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The Decline of America's Soft Power - Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

 
 
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 02:49 pm
Summary: The Bush administration may dismiss the relevance of soft power, but it does so at great peril. Success in the war on terrorism depends on Washington's capacity to persuade others without force, and that capacity is in dangerous decline.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., is former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.

Anti-Americanism has increased in recent years, and the United States' soft power -- its ability to attract others by the legitimacy of U.S. policies and the values that underlie them -- is in decline as a result. According to Gallup International polls, pluralities in 29 countries say that Washington's policies have had a negative effect on their view of the United States. A Eurobarometer poll found that a majority of Europeans believes that Washington has hindered efforts to fight global poverty, protect the environment, and maintain peace. Such attitudes undercut soft power, reducing the ability of the United States to achieve its goals without resorting to coercion or payment.
Skeptics of soft power (Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld professes not even to understand the term) claim that popularity is ephemeral and should not guide foreign policy. The United States, they assert, is strong enough to do as it wishes with or without the world's approval and should simply accept that others will envy and resent it. The world's only superpower does not need permanent allies; the issues should determine the coalitions, not vice-versa, according to Rumsfeld.

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jeanbean
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 06:12 pm
Everyone has hated the Americans, ever since the '50's.I hate the Americans, and I was born in Brooklyn.
Americans are stupid, willing to believe in any doctrine.
Which reminds me, I hate Doctrines.
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couzz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:05 pm
"Soft power" is a good term but it does not match the style of most of our politicians (both sides) and business leaders.

As our world's natural resources continue to dwindle we will have to become more intelligent as a nation. Learning to be proactive with creative solutions will be a huge learning curve for our country.

The current powers in the White House are about 20 years behind the times. It will take a steady series of negative events to really enlighten our citizens and we are not even close.

Washington is still in denial even at this minute thinking if they can just cover up or fix a particular problem then everything will be OK. Pretty simplistic thinking, huh.. (Well, maybe I'm wrong--it's worked so far.)

When the majority of our citizens get mad enough, maybe they will exercise their freedom of speech and voting rights and demand better leadership in public corporations and government.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:29 pm
In business, it's the difference between the hard close and the soft sell. Sometimes a salesperson should learn to shut up and let the product sell itself. Rumsfeld certainly hasn't learned this. His knowledge of the product is lacking and he only knows the used car salesman approach.
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jeanbean
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:38 pm
Rumsfield?
It's Condi Rice that gives me pause.
I think there is no one in the whole Adm.
But, everyone likes Bush.
When I say "everyone",
I mean stupid people.
I'd like to shake America....
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 02:59 am
Good phrase, 'soft power.' Reminds me to Teddy Roosevelt's dictum to 'walk softly but carry a big stick.' Trouble today is we're swinging a big stick all right, but thrashing around noisily to let everyone know that we have that stick. The thinking of people like Rumsfeld is simplistic beyond belief. They are firmly stuck in the old 'my country right or wrong' syndrome. Then, when sh*t happens, they're surprised that it's so hard to put together a coalition. Why should we expect any support from other countries when we are so obsviously disdainful of them and their needs and desires?

The analogy with sound business practices is quite apropos. Good marketers have known for a long time that the soft sell works a lot better in the long run than beating the customer over the head with banal bad taste advertising. What I'm afraid of is that the time will come when the world's only superpower will find it is, well, alone.

America got an outpouring of sympathy and support following 9/11. The entire world was with us. Bush & Co. simply squandered that good will by its preemptive attack on Iraq in the face of nearly global opposition. We told our allies, in effect, "Screw you. Your opinions don't matter." A schoolyard bully can hold sway only for so long. The time comes when he discovers most of the kids aren't really scared of him any more.

I don't know if any of this makes any sense or even responds adequately to your post, Lightwizard. But it's 5 a.m. here, I'm working on my first cuppa, and, listening to the news on NPR, the outlook is not rosy.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 07:31 am
As if the world doesn't know were here, right? When intelligent diplomacy doesn't work it's a dramatic failure but nevermind, the average person won't recognize that. China is an example of soft power diplomacy working. Bit by bit they become less socialistic and more capitalistic. We don't like their population control but we sure like their cheap products now flooding the market. Look at the bottom of that last coffemaker you purchased.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 07:34 am
Incidentally, the worst ad ever was the "Mission Accomplished" fiasco aboard that aircraft carrier. Rove and the balance of the administration regrets it -- I believe Colin Powell is still intrinsically a soft power diplomat but is forcing himself to follow the politics.
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couzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 10:41 am
Colin Powell...Bush exploited Powell using him for the all important Feb. 2003 UN speech that swayed opinion about going into Iraq.

On Sunday (5/16/04) Powell officially stated the government had been misled about Iraq weapons of mass destruction. Powell said "It turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading,". "And for that I am disappointed, and I regret it."

Prior to his position of Secretary of State for the current Bush administration, Powell had an impressive 35 year career in the service of his country plus received numerous civilian medals including two Presidential Medals of Freedom. He is a good example of the "soft power" style.

It seems the current administration has had their way with Powell using his honest reputation for key speeches and/or comments at critical moments.

There is no question about it--Powell has been exploited. In the past five months, I have been reading that Powell is looking to leave the Bush administration...the only question is, how does he do it and when?
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Relative
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 10:45 am
Quote:
Anti-Americanism has increased in recent years, and the United States' soft power -- its ability to attract others by the legitimacy of U.S. policies and the values that underlie them -- is in decline as a result


I'd rather say : the acts of US politics and war machine have grown dirtier in recent years. It is not Anti-Americanism, it is America.

Relative
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 10:52 am
Quote:
Prior to his position of Secretary of State for the current Bush administration, Powell had an impressive 35 year career in the service of his country plus received numerous civilian medals including two Presidential Medals of Freedom. He is a good example of the "soft power" style.


I don't think Powell opts for a 'soft power style'. He warned the President that if a decision was made to attack Iraq, we would 'own it' for a long time to come. Turns out he was most likely right about that. He also advocated using overwhelming force, an opinion that was overruled by Rumsfield who advocated tactical precision. When the history of this conflict is finally written, we will know which of these was right about that.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 11:00 am
I think you are not recognizing that Powell is an advocate of soft power but has been overiden by the chicken hawks. I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force is the correct one but he has expressed many times that the soft power approach is relevant and should be optimized. That was suppose to be why he was given the job of Secretary of State, not Secretary of Defense.
They needed someone with the worn out ideas of a Rumsfeld for that.
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couzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 12:01 pm
Foxfyre:
Your statement about Colin Powell "He warned the President that if a decision was made to attack Iraq, we would 'own it' for a long time to come", I believe was made as a deterrent to war.

I do not want to imply Powell was passivist (with his background) but I stand by my opinion of his demeanor as being on the softer side.

I do not believe it was Powell who was pressuring George W. to go to war in Iraq relating to the quotes you mentioned.

As readers/viewers of the press we should consider carefully all White House press releases, general press copy and how these releases and copy influence opinion.

I recommend you view a tape of Colin Powell on his 5/16/04 "Meet the Press" interview and you will witness his natural demeanor. NBC will probably replay it more than once this week due to the controversy over Powell's deputy press secretary stopping the interview prematurely.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 12:10 pm
Soft power has nothing to do with pacifist philosophy. Of course, Powell's Pottery Barn comment (for which Potter Barn took deference to) was not encouraging invasion. Better reread the article carefully to understand it (I know, you can't get the full article without paying or subscribing to Foreign Affairs but it's certainly worth it, otherwise you get the info from the dubious pundits and news magazines).
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Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 12:10 pm
I agree, Powell did not encourage attacking Iraq. But neither did he oppose it on philosophical grounds. As a practical matter, and as a brilliant military tactitian, he knew we could achieve military victory easily but the rebuilding would be a long, consuming effort if we did it. That, I think, was the meaning behind the 'you'll own it' comment.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 12:12 pm
I believe Powell made an open-ended statement which everyone is trying to interpret. I think he layed it in Bush's lap knowing the real thrust for invasion was coming from Cheney, and I don't see Powell and Cheney as bosum buddies. (In fact, they'd both look ridiculous in drag).
0 Replies
 
couzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 12:46 pm
Lightwiz:

I understand the term "soft power". I did not mean to infer that it relates to the hawk-dove syndrome.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 01:01 pm
I realized that -- if Rumsfeld doesn't understand it, I wouldn't expect that most of the posters on this forum would understand it either.

I has nothing to do with having a strong and effective military. It is Teddy Roosevelt diplomacy and he's the President who is on Mt. Rushmore. The only room for the majority of others would unfortunately have to be relegated to carving a small stone at the bottom of the mountain.

(In fact, FDR, was adamant that any monument to him be no larger than his wheelchair).
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jeanbean
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 01:29 pm
I always thought FDR wanted no wheel chair?
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 01:32 pm
Although he mentioned the size of his wheelchair, he was not with us when the actual monument was completed depicting him in bronze in a wheelchair.
0 Replies
 
 

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