Quotable: Brett Daniel Shehadey on the Information element of national power

Sunday, August 28th 2016

“Public Diplomacy (PD) and strategic communications (SC) are needed on a massive scale to combat international jihadism, future non-state actors and authoritarian state information agencies and efforts challenging the US identity and influence.”  Writing on the inhomelandsecurity.com website on October 27, 2013, Brett Daniel Shehadey outlined some basic concepts of the D-I-M-E (Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic elements of national power) framework, and he took a special look at the weaknesses of the “I” and “D” elements.  His essay was titled “Putting the “D” and “I” Back in DIME.”  Three years after it was published, it’s still a good primer.  Here are some highlights:


  • DIME (diplomacy, information, military and economics) is a recent military term reinvigorated to remind the leadership and policy makers above them to consider national power as not limited to the military power alone. It was because of the political over-use of “M” that led to the push for a “whole-of-government” (WoG) approach within the national security apparatus; and particularly, the DoD. DIME(FIL) was added to include statecraft resources of financial, intelligence and law enforcement dynamics to be applied to the operational environments.


  • DIME was the DoD way to remind the White House Administrations that it can operationally achieve the missions given but is not equipped to substitute the other instruments of national power. The DoD was forced to increase the aspects of diplomacy, information and intelligence within its own institutional framework because the DoD had the full faith and backing of the president and because the demands and necessities ran high. Military diplomacy, military information operations and military intelligence took lead during the two major US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.


  • A weak usage of civil diplomatic power was given to the Department of State, which was also not prepared for nation building and stability operations in a high counter insurgency (COIN) environment. US civilian intelligence played a positive leadership role.


  • In addition to the weakness of diplomatic power, even with the increase in funds and personnel and innovations- there was a weakness and lack of utilizing the “I” for information power. The US continually had the information disadvantage. Even at tactical local levels the information “I” was not a total commitment tool of American power. What the US got out of Iraq and Afghanistan was a strong “M” and intelligence “I”; a weak information “I” and an even weaker “D”.


  • One rarely thinks of diplomacy dominance but it is possible to have the best diplomacy in the world, like the US military, far superior to any other. This is not the case. The superiority of the US military is first based on a strategy to be dominant. The US State Department does not have the equivalent. Secondly, the US could be the leader of sparking an international progressive diplomacy and innovation movement while setting higher international norms.


  • Strategic diplomacy and strategic information has never been needed more in US history than at this moment right here and now. Having a grand foreign strategy and strategies that use diplomacy and information are vital to long-term US national security and interests and yet they remain in disrepair.


  • Information operations are not and should not be restricted to military or intelligence operations. In fact, it should be separate but also concerted with diplomacy, military, intelligence and the rest of DIMEFIL. Public Diplomacy (PD) and strategic communications (SC) are needed on a massive scale to combat international jihadism, future non-state actors and authoritarian state information agencies and efforts challenging the US identity and influence. All of this could use an international communications strategy to coordinate it under the foreign affairs strategy.


  • Power is slowly taken away through growing ideological threats and political fallback to tyrannical systems of governance. What we are witnessing right now is a war of vision and perception that will not immediately be apparent but that over time erodes the present liberal framework and institutionalism of international rule of law that was put in place in the 1990s. It is less of a “clash of civilizations” and more a resistance to globalization and modern development. Without the “D”, the information “I” in the lead two roles, the US will not have a unifying purpose for enhancing global political stability.


  • Moreover, aside from focusing on the “D” and information “I”, the US government must also incorporate the intelligence “I” to the maximum capacity and learn to fuse these three chords of power together.

Donald M. Bishop is the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. 

Mr. Bishop served as a Foreign Service Officer – first in the U.S. Information Agency and then in the Department of State – for 31 years.  Specializing in Public Diplomacy, political-military affairs, and East Asia, he attained the rank of Minister-Counselor in the career service.  He was President of the Public Diplomacy Council from 2013 to 2015 and is now a member of the Board of Directors.

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Author: Donald M. Bishop

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