Friday, July 28, 2006

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Here is the fifth entry in this week’s series on both the best episode of public diplomacy and the most important element of soft power. I’m fortunate enough to have the coiner of the phrase “soft power” here today: Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

He is the Distinguished Service Professor and former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Princeton University, did postgraduate work at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, and earned a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard. In addition, Dr. Nye has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. In 2004, he published Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, Understanding International Conflicts (5th ed.), and The Power Game: A Washington Novel.--PK

Public Diplomacy Dateline 1958: Perestroika Begins When a Soviet Visits Columbia University

I think the single best episode of public diplomacy of which I am aware was the U.S.-Soviet exchange program that brought Alexander Yakovlev to study at Columbia University in 1958. He was greatly taken by the theories of pluralism taught by Professor David Truman. He applied these ideas as a key exponent of perestroika and glasnost after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the 1980s. This helped to accelerate a peaceful end to the Cold War and to the Soviet Union. Although it took two decades to pay off, it is difficult to think of a greater impact than that. (I describe the event in more detail in Chapter 2 of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.)

[The National Security Archive discusses “Alexander Yakovlev and the Roots of the Soviet Reforms” here and the BBC announces Yakovlev’s death and provides interested parties’ comments here. UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies interviewed Yakovlev at great length in April 1996; read the transcript here.]

Soft Power: Merchants Cover the Globe, and Their Faiths Follow

I suppose the most influential element of soft power throughout history would be the spread of the great religions beyond their original place of origin to intercontinental distances. True, some of the spread of Christianity and Islam (though less so with Buddhism) was accomplished by the hard power of the sword, but a great deal was due to merchants and missionaries and the attraction of the religious doctrines. Nor should we ignore the more recent spread of the scientific method, which attracted people by its rational world view and empirical power. In both cases, the attractive power of ideas had profound effects on the world.

[A Bartleby Encyclopedia of World History article briefly hints at the power of the spread of religious ideas.]

Coming Monday: Mark Safranski of ZenPundit

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