Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tell Me When It's Over

Just days after the U.S. withdrew its final combat troops from Iraq and more than seven years after Bush declared the U.S. mission there "accomplished," President Obama tells the troops the nation's work there is not yet done.

In an age where hard power and soft power are increasingly combined in foreign policy, it's worthwhile to note that the effects and objectives of power are often equally muddled. After all, the differences between the war in Iraq, the subsequent seven years of non-war combat, and the post-combat troop era we're entering now are minuscule.

Hard-line realists would argue that the first priority of states is to ensure their own security, and they do so by exercising power--mostly hard power, but also soft power resources like traditional and public diplomacy. But the lines between war and peace aren't entirely clear cut, and neither are the potential benefits for security. The ultimate objectives of public diplomacy in Iraq have remained fairly constant over the past decade, although the philosophy and methods behind them have not.

It is worth questioning, at the beginning of this new period of ongoing conflict, exactly what's been accomplished and what remains to be done. And for those who have faith in the ability of PD to bridge cultural divides, improve mutual understanding and generate goodwill, it's worth asking how PD can help to wage peace in Iraq.

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