3D (Defense, Diplomacy, Development) Dissent Channel
Deployment of forces to Afghanistan, Iraq, several African countries, and other locations threatened by terrorism in the interest of our national security has led to increased efforts to coordinate the efforts of the Department of Defense, Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (3D – Defense, Diplomacy, Development). One way we have referenced our efforts is to call them Whole-of-Government processes. Threats to our national security are likely to continue for years. Past experiences have demonstrated that we don’t cooperate effectively, particularly in our efforts to improve communications between the field and headquarters. H.R. McMaster’s book Dereliction of Duty showed the weaknesses in the Vietnam War. In addition, much has been written about the errors made in the reconstruction effort in Iraq following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. Recently the decision to withdraw forces from Syria again raises questions about how effectively in-country knowledge is taken into account in senior policy decision-making.
What questions do we need to consider if we wish to address this perpetual weakness? Are our separate government departments (DOD, State, USAID) able to coordinate their in-country assessments and recommendations adequately, or do they still mostly work on their separate agendas? The State Department has institutionalized a dissent channel for officers who wish to express their views on senior policy decisions; should this be expanded to become a Whole-of-Government dissent channel? Can the military, which depends on discipline and obedience, accommodate such a process? What would be the effect of such a process – would it make a difference? Dissent is often seen as insubordination in the political context of foreign affairs and those expressing dissent punished for not understanding the “big picture.” How can it be done in a way that gains the respect of senior political leaders? Are we willing to accept making mistakes of judgment in crisis responses perpetually because this issue is too sensitive?
Information on the U.S. State Department Dissent Channel: