Saturday, June 13, 2009

Soft Power

From Dr. Joseph Nye, a bada$$ who coined the term "Soft Power" that the Obama administration has come to know and love.  Oh, yes, and he also teaches at that little school we know around the way called Harvard ;)

Heard this at a very cool F-bright conference yesterday.

"It is a pleasure for me to be able to address the Fulbright/CULCON Joint Symposium.  It is on a very important subject.....(yadda yadda)......On the question of soft power, it is probably worth reminding ourselves, "What do we mean by power?"  Power is simply the ability to affect others to get the outcomes that one wants.  And you can do this in three different ways.  You can threaten people with coercion, so-called "sticks."  You can pay people, or induce them, so-called "carrots."  Or, you can get people to want the outcomes that you want, and that is what I mean by soft power.  And obviously if you are able to attract people, you can save a lot on carrots and sticks.

Now, the sources of soft power come from a country's culture, where that is attractive to others, its values, where those are attractive in other's eyes, and its policies,  where those policies are seen as legitimate by others.  In that sense, soft power has these different origins.  But Japan is well placed in terms of exercising soft power.  It has a traditional culture and a popular culture which are widely attractive.  Many of its values - among them a stable society - are very attractive. And its policies have been framed on the need for broader legitimacy.  What is more, if you think about the role of power in the information age that we live in today, soft power is going to become increasingly important in the information age.  And I think this plays to Japan's relative strengths.

As for the United States, let me quote for you something that was said by President Obama in his inaugural address.  He said, "Our power grows through its prudent use.  Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."  Subsequently, Hillary Clinton, when she testified in her hearings for confirmation as Secretary of State, said, "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America.  We must use what has been called "smart power," the full range of tools at our disposal."

Now, it is worth noticing that soft power cannot solve all problems.  Kim Jong-Il is reported to like Hollywood movies, but that does not stop him from developing his nuclear weapons program.  On the other hand, there are some things where soft power is more effective than hard power, for example the promotion of democracy and human rights, which is not best handled with the barrel of a gun.

.....(yadda yadda)....But I wanted to focus on a new dimension of our alliance. What you might call the non-traditional dimensions of the relationship, or of security, and those are issues like global climate change, or energy and environment.  And here, we find that Japan has often take the lead. If we look at the alliance in traditional security terms, obviously the Americans are a military superpower;  Japan, while it has impressive capabilities with its Self-Defense Forces, nonetheless for constitutional and historic reasons, has chosen not to try to become a superpower, and so there is a degree of inequality in the traditional security alliance.  Some complain about this, but on the other hand the cost of changing it may be more disruptive than leaving it as it is.  But when one looks at the new security issues, the new collective goods issues such as climate change, here the relationship is much more balanced in the alliance.  Indeed, on some of the areas, you could say that Japan is in the lead on energy efficiency for example. Japanese creativity and technology has played a leading role and example.
.....(yadda yadda).....So I would argue that what we see today is a situation in which this symposium is both timely and important.  Important for the reasons I gave, and timely because it is a situation for the US and Japan to realize that if they were to turn inward, in the context of the current economic crisis, if the number one and number two economies in the world turned inward and failed to cooperate, we could leave the world and ourselves in a much worse position.  So in that sense I think we see a world in which the US and Japan will work together on providing public goods, that this will be an important part of our alliance, and if we accomplish this, it will be good for us, good for others, good for our soft power and good for the rest of the world...."

Omoshiroi, ne?  

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