They are challenging, small, complicated actions that help weave a series of connections on the personal and institutional level in the hope that they benefit both nations in the long run.
An additional positive impact is that many are, by their nature, the work of multiple departments in the US government. As a result, they help keep the habit and structure in place to allow personnel in different areas of the US government with experience in interagency cooperation.
These actions and projects often are not big, expensive, or in the short view - even productive. It isn't the short view that has value - you need to open the aperature.
In a welcome return to the blogosphere, our friend Chap has a post at USNIBlog on one of those background builders; security cooperation.
For this example, the vessel–an Iraqi patrol craft made by an American company and part of a U.S. foreign military sales contract–is not just one of the assets Iraq’s military needs to protect a very crowded and consequential waterspace. It’s also a multi-decade relationship, where both countries get to know each other on an operator-to-operator level as well as on other levels. That relationship can have strategic effects as the lieutenants become admirals, and the relationship builds trust, access, and communications paths outside the formal diplomatic process and regionally as well as bilaterally.
Security cooperation (SC) is not very familiar to most operators in the Department of Defense. SC’s a difficult skill set. SC can pay off not only as a force multiplier, but also to provide diplomatic effects which can be game-changing.