BOOK REVIEW

Soft Power
by
Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Page Contents

International diplomacy

Soft power & hard power

Modern terrorism

Characteristics of soft power

FUTURECASTS online magazine
www.futurecasts.com
Vol. 6, No. 9, 9/1/04.

Homepage

International diplomacy:

 

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  Further explanation of the application of "soft power" in world politics is provided by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., in  "Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics." Nye's works on the soft power elements of international diplomacy have achieved great authoritative stature and are having an increasingly visible impact on U.S. foreign policy.  His terminology and concepts are now indispensable for analysis of and discourse about this vital subject.
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  Indeed, there is no serious challenge to the validity of Nye's work. Dispute centers - as it should - on particular applications and their prospects for success.

  Nye, of course, provides coverage of just a few of the particular applications in this short volume - the book is less than 150 pages. In this review, FUTURECASTS raises some additional problems of application.
 &
  Nye's influence was even in evidence during the Olympic Games in Greece. Did you notice the difference during the medal ceremonies? Talk about a softer, gentler, more "sensitive" U.S. national anthem - - -!

Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction.

  A brief definition of "soft power" is provided in the Preface of this book. 

  "[Soft power] is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced."

"Seduction is always more effective than coercion, and many values like democracy and human rights, and individual opportunities are deeply seductive."

  Soft power includes propaganda, but is considerably broader. It is much more than "image, public relations and ephemeral popularity." It constitutes very real power - an ability to gain objectives. These concepts were developed more at length in a previous book, see, Nye, "Paradox of American Power," which should be read with this book review.
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  Nye provides several noteworthy examples of the extent and influence of U.S. soft power. American political ideals favorably influenced Europe after WW-II. Radio Free Europe built support behind the Iron Curtain and satellite TV builds support in Iran today for Western political and economic ideals. Chinese students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square used a replica of the Statue of Liberty as a symbol, and newly liberated Afghans asked for a copy of the Bill of Rights.

  "These are all examples of America's soft power. When you can get others to admire your ideals and to want what you want, you do not have to spend as much on sticks and carrots to move them in your direction. Seduction is always more effective than coercion, and many values like democracy and human rights, and individual opportunities are deeply seductive. As General Wesley Clark put it, soft power 'gave us an influence far beyond the hard edge of traditional balance-of-power politics.' But attraction can turn to repulsion if we act in an arrogant manner and destroy the real message of our deeper values."

  The suppression of terrorism, and the achievement of a wide variety of other national objectives, require the willing assistance of other nations and peoples.

  "According to the national security strategy, the greatest threats that the American people face are transnational terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and particularly their combination."

  However, many objectives in countering these threats are not entirely - or even primarily - in U.S. hands.

  • Efforts to promote democracy cannot succeed without widespread support.

  • Reconstruction and peacekeeping in Iraq, Afghanistan and other stricken states "are far more likely to succeed and to be less costly if shared with others." This is one of the many costly lessons of the conflict in Iraq.

  The "hard power" of military and economic strength is, of course, essential, but the use of "carrots and sticks" alone cannot achieve these objectives.
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  The U.S. may have achieved greater relative military and economic supremacy than any other nation since the Roman Empire, but there is still much that is beyond its capacity and beyond its control. It cannot start wars wherever it pleases without alienating much of the world. There are places where it cannot go in search of terrorist leaders. It needs broad cooperation for intelligence gathering and the restriction of terrorist finances.

  One of the reasons why England had so much trouble pacifying Northern Ireland was because of the flow of funds going to the Irish terrorists from the Irish community in the U.S.  The bitter history of conflict between the English and Irish left England with no soft power influence with this key community.
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  This is similar to the problem the U.S. now faces with Saudi support and financing of Wahhabi clerics who preach intolerance and hatred for the West and for other Muslim sects, and who now evangelize their noxious creed throughout the Muslim world. The War on Terror is to a significant extent a war against this Wahhabi creed - although it increasingly involves many Muslims who are not of that sect. It is a war that the U.S. can powerfully influence, but it is a civil war within the Muslim world. Moderate Muslims are the only ones who can defeat this Wahhabi creed and the various other Muslim militants.

  Nye sensibly recommends that the U.S. at least double its current meager efforts at public diplomacy, and raise the profile of its public diplomacy effort and its direction from the White House. Cultural diplomacy and exchanges should be emphasized and facilitated, and applicant procedures for clearing visa security hurdles should be made as efficient and expeditious as possible. He lists an array of other potentially useful initiatives.
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  The style of U.S. foreign policy can certainly be improved without cost and with much benefit. The danger of arrogance and the wisdom of humility should be recognized. (Every team coach knows enough not to say things that can be used to stimulate the opposition.)
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  When military action is required, efforts should be made for the widest possible international support. The U.N. Security Counsel has only on two occasions approved military action and may have to be bypassed - as it was frequently during the Cold War - but U.N. and other international agencies should be used in practical ways as may be possible - as was the case throughout the Cold War. There should be constant emphasis on the development of alliances - also as was the case throughout the Cold War.
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The dazzling success of the military attack on Iraq removed a tyrant, "but it did not resolve our vulnerability to terrorism," and was very costly in terms of the soft power the U.S. has lost.

  U.S. public diplomacy "has been woefully inadequate," and  the "neglect" of allies and international institutions "has created a sense of illegitimacy that has squandered our attractiveness" and materially hindered the international efforts of the U.S.
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  The dazzling success of the military attack on Iraq removed a tyrant, "but it did not resolve our vulnerability to terrorism," and was very costly in terms of the soft power the U.S. has lost. To win the war on terrorism, the U.S. will have to show as much skill in the future in wielding its soft power as it has shown in the past in wielding its hard power.
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  Nye quotes former House Speaker Newt Gingerich..

  "The real key is not how many enemy do I kill. The real key is how many alliances do I gain."

Soft power - hard power:

  Nye divides "power" into three general categories. To achieve desired outcomes, you can coerce with threats, induce with payments, or attract and co-opt to get people to want what you want.
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History is not always on the side of the biggest battalions or the deepest pocket.

 

Power is not always obvious. Power relations can change as contexts change.

  The information age has greatly expanded the effectiveness of the third type of power. It has greatly extended the mobility of information and propaganda.
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  The possession of superior economic and military power is frequently not enough. History is not always on the side of the biggest battalions or the deepest pocket, Nye points out. The player with the strongest poker hand does not always win the pot.

  "Converting resources into realized power in the sense of obtaining desired outcomes requires well-designed strategies and skillful leadership. Yet strategies are often inadequate and leaders frequently misjudge -- witness Japan and Germany in 1941 or Saddam Hussein in 1990."

  Evaluating power relationships is important, but "it is equally important to understand what game you are playing." Particular resources may provide differing capabilities in different contexts and in different times. For example, oil and uranium were not as significant two centuries ago as they are today.

  "Before you judge who is holding the high cards, you need to understand what game you are playing and how the value of the cards may be changing."

  Power is not always obvious. Power relations can change as contexts change. Possession of an empire may be a source of power at one time but, if nationalism grows in the provinces, a source of weakness later.

  In both WW-I and WW-II, it was always a question whether the non-English speaking members of Britain's vast Empire would be an asset or a liability. In both conflicts, they proved in general to be major assets - in large part due to factors other than Britain's military and economic strength. However, that support had run out by the Cold War - and the Empire was quickly no more.

  Nye uses the analogy of three dimensional chess played on a stack of three boards.

  • On the top board of military power, the U.S. is the only superpower with international reach.

  Even here, there are regional and local powers with enough military capacity to make it difficult for the U.S. to act militarily in their vicinity. China and Russia are the most obvious but not the only examples.

  • On the middle board of economic interests, power is multipolar. On vital issues such as trade, antitrust, and financial regulation, agreements must be obtained from the European Union, Japan and many others if the U.S. is to achieve its various objectives. "It makes little sense to call this American hegemony."
  • On the bottom board there are such interests as terrorism, international crime, climate change and the spread of infectious diseases. Here it is obviously not a unipolar world or an American Empire. Indeed, on this bottom board, "power is widely distributed and chaotically organized among state and nonstate actors."

  "Yet many political leaders still focus almost entirely on military assets and classic military solutions -- the top board. They mistake the necessary for the sufficient. They are one-dimensional players in a three dimensional game. In the long term, that is the way to lose, since obtaining favorable outcomes on the bottom transnational board often requires the use of soft power assets."

"Soft power uses - - - an attraction to shared values and the justness and duty of contributing to the achievement of those values."

 

"Co-optive power -- the ability to shape what others want - can  rest on the attractiveness of one's culture and values or the ability to manipulate the agenda of political choices in a manner that makes others fail to express some preferences because they seem to be too unrealistic."

  Soft power and its capabilities are extensively explained by Nye. He explains its most important elements as well as its differences from the hard power elements of military and economic power. Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive. There are relationships and overlaps between all the various forms of power.

  Even during total war - even during WW-II - soft power came powerfully into play. Some prominent examples:

  • Allied advances always gave them tactical advantages and even sometimes the willing assistance of new military forces. Axis advances were frequently burdensome liabilities, giving them resentful peoples to suppress, unenthusiastic and unreliable allies, and broader territories to occupy. Even before D-Day, Germany had to keep more than 60 divisions scattered about Western Europe.
  • Some of the most unlikely people suddenly became a huge help to the Allies. For example, illiterate Solomon Islanders chose to help the Allies and made possible the coast watchers who played such a vital role in that pivotal campaign.

  Two prominent examples from the Cold War:

  • The brutish conduct of Soviet soldiers in Europe at the end of WW-II cost the Soviet Union the support of the peoples it had liberated and may have doomed them to defeat in the Cold War. See, Gaddis, "We Now Know."
  • The Pope had no divisions - but he had a powerful influence over events in Poland.

  The distinctions can be fuzzy, Nye recognizes. He offers the following explanation of the various forms of power.

  "If I am persuaded to go along with your purposes without any explicit threat or exchange taking place -- in short, if my behavior is determined by an observable but intangible attraction -- soft power is at work. Soft power uses a different type of currency -  not force, not money - to engender cooperation -- an attraction to shared values and the justness and duty of contributing to the achievement of those values."
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  "Command power -- the ability to change what others do -- can rest on coercion or inducement. Co-optive power -- the ability to shape what others want - can  rest on the attractiveness of one's culture and values or the ability to manipulate the agenda of political choices in a manner that makes others fail to express some preferences because they seem to be too unrealistic. The types of behavior between command and co-option range along a spectrum from coercion to economic inducement to agenda setting to pure attraction. Soft-power resources tend to be associated with the co-optive end of the spectrum of behavior, whereas hard power resources are usually associated with command behavior."

The U.S. has always wielded significant soft power due to its ability to "inspire the dreams and desires of others."

 

"When countries make their power legitimate in the eyes of others, they encounter less resistance to their wishes."

 

  Soft power in international politics arises from such nebulous but very real factors as the dominant values, internal practices and policies, and the manner of conducting international relations. The U.S. has always wielded significant soft power due to its ability to "inspire the dreams and desires of others."
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  Nye provides an array of examples demonstrating hard power reinforcing soft power or losing soft power and soft power existing without much hard power.

  "Institutions can enhance a country's soft power. For example, Britain in the nineteenth century and the United States in the second half of the twentieth century advanced their values by creating a structure of international rules and institutions that were consistent with the liberal and democratic nature of the British and American economic systems: free trade and the gold standard in the case of Britain; the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the United Nations in the case of the United States. When countries make their power legitimate in the eyes of others, they encounter less resistance to their wishes. If a country's culture and ideology are attractive, others more willingly follow. If a country can shape international rules that are consistent with its interests and values, its actions will more likely appear legitimate in the eyes of others. If it uses institutions and follows rules that encourage other countries to channel or limit their activities in ways it prefers, it will not need as many costly carrots and sticks."

Cultural features may be attractive in Asia but repulsive in the Middle East. There is much that soft power can accomplish when appropriately employed, but also much that it cannot do.

  Culture that is universal rather than narrowly parochial is a significant source of soft power. Many aspects of U.S. culture know no borders.
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  Nye cautions that this - like all power - must be taken in context. Tanks are useless in swamps, and cultural features may be attractive in Asia but repulsive in the Middle East. There is much that soft power can accomplish when appropriately employed, but also much that it cannot do. However, what it can accomplish is significant, varied, and even surprising, so it is foolish to ignore the soft power aspects of international relations.
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  Nye mentions the strengthening of legal systems in such nations as China. This is of vital importance for the conduct of business in China. That Chinese activists are inspired by Hollywood films to use lawsuits to assert rights "may be more effective than speeches by the American ambassador about the importance of rule of law."
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What soft power can accomplish is significant, varied, and even surprising, so it is foolish to ignore the soft power aspects of international relations.

  Personal contacts are another important channel for soft power. Travel by tourists and business people facilitates such contacts. The half million foreign students studying in the U.S. is a powerful resource. "Most of China's leaders have a son or daughter educated in the States who can portray a realistic view of the United States that is often at odds with the caricatures in official propaganda." President Musharraf of Pakistan has a son who is working in the Boston area.

  Immigrants are also a powerful soft power factor. During the Cold War, the ability of family members and townspeople from impoverished socialist societies to flourish in the U.S. and send home significant sums powerfully contradicted much official anti-U.S. propaganda in those nations.

  Internal policies can have an impact on soft power. Efforts to promote human rights and democracy have noticeably enhanced U.S. influence, while capital punishment and weak gun control laws have undermined it in Europe.
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That much soft power is determined by civil society does not render it immaterial for public diplomacy.

  Apparent military, economic and soft power influence abroad can both enhance and hinder soft power.

  "The publics in most nations continued to admire the United States for its technology, music, movies, and television. But large majorities in most countries said they disliked the growing influence of America in their country."

  Soft power is not controlled by government in democracies like the U.S. The U.S. government cannot censor the libertine attitudes and sexuality displayed in Hollywood movies that offend Islamic nations. However, this uncensored exuberance is precisely the source of the inherent attractiveness of U.S. culture. That much soft power is determined by civil society does not render it immaterial for public diplomacy.

  Hollywood movies are not the only example. The U.S. government is similarly unable to use public diplomacy considerations to squelch capital punishment supporters or women's rights supporters or gun enthusiasts, even though these views are unpopular in some parts of the world.

The limits of soft power:

 

 

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  All power has limits, and soft power is no exception.

  "All power depends on context -- who relates to whom under what circumstances -- but soft power depends more than hard power upon the existence of willing interpreters and receivers. Moreover, attraction often has a diffuse effect, creating general influence rather than producing an easily observable specific action."

"Attraction often has a diffuse effect, creating general influence rather than producing an easily observable specific action."

 

"In democracies where public opinion and parliaments matter, political leaders have less leeway to adopt tactics and strike deals than in autocracies."

  Practical people do not always demand immediate payoffs. Politicians strive to build "political capital" for future needs. Such efforts don't always pay off, but they are effective enough to be a fundamental part of business, social or political activities.

  "Soft power is also likely to be more important when power is dispersed in another country rather than concentrated. A dictator cannot be totally indifferent to the views of the people of his country, but he can often ignore whether another country is popular or not when he calculates whether it is in his interests to be helpful. In democracies where public opinion and parliaments matter, political leaders have less leeway to adopt tactics and strike deals than in autocracies."

  Thus, the Turkish government had to block the unpopular movement of U.S. troops through that country during the Iraq war, but the U.S. was able to obtain bases in authoritarian Uzbekistan for operations in Afghanistan.
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Public perceptions can change quickly. Soft power is volatile.

 

"Popularity is not an end in itself in foreign policy."

 

"In their relations with each other, all advanced democracies are from Venus."

  Applicability to specific goals is different from general goals, Nye points out. Specific goals usually depend on hard power, while the most important influences in achieving general goals are often soft power influences. "It is easier to attract people to democracy than to coerce them to be democratic." However, hard power is required to deter attack, police borders and defend allies. Nevertheless, here too, the distinction is fuzzy - often a matter of degree rather than of sharp lines.
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  Public perceptions can change quickly. Soft power is volatile, Nye readily concedes.

  "Moreover, political leaders must often make unpopular decisions because they are the right thing to do, and hope that their popularity may be repaired if the decision is subsequently proved correct. Popularity is not an end in itself in foreign policy."

  Nevertheless, the soft power cost of unpopular decisions must always be taken into account in the prudent conduct of foreign policy. Nye recognizes the limitations of opinion polls, but considers them "a good first approximation of both how attractive a country appears and the costs that are incurred by unpopular policies."
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  Military force, too, has limitations. Even as military capabilities grow, its limitations increase. Tiny European armies controlled vast empires in the 19th century. Today, democracies are more focused on welfare than on glory. It requires considerable moral justification to ensure moral support for conflict. "The most powerful states have lost much of the lust to conquer."

  "The existence of such islands of peace is evidence of the increasing importance of soft power where there are shared values about what constitutes acceptable behavior among similar democratic states. In their relations with each other, all advanced democracies are from Venus."

  Unfortunately, this is primarily true only in the advanced nations. War fevers rage in many third world nations - only mercifully constrained by their limited military capabilities. See, Military futurecast, segment on "War fever." Internal conflicts and even conflicts across immediate borders rage in Africa and in various parts of the Muslim world "where collapsed empires left faded states and power vacuums."
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  Typically, these are nations and peoples with little access to free markets and international commerce. (They are also typically where people still have large families - where the loss of a child is not the end of a family.)
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Conflict is bad for business.

  Globalization is a powerful force for peace. Conflict is bad for business. All nations that derive substantial benefits from international commerce have powerful reasons to prefer peace.
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The conflict with modern terrorism:

 

 

 

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  The familiar characteristics of modern technology that facilitate terrorism are reviewed by Nye. Complex systems have many vulnerabilities - global travel and communications have become fast, easy and cheap - and access to destructive weapons is now relatively easily acquired.

  "Terrorism depends crucially on soft power for its ultimate victory. It depends on its ability to attract support from the crowd at least as much as its ability to destroy the enemy's will to fight."

"It is through soft power that terrorists gain general support as well as new recruits."

 

 

 

 

  Also, terrorism is now frequently private - unconstrained by the narrow objectives of the nations that support it. Most notably, it is inspired by religious fervor - with unlimited objectives - and unlimited ambitions for destruction and dominance.

  "Because of September 11 and the unprecedented scale of Al Qaeda, the current focus is properly on terrorism associated with Islamic extremists. But it would be a mistake to limit our attention or responses to Islamic terrorists, for that would be to ignore the wider effects of the democratization of technology and the broader set of challenges that must be met. Technological progress is putting into the hands of deviant groups and individuals destructive capabilities that were once limited primarily to governments and armies. Every large group of people has some members who deviate from the norm, and some who are bent on destruction."

  Timothy McVeigh, Nye points out, was "a purely homegrown antigovernment fanatic."
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  The U.S. is certainly correct to adjust its national security strategy to this new reality. However, relying totally on hard power is a bad mistake, "because it is through soft power that terrorists gain general support as well as new recruits."
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  The soft power costs of the Iraq war are reviewed by Nye, along with the real hard power impacts of those costs. The use of bases and transit rights were denied, and monetary and military contributions were withheld because of the widespread unpopularity of the U.S. action. Most of the nations that have made contributions are small and actually added to the U.S. financial burden.
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  U.S. recognition of the importance of soft power influences has been quite impressive since the Iraq war. The U.S. has turned to international diplomacy to deal with Iran and North Korea, and the U.N. has been invited to play a role in the postwar development of Iraq.
 &
  While some parts of the world are still pre-industrial, autocratic and sometimes chaotic - and others like China, India and Brazil just beginning their industrialization - modern economic and social trends point towards increasing importance for soft power in international relations. The U.S. will not necessarily retain its great advantages in hard power. It, too, will become increasingly dependent on diplomacy and soft power.

  "The countries that are more likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communications that help to frame issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms - which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy - and whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international values and policies."

  All of this is obviously true. However, there are, of course, several important problems of application that are not covered in this book. Nationalism and fundamentalist views of religion remain powerful "prevailing global norms," no matter how much internationalists may deplore them.
 &
  Even the major democracies do not, in fact, have uniformly common interests - even in the war on terrorism. Although the U.S. and France continue to have many interests in common, France has major commercial interests in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as its own ideological purposes, which powerfully benefit from U.S. difficulties and failures. Under such circumstances, awaiting U.N. or other international approval can be a prescription for inaction, and depending on U.N. or allied leadership can be a prescription for failure.
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  Although international peacekeeping forces are doing some very useful work elsewhere in Africa, the slaughter continues in Darfur while the international community remains typically paralyzed by Muslim opposition to action.
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  The continued support for Israel is the most costly policy for U.S. soft power in the Muslim world. No matter what else the U.S. does, this one factor will undermine its soft power in that region. Nye repeatedly emphasizes the importance of pushing the "peace process," but does not otherwise directly address this problem.
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  There is in fact no basis at present for peace between these two antagonists. The Palestinians have powerful interests that will not accept any settlement that does not increase their capacity to launch new attacks on Israel. The Israelis - with their catastrophic proportional representation political system - have powerful interests that refuse to accommodate many of the legitimate Palestinian interests. See, "Middle East Futurecast."
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  Should the U.S. abandon Israel - like Europe abandoned Czechoslovakia before WW-II? In Europe, this would again be a popular action. However, the Muslim extremists in fact have other territorial claims - from the Philippines to Spain and numerous points in between.
 &
  Despite occasional problems, both Turkey and Israel have been stalwart allies for the U.S. for half a century. Fortunately, they are also clearly the most powerful states in the region. Maintaining these alliances is in the most profound interests of the U.S. and its broader alliances. Turkey is still the only major Muslim secular state in the Middle East, and is gradually improving its liberal institutions. Israel is the only state in the region that is not in danger of succumbing to Muslim extremists.

  Nye is clearly correct, however, that soft power resources are of increasing importance in the modern age, and it is extremely foolish to ignore them or - with acts of arrogance - to heedlessly squander them.
 &
  At the time of the writing of this book, the author pointed out that it was too soon to tell whether the gains from the hard power military victory in Iraq would exceed the soft power costs, but the latter have been very great, indeed. The war "provided a fascinating study of the interaction of the two types of power." The two are today "inextricably intertwined."
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U.S. soft power:

  The formidable sources of U.S. soft power are covered at length by Nye.
 &

  Its massive economic strength provides not only the hard power of money and material resources but also the soft power of economic influence. Immigration flows, Hollywood films, multinational corporations, foreign students, books, music, internet websites, Nobel laureates, scientific achievements - all are sources of attraction and influence.
 &
  On the other hand, the U.S. gives the least proportionately in development assistance.

  This frequently expressed complaint ignores private charitable giving, which is several times greater in the U.S. than government development assistance. Nye later notes this factor.
 &
  Nor does it consider the expense born by the U.S. to develop and maintain the only credible military force available for major international emergencies. Nor does it consider the expenses of U.S. protection of intellectual property which subsidizes innovation for the majority of the world that does not - most notoriously in medicinal drugs. The expenses of world leadership are not trivial.

  Some of the sources of anti-Americanism in Europe running back to the earliest days of the Republic are reviewed by the author.

  • Much of it Nye writes off as "intellectual snobbery." "America's pop culture resonates widely with the majority of the people across the continent."
  • Some of it is unavoidable resentment and envy that naturally attaches to strength and success.
  • Some of it is unavoidable resentment at the U.S. as the primary driving force of modernity and globalization that threatens traditional cultures and established vested interests around the world.
  • Global culture flows into the U.S., and if successful there, it is repackaged and commercialized for the rest of the world. That the whole world contributes to modern global culture is obvious but frequently forgotten.
  • The U.S. is often just a convenient scapegoat for those that resent some aspects of change.

  The loss of favor in Islamic nations is emphasized by Nye. This is broadly important, but should not be overemphasized. The decline had already set in before the Iraq war when the U.S. acted against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Nye points out. Yet once again, forceful action in the Middle East against some militant Arab initiative has not resulted in the much-feared widespread rising of the "Arab Street."

  Should fear of loss of soft power paralyze U.S. response to attack? Must fear of loss of soft power render the U.S. into the pitiful toothless tiger that the U.S. appeared to be prior to 9/11/01 - scurrying in retreat after any minor reversal?
 &
  Loss of respect is the ultimate soft power catastrophe. An appearance of weakness inevitably  invites attack.

  Loss of soft power due to international policy is nothing new for the U.S. Nye refers to four major instances with respect to Europe.

  • The 1956 Suez Canal crisis.
  • The "ban the bomb" movement in Britain and France during the 1950s and 1960s
  • The Vietnam War period.
  • The deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Germany in the early 1980s.

  The treatment of prisoners in the war on terror is another factor undermining U.S. soft power. Nye cites international agencies that deplore the lack of independent judicial review for such prisoners.

  What nation has ever provided wartime combatant prisoners such independent judicial review? When did this become a worldwide norm? Most nations still don't even know what an independent judiciary is.
 &
  The physical mistreatment of prisoners is, of course, another matter - an unfortunately common occurrence in almost all wars. This has to be dealt with as it occurs. And, U.S. courts are now asserting some - still to be determined - level of jurisdiction to review imprisonment of enemy combatants.

  During the Cold War, U.S. soft power influences provided tremendous advantages. Its cultural exchanges and the tens of thousands of students who came each year to study in the U.S. were especially influential. Nye points out that some of the early students from the Soviet Union eventually rose into positions of power and influence and played important roles in the peaceful demise of the Soviet Union.
 &
  Pop culture may be even more powerful than high culture. It transmits widely "American values that are open, mobile, individualistic, anti-establishment, pluralistic, voluntaristic, populist, and free."

  "Long before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it had been pierced by television and movies. The hammers and bulldozers would not have worked without the years-long transmission of images of the popular culture of the West before it fell."

  Other policy objectives unrelated to the Cold War have also been powerfully impacted by soft power, "including the undercutting of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the increase in the number of democratic governments in Latin America and parts of East Asia, the overthrow of the Milosevic regime in Serbia, pressure for liberalization in Iran, and the consolidation of an open international economic system, to name just a few."

  At least in the short run, soft power must give way to hard power - as the students in Tiananmen Square found out. At least in the short run! However, the Chinese Communist Party now knows that it MUST deliver improved living conditions broadly to survive as the ruling party in China - something it knows that it could not do if it remained "communist" in fact as well as in name.

The sources of soft power:

  Nye discusses the various sources of soft power.

From the refusal to accede to a variety of international treaties to the current conflict in Iraq, the U.S. has pursued its own interests despite widespread foreign objections.

 

While American people and culture continue to be viewed very favorably, the U.S. government is viewed increasingly unfavorably and finds it increasingly difficult and costly to achieve its objectives.

 

"There are choices to be made about how broadly or narrowly we define our national interest, as well as the means by which we pursue it."

  • The U.S. is no longer the only game in town with respect to pop culture, Nye points out. Pop culture is very changeable and is not controllable. Other nations are increasingly participating in the worldwide transmission of pop culture.
  • Liberal immigration policies have long been of great advantage for U.S. soft power.

      "Foreigners can envisage themselves as Americans, and many successful Americans 'look like' them. Moreover, connections of individuals in the diasporas such as the Indian and Chinese with their countries of origin help to convey accurate and positive information about the United States."

      Austrian mothers now encourage their children to be good and study hard in school, so that they too might grow up to be the Governor of California!

  • Government policies have a powerful positive or negative impact on foreign perceptions of the U.S. Some have both positive and negative impacts - varying with variances in the existing beliefs of foreign groups. Patriarchal societies feel threatened by the libertine influences that attract their young. Many peoples are attracted by U.S. prosperity but fear the lack of security and resent the income inequality of the relatively free market system. (They do not understand that the high level of prosperity is impossible without reasonably free labor markets.)
  • The substance and style of domestic polices has an impact on foreign perceptions. Nye again points out that U.S. policies on gun control and capital punishment deviate from European norms. Since 9/11/01, stricter Visa procedures and suspicions of Muslims has hurt the image of the U.S. Vocal criticism of the Muslim religion by some Christian clerics has provided grist for anti-American propaganda mills in Muslim nations.  He recognizes that domestic political interests are frequently too strong and fervent to be swayed by criticism from abroad, but emphasizes that the connection between domestic policies and foreign perceptions will have an impact on U.S. public diplomacy.

  Nye does not discuss the obvious question about the degree to which the U.S. should permit its desire for worldwide approval to dictate its internal policies. The adversaries of the U.S. will always make propaganda use of whatever they can. That they will find much to be displeased with is inevitable, given the freedom and complexity of the U.S.
 &
  To consciously adopt policies unpopular at home to appease critics and opponents abroad is a fools game. Nor is it possible to marginalize major belief groups, much less restrict free speech. That there are beliefs in Muslim nations that retard the progress of the Muslim peoples - and some that are dangerous to the world - is beyond question - and deserves repeated criticism.
 &
  Should the U.S. back off on women's rights to appease Muslim sensibilities? After all, the advancement of women's rights is one of the primary complaints against the West used for recruitment of terrorists.
 &
  Soft power is certainly important, and its conscious development and use obviously wise. However, the realities of the U.S. have always on balance proven very attractive worldwide despite vigorous propaganda efforts by determined adversaries. FUTURECASTS has no doubt that this will continue to be the case, without the need for hand-wringing about individual domestic policies.

  • The substance and style of foreign policy is also a powerful factor. Policies based on broadly shared values are more likely to attract cooperation. "Federalism, democracy and open markets" were the widely shared values upon which the Cold War alliances were built. Shared values in the 21st century include international order, control of weapons of mass destruction, inhibiting terrorism and illicit drugs, and promoting trade, economic growth and environmental causes.

  Foreign perceptions of the U.S. have declined considerably in the past few years as a result of various actions taken by the U.S. in the international arena that are unpopular abroad. From the refusal to accede to a variety of international treaties to the current conflict in Iraq, the U.S. has pursued its own interests despite widespread foreign objections.
 &
  This substantial loss of soft power has high costs economically, militarily, and diplomatically. While American people and culture continue to be viewed very favorably, the U.S. government is viewed increasingly unfavorably and finds it increasingly difficult and costly to achieve its objectives.

  "All countries pursue their national interests in foreign policy, but there are choices to be made about how broadly or narrowly we define our national interest, as well as the means by which we pursue it. After all, soft power is about mobilizing cooperation from others without threats or payments. Since it depends on the currency of attraction rather than force or payoffs, soft power depends in part on how we frame our own objectives. Policies based on broadly inclusive and far-sighted definitions of the national interest are easier to make attractive to others than policies that take a narrow and myopic perspective."

  • Assistance to poor countries is an important source of soft power. Evaluating the mix of U.S. policies that impact poor countries - such as aid, investment, migration and environmental policies, peacekeeping, and protectionist measures that restrict markets for the products of poor nations - particularly textiles and agriculture. Nye refers to an "index" devised by an advocacy group that (not surprisingly) finds the U.S. lacking.

  Such evaluations are frequently offered by advocacy groups that twist the data for propaganda purposes. The "index" referred to by Nye omits such favorable factors as the massive extent of private charitable giving in the U.S. that is several times greater than government foreign aid. It undervalues the importance of U.S. leadership in globalization, and fails to acknowledge that the primary problem with poor countries is their own poor governance.
 &
  Providing aid to poorly governed nations is like pouring money down a sewer. Little benefit reaches the people. See, Theroux, "Dark Star Safari."
 &
  These dubious "indexes" typically emphasize the U.S. contribution to environmental pollutants while omitting consideration that the U.S. is the primary producer of the world's goods and services, and that the pollutants measured as a percentage of the value produced is quite low.
 &
  U.S. protectionism that blocks the meager exports of poor nations is unconscionable - something FUTURECASTS repeatedly emphasizes - but the U.S. market is perhaps the most open of any major nation. Moreover, the poor nations typically wall themselves off from world trade and bar their peoples from benefiting from globalization. It is no accident that practically all the nations that have failed to develop have refused to open themselves to globalization.
 &
  Even god cannot help peoples who will not help themselves. Neither can the U.S.

Multilateralism can be a prescription for paralysis and ineffectiveness, but unilateralism can create opposition that greatly increases the costs of action.

  The dispute between advocates of multilateralism and unilateralism is covered at some length by Nye. Multilateralism can be a prescription for paralysis and ineffectiveness, but unilateralism can create opposition that greatly increases the costs of action. In addition, there is always a major price to pay in terms of loss of soft power influence whenever allies are ignored or disdained.

  Europe is currently taking the lead in trying the multilateral soft power approach with respect to Iranian nuclear weapons programs. This is entirely appropriate, since Europe has significant trade ties with Iran and considerably more applicable soft power influence than the U.S.
 &
  So far, the results have been less than reassuring - but hopefully success will be achieved in the end. Failure in this important matter would constitute a significant setback for multilateralism and reliance on soft power.
 &
  The performance of the U.N. in Darfur and the NATO allies - other than the U.S. and British - in Afghanistan and Kosovo, unfortunately leaves much to be desired. It is indeed hard to sell reliance on multilateralism when the pertinent agencies are so pitifully ineffective.

  Nye notes that public opinion in the U.S. as well as in foreign nations support international organizations. Ignoring international agencies, disdaining allies, adopting a tone of arrogance in international dealings - all serve to create resentments and opposition that can be very costly.

  "In short, though it is true that America's size creates a necessity to lead and makes it a target for resentment as well as admiration, both the substance and style of our foreign policy can make a difference to our image of legitimacy, and thus to our soft power."

  Nye concludes:

    "The image of the United States and its attractiveness to others is a composite of many different ideas and attitudes. It depends in part on culture, in part on domestic policies and values, and in part on the substance, tactics and style of our foreign policies. - - - All three are important, but policy substance and style are both the most volatile and the most susceptible to government control. In any event, we have seen that soft power is not static. Resources change with the changing context."

Soft power of foreign nations and private agencies:

 Others - both nations and private entities - can have and have made use of soft power.
 &

EU soft power induces nations to alter sometimes passionately held beliefs and objectives and accommodate ancient enemies to meet EU requirements. Systems of law and governance are willingly altered and protectionist barriers against producers in other EU states are pulled down in response to EU requirements.

  European soft power is evaluated by Nye in terms of individual nations and as a block of nations. The European Union has tremendous soft power. It attracts  nations from as far away as Turkey.
 &
  EU soft power induces nations to alter sometimes passionately held beliefs and objectives and accommodate ancient enemies to meet EU requirements. Systems of law and governance are willingly altered and protectionist barriers against producers in other EU states are pulled down in response to EU requirements.

  Is this a manifestation primarily of soft power or of economic hard power? Undoubtedly, both are at work here, but the economic carrot seems to be clearly the driving force for EU membership. For the transformation states in Central Europe, the military security of NATO and EU membership is also a powerful factor. The current decline in popular support for increases in EU political integration demonstrates the ephemeral nature of soft power, but does not contradict its reality.

  The EU faces major problems that will negatively impact both its hard and soft power. An aging population, rigid labor markets, stagnant economic systems, and failure to assimilate immigrants are mentioned by the author.
 &
  However, most people find its social safety net and other social security features more attractive than the more fluid U.S. systems. Its military forces play the predominant role in UN and NATO peacekeeping efforts. Its "nation building" efforts in Central and Eastern Europe - predominantly through application of soft power influences - have achieved remarkable results.
 &
  Multilateralism and reliance on international organizations comes naturally to EU nations that individually are comparatively weak. This has both pluses and minuses.
 &
  This formidable array of soft power influence can be used to either abet or impede U.S. objectives. The U.S. and Europe still have numerous values and interests in common. Al Qaeda is not just fighting U.S. values and interests. It is fighting against Western values and interests. U.S. policies that heedlessly squander European support undermine U.S. power and prospects.
 &
  A similar brief analysis of soft power influences in Asian nations such as China, India and Japan is provided by the author. Although he discusses Asia as a whole, there is as yet no element of Asian unity comparable to the EU.
 &

  Nye notes the Soviet Union's use of the communist ideology and their extensive propaganda campaigns. They had several soft power strengths, but "a closed system, lack of an attractive popular culture, and heavy-handed foreign policies meant that the Soviet Union was never a serious competitor with the United States in soft power during the Cold War."

  This is only true because the U.S. in fact undertook the strenuous and dangerous task of opposing Soviet expansion. Only the presence of credible U.S. opposition on the Cold War field of battle lent courage to the many small - and not so small - nations that fended off efforts at communist expansion.

  Smaller nations and even "nonstate actors" can and frequently do wield soft power effectively enough to achieve objectives well beyond their hard power capabilities. The revolution in information and communications technology has vastly empowered minor players that successfully take advantage of modern technology to generate financial backing and public support. They then can gain additional influence from access to mainstream media.
 &
  Notable achievements mentioned by Nye include treaties against landmines and for tobacco control, and the disruption of multilateral trade negotiations. By use of the internet, diaspora groups have been able to gain cohesion and influence. Major corporations have been shamed into altering business practices.
 &
  However, instances of abuse of soft power influence have been frequent. This has materially undermined the soft power of many NGOs and increased skepticism towards NGOs in general. With the demise of communism, the most dangerous soft power threat now comes from radical Islamist ideology and organizations.

  "In particular, the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, which originated on the Arabian peninsula in the eighteenth century, had been augmented by radical outgrowths of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which arose in Egypt in the 1920s. - - -
 &
  "The rise of radical Islamism received a good deal of state help from Saudi Arabia, where the ruling family agreed to propagate Wahhabism as a means of propitiating the clerics, thus buying 'their own political legitimacy at the cost of stability elsewhere.' [Citation omitted.] Because funding of Wahhabist institutions comes from both Saudi government ministries and private charities, it is virtually impossible to estimate total spending. One expert testified to Congress that the Saudis had spent roughly $70 billion on aid projects since the 1970s, and others report that they sponsored 1,500 mosques and 2,000 schools worldwide from Indonesia to France. These institutions frequently displace more moderate and worse-funded institutions promulgating moderate interpretations of Islam. Even if these numbers are incorrect, a fraction of the dollar figures still dwarfs what the United States has spent on public diplomacy in the Muslim world.
 &
  "Ironically, the soft power of Wahhabism has not proved to be a resource that the Saudi government could control or use to obtain favorable outcomes. Instead, it has been like a sorcerer's apprentice that has come back to bedevil its original creator. The radicals regard the royal family as corrupt and in league with Western infidels. They aim to overthrow or disrupt the government, and launched terrorist attacks  in Riyadh in 2003 (and more recent attacks elsewhere in Saudi Arabia). The royal family's bargain with the Wahhabist clerics has backfired because the soft power of Islamic radicalism has flowed in the direction of Osama bin Laden and his goal of overthrowing the Saudi government, not in the direction of making the Saudi government more secure."

  International organizations such as the various religions, the UN and WTO, similarly rely heavily on soft power influences.
 &

"Because the war on terrorism involves a civil war between radicals and moderates within Islamic civilization, the soft power of the Islamists is a disturbing symptom and a warning of the need for Americans and others to find better ways of projecting soft power to strengthen the moderates."

  Osama bin Laden has become a very popular figure in the Muslim world - a soft power influence that is being transformed into adherents, fighters and financial support.

  "Because the war on terrorism involves a civil war between radicals and moderates within Islamic civilization, the soft power of the Islamists is a disturbing symptom and a warning of the need for Americans and others to find better ways of projecting soft power to strengthen the moderates."

  However, there is increasing evidence that democracy can be a far more powerful ideological force among Muslim peoples than Muslim radicalism. It may even be able to preempt the growth of radicalism by demonstrating the actual lack of support for the radicals. See, comment on democracy in "The Middle East," below.

The application of soft power:

  What, then, are the tactics for the generation and effective application of soft power?
 &

  Unlike hard power, many of the crucial soft power resources "are outside the control of governments, and their effects depend heavily on acceptance by the receiving audiences."

  "Moreover, soft-power resources often work indirectly by shaping the environment for policy, and sometimes take years to produce desired outcomes."

  Of course, soft power has also occasionally achieved quick results. Merely disseminating information may "quickly produce or prevent" an outcome.
 &
  Nye provides some prominent examples of historic propaganda campaigns by European powers and the U.S. In the U.S., there were constant disputes over the comparative effectiveness of mass media propaganda and cultural diplomacy such as art, books and cultural exchanges aimed at elites. There was a constant tension between independence and government control of information dissemination programs - between objectivity and the achievement of special purposes.
 &
  "Currently, the VOA broadcasts in 53 languages to an estimated audience of 91 million people." The BBC World Service reaches 150 million.
 &
  Proportionately and sometimes even nominally, the U.S. has dedicated far fewer resources for these purposes than the other major world powers. With the end of the Cold War, this effort was considerably cut back. By 2000, only 2% of Arabs heard the Voice of America. Academic and cultural exchanges were cut back by one third, and numerous cultural centers and libraries were closed.
 &
  Even after 9/11/01, the U.S. invests far less proportionately in its public diplomacy than other countries. A little less than a billion dollars is provided for the State Department's public diplomacy and the various international broadcasting facilities. The VOA cut its English language broadcasts by 25% in 2003.

  This is now changing - probably in no small measure due to the influence of Nye's work. Albeit in the typically dilatory way of government activities, more money is at last being allocated, and additional TV channels and radio stations are now opening to broadcast into Muslim regions.

  However, there is a vast array of other actors involved in U.S. public diplomacy, including the military and other government agencies, and a host of private entities. The contributions of U.S. allies and other Western nations are not overlooked by the author in the many instances where interests overlap. The BBC remains an effective force in this field.

  There is no substitute for U.S. military capabilities - a burden that the U.S. bears alone. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing that allies and other nations with similar interests chip in more in other fields.
 &
  Nevertheless, Nye is clearly correct in deploring the U.S. government's shortsighted scrimping on its public diplomacy efforts. Private and allied efforts are unlikely to be as precisely structured to achieve U.S. objectives as U.S. efforts.

The advent of information technology and the spread of democracy - over half the world's nations are now democracies - have greatly increased the scope for soft power public diplomacy.

 

"When the United States sought support for the Iraq War in such countries, the administration's squandering of our soft power created a disabling rather than an enabling environment for its policies."

 

"Diplomacy aimed at public opinion can become as important to outcomes as the traditional classified diplomatic communications among leaders."

  The lack of coherence is as disturbing as the limits of U.S. public diplomacy. Agencies dedicated to coordinating government efforts and encouraging and coordinating private efforts are clearly needed.
 &
  Especially damaging are the barriers put in the way of foreign students, leading to a substantial decline in foreign students studying in the U.S.

  This situation has been slowly improving. The top U.S. universities - like Harvard where Nye teaches - are increasingly spreading their facilities around the world. They remain the best and most attractive places to study in the world. Nevertheless, all wars have costs - and the war on terrorism is no exception.

  The U.S. thus willfully ignores the realities of the modern age. The advent of information technology and the spread of democracy - over half the world's nations are now democracies - have greatly increased the scope for soft power public diplomacy.

  "While there is still a need to provide accurate information to populations in countries like Burma or Syria, where the government controls information, there is still a need to create a favorable image in public opinion countries like Mexico and Turkey, where parliaments can now affect decision making. When the United States sought support for the Iraq War in such countries, the administration's squandering of our soft power created a disabling rather than an enabling environment for its policies. Shaping public opinion becomes even more important where authoritarian governments have been replaced by new democracies. Even when foreign leaders are friendly, their leeway may be limited if their publics and parliaments have a negative image of the United States and its policies. In such circumstances, diplomacy aimed at public opinion can become as important to outcomes as the traditional classified diplomatic communications among leaders."

  There has been a vast increase in the sources of advocacy information. Amid this cacophony, the ability to command attention and maintain credibility are vital. Propaganda battles are constantly being waged over credibility. Editors and other "cue givers" are valuable elites if people rely on them to determine where to focus their attention.
 &
  The exaggeration of the connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and the threat from Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program may have helped mobilize the U.S. for the war, but it has "dealt a costly blow to British and American credibility." With the vast increase in the sources of news, "increasingly the soft sell may prove more effective than the hard sell."
 &
  Public diplomacy is much more than public relations.
It is no mere euphemism for propaganda.

  "Conveying information and selling a positive image is part of it, but public diplomacy also involves building long-term relationships that create an enabling environment for government policies."

  Daily communications that explain the context of domestic and foreign policy is the first task. This is routine for the domestic media, but consideration of the foreign media is essential for public diplomacy. (A wide array of foreign media enjoy press credentials in Washington and around the U.S.)
 &
  There should also be a "war-room" strategy - something that has become a commonplace part of political campaigns. "Preparation for dealing with crises and countering attacks" to rapidly answer false charges or expose misleading information is essential for the credibility wars. Nye emphasizes the importance of confronting militant Islamist propaganda on every front - even in Al Jazeera.
 &

Public diplomacy efforts will be quickly undermined by contradictory policies, arrogant conduct or narrowly self-serving actions.

  Choosing and developing a set of simple themes is the second task. This is "much like what occurs in a political campaign" to advance particular government policies. A campaign of communications and symbolic events should be plotted for each theme.
 &
  These campaigns sometimes run afoul of real events when it is deemed necessary to take actions that contradict them. Britain's status as a loyal participant in the EU took a beating when it sided with the U.S. over the Iraq war.

  A better example was the impact on Soviet propaganda of repressive actions in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan at various points during the Cold War.

  "Actions speak louder than words," Nye warns. Public diplomacy efforts will be quickly undermined by contradictory policies, arrogant conduct or narrowly self-serving actions. "Policy and diplomacy must match, or marketing becomes a confusing and transparent barrage of mixed messages."
 &
  Nye cites the propaganda war over the Reagan administration decision to deploy intermediate nuclear missiles in Europe to counter Soviet missiles while negotiating removal of such missiles. An effective U.S. public diplomacy maintained a favorable attitude towards the U.S. among the German public despite an intense European left wing and Soviet propaganda campaign.
 &

  Development and maintenance of elite relationships is a third task. Scholarships, cultural exchanges, seminars, training, conferences, and access to media channels, are all appreciated and can have lasting impacts. Over the years, many influential foreign leaders have taken part in U.S. cultural exchanges of various kinds. These include over 200 current or former heads of state.

  A notorious example of this type of activity was the success of Soviet espionage based on the cultivation of students in Western universities in the 1930s.

  It is vital to communicate, to listen and to understand your audience so that you can sensitively adjust your message and related policies. Mere preaching at people is seldom effective. "Actions and symbols that show as well as tell" are far more effective. The recent increase in U.S. development assistance and funds to combat HIV/AIDS are examples cited by Nye.

  "A successful strategy would need to focus not merely on broadcasting American messages but on two-way communications that engage more of the non-governmental dimensions of society."
 &
  "Wielding soft power is far less unilateral than employing hard power, and we have yet to learn that lesson."

  Nye goes at some length into the varied and proliferating channels available for public diplomacy. Such channels include businesses, NGOs, foundations, ethnic diasporas, and various democratic political parties. The fact that they are not completely controllable can actually increase their effectiveness.

  • The internet provides an opportunity for "narrow-casting" - communications targeted at elites - sometimes despite efforts of governments to block them. Physical meetings supplemented by internet communications can create virtual communities of interest.
  • The U.S. President operates in a fishbowl. Messages designed to gain domestic support will be heard abroad in contexts that may not be helpful. Nye criticizes the "Axis of Evil" and "war on terrorism" themes that played well domestically but were subject to harsh criticism abroad. He questions whether a probably indefinite "war on terrorism" justifies indefinite retention of prisoners.

  Nye neglects to offer an alternative method for handling these prisoners. Nor does he speculate on what the impact of their release would be on Western security. On a case by case basis, some of the Guantanamo prisoners have in fact been released.

  • Intelligence sharing is another traditional avenue of influence - effective as long as credible. However, the credibility of U.S. intelligence was seriously undermined by the failures leading up to the Iraq war.
  • Military assistance and training programs create channels of influence with the military of other nations. The U.S. military is very active in this arena. Imbedding reporters with front line troops successfully undermined opposition atrocity propaganda. The military - in its public diplomacy or "Psy-ops" efforts - will always have a credibility problem that will have to be carefully considered.

  Public diplomacy is not always an adversarial matter. Western nations have many interests in common, so substantial elements of their public diplomacy overlap and reinforce each other. When objectives are widely shared, international agencies may be enlisted to further reinforce public diplomacy influence.
 &

The Middle East:

 

 

&

  The all-too-familiar hurdles in the way of modernization of Middle Eastern states are listed by Nye.

  As FUTURECASTS has frequently pointed out, wealth from oil or precious minerals has proven to be a curse for third world peoples. A regime that does not draw its revenues from its people has no need to facilitate their commerce and prosperity.

The promise of prosperity is a powerful attractant throughout the Muslim world, and only modernity provides a way towards prosperity.

  Democracy is an important ideological counter to militant religious zealotry. However, democracy isn't easy, and often fails when done poorly. Appropriate civil as well as government institutions are essential.

  Indonesia - the largest Muslim nation in the world - has been suffering from a wide array of political and economic and sociological problems. Nevertheless, the Muslim parties did poorly in recent elections, and the most radical Muslim parties couldn't even get the minimal support needed to qualify for the presidential ballot. In Afghanistan, registration for upcoming elections has achieved widespread success, despite Taliban opposition and threats.
 &
  Under the Bush (II) administration, the U.S. is indeed playing for high stakes in Iraq and the Middle East. Initial efforts at democracy will of course be far from perfect, but bringing some semblance of democracy into the Middle East would be a huge success. It is something the radicals instinctively fear and feverishly oppose.

  Long periods of autocracy in Arab states leave no avenues of opposition other than radical Islamists. Nevertheless, the promise of prosperity is a powerful attractant throughout the Muslim world, and only modernity provides a way towards prosperity.

  "Democracies cannot be imposed by force. The key to success will lie in policies that open regional economies, reduce bureaucratic controls, speed economic growth, improve educational systems, and encourage the types of gradual political changes that are taking place in small countries like Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Morocco. The development of intellectuals, social groups, and eventually countries that demonstrate that liberal democracy can be consistent with local cultures could have beneficial effects similar to the ways that Japan and Korea demonstrated that democracy can be combined with indigenous values in Asia. But that takes time, as well as skillful application of American soft-power resources."

  It takes generations!

"Cultural differences did not prevent democracy from taking root in Japan or South Korea, albeit with a four-decade lag in the latter case."

  Recommendations also include building more libraries and information centers, translating more Western books into Arabic, increasing scholarships for Arabic students, upgrading the U.S. internet presence in Arabic, and training more Arabic speakers and public relations specialists.
 &
  Nye examines the Cold War analogy.

  "The Cold War analogy is useful in suggesting the need for a long-term strategy, but it can also mislead. Soft power depends on willing receivers, and the cultural differences between the United States and Europe were not as great as those between the United States and the Middle East. Thus Europe was more susceptible to American soft power resources. On the other hand, cultural differences did not prevent democracy from taking root in Japan or South Korea, albeit with a four-decade lag in the latter case. And democracy works in other Muslim countries such as Turkey and Bangladesh. The cultural barriers are far from insurmountable."

A Muslim civil war:

  This is not a "war of civilizations" - at least, not yet.
 &

The widespread unpopularity of the U.S. significantly reduces the scope for anti-radical alliances that the U.S. can encourage and support.

 

Other states "will cooperate up to a point out of mere self interest, but their degree of cooperation is also affected by the attractiveness of the United States."

  The U.S. is not the real target of the terrorists. The real objective of the terrorists is to take control of as many Muslim states as possible. Removing or inhibiting U.S. influence in the region is just a tactical maneuver.
 &
  What the U.S. is really involved in is a civil war within the Islamic world between moderate Muslims and radical Muslims. The U.S. can powerfully influence the outcome of this conflict, but only Muslims can determine its outcome.
 &
  The widespread unpopularity of the U.S. greatly reduces the assistance that the U.S. can provide the moderates in this conflict. The widespread unpopularity of the U.S. significantly reduces the scope for anti-radical alliances that the U.S. can encourage and support. The U.S. simply cannot afford to ignore soft power considerations, Nye repeatedly emphasizes.
 &
  In the Cold War, the U.S. contained the Soviet Union and emerged victorious employing a combination of hard and soft power factors. These were powerfully reinforced by the Soviet Union's primary soft power liability - a widespread perception of it as a mortal threat to the Western world.
 &
  The terrorists also pose a widespread threat that is inducing widespread cooperation against them. Other states "will cooperate up to a point out of mere self interest, but their degree of cooperation is also affected by the attractiveness of the United States." Nye cites Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf is constrained in the degree of cooperation he can provide by the extent of the unpopularity of the U.S. in Pakistan.

  Civil wars are invariably brutal. In the U.S. Civil War, the civilian economy supporting the South became a strategic target. The terrorists understand this and have no compunction against targeting civilians or civilian economic targets. Algeria and Egypt both employed brutal tactics to suppress terrorist challenges.
 &
  In any nation where the Islamic radicals gain significant public support - as they have in Iraq - harsh measures may be required to defeat them. As in the Cold War, the U.S. will have to continue to support governments involved in such conflicts.

Empire:

  The misuse of the term "Empire" in referring to the status of the U.S. in international relations is usefully confronted by Nye.
 &

  There is a clear difference between "primacy" and "empire." In the absence of formal political control, the use of the word "empire" is misleading.

  "Yes, the Americans have widespread influence, but in 2003, the United States could not even get Mexico and Chile to vote for a second resolution on Iraq in the Security Council. The British Empire did not have that kind of problem with India or Kenya."

  The misuse of the term by adversaries of the U.S. is just an obvious propaganda ploy that deserves to be debunked. When believed by influential members of the Bush (II) administration, however, it can reinforce tendencies towards hubris and unilateralism that will be costly and may be disastrous.

  • There is no semblance of U.S. imperial dominance in the world of transnational relations, or even of economic commerce.
  • The U.S. may be the predominant power militarily, but the EU is now an equivalent power economically, and the world of transnational actors is a chaotic jumble with no preponderant forces. The U.S. can militarily remove a tyrant, but the cost may include an increased flow of recruits for Islamic terrorists. If you are in a three dimensional chess game, Nye aptly points out, "you will lose if you focus only on one board and fail to notice the other boards and the vertical connections among them."
  • There is no public support within the U.S. for an imperial strategy. Congress will not provide the resources needed for maintaining imperial ambitions.

  For the U.S., an occupation after a military victory is always a wasting asset. Assistance and influence may extend for longer periods, but the U.S. must relatively quickly achieve whatever it can achieve, and then leave the occupied state in the hands of its people - for better or worse.

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Copyright 2004 Dan Blatt