Friday, March 23, 2007

Soft Power, the Undiscovered Country


With absolutely no news hook, Jackie Northam still ran “Bush Team Explores Use of Soft Power” on Morning Edition today. It’s deadly boring unless you’ve never heard of soft power or public diplomacy, or dislike breaking news.

Northam’s thesis: the Bush Administration may be taking a softer line on foreign policy!

The usual soft-power suspects were there: Ex-neocon Francis Fukuyama as “The Penitent,” Joseph Nye as “The Thought Leader,” ex-Colin Powell deputy Richard Armitage as “The Unshackled,” plus some of the usual D.C. think-tank talkers (James Carafano, Edwin Luttwak) in supporting roles. Kevin Spacey was about the only one missing from this line-up.

And what did these Wise Men say? The same things they’ve been saying for years—the right things, words about the value of soft power, about the need to mix hard and soft power, about the need to win when you use hard power. The same things, Northam points out, that candidate George W. Bush proclaimed during the 2000 campaign:

“If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way. ... But if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us."

Soft power, all too easily discovered by the rest of the world, remains the Undiscovered Country at 1600 Pennsylvania—deathbed conversions to diplomacy and soft power notwithstanding.

(Thanks to Len Baldyga for the initial item.)

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