Sunday, November 30, 2008

Soft Power

They say that, today, America is the world's sole superpower - a nation far above the rest in terms of influence over the others are overall global superiority. But let's ask ourselves, what exactly is power? In a nutshell: It is the ability to get others to do what you want them to. In today's society, because of America's overall dominance, we can get other nations to do our bidding easier than others can.

So how does one exert power over another? Think of it in terms of carrots and sticks. There are three ways to get someone to do what you want:
  1. Hit them over the head with a carrot until they give in to your devious demands
  2. Dangle a carrot in front of them until they acquiesce to your devious demands
  3. Attract people to you by example by showing them how many carrots you have, and showing them that if they follow your lead, they'll end up with the same fate. (And not be a jerk.)
The first two are the quintessential examples of hard power: Using military force and economic coercion or dominance to achieve one's aims. This has been the staple of America's foreign policy lately. Unfortunately, it's led to the decline of our global image and legitimacy in the global community: In other words, people don't like us anymore.

The third, however, is soft power: The power to influence others through cultural and ideological means. In other words, this means the power to attract other people to your ideals. It means diplomatic cooperation, taking the lead in global issues, and sensible foreign policy. And it means making sure that your country is viewed well by others.

Now, clearly, a country needs to use both types of power to achieve success. You can't conquer your way to success anymore, but neither can you just waltz around getting everyone to love you.

Nonetheless, America needs to focus more on improving its soft power if it wants to keep its role as a global superpower. We need to boost our legitimacy in the world if we want to stay competitive.

Besides, in the end, it costs you a lot less in carrots and sticks.

(If you're interested in this, read more about it at this link.)

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