December 2010: A Tobin Project conference on "Power Through Its Prudent Use: Strategies and Instruments for U.S. National Security"

How can the United States best integrate its diplomatic, military, and economic power to advance its national security interests?

In December, the Tobin Project brought together academics, policymakers, and think-tank researchers from various disciplines for a three-day conference focused on pressing, unanswered questions arising out of current policy debates and ongoing research at the Tobin Project. 

Participants in the conference debated the decisions that practitioners must make to balance the use of military force with non-military tools – such as traditional and public diplomacy, negotiation, alliance-building, and economic incentives. Discussions aimed to advance scholarship that will contribute to our understanding of these issues and have the potential to inform national security policy.

The conference pursued four lines of inquiry:

  • What benefits and costs does the U.S. accrue from being the world’s pre-eminent superpower? How does this power affect the international provision of public goods?
  • How and why have U.S. policymakers opted to use military force in the past? How accurate were the practical and theoretical assumptions that underlay their decisions?
  • How effective are non-kinetic tools of statecraft – particularly economic incentives and public diplomacy – at advancing a state’s foreign policy objectives? 
  • How can the U.S. address the opportunities and challenges posed by the Israel-Palestine conflict and the national security policies of North Korea, China, and India?

Policymakers Engage on the Ideas

Throughout the conference, practitioners from Congress and the Administration offered on-the-ground perspectives and posed strategic questions about the practicality and policy relevance of the research discussed. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense James Schear (Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations) and Representative Robert Simmons (Member of Congress, 2001-2007 (R-CT); Colonel, USAR, Retired) shared their expertise during a panel session on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Other distinguished policymakers – including staff from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, State Department Policy Planning Staff, and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – enriched conversation by serving as panelists and respondents to scholars’ papers. These policymakers provided valuable insight to Tobin scholars, engaged in productive conversations regarding the challenges they face, and suggested policy-relevant directions for research.

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National Security
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