Alexander Hamilton Society Presents the 3Ds of American Foreign Policy

March 12, 2014

Alexander Hamilton Society

The idea that complex foreign policy requires improved coordination among defense, diplomacy, and development—known as the 3D concept—was the topic of the February 28 meeting of Texas A&M University’s Alexander Hamilton Society, hosted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service.  The 3D concept was initially highlighted by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.  Emphasizing what Harvard Professor Joseph Nye calls “smart power,” the 3D concept was promoted in response to a lack of effective cooperation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan among the Departments of Defense and State, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Some 175 students and faculty attended the panel presentation, which featured a discussion on “diplomacy” by Dean Ryan Crocker, former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon.  Dr. Joe Cerami, a retired US Army colonel and director of the School’s Public Service Leadership Program, talked about the “defense” aspect; and Professor Andrew Natsios, director of the Bush School’s Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and former administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), covered international “development.” 

Professor Natsios asserted that integration of the 3Ds—particularly defense and development in conflict zones—has hindered the ability of development personnel to focus on their core mission to help needy populations abroad in long-term efforts that build effective programs in agriculture, business, and education.  He cited as examples Afghanistan and Iraq, where AID workers (including US and foreign nationals) have been targeted because of their association with not only the military itself but also the overall mission, i.e., regime change, democratization, and counterinsurgency warfare. 

Dean Crocker pointed out that the 3Ds are all integral parts of American foreign policy but that the concept works best when each talks to the others about tactics and strategy, while “…staying in their respective lanes.”  Crocker illustrated his point with examples of his own experiences as a diplomat in the Middle East. 

In terms of the defense contribution to the 3Ds, Dr. Cerami stressed the significance of integrating all of the elements of national power in national security policy and strategy—including diplomacy, information, economics, and military.  He pointed out that the pattern following unpopular, indecisive wars like in Iraq and Afghanistan is for the United States to cut defense spending and troop numbers and focus more on diplomacy.  He also pointed to a second trend in the increasing role of Congress, pointing out the emphasis on congressionally initiated national security and intelligence reform movements following the post-World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Cold War periods. 

The panel discussion was followed by a lengthy question and answer session.  Questions from the audience included the nature of diplomatic negotiations in Afghanistan and Iraq, ways to successfully integrate the 3Ds, and insights on current events in Syria and Ukraine.  An important concluding thought from the panel is that the US has never been able to predict the “next war.” So it will be prudent for the State and Defense Departments, the US Agency for International Development, and other agencies to insure that we continue to integrate American defense-diplomacy-development capabilities.  The future success of American foreign and defense policy will require improving the US’s effectiveness at implementing the 3Ds in diplomatic negotiations, conventional wars, counterterrorism, stability and reconstruction efforts, foreign aid programs, and humanitarian relief operations.

The Alexander Hamilton Society is a national, nonpartisan organization that seeks to foster discussion on national security and international affairs.  There are over fifty chapters at universities and colleges around the nation, and Texas A&M University’s chapter is currently ranked third in the nation [].  Information on the Alexander Hamilton Society is found at

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