Friday, February 6, 2009

Soft Power

Considering that we were talking about soft power last class I find it rather interesting that Prof. Joseph Nye is rumored to be the next Ambassador to Japan. Nye is considered the originator of the term soft power and recently (1/15/09) gave an interview to the Yomiuri Shimbun about the state of the world and what challenges the world will face in the coming year.

Nye believes that the US will start emphasizing soft power more in the international realm.
On the international side, I think Obama will be important for restoring America's soft power, in a sense that his election makes the United States more attractive. But whether he can continue this will depend upon his policies, and his policies I think will be more multilateral than [President George W.] Bush's policies. And I think he will pay more attention to working closely with allies and international institutions.

I find interesting his comment that the US needs to see itself as a provider of global public goods to the entire world. Nye doesn't dismiss hard power, rather seeing the use of hard power as a necessity in certain situations.

[Q] What are the present national interests for the United States and how do you think the Obama administration should design its grand strategy?

[A] I think the U.S. should see itself as a provider of global public goods--things that are good for the U.S. but good for other countries as well.

So if you think about the analogy of Britain in the 19th century when it preserved freedom of the seas, that was good for Britain, but it was [also] good for other countries. And the United States has to play a similar role whether it's keeping open international markets or even taking the lead on issues such as climate change. I think these global public goods are going to be the central issue, or should be the central issue of American foreign policy and how we define our national interests.

It seems to me that to be able to fully provide global public goods, like freedom of the seas, the use of hard power is needed. The global response to the Somalian piracy situation by ramping up military and semi-military patrols in the area would be an example.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your closing thought. In order for the U.S. to provide many global public goods, the use of hard power will be necessary. I think that the Somalian piracy situation is a good example. The only way that situation will be resolved and benefit someone other than the pirates is someone or some country goes in and, to put it bluntly, kicks their asses. These pirates are not going to be willing to just cease being a threat on the open sea. They are committing these actions because there are not other choices that they can make and still provide for their families’ needs and their own. So, if we want the situation resolved, force will be required.

    I also agree with what Nye said about President Obama being “important for restoring America’s soft power.” However, as I stated in a response to another post, I have to wonder, until provided with an answer from Obama’s actions, if when the time comes he will make a decision that is unpopular in the international community because it will be what is necessary for the United States, or whether he will not make the decision solely because it is unpopular and might be seen as a unilateral act. It’s kind of like the hard power-soft power dilemma that has been discussed. Sometimes unilateral acts are necessary. It does not mean that they should be the first and only option. But if something is necessary for the United States, then it must be done regardless of another country’s opinion on the matter.