USN Public Diplomacy in West Africa

More public diplomacy brought to Africa by the military. From Stars & Stripes:

Sailors from the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land have been working to build better relationships in Gabon one wrench turn at a time.

Dozens of sailors from the ship’s 1,400-member crew worked with the Gabonese navy and made repairs on two of its ships during a visit to the West African country’s Port Gentil.

The visit, which ended Friday, was the second stop on the Land’s current Gulf of Guinea deployment. The deployment is the ship’s second to the region in two years.

“These are not liberty port calls,” said Capt. Michael D. Budney, commander of the ship based in La Maddalena, Italy. “These are working ports.”

The ship is in the region as part of the U.S. European Command’s bid to strengthen everything from security in the area to relationships between the U.S. and nations around the Gulf of Guinea, which has large oil reserves.

But Land’s sailors have been more focused on the basics, strengthening those relationships at the lowest level, between sailors and their host-nation counterparts.

This is a great opportunity for interaction. How will we carry the goodwill forward? Will the locals treasure toys of US military ships or aircraft like the C-130 toys in Pakistan? We need to consider building upon these foundations for long-lasting relationships. The Pentagon is not the place to establish and maintain civilian relationships. We have the finest military in the world but do we want our global interface to be uniforms and weapons of war or something else? We could also throw in here the ever expanding stories (I still need to get to Bremer’s book) on how Rumsfeld himself shorted the civil affairs, er, reconstruction effort in Iraq.