Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Blogs on Power, Hard and Soft


Readers sometimes fret that I get nearly all my news from the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Lebanon Daily Star, with occasional field trips to aljazeera.net and the Los Angeles Times. For the most part this is true. As a sometime journalist and frequent traveler overseas, I believe these newspapers and their writers employ smart people who try to figure out what's going on in the world, report the news and occasionally contextualize it.

I do occasionally go further afield in the hunt for news, and here are some Web sites (in addition to those on the right-nav of this site) that I've been reading lately for cues on both soft and hard power.

Organic Warfare tends to focus on applications of hard power and fourth-generation warfare, with recent entries covering Zarqawi's claims to dominance in a western Iraq town, knife fighting and the use of force in New Orleans.

Mark at ZenPundit examines foreign and military policy (and, inevitably nowadays, Katrina) through the lens of Thomas P.M. Barnett's Pentagon's New Map hypothesis. His tastes range widely, from Barnett's SysAdmin/Leviathan proposal for U.S. forces to democratization to U.S. intelligence-gathering.

At The Long Tail, Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson looks at the economics of how network theory is playing out across the Internet. It's a bit more technical than other sites I frequent, but a worthwhile read. Here's an explanatory excerpt:

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.

One example of this is the theory's prediction that demand for products not available in traditional bricks and mortar stores is potentially as big as for those that are. But the same is true for video not available on broadcast TV on any given day, and songs not played on radio. In other words, the potential aggregate size of the many small markets in goods that don't individually sell well enough for traditional retail and broadcast distribution may rival that of the existing large market in goods that do cross that economic bar.

Many thanks to USC's Joshua Fouts for recommending Eccentric Star, which specifically covers public diplomacy although author Ann Driscoll, a former USIA foreign service officer, tends to restrict herself to captioning lengthy excerpts from mainstream news sources. Driscoll tends to cover a different theme each day and has a good eye for what matters in public diplomacy.

Joshua Fouts also called my attention to CorporatePower: Communications and Public Diplomacy, N.D. Batra's repository for columns from The Statesman of India. Batra writes exhaustively on public diplomacy with a welcome emphasis on the Asian subcontinent and India's partners and/or adversaries.

1 comment:

Jeremiah said...

Hi, Paul. Thanks for the mention.

I'm actually really interested in conflicts between hard power and soft power. In martial arts they say that hard/soft beats hard, and that seems to be a lesson the West needs to be taught every hundred years or so for some reason.

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