Speak Smartly and Carry a Big Stick: Competing Successfully in the Global Narrative
by Brian Anthony, Robert Lyons and Stuart Peebles
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far,” the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt famously advised. Notwithstanding the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt, his advice may not ring true in the Twitter age. The U.S. government spends roughly 40 billion dollars on foreign aid annually – a pretty big stick by most standards – but struggles to generate a comparable amount of global goodwill. Meanwhile, U.S. adversaries and near-peer competitors, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State and Russia, have become bolder in their approach to shaping the global narrative. These nefarious actors destabilize the global security order while advancing an effective narrative that suggests the complete reverse. How can U.S. interagency leaders compete with such effective adversary messaging and capitalize on U.S. development and defense efforts around the globe? The U.S. interagency community needs a streamlined theoretical framework to think about information power more proportionally; it also needs to take practical steps to nest informational efforts more soundly in U.S. strategy. In today’s environment, interagency leaders must speak smartly not softly in order to realize the best return on our hard-power global investments.
In 2008, U.S. Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) recorded the main obstacles to effective U.S. strategic communications: “The U.S. doesn’t have a coherent, high-level interagency strategy. The State Department and Defense Department aren’t coordinating sufficiently; and we lack focus and nuance in our strategic communication messaging.” Roughly a decade after Smith’s diagnosis, the problem is still acute…
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| About the Authors:
Lieutenant Commander Brian Anthony, United States Navy, serves on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. Prior to his current assignment, LCDR Anthony served as the Deputy Executive Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Warfare Systems on the Navy Staff. LCDR Anthony earned his Master’s Degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lyons, United States Air Force, serves in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics as a defense program analyst of Department of Defense major defense acquisition programs. He has an MA in Airpower Arts & Sciences from Air University’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies and an MS in Chemical Engineering.
Major Stuart Peebles, U.S. Army, serves as Assistant Army Attaché in Cairo, Egypt. Prior to his current assignment, MAJ Peebles served as Assistant Army Attaché in Kabul, Afghanistan. MAJ Peebles has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MA in Global History from Georgetown University.