Megaphone Diplomacy

We get many interesting guest speakers at the Command & General Staff College (CGSC)… and a few that aren’t so interesting. However, today we had the privileged of hearing the Deputy Supreme Allied Command Europe (aka the 2nd in-command at NATO). General Sir John Chalmers McColl is from the British Army and has served in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. His main point was NATO is not just a military organization, but also (and most importantly) a political organization. Every decision (if made at all) is a compromise. And like all political decisions, the best way to reach a compromise is through face-to-face discussions, rather than through the media. He noted that “Megaphone Diplomacy” was more often than not counterproductive – that it usually ended in the recipient nation’s public opinion turning further against whatever issue was attempting to be pressed.
An example might be how the US has pressed in a public forum that our NATO partners need to send more combat troops to Afghanistan. Attempting to address this issue through the media or other public forums will not, in the end, result in the desired outcome of getting the commitment of more troops. The best way to gain results is to work with each country and take advantage of what resources they’re willing to provide. Overall, public opinion in the other NATO countries is against sending forces to Afghanistan. The US needs to understand this – and also understand it is not something we are going to change.
We’ve had some other great speakers within the last three months: the President of Uganda who gave an excellent talk about how to wage an insurgency, GEN Petraeus, and Dr. P. W. Singer. Dr. Singer is from the Brookings Institute and spoke about the role of the contractor and the military – he was probably the best guest speaker we’ve had. We also had a panel of reporters that included Noah Shachtman from Wired magazine. Noah represented the new media: blogs.