14 March 2009

Small Wars Council on blogging and public diplomacy

The other day I mentioned that blogging allows the military to conduct public diplomacy with the civilian portion of the United States, a critical function since the professional military corps, if not careful, can be a cloistered segment of the population. Neither group can effectively function without intimate knowledge of the other.

I've mentioned it a few times, but some great minds at the Small Wars Council have elaborated on it in detail. Let's examine a few threads.

The first thread regards the requirement that students at advanced military courses post blog entries on valid military topics and even debate these topics at the Combined Arms Center. Let that sink in--for as long as I've been maintaining a blog (2003 at Livejournal), the art of blogging has gone from something only a small, fringe group did with strict anonymity, to a near-outlawed activity, and now has come full circle to something that's not only encouraged, but mandated by professional military courses. In that particular thread, a number of military and defense professionals debate whether or not blogging should be mandated. The Director of Strategic Communication for the Combined Arms Center seems to think so, stating that he felt that we should "embrace it as our duty as members of this time honored profession... a duty to continue to share the stories of our Soldiers and their families. Once we see it in that light, the rationale and reasoning behind the program becomes obvious."

Two questions regarding public diplomacy arise. The first is whether or not this could help to bridge the gap between the military and civilian sectors (which it could, potentially). And secondly, how large is that gap? A number of posters weigh in on the issue at a second thread and discuss militarism and anti-militarism. Surprisingly, a number of professional military officers (including yours truly) are supporters of anti-militarism, with "militarism" being the notion that military force is the primary means of solving most issues. Anyone who's heard Secretary of Defense Robert Gates extol the virtues of "soft power" know that this isn't just hippie-speak. In fact, as poster Ken White mentions, a former Army Chief of Staff had the following to say about anti-militarism within the United States:

Well, anti-militarism is a train that makes us what we are. We ought to be proud of it. We ought to understand it, instead of being agitated by it. We're not going to be loved; at least we can be respected.

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