ON-Lion Letter

The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia is assessing how to enhance U.S. capabilities -- defense, diplomacy, development, cultural, and informational -- to competitively engage in the contemporary security environment.

Most U.S. foreign-affairs analysts and practitioners focus on influencing foreign governments through traditional hard-power tools -- military and economic instruments with an admixture of diplomacy.  But this focus is problematic.  Competitions are taking place not only between governments, but also with sub-state actors -- terrorists, criminals, and corrupt elites -- within and across state boundaries.  More and more, these contests are political and require competitive soft power tools -- the use of ideas and narratives, culture, and expeditionary political operators -- to influence outcomes.
 
In order to compete in this environment, the U.S. must grow more comfortable in both employing and countering such competitive soft-power techniques and accept that the current strategic landscape is increasingly proliferating with "gray-area" security concerns that blur the lines between war and peace.
 
In early 2016, FPRI will launch a listserv including current and former practitioners and specialists from within and outside the U.S. government to discuss matters relating to competitive soft-power engagement.  It will also launch a bimonthly meeting in Washington, D.C., where individuals drawn from key offices and agencies within the U.S. government, the legislative branch, public-policy centers, nongovernmental organizations, and academia will meet to collaborate and help develop doctrine, tools, and skill sets to successfully prepare for and conduct such engagement.

The conveners of the listserv and seminar are Michael P. Noonan, director of research and director of the Program on National Security at FPRI, and Roy Godson, an FPRI senior fellow and emeritus professor of government at Georgetown University.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports FPRI.

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