest mosque in North Africa in Algeria; elsewhere they
have built hydropower stations, stadiums, hospitals, schools,
goods and materials, technical cooperation, medical and humanitarian
assistance, organised volunteer programmes –
published data, but it is believed there are nearly 3,000 development
projects in 51 African countries ie. 45% of their entire aid programme
overtaken US aid programmes by a large margin.
In truth aid, development finance and commerce programmes
have merged. China is entirely
professional in their approach. Businessmen arrive
already fluent, as I have seen in Algeria, perfect Arabic, French and
becomes tough when you look at their powers of negotiation
which are awesome, and always hugely in their
look at Russia.
propaganda machine has scaled great heights. President Putin
manipulates the local media mercilessly now he is turning it
to global audiences.
The state run news agency Sputnik has opened its first
British bureau for Russia Today TV, known as RT, using Edinburgh,
Scotland as its base. Hence The Times splashed on its front page
.’PUTIN WAGES PROPAGANDA WAR ON THE UK’.
Through this medium the West is portrayed as decadent, plagued by
racism and constantly betrayed by its elected representatives.
Radovan Karadzic was convicted of genocide and war crimes, RT declared
the UN tribunal a ‘kangaroo court.’ They are in
total denial of the Srebrenica massacre , and the same goes
for the Holocaust.
This war is headed by Dmitry Kiselyov, former KGB official, regarded as
the master of information warfare. He has been blacklisted by the EU
for his part as a propagandist in the 2014 military intervention in
Russians can sew division they will, and are hard at
it. They chose Scotland in the hopes that a divided
Britain will be less obstructive to the Kremlin.
They dislike the UK for being vociferous member of the UN Security
Council, and champion for sanctions against Putin.
campaign is part of Russia’s military doctrine which specifies the use
of ‘informational and other non-military measures’
We have already witnessed them hacking into the Democratic Party,
releasing 20,000 stolen emails, many of them embarrassing to US party
leaders giving rise to the suspicion that Russia is trying to subvert
the US presidential elections and gather support for Donald Trump who
already has close commercial links in Russia.
Russia’s propaganda mission is to sow doubt about incumbent governments
and undermine trust between Europe and the US.
US, they bankroll the political parties they prefer such as Marine Le
Pen’s National Front and have contacts with several insurgent populist
parties across Europe.
misinformation campaign in Ukraine reached new heights when they
claimed that the Malaysian civilian airliner shot down over eastern
Ukraine (by Russian weapons fired by Russian-trained men) was in fact
the work of the Ukrainian government.
Indeed they do extremely well in post Soviet states where they work on
proxy groups where Russian is the dominant language. There
they can exploit residual Soviet sentiment. For
radical nationalist movements and younger generations, they offer the
narrative of a rising Russia and of a new pole of Euroasian
civilization that is challenging the United States othodoxy. Huge
effort in this regard is being pumped into the Baltic states who are
already extremely unsettled by the military excercises taking place
And so it goes on.
Nothing new here.
And when it descends into Russian propaganda war, then my recipe is
clear. We need to be more vigilant. Lies must be dispelled
swiftly by facts. The longer false rumours are generated by
these television channels, the broader they are spread
by social media, the more difficult it becomes to
counter the Russian narrative.
I would like to see more funding into the BBC World Service, BBC World
News TV, trusted and reliable sources of information particularly when
broadcasting into Russia.
Anything we can do to broaden sources of information should be
encouraged. Mr Putin’s power at home, and his swagger abroad hinges on
his monopoly of information.
That cannot go unchallenged.
Soft power has become a bitter battle ground. The
digital age has ushered in new weapons in cyber warfare. Digital
density has raised the stakes, be it hacking 20,000 emails from the
Democrats, to manipulating social media, More
effective in the developed world. Less so Africa.
The most useful peg is via sports and the arts, but then it readily
lends itself to social and political manipulation.
In the end I believe that soft power inevitably ends up hard, thus
becoming a paradox. Tangible power is all that matters, not intentions.
Entry into a country’s psyche via culture has its inherent limits.
Soft power in my view cannot prevent war. Idealists believe that
culture, and trade can create a relationship, the two lasting pillars
of stability. The fact is we cannot identify a single,
isolated or rogue pariah state that has responded
positively. Soft power does not deter North Korea from launching a
missile, Al Qaeda did not pull back in the face of very generous soft
power, in fact their recruitment went up.
Soft power did not solve the Middle East. It
cannot. In the end hard power overwhelms and triumphs.
It can also be said that hard power is the key to stability. Having the
strength to move forward is tough, it demands judgement. Failed in
Iraq’s second war. Failed in Iraq’s first war for not going far
enough. Saddam’s forces was reportedly down to their last two
weeks supply of bullets.
My instinct is that any country should be clear in their own mind about
what returns they expect to emerge from a massive investment in soft
power. It can be immensely positive but not in the face of a
politics mean being firm and clear about your position, and then by all
means talk, talk, talk. Then roll in soft power and all its
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