Welcome to StrategicDepth.org, a blog about statecraft, security, foreign policy, and international relations, and anything else we deem relevant. In a way, we’ve been blogging about these topics for years, if you allow us to define blogging to include conversations, emails, Facebook & Twitter posts. But sapientis est ordinare, so this site is our project to collect and order our thoughts.
Ultimately, everything is connected to everything, so we reserve the right to blog about almost anything. But in practice this blog will have a few main focuses:
- International relations and foreign policy
- Security: national security, human security, etc.
- Terrorism, especially counterterrorism strategy and messaging
- Political theory, especially the classical and American traditions
- Strategic messaging, disinformation, and democracy
I am an American by nationality; a New Yorker by birth and sports allegiance; German, Baltic, and a few others by ethnicity. My academic background—a liberal arts BA, one complete and one almost-complete MA—ranges from political theory, American history, international relations, strategic communication, and national security studies, to theology, philosophy, Jewish and Christian scriptures. I’ve also done quite a bit of languages and linguistics, thanks to the kind of close relationship with Tolkien that only an only-child can develop: I like to read Old English and Gothic, as well as numerous other ancient and modern languages. Expect the occasional Middle-Earth analogy in my posts.
I am of a personality type that sees patterns and systems and makes connections between disparate data. So while I hold some views you might expect of a European-American Catholic (among other things), you may find me applying them in different ways from my “typical” co-opinionists. I value better understanding of opposing views in order to further enrich this approach, rather than to eliminate all my biases. Biases, whether intellectual or cognitive, are deeply human and hard to avoid, so claiming to be unbiased is not only dubious, it’s so common as to constitute its own type of bias. Being aware of your biases and honest about them seems to me to be more useful and realistic than thinking you’re objective when you’re not. So I offer the following to help you navigate my biases to a greater knowledge of things.
Though my blog is new, my ideas are not; I’ve come to approach these topics with my own perspectives and emphases. Here are a few that will recur, and hopefully serve as a unified starting point for further exploration:
- The Strategic View. What do we hope to accomplish by a given policy? What are our larger strategic objectives? How can we act more strategically, with a view to the long term, rather than reacting to crisis after crisis? This is the nation-level application of living and acting intentionally.
- All the Tools of Statecraft. There are a handful of tools that are traditionally listed (diplomatic, military, economic, etc.), but almost anything can be a tool of statecraft if we are deliberate and strategic about it. I hope to highlight (and encourage) statecraft that shows resourcefulness and imagination in the service of our strategic objectives.
- Realism. This is the fruit of a significant epiphany. I always thought having ideals (like moral standards or popular involvement in government or objective truth) meant you were an idealist. But ideals or not, being realistic seems self-evidently desirable. So I’m a big fan of Aristotle’s approach: of deducing ideals from the nature of things, and the nature of things from, well, the things. Ultimately realism helps identify and clarify ideals (assuming they’re true ideals and not simply pet beliefs), and informs practical and effective ways of working toward them. The last two bullets are for me corollaries of Realism.
- Pessimism. By temperament I’m an idealist and an optimist, which means in part that I believe in working for things b/c they’re right even if the outlook seems bleak. But I also believe that it is the nature of this world to be always perfectible, but never fully perfected. This is where I propose that seeking a perfect world is actually more harmful than seeking a better world, and that working for a better world requires innovation and imagination, but also caution lest we throw out institutions whose full worth we may now take for granted.
- Soft Systems. For me this is another corollary of Realism. Soft systems are simply ones that includes a human element. As such, they are never fully predictable, involve a wicked complex of stakeholders, and are not solved so much as managed. This is very hard for a typical American to accept: We like to address challenges, solve things, win wars, invent gadgets, … and then move on. But it may be that being a Great Power requires us instead to have modest but enduring involvement in foreign affairs through numerous Tools of Statecraft. The alternative is waiting until those affairs boil over into a security or humanitarian crisis, finding we have limited options, and begging stakeholders to take actions that we could have incentivized through a thousand careful, deliberate acts of influence.
The co-administrator of this blog, I am a multicultural citizen and a proud African. I was born in Tanzania, my parents are from Uganda but lived outside their country for more than forty years in Kenya, the United States and Switzerland. I grew up in Kenya and lived in South Africa for several years. My work took me to South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Senegal, Angola, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Malawi. It also took me to Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the Phillipines, United States and United Kingdom. I now live in Washington DC, am married to a Burundian (she was raised as a child in China and Russia…I call her the jewel of Burundi) and a father of two beautiful girls, one born in Cape Town, South Africa, and the other one in Nairobi, Kenya. I am the eldest of four siblings. All of them, save for one in the UK also live in the States. The youngest one, the baby of the family, lives in DC and is officially forbidden from living anywhere else…by me of course).
My interests draw from intersections between my African and Western upbringing and a deep commitment to public service inherited from my parents. I specialize in U.S. foreign policy and strategic challenges building on my extensive practical experience in African security issues, ranging from peacekeeping and stability operations to crisis mediation and governance. My regional expertise also covers the Asia/Pacific and Near East. This might seem odd owing to my African background but I discovered later in my career that my multicultural upbringing, thanks to my parents, gave me the gift of being able to connect deeply with other cultures. I hold a BA in International Relations from United States International University and a soon-to-be-completed and specialized MS in Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS) from the Washington DC Campus of Missouri State University. My thesis discusses how traditional Chinese culture shapes China’s contemporary approach to military operations, in particular its evolving naval strategy in the Western Pacific and likely responses to American seapower. I also write and speak Japanese and am a student of traditional Korean martial arts, holding a black belt in Taekwondo.
Some of my published works have appeared in the International Relations and Security Network, Reliefweb, Christian Science Monitor, YaleGlobal, Conflict Trends, Development Policy Management Forum, Cape Times, SSR Resource Center, United States Africa Command, National Defense University and National Intelligence University.
A lot of my graduate work draws on strategic culture – the notion that there is a connection between a society’s culture, historical experience, geography, embedded narratives and attitudes and its preferred methods conducting military operations, diplomacy and statecraft. These insights are missing for the most part in politico-military analysis and in U.S. foreign policy debates yet they provide meaning as to why leaders, armies and nations behave the way they do. Readers can expect to see a lot of strategic culture analysis in my writing.
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