All the Elements of National Power

Michael Miklaucic and Cathleen Pearl | March 2016

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This article is from the “Women, peace, and inclusive security” edition of PRISM—a top defense and security studies journal—which was co-produced by Inclusive Security and the National Defense University. Read the full issue.

Such is the diversity and proliferation of threats to the security of the United States and its allies that all the elements of national strength must be mobilized to meet the challenge. As we confront this onslaught, in a time of fiscal constraint, it is especially imprudent to tap only 50 percent of our population in support of national and international security. Failing to realize the human capital represented by women and other frequently excluded constituents weakens our ability to provide for the common defense and protect our interests around the world. Two of our authors write, “Politically and militarily we have consistently drawn from less than half of our available talent.” Noteworthy, and noted by authors in this issue of PRISM, our adversaries, including Boko Haram and ISIS, do not make the same mistake.

Terrorism, transnational crime, drug trafficking, cyber threats, hybrid warfare, climate change, mass migration and more have complicated the security environment in unprecedented ways. Whether these constitute an existential threat to the U.S. is debatable. While the gravity of these threats is contested, some believe that, “ISIS and al-Qaeda pose an existential threat because they accelerate the collapse of world order…”1 Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently stated, “In my 50-plus years in intelligence, I don’t know if we’ve been beset by a more diverse array of challenges and crises around the world.”2 We can say with certainty that the accumulation of new threat vectors, compounded by more traditional dangers has thrown the national security community into disarray. Faced with such diverse challenges, the U.S. and its allies must step up with a response equally diverse, flexible, and adaptive.

As the era of the U.S. “big footprint”—manpower-intensive military interventions—winds down, the U.S. will inevitably depend to an ever greater degree on capable partners abroad to protect shared security interests. A regrettable truth, however, is that the number of capable partners available for such burden sharing is dwindling, even as our traditional European and Asian partners are struggling to meet their own local security challenges. Therefore, the interests of the United States, and its allies, are served by supporting state consolidation thus expanding the pool of capable partners to meet the unprecedented security challenges of the 21st century.

Better partners will only emerge through more balanced development and security. It has long been established that the quality of a state’s economic and civic development is directly correlated to the active participation of women in economic and civic life. Several of the articles in this issue of PRISM indicate that there is also a strong correlation between effective gender equity and inclusivity, and a state’s propensity to engage in violence, either domestically or internationally. The contributions and potential of women particularly to conflict resolution and sustainable peace are well established and documented. The case of Mongolia’s successful transition from communism to democracy, described in this issue, was built on the robust participation of Mongolian women. Thus, it is in our interest to encourage the building of inclusive security in our partners; not just for their own sake, but also for ours. Only reliable and capable states, not at war with themselves, make effective partners in the struggle for order, peace, and prosperity in the world.

The burden does not fall on our partners alone. In order to support inclusive security abroad, it is incumbent upon us to adopt an inclusive security lens in our own security institutions, by which we mean not only the military, but all the elements of national strength. The diplomatic and economic elements, including development, are at least as important as the military. The authors in this issue of PRISM base their arguments in favor of gender mainstreaming on the criterion of security, and specifically better security. No less an authority on national security than former National Security Advisor, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Marine Corps Commandant General James L. Jones, Jr. USMC (Ret.) wrote in 2014 that what is needed is an “…approach to U.S. national security policy that leverages all tools of American power and statecraft.”3 Surely the most powerful elements of our strength as a nation is the American people—all of them.

This issue of PRISM is about charting a pathway to better mobilization of our diverse national strengths, throughout the fields of defense, diplomacy, and development. The articles help map critical relationships between women, peace, and security. We explore the roles that women have played, and will play in conflict, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace. Anachronistic stereotypes regarding gender roles make for bad policy when providing for the common defense. Often consigned to the role of victims of conflict, women are also agents of conflict and mitigators of conflict. Women can play important roles in conflict resolution, in peacemaking, and in peacekeeping. Perhaps most significant is their contribution to the quality of security. It is no longer enough to limit our notion of security to the survival of the state. The security of populations must be the goal for leaders today. Security must be inclusive.

Sixteen years have elapsed since the passage of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace, and Security” (UNSCR 1325).4 That resolution “called for women’s equal participation with men and their full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.”5 This multilateral effort reflects the growing recognition and understanding of the integral role gender plays in the global security environment. Progress has been made; as of 2015, 55 countries have adopted national action plans in support of UNSCR 1325. A U.S. “National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security” was published in December 2011, and some of the articles in this issue document progress made along the guidelines set forth in that plan.

Women have been playing critical combat roles in the U.S. armed forces, beginning in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, and, in late 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that there will be no exceptions to women’s eligibility for all military jobs in the U.S. armed forces. Women play and have played critical roles in today’s security institutions, both in combat, in support, in policy, and in leadership. Today, a cohort of female generals and admirals have already set a high standard for the over 200,000 women in the U.S. Armed Forces who follow in their footsteps.

Despite progress, integration of women in military operations worldwide has not been without challenges. Sexual abuse within armed forces in and out of conflict areas, as well as in peacekeeping operations is a serious issue and is the subject of intense examination and contentious debate. This is an important subject, and its ongoing scrutiny is vital, but it should not detract from the larger issue—the security of the United States and the American people.

The question is, have we done enough? Are we drawing consistently and systematically on all the elements of our national power to meet today’s national and international security challenges? Our authors write, as we “adapt to ever-evolving and complex threats, we cannot afford to draw from less than 100 percent of our talent pool.” Are we drawing from 100 percent of our talent pool? PRISM is not a journal of advocacy, but rather a venue for informed and rational discourse. The Editors’ goal is to further American and allied thinking about inclusive security, and to ensure this discourse is not marginalized or relegated to a niche populated by gender or diversity advisors. We hope to open the aperture and get past biases about gender roles, to better meet the challenges of national and international security in the 21st century.

This issue of PRISM, “Women, Peace, and Inclusive Security,” represents an innovative public-private partnership between the Center for Complex Operations at National Defense University, the Institute for Inclusive Security, and the National Defense University Foundation. Any shortcomings of the final product are those of the Editor, but the issue could not have been developed and produced without the contributions of all three. The extraordinary contributions of Michelle Barsa and Marie O’Reilly of the Institute for Inclusive Security merit special thanks. The enduring insight of this collaboration is that we should always err in favor of inclusion. This is not political correctness; this is being prepared for the future.

Michael Miklaucic is the Editor of PRISM, and Senior Research Fellow at National Defense University. Cathleen Pearl is the President and CEO of the National Defense University Foundation.

See the PDF (link below) for endnotes.

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