PfPC hosts 17th Annual Conference in Vienna

PfPC hosts 17th Annual Conference in Vienna

PfPC hosts 17th Annual Conference in Vienna

By Partnership for Peace Consortium

VIENNA (July 6, 2015) -- The Partnership for Peace Consortium held its 17th Annual Conference at the Austrian National Defense Academy in Vienna from July 1 to 3. In light of conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine and elsewhere, some 120 experts from 31 countries attended the conference to provide constructive recommendations on opportunities for defense education, research and defense institution building to address 21st century conflicts.

The Chairman of the PfPC's Senior Advisory Council retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, director of the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies, introduced the conference theme - 21st Century Conflict and Opportunities for Cooperation - by highlighting the chaotic nature of modern conflict - from radical extremism to "hybrid warfare."

Dr. Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, offered thought-provoking ideas in his keynote address, by advocating for a “Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs” in contrast to the Revolution in Military Affairs.

According to Cordesman, the time has come for a new concept of joint operations, as well as a complete rethinking of current approaches to counter insurgency, stability operations and international aid programs.

Cordesman furthermore presented his views on the notion of “the enemy” in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Cordesman, we must acknowledge three categories of enemies: 1) extremists and other players who seek to destabilize governments, 2) governments of countries in conflict, and 3) our own ignorance of the national characteristics that led to conflicts in the first place.

While there is a tendency by western governments to exclusively focus on the first category, Cordesman points out that in the long run, a host nation government may be the more dangerous enemy, as he cited a worsening of human development indicators in Iraq under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Regarding western ignorance, Cordesman pointed to international aid programs, which while guided with good intentions, often have the effect of distorting the recipient societies. Cordesman characterizes many aid programs as being ill-suited to cultural realities in the recipient country, and overestimating the readiness of institutional structures to transform aid into meaningful progress.

In looking to the future, Cordesman warned against repeating past failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, stating that "you don't go in quickly, solve problems by force, then leave." He highlighted the need to do away with views of an idealized democracy, and to instead seek a thorough understanding of the local conditions of ethnic and sectarian conflict, as well as the realities of political and economic development in countries in question.

Cordesman’s keynote served as an effective launching pad for further analysis by conference participants. Professor Julian Lindley-French, from the Institute for Statecraft, London, echoed Cordesman’s call for greater cultural awareness, by advocating for a series of new Counter Extremism educational programs for senior, mid-level, and junior officers across the civil and military spheres.

Other participants examined the geopolitical and technological aspects of 21st century conflict. Michael Moodie, Director of Foreign Affairs at the Congressional Research Service, facilitated a panel on geopolitics, with the panel concluding that the influence of non-state actors such as ISIS calls for a rethinking of diplomacy, so that an end to ongoing conflicts may be reachable at a negotiation table.

In viewing the technological aspects of 21st century conflict, Glenn Schweitzer, from the National Academy of Sciences, underlined social media and other modern technologies that play prominent roles in modern conflict, and advocated for western governments to better educate their leaders on technology so as to specifically address technology as part of foreign policy formulation.

While we cannot predict how 21st century conflict will evolve, the PfPC Annual Conference highlighted the need for wide scale adjustments in defense and security education, so that civil and military leaders will be better adapted to the reality of 21st century conflict as it exists today.

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