This is part III of a series of posts on my Smart Power Equalizer model. Part I introduced the model, graphically represented by an adaptation of the iTunes equalizer. Part II discussed the need to disaggregate the enemy (or simply “opponent”) to understand and contextualize the opponents. This post, part III, looks at Smart Power and Time.
Smart Power is the intelligent mixture of bullets and ideas to get somebody, a group or individual, to do what you want. Smart Power is, in reality, nothing new and at the same novel. What it brings is a realization and awareness of tools actually available to policy makers. Smart Power replaces the linear trade-off model of hard power, or the threat or actual use of bullets (or “kinetic” force) or other armed military coercive force, at one end of the scale and soft power, or the power of ideas, at the other.
Effective policies must not be based on binary applications of hard or soft power. This seesaw approach of increasing hard power requires a corresponding decrease in soft power does not fit in a world where offensive and defensive action can, and often must, happen on many fronts and even in multiple geographical locations simultaneously. There is no one single enemy and there is not one single theater of operation in connected modernity.
The parallelism of Smart Power puts it between Grand Strategy and Tactics at the level of Operational Art, a concept that is unfortunately missing from traditional diplomacy and inter-“state” activity. Smart Power is informed by Grand Strategy (one-way, although an argument could be made this is actually two-way) and it is informs and informed by tactics (two-way).
Too often we only think about isolated time slices in the application of power. The suitcase nuke in NYC rightly immediate focus on finding and disarming the device, but this can’t be divorced from the larger longer term reality. Attention must be put on the broader networks of facilitation that can be attacked and confronted (sometimes with kinetic force, sometimes and often not).
To show how Smart Power can be used, consider this counter-threat model against a terrorist group about to deploy a nuclear device. It is likely this imminent threat requires immediate military action, as depicted in the “pre-set” of Imminent WMD (ME) (with the clear implication that other groups and situations may require different emphasis). Remember Smart Power doesn’t mean we don’t put a bullet in somebody’s head. It may tell us in whose head would be the most effective use of the bullet or that, in fact, a bullet isn’t necessary (or necessarily from us) to achieve the desired outcome.
The Smart Power model shows full force on multiple fronts and high (overt) coercion. It does not ignore the sources of power by those responsible and their support networks, both explicit and implicit. It also does not consider the action isolated in time or perception.
The response is part propaganda in the derogative sense and part propaganda that informs to limit the effectiveness of opposing information operations. This multidimensional effort seeks to disconnect passive and active acceptance of the means to the end. Many of Hamas’ supporters don’t agree with their tactics but agree with their goals and without alternatives or discussions, their public has few, if any options.
Keep in mind that Smart Power is not about “winning hearts and minds”. On the contrary, Smart Power doesn’t give a damn if somebody likes us (often we really don’t care about their heart, that might follow), at the very least we want them to hate us less than our opponent. For example, in regions where clans and tribes dominate (often providing a greater unifying factor than religion although we like to simply and say Islam is the glue), we find internecine rivalries are suspended to repeal the attacker. Smart Power identifies this and offers appropriate tactics. All of which assume an element of time extending beyond the instant moment of now, but not by much.
Smart Power is applied over time and yet it benefits the immediate tactical level of now. It also allows dynamic adjustment of the sliders as it does not dictate a singular path but expects modification as barriers are overcome and discoveries are made overcome (such as additional networks of power and their vulnerabilities).
Remember a key to Smart Power is understanding the concept of power as understood by the opponent and not by us. Our opponent understands that. Finance and economics don’t mean much to al-Qaeda yet they understood the impact of hitting the World Trade Center. In other words, these aspects of power didn’t and don’t mean much to AQAM (generally) but yet they clearly understand how to impact us in those spheres of power. These elements aren’t important to them, or nearly as much as other cultural, social, and ideological areas of power whereas as Western society is based on financial and economic power, which OBL/UBL etc clearly understand. In general, we don’t have the equivalent cultural / societal understanding of how to hit AQAM. By looking at Smart Power as an Operational Concept we can bring to bear multiple pressures from multiple tools from different agencies, branches of government, and the private sector. We need to understand how (the collective yet individual) they operate to effectively strike at them. Too much force, just like too little force, may only create or encourage more enemies.
Thanks to AE for pointing out the lack of clarity on the point on AQAM’s understanding of our financial and economic power. Hopefully this revision makes it more clear.