Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Scene in the Rearview Mirror Just Overtook the Ship of State

Last week, and continuing with each update, we have been visited with visions from hell on earth, as the people of Haiti and those whom have responded try to stop the sounds and smells of what for millions has been an apocalypse. The story will not fade and will continue to expand and overtake our view of the future.

The United States and a host of countries from Europe to Asia have sent help in the forms of rescue teams and what supplies could be moved by air. Logistically this is like surrounding villages each sending a fire engine to fight the Chicago Fire. In turn, the United States was able to respond with whole fire brigades in the form of first, the Coast Guard, and then the Army, via the 82nd Airborne, then the Navy and Marines with the heavy lift capabilities. To get an idea of what this means for both the United States and our position in the world we turn to Galrahn at Information Dissemination who has two must read posts introducing and updating the role that the U.S. Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force are playing in this tragedy.

On Friday morning as you wake up and read this post, there will begin to be media panic that chaos is breaking out throughout Port-au-Prince. The State Department and SOUTHCOM have hopefully already predicted this event in the unfolding crisis. We are entering a 48-72 hour phase where the absence of physical security becomes a contributing factor to the existing catastrophe. It will not be an indicator of failure however, even if it may be suggested as such on TV as hours and hours of coverage unfold over a three day weekend in the United States. It should, however, serve as a reminder that failure to set expectations with strategic communications by US government leadership to both our citizens and the world over the last 48 hours will have set back our global strategic communications efforts made in the emerging soft power campaign.

Read more:

The Calm before the Storm in Haiti

Galrahn continues to cover this story with insight and in this post a review and look forward, where the real challenge will begin.
There are many reasons to be cautiously optimistic, even if the images that will beam into your television screen over the next 48 hours are likely to leave one with a different impression. The President dispatching the Secretary of State to Haiti was an important political and strategic move in support of Haiti, because it sends exactly the right message to the rest of the world. It is unlikely that most Haitian people in Port-au-Prince were even aware of her visit.

The issue is time. The time for recovery operations will end in the very near future and transition to becoming the largest relief operation in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The purpose of Hillary Clinton's visit is many fold, but basically the Secretary of State trip was strategically important to buy time for the United States, the United Nations, and the government of Haiti. Lets briefly examine in reverse order.
Read more:
Monday Begins 4th Fleet Week in Haiti

This massive response could be argued that the location, being a next-door neighbor makes it easy or incumbent to act. That said our nation and specifically the U.S. Navy has had a history of responding to earthquake disasters stretching back over 100 years.

During the voyage of the Great White Fleet  in 1907 the following word was recieved while on a stop in Egypt that an earthquake had occured in Sicly and four ships were dispatched to aid in rescue and recovery.
Earthquake at Messina.

Later, when an earthquake struck Yokohama, Japan in 1923, the U.S. Navy dispatched 4 destroyers to aid the city. All Ships Aiding Relief.

This kind or response has been a hallmark of the kind of soft power that the United States Navy has used every since. The 21st Century has seen two global disasters where only the projection and response power of the American Navy was capable of such a response. How this fits into our long term global strategy has been discussed and written about by Thomas Barnett beginning with his landmark grand strategy book The Pentagon's New Map and Great Powers; America and the World After Bush. Barnett explains how our response to such global disasters fits into his vision of a grand strategy in this interview with talk radio's Hugh Hewitt. Thomas P.M. Barnett's long view of how to revitalize Haiti.

One other post caught my eye this week that in many ways fits into America's grand strategy and the use of soft power to parry the thrust of what author John Robb calls, Global Guerrillas in his book Brave New War. Blogfriend, Mark of Zenpundit continues to be the gold standard for finding relevant links. In this post, he leads off commenting on Robb's most recent words on the role social networking can play in combating the forces that threaten our transition to the next level of the social integration of societies.
Long term, I think this is correct and that Robb is, as usual, ahead of the curve on what will become the zeitgeist in the next few decades ( I will add that this evolutionary path appears to be happening much faster than I had considered, by at least 15-20 years). The movement in the 21st century will be toward networked civilizations on one end of the spectrum that will be pretty nice places to be and on the other, a kind of emergent, hypermobile, barbarism where life is hell on Earth.
Read more:
Robb Throws Down the Gauntlet

The overriding strategy is to remember in a connected world where billions now have access to cell phones twitter, facebook and the every media with a website; perception is everything. The treasure spent helping our fellow human’s pays priceless dividends in building bridges and trust among people and nations. Besides, even more importantly, it is the right thing to do for our fellow humans in need.

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