The PfPC's 17th Annual Conference encourages new approaches to international cooperation to better adapt to 21st century conflict Featured

Dr. Anthony Cordesman delivers keynote address at the PfPC's 17th Annual Conference. Seated: Dr. Raphael Perl, executive Director of the PfPC
Dr. Anthony Cordesman delivers keynote address at the PfPC's 17th Annual Conference. Seated: Dr. Raphael Perl, executive Director of the PfPC Mark Winkler, George C. Marshall Center

Vienna, Austria (July 6, 2015) - The Partnership for Peace Consortium (PfPC) held its 17th Annual Conference at the Austrian National Defence Academy in Vienna, Austria from 1-3 July. Some 120 experts from 31 countries attended the conference on 21st Century Conflict and Opportunities for Cooperation to provide constructive recommendations on opportunities for defense education, research, and defense institution building to address 21st century conflict.

The Chairman of the PfPC's Senior Advisory Council, Lieutenant General (ret.) Keith Dayton, Director of the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies, introduced the conference theme 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, highlighting a new security environment that he characterized as a "Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs", or RCMA, in contrast to a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). According to Dr. Cordesman, the time has come for a new concept of joint operations, as well as a complete rethinking of current approaches to counter insurgency (COIN), stability operations, and international aid programs.

Dr. Cordesman’s full keynote address can be found here:

In presenting his views on the notion of “the enemy” in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, Cordesman stressed 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 noted that international aid programs, while guided with good intentions, often fall short of desired goals in 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, Dr. 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 local ethnic and sectarian conflicts, 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 the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service, facilitated a panel on geopolitics. The panel concluded that the influence of non-state actors such as ISIS calls for a rethinking of diplomacy, to facilitate an end to ongoing conflicts at the negotiating 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 technological challenges and to specifically address technology as part of foreign and defense 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, to better enable civil and military leaders to adapt to the realities of 21st century conflict.

For more information on the PfPC, please visit