Soft power by other means: defense diplomacy as a tool of international statecraft
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Defense diplomacy is the cooperative use of military forces through activities like officer exchanges and training exercises. Although individual practices have long existed, strikingly little scholarly attention has yet been paid to either defense diplomacy as a feature of international relations or its uses as a tool of statecraft. This study critically examines the concept of defense diplomacy and the underlying mechanisms that empower it. I argue that defense diplomacy functions as a military variant of soft power which relies on the processes of norm diffusion and state socialization to influence the strategic thinking of foreign governments. Specifically, by bringing soldiers from different countries into contact with one another in collaborative environments, defense diplomacy allows for the cultivation of transnational links capable of shaping worldviews. As with similar networks in civil society, the ties fostered by defense diplomacy form pathways which allow for the rapid diffusion of geopolitical norms, practices and priorities across borders. The key with defense diplomacy is that these networks span governing elites allowing for the direct translation of shared ideas into policy. This dissertation uses two case studies to illustrate how defense diplomacy has been employed by the United States as a foreign policy tool. The first case examines the use of defense diplomacy by the United States to rebuild its alliances with Australia and the Philippines in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War. Though initially envisioned as temporary measure to help restore trust after that divisive conflict, defense diplomacy emerged the basis for America’s regional engagement strategy. The second case concerns how defense diplomacy was employed by the United States in the Philippines during the Global War on Terror. Uniquely, the Philippine government restricted American forces operating within its territory to non-combat missions. This compelled Washington to rely on defense diplomacy as the primary means of combating groups like Abu Sayyaf. The ensuing focus on strengthening local institutions ultimately proved successful in helping to mitigate the militant threat within the archipelago.