The Unites States practices winning wars over and over again. For many years, the uniformed services have conducted war games as an integral part of training their personnel. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent practice of winning the peace. For the last twenty years, America’s major foreign engagements have been focused on kinetic success. However, the Pentagon is quick to observe that military engagement is the last resort – so winning the peace on the ground before tensions dissolve into crises is the real test of American influence. Consequently, the Peace Game was envisioned and created by the Diplomatic Studies Foundation (DSF) to prepare US diplomats to effectively assess rapidly evolving crises, employ interagency and private sector resources, and coordinate with host country leadership and other external assets to respond and diffuse destabilizing situations – in other words, to win the peace.
The DSF partnered with the ICONS Project at the University of Maryland – a leader in national security scenario planning – to create a potentially destabilizing incident in a fictional country with national characteristics and challenges resembling various African nations. DSF launched the first Peace Game in October 2021. It was a two-day exercise on the Maryland campus, and the players were challenged to develop a response to an environmental catastrophe resulting in social collapse, political instability, terrorism, a health crisis, and various great power complications. Representatives from the State Department’s Africa Bureau and Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, USAID, the intelligence community and DoD’s 95th Civil Affairs Brigade comprised the country team. The “control team” – seasoned senior officials that witness and critique the game and the performance of the players – included former Assistant Secretaries of State, Ambassadors, a USAID Mission Director, senior intelligence community officials and retired general officers.
DSF is confident the Peace Game model is an innovative and invaluable training tool for rising American diplomats and their interagency colleagues. A second Peace Game will run in April 2022.
DSF has partnered with Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business to create a Commercial Diplomacy Initiative, which officially launched with our first Roundtable on Commercial Diplomacy on September 24, 2021. The initiative responds to a national imperative to increase creative collaboration across the private sector, our government, and academia so that the United States maintains a perpetual economic advantage while adhering to American principles and values.
The first Roundtable convened prominent Dallas-based leaders from the private and public sectors to begin a more formal dialogue regarding how to best generate and sustain such creative collaboration. The discussion highlighted the structural and cultural differences that exist between the private and public sectors. Since September, our SMU and DSF teams have worked together to convert the lessons learned from the Roundtable and from subsequent conversations with participants into a “set of activities” that will enhance the education and training of our government colleagues at the nexus of business and policy. Such activities would include panel-styled seminars facilitated at SMU Cox with panelists from Dallas industry leaders, visits to corporate headquarters in Dallas to engage on international business challenges facing American companies, and a range of private and public sector speakers. The goal of these activities is to cultivate and foster relationships between U.S. government and American business leaders to catalyze conversations about U.S. economic competitiveness.
DSF and SMU held a second Roundtable on February 17, 2022. The intent of this session was to convene current and former U.S. government leaders to discuss critical questions, such as: what does the U.S. government do for the U.S. private sector, in terms of advancing U.S. commercial and economic interests, and why might the private sector does not realize the government offers these resources for them? We are confident this initiative will help strengthening the competitive advantages of the United States and its businesses globally.
Fellowships at FSI
Experienced practitioner participation is a key aspect to successful training. It allows the officers to hear first-hand anecdotes regarding the topics they are learning in the classroom. It also allows them to receive informal mentoring before they get to the field. However, legislative authorities in the Foreign Service Act currently deter retired diplomats from returning to teach at FSI. Annuitants who are rehired as government employees are not permitted to earn more any single year than the difference between their highest earnings before retirement and their annuity.
Thus we have executed a Fellowship initiative with FSI. The initiative began in August 2019. The Foundation has hired retired senior Foreign Service officers to help update and expand the curriculum for recently extended Area Studies courses, including South and Central Asia, Near East, East Asia and the Pacific, and Africa.
Relations between the State Department and Congress have sometimes been rocky during different Administrations. To address this issue, the Foundation has partnered with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to conduct a pilot seminar series for mid-level Foreign and Civil Service officers as well as mid-level Congressional staffers. The objective of the series is twofold: (1) provide education on the role of Congress and the State Department in foreign policy, particularly where the two roles intersect, and (2) offer State and Hill employees the opportunity to form relationships and foster working-level relationships. The first series was rolled out in February 2020. The series included four seminar sessions for thirteen State and thirteen Hill employees. Topics covered include oversight, nominations, treaties and international agreements, responding to crises, and budget.