Joseph Nye, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, has an article in today's LA Times called, "The U.S. can reclaim 'smart power.'" The article of course implies that the U.S. had "smart power," somehow lost it, and needs to get it back. Just what is this fabled smart power? Well, according to Nye
Smart power is the combination of hard and soft power. Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.How's that for clarity? Professor Nye notes that polls show
a serious decline in American attractiveness in Europe, Latin America and, most dramatically, the Muslim world.As you might expect from anyone who actually takes such polls seriously as a basis for U.S. policy, the article goes downhill from there. Here's one silly statement, a sentiment very popular on the left
over-responding to the provocations of extremists does us more damage than the terrorists ever could.No, actually it doesn't. Anyone with the slightest idea about how much damage even a small nuclear explosion could inflict on the United States, knows Nye's assertion to be pure nonsense. Yet you will hear this sort of ridiculous claim all the time. Someone with his credentials should know better.He argues that we need a new foreign policy premise instead of the war on terror. Maybe so, it's not like that's exactly a new idea. The war on terror concept has been criticized from various angles all across the political spectrum. But what is his answer? Wait for it. How about "providing for the global good." Yes, that sounds like a great plan, much more sophisticated than the simplistic war on terror stuff. Terrorism is bound to disappear if we just provide for the global good. Because after all, once terrorists see how much good we are doing, they'll repent of their evil ways and join the world community.
Smart power, for Nye, means
investing in global public goods, providing things people and governments of the world want but have not been able to getLet's see if I have this straight. If we just stop using the military, and start spending tons of money on "the global public good," people around the world will love us and we'll be a lot more effective at fighting terrorism. If we do this we will be exercising Smart Power. If that's smart power, how about we go with dumb power instead.