Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Erosion of U.S. Soft Power

On Monday, Ian Bremmer (a Columbia professor and founder of Eurasia Group) posted about America's ongoing need for hard power on his ForeignPolicy.com blog.

The article discusses many of the concepts we delved into last night in class. Bremmer emphasizes the need for hard power to keep America as what he calls "the world's indispensable nation," amid eroding soft power. Why the erosion? According to Bremmer, it's the fault of Bush, the financial crisis, and the growing popularity international products and celebrities (really?). He writes,
The global financial crisis has inflicted a lot of damage on the American argument that unfettered capitalism is the best model for steady economic expansion. The rise of 'state capitalism,' as practiced in China, Russia, the Persian Gulf states and several other places, has created an attractive alternative. Breakout growth over the past several years in several emerging market countries ensures that American brands now share shelf space around the world with products made in dozens of developing states. The icons of American popular culture, central to U.S. soft power appeal, now share stage and screen with celebrities from a growing number of other countries. The Bush administration's unpopularity in much of the world has merely added momentum to these trends.
His suggestion of the global financial crisis as a contributor to eroding soft power is interesting. However, Bremmer fails to offer specific examples. His arguement rests on the assumption that global audiences equate America with so-called "unfettered" capitalism. Thus, a loss for capitalism is a loss for America. This suggests that maintaining what's left of America's soft power depends on the success of our brand of capitalism. If this is the case, then hard power is not the answer. Instead, a healthy American economy is the best remedy for American soft power. Why is it that some experts paint hard and soft power as the only options?

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