The United States needs to learn
to combine hard and soft power more successfully
editor of Gurusonline.tv, December 2007
A conversation with Harvard
academic Joseph S. Nye, author of the forthcoming "The
Power to lead: soft, hard and smart power" (February
Center for Strategic and
International Studies | Joseph
Nye at Harvard
Articles and Documents:
of Soft Power | Soft
Power Concept review from Futurecasts magazine
at the House Committee about Smart Power
United States position as the lone global power, as the
"hegemon" of this long geopolitical cycle lasting
from the beginning of the 20th century is unlikely to
last forever. The US relative cycle power is declining
consistently from its peak in the system of world power
since the post-WWII. But, the decline remains slow, and
in main power indicators saw actual increases between
the 1980's and 2001. The present critical aspect of the
US is its image and world reputation - core aspects in
a persistent negative track. Its soft power is a mess.
It is debatable if the US can do the "turnaround"
of this situation.
Joseph S. Nye, professor of International Relations
at Harvard University and former Dean of the John F.
Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard, says YES -
the turnaround is feasible. But he explains HOW.
He authored in 2004 Soft Power: The Means to Success
in World Politics, a masterpiece
in geopolitics, a sequel of his seminal book Bound to
Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, published in 1990. Soft power,
coined by Nye in the 1990's, rapidly entered foreign
policy discourse. Although others consider that the
concept changed in the meanwhile - mainly because of
China global strategy and due to some aspects of European
Union policy -, the concept is powerful. But now Nye
wants to add a new dimension - smart power. That's the
core of his forthcoming book - The Power to lead: soft, hard and smart power,
from Oxford University Press.
Precisely Professor Nye pointed out that "the
US must become a smarter power by investing once again
in the global public goods." Also he referred to
the US National Security and Foreign Affairs of the
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that
the strategy must focused in "complementing US
military and economic might with greater investments
in its soft power." Nye and Richard L. Armitage,
both from de Center for Strategic and International
Studies, presented in Washington, November 7, 2007,
a Testimony titled "Smart Power and the US Strategy for Securuty in a post-9/11 World".
Joseph Nye studied the main causes of the present US
decline. He coined the importance of soft power: "soft
power is the ability to attract people to our side without
coercion. Legitimacy is central to soft power."
He "redesigned" the famous Machiavelli motto
- that it was safer to be feared than to be loved -,
pointing out that "today, in the global information
age, it is better to be both". Nye said: "It
matters a lot whether the big kid on the block is seen
as a bully or as friend."
His forthcoming book develops the concept of smart
power - it is neither hard no soft; it is the skillful
combination of both. It means an integrated global strategy,
including soft power resources outside of government
in the private sector and civil society. "It is
an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong
military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships,
and institutions at all levels."
Nye referred also the historical experience of former
British superpower in the beginning of its declining
period in the 19th century: "What it did was provide
a series of international public goods, and that essentially
made British power more acceptable."
"Serious alliance of hostile powers balancing European
and American power seems less likely"
"American military power and economic power have
not declined, but America's soft power of attraction has
declined quite sharply during the past decade"
"May be that no American policy could do much about
the current nationalistic cycle in Russia"
"Russia is clearly willing to use its oil and gas
reserves as an instrument of hard coercive power, not
the soft power of attraction"
"But if the rising power also develops the soft power
of attraction, it reduces those fears and the likelihood
of balancing. This is what China is doing"
INTERVIEW (December 2007)
1. Do you think the US was loosing real and perceived
power in terms of capacity of control over outcomes in
the geopolitical arena? Its image, reputation and influence
are at all-time lows, even worse than in the Vietnam period,
and possibly sinking further? Why?
American military power and economic power have not
declined, but America's soft power of attraction has
declined quite sharply during the past decade. This
is partly the result of excessive unilateralism and
partly because of the Iraq War.
2. You refer perceptions of US incompetence. Recently
Ambassador Chas Freeman refers to US "amateurish
foreign service". What is the cause of this perception?
The perceptions of incompetence were created by the
failure to plan and implement the aftermath of the invasion
of Iraq, as well as domestic episodes like the Bush
Administration fumbling of the response to Hurricane
3. One of the clear perceptions is the fact that the
US isolates itself from the innovation in global public
goods since the 1990's - in contrast with its leadership
role after WWII and during the Cold War. European Union
is credited recently on this field, suggesting, launching
and endorsing international initiatives and institutions.
Instead, the US gained the reputation of being rejectionist.
Why the US changed its commitment to international institutional
The Bush 43 administration adopted a narrower and more
unilateral view of American national interest than did
the Clinton or Bush 41 administrations, and this was
reinforced by the climate of fear created by the 9/11
4. Some analysts refer that the Clinton Administration
begins a wrong approach regarding Russia since the implosion
of Soviet Union, considering the "thirdworldization"
of this former great power, adopting an "arrogant"
strategy. Do you think the authoritarian and great power
politics revival of Russia is a kind of revenge?
Both Bush 41 and Clinton made effort to help Russia
adjust to its economic failure and loss of status, but
it may be that no American policy could do much about
the current nationalistic cycle in that country.
5. Due to the close proximity of European shatterbelt
countries in the borders of Russia in the Baltic, East
Europe and Black Sea, do you think Europe is at risk from
hard power projections from Russia? The gas soft power
strategy from Russia is a marker of this risk situation?
Despite the current wave of nationalism, I do not think
Russia will take the risks of military intervention.
But it is clearly willing to use its oil and gas reserves
as an instrument of hard coercive power, not the soft
power of attraction.
6. Do you think that the new Bush Administration'
hard power strategies regarding pre-emptive war and nuclear
tactical weapons' potential use for regime change, were
the main causes for the growing lack of legitimacy of
Bush 43 doctrine of pre-emptive war coupled with the
invasion of Iraq clearly undercut international perceptions
of the legitimacy of American policy.
7. Do you think that medium countries with weak relative
power can develop a sort of jiu-jitsu effect 1
against the US? I am thinking of Venezuela, even Iran,
probably others in the next future in Africa - and not
only the global terrorist networks.
If the US over-reacts to Chavez and Ahmedinejad, it
could help them. That would be a jiu-jitsu effect. If
instead, the US shows that other countries have more
to gain from cooperation that could help isolate them.
8. A recent book, "Charme Offensive", of
Joshua Kurlantzick, refers that reality surpassed your
theoretical concept of soft power, when we study the case
of China in the last 20 years. What's your comment? Do
you think China's strategy is a good example of a "smart
China is a rising power, and we know from history that
as a country's hard power increases, others become fearful
and may balance against it. But if the rising power
also develops the soft power of attraction, it reduces
those fears and the likelihood of balancing. This is
what China is doing. The combination of hard and soft
power in a successful strategy is what I mean by "smart
power." Richard Armitage and I recently co-chaired
a Commission on Smart Power that reported that the United
States needs to learn to combine hard and soft power
9. Regarding the resource rich regions in the Globe,
do you think we can see the emergence of coalitions of
whiling between great powers, challenging "provocateurs",
even rogue states, against the interests of the US and
Many such diplomatic coalitions of convenience have
been formed and will be in the future. But serious alliance
of hostile powers balancing European and American power
seems less likely.
1 Jujutsu or jiu-jitsu literally means the "art of softness", it is a Japanese martial art consisting primarily of grappling techniques. Jujutsu evolved among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for dispatching an armed and armored opponent in situations where the use of weapons was impractical or forbidden. These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it. (Wikipedia)
NYE' SMART POWER STRATEGY BRIEFLY
Five critical areas where specifically the US should
- Alliances, partnerships and institutions. It is critical
to work effectively in multilateral settings.
- Global Development. The US commitment and approach
to global development has been marked by inconsistency
over the past half century.
- Public Diplomacy. An effective public diplomacy approach
must include exchanges of ideas, peoples, and information,
it must include citizen diplomacy. The US spends $750
billion on defense, but only $1.5 billion on public
diplomacy. It's a ratio of 500 times.
- Economic Integration. Pay attention to the trends
- Technology and Innovation. Addressing climate change
and energy insecurity.
Two Silver Principles:
- An extra dollar spent on hard power will not necessarily
bring an extra dollar's worth of security
- The key is not how many enemies the US kills, but
how many allies it grows
© Gurusonline.tv, 2007