Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
“Our enemies are violent extremists who would deny us, and all mankind, the freedom
to choose our own destiny…We must find and defeat them in an environment where information, perception, and how and what we communicate are every bit as critical as the application of traditional kinetic effects.”
– Joint Staff, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace
DIME (diplomacy, information, military and economics) is a recent military term reinvigorated to remind the leadership and policy makers above them to consider national power as not limited to the military power alone. It was because of the political over-use of “M” that led to the push for a “whole-of-government” (WoG) approach within the national security apparatus; and particularly, the DoD. DIME(FIL) was added to include statecraft resources of financial, intelligence and law enforcement dynamics to be applied to the operational environments.
DIME was the DoD way to remind the White House Administrations that it can operationally achieve the missions given but is not equipped to substitute the other instruments of national power. The DoD was forced to increase the aspects of diplomacy, information and intelligence within its own institutional framework because the DoD had the full faith and backing of the president and because the demands and necessities ran high. Military diplomacy, military information operations and military intelligence took lead during the two major US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A weak usage of civil diplomatic power was given to the Department of State, which was also not prepared for nation building and stability operations in a high counter insurgency (COIN) environment. US civilian intelligence played a positive leadership role. The difference there was that there was more of a COIN and CT partnership, but an “I” for total intelligence was capitalized with Washington’s blessing.
In addition to the weakness of diplomatic power, even with the increase in funds and personnel and innovations- there was a weakness and lack of utilizing the “I” for information power. The US continually had the information disadvantage. Even at tactical local levels the information “I” was not a total commitment tool of American power. What the US got out of Iraq and Afghanistan was a strong “M” and intelligence “I”; a weak information “I” and an even weaker “D”.
High marks must be given for “F.” Hundreds of billions of US dollars in economic and security assistance and construction at the final stages of troop withdrawal in Iraq and now Afghanistan have been the real choice tools. So the US mainly put the nation’s effort into the “M”, the intelligence “I” and the “F” to work and they got a short-term reconstructed [but democratic] state within these two countries. Naturally the issue in Iraq is that the lack of a political solution using enough of “D”; while a partial “E” in a robust petroleum potential state. A failure to divide into three ethno-religious states because of a lack of “D” and dependent on “M” and EIF.
In Afghanistan, Opium is king and “E” has been more difficult to justify; while “F” is keeping the government and the Afghanistan National Security Forces afloat. When “M” has left and “F” is depleted, the country falls from anything resembling the American dream, as does Iraq in almost all likely outcomes. This cannot be more frustrating than for an agent of “M” who successfully completed what was asked, only to find out that DIEFIL have all failed or not pulled their weight.
Obviously, US political thinking became bogged down in the two conflicts, than Pakistan and Yemen and now Syria, Egypt and Africa. The spill-over of violence beyond Central Asia and now Africa unleashed massive international jihadist disruption and state political instability. All of this reflects an overuse of “M” to target and eliminate only immediate tactical and limited operational threats. While in hindsight DIMEFIL lacked a US strategic process at the highest levels, this should not continue.
What has always been neglected in the US has been faith in modern diplomacy. When diplomacy is used as a state resource, it is not in any driver seat leading any crusade. It continues to play a backseat role to “M”, intelligence “I”, “E” or “F.” Often these letters are thought to take a substitute role for “D” and its brother information “I”.
At a semblance of a strategic level, the US relies on MEFIL (military, economics, financial, intelligence and law enforcement). The reason this is not a complete strategic level and will continue to be void of one is that to operate at the highest channels of strategy, a state must move beyond the operational and theater commands and beyond the military nuclear deterrence of the Cold War, and beyond force postures and so forth and move into the political dimension at the top. There is a mastery of DIMEFIL in all areas but “D” and information “I”.
One rarely thinks of diplomacy dominance but it is possible to have the best diplomacy in the world, like the US military, far superior to any other. This is not the case. The superiority of the US military is first based on a strategy to be dominant. The US State Department does not have the equivalent. Secondly, the US could be the leader of sparking an international progressive diplomacy and innovation movement while setting higher international norms.
Also, it is possible for nations to develop superiority in the field of diplomacy unilaterally by enhancing their comparative natural advantage. A US foreign affairs strategy could set the WoG that incorporates DIMEFIL with the “D” in the leadership role. Strategic diplomacy and strategic information has never been needed more in US history than at this moment right here and now. Having a grand foreign strategy and strategies that use diplomacy and information are vital to long-term US national security and interests and yet they remain in disrepair.
As of now, there are is a strategy for national security, national defense and the military. Objectives of each of these instruments of US national power must be run through programs and operations. But at the highest level, the diplomacy, information and intelligence and other strategies should be guided by a grand US foreign affairs strategy that encompasses a grand mission, vision, and values. While the objectives will change and the operations will come and go, the benign US mission and highest elements of the grand strategy do not. These would reflect the fixed political principles that will be projected with the American sphere of influence.
Information operations are not and should not be restricted to military or intelligence operations. In fact, it should be separate but also concerted with diplomacy, military, intelligence and the rest of DIMEFIL. Public Diplomacy (PD) and strategic communications (SC) are needed on a massive scale to combat international jihadism, future non-state actors and authoritarian state information agencies and efforts challenging the US identity and influence. All of this could use an international communications strategy to coordinate it under the foreign affairs strategy.
Power is slowly taken away through growing ideological threats and political fallback to tyrannical systems of governance. What we are witnessing right now is a war of vision and perception that will not immediately be apparent but that over time erodes the present liberal framework and institutionalism of international rule of law that was put in place in the 1990s. It is less of a “clash of civilizations” and more a resistance to globalization and modern development. Without the “D”, the information “I” in the lead two roles, the US will not have a unifying purpose for enhancing global political stability. This will impair the US ability to use MEFIL (military, economy, financial, intelligence and law enforcement) for future operations and crises.
Moreover, aside from focusing on the “D” and information “I”, the US government must also incorporate the intelligence “I” to the maximum capacity and learn to fuse these three chords of power together. The use of MEFL are already very strong. The strategic battle space is truly one of perception and information. These four national instruments of state are America’s first line of security, mitigation and prevention of all long-term threats and obstacles against the American Way. This is where the “D” and the two “I’s” come in to secure a strategic global political dominance of perception, information and the power to influence and alter hearts and minds. Then FEL are not far behind. While in transition toward these grand goals, the “M” can take care of the rest [managing the immediate and present dangers in an active ready-defense posture].