Magazine article Foreign Policy

Brainier Brawn

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Brainier Brawn

Article excerpt

The term "smart power" is just half a decade old, but the concept behind it goes back much further. Grand strategists from Carl von Clausewitz to Lawrence of Arabia advocated a mix of "hard" military power and "soft" ideological sway as the recipe for winning wars. To its boosters in today's Washington, smart power is a way to better husband U.S. resources in a changing world; to detractors, it's a slick marketing phrase masking a policy of weakness. Either way, smart power is now not just a theoretical construct but a way to cash in. The U.S. defense industry has seized on smart-power-style contracts, monetizing a catchphrase that has become the hallmark of the Obama administration.


Carl von Clausewitz's seminal work On War distinguishes two necessary ways to defeat an enemy: using "moral qualities and effects" (which later came to be called "soft power") and "the whole mass of the military force" ("hard power").


T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, describing a successful insurgency in his "27 Articles," cites both the need for a moral base on the ground and the physical ability to inflict damage.


March 1, 1961

The 1960s see the United States embark on a new set of soft-power programs aimed at isolating the Soviet Union. "Our own freedom, and the future of freedom around the world, depend ... on [developing countries'] ability to build ... independent nations," President John E Kennedy tells Congress in proposing one such initiative, the Peace Corps.


November 9, 1989

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. emphasis on soft power plummets; the number of Foreign Service officers working in public diplomacy, for example, drops about 25 percent, and educational and cultural programs lose funding every year until 2002.


In Bound to Lead, Harvard University political scientist Joseph Nye defines two types of power. Hard power is the kind "associated with tangible resources like military and economic strength," while soft power includes things like "culture, ideology, and institutions."


Following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush's administration emphasizes the use of hard power, most notably pre-emptive force.


January 2004

Nye promotes a new phrase, smart power, in his book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. …

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