View Full Version : Soft Power: a collection of writing & posts

07-26-2006, 09:49 PM
Beacon (http://softpowerbeacon.blogspot.com/), a blog by journalist Paul Kretkowski, which is devoted to the the concept of "Soft Power", is running a daily series on " the best episode in public diplomacy and the most important element of soft power".

Paul has assembled a distinguished list of contributors ( well, I'm not terribly distinguished... but the rest of them are ! ;) ) for his series, including Joseph Nye, who originated the soft power concept.

Moderator's Note

Seven small threads merged today, plus a new title; prompted by annarticle on Defence in Depth so now the most recent post (ends).

Tom Odom
07-27-2006, 11:42 AM
I am a fan of both Joe Nye and his "soft power" concept; he spent nearly a week on the ground with me in Rwanda in 1995 as Assistant Sec Def and he was one of a small handful of distinguished visitors who actually listened to those of us on the ground.

I also believe that "soft power" is the steel core of American international standing; it weakens when we forget that.


07-28-2006, 06:37 PM
Beacon (http://softpowerbeacon.blogspot.com/), a blog by journalist Paul Kretkowski, which is devoted to the the concept of "Soft Power", is running a daily series on " the best episode in public diplomacy and the most important element of soft power".

Paul has assembled a distinguished list of contributors ( well, I'm not terribly distinguished... but the rest of them are ! ;) ) for his series, including Joseph Nye, who originated the soft power concept.

Good stuff,


08-20-2006, 09:56 AM
19 August Boston Globe commentary - In Mideast, the Goal is 'Smart Power' (http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/08/19/in_mideast_the_goal_is_smart_power/) by Joseph Nye Jr.

In traditional international conflicts, the side with the stronger military force tended to win. In today's information age, it is often the party with the stronger story that wins.

Thus in addition to their shooting and killing, Israel and Hezbollah are struggling to shape the narrative that will prevail as the fighting stops. They are locked in a struggle over soft power -- the ability to get what you want by attraction rather than coercion.

The ability to combine hard and soft power into a winning strategy is smart power and, thus far, Hezbollah seems ahead on that score. All that Hezbollah needs to win is not to lose, and to be able to tell the story that it was the only Muslim force brave enough to stand up to Israel.

Sadly, the struggle over soft power did not have to turn out this way. When Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers and launched rockets across the border, the actions were condemned by many Lebanese and criticized by Sunni Arab governments such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Today that public criticism has vanished, and Hezbollah is lauded for resisting Israel.

Israel used its hard military power in a manner that bolstered Hezbollah's soft power and legitimacy in Arab eyes, including many Sunnis who were originally skeptical of a Shi'ite organization with ties to non-Arab Iran...

Israel had to use force in response to Hezbollah's attack to reestablish the credibility of its deterrence, but it misjudged the scale and duration of its hard-power response. Sooner or later, continued large-scale aerial bombardment, even in an era of precision munitions, was bound to produce a disaster like Qana with dozens of dead children. And with dead Lebanese children continually displayed on television day after day, public outrage was bound to limit the leeway of moderate Arab leaders and enhance Hezbollah's narrative...

Lebanon provides larger lessons for the United States about how to conduct a war against jihadist terrorism. The current struggle is not a clash of Islam vs. the West, but a civil war within Islam between a minority of terrorists and a larger mainstream of more moderate believers. America cannot win unless the mainstream wins, and needs to use hard power against the hard core like Al Qaeda because soft power will never attract them. But soft power is essential to attract the mainstream and dry up support for the extremists...

Tom Odom
08-20-2006, 01:04 PM
and that is why I respect Joe Nye....

He actually came out to Rwanda...

Asked questions....

And LISTENED to our answers...

08-21-2006, 02:40 AM
Well said. Terrorist, Hardliners, Insurgents, or what ever you wish to call them only need to put you in a no win situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Thats all they need. However, if you can flip those tables, and put them in that situation by varying kinetic and non-kinetic operations, you can force them to make mistakes and become slopy. Thats how will when. Further, this is what or military needs to relize. I think it is happening a little, but allot of my peers in the officer corps still have along way to go on this issue.

01-24-2009, 05:37 PM
As an Army CA-Bubba (and AF-brat) I applaud LTG Seip (http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=7104) for sharing his views on soft power here at SWJ (http://smallwarsjournal.com/mag/docs-temp/168-seip.pdf). I do wish that he had included more footnotes/links so that we here at the board could follow at least part of the path, which he followed to arrive at some of his conclusions. IMHO the educational effects of SWJ with it’s free-wheeling discourse on variety of topics benefits from the presence of seasoned practitioners, those beginning the journey, and journeymen such as myself who are always looking for hints on how to do things better.

Soft Power missions foster increased security and stability within partner nations, thereby increasing the conditions necessary for free peoples to prosper. Soft Power helps to emplace infrastructure, the rule of law, the internal ability to effectively respond to natural disasters and professional militaries to enable citizens to freely exercise rights and make responsible choices about their nation’s destiny. In addition Soft Power missions develop strong partnerships and open communication channels, allowing nations to collaborate in solving regional challenges. On the other end of the spectrum, instability and insecurity tend to breed dictatorships, offer safe havens to narcoterrorism and repress human rights.

IMHO AF SOUTHCOM missions are needed and the benefits of Jointness are on display here. However, as I wander from CTC to CTC, I note the presence of AF representation in terms of Air Support and note the absence of AF Civil Engineering Flights (http://www.afit.edu/cess/Course_Desc.cfm?p=WMGT%20101), AF Medical Units, and USN Seabees at these very valuable events. I have bumped into Marine CAG, and DOS folks at these same events. These observations may be the result of oversight on my part or scheduling issues, or perhaps it is a reflection of something else. My take on things is that all of us need to get together more often and practice on what it is that we want to do together, before we head downrange to do things.

I would like to share with the group some links that I have found on civil affairs and military government and how America has employed this cross-service, cross-agency capability. My list of sources is laughably incomplete and as usual I need help from the SWJ Council in fleshing things out.

Wikipedia provides the following entries on civil affairs.

Civil Affairs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_affairs)

Definition: "UN Civil Affairs components work at the social, administrative and sub-national political levels to facilitate the countrywide implementation of peacekeeping mandates and to support the population and government in strengthening conditions and structures conducive to sustainable peace."

According to the U.S. Army, "Civil Affairs units help military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander’s area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations on them during peace, contingency operations and declared war." With their expertise in civil matters, they are the principle unit in assisting a commander in the conduct of civil-military operations.

CA units act as a liaison between the civilian inhabitants of a warzone or disaster area and the military presence, both informing the local commander of the status of the civilian populace as well as effecting assistance to locals by either coordinating military operations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs)and IGO's or distributing directly aid and supplies.

Comprised primarily of civilian experts such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, police, firemen, bankers, computer programmers, farmers, and others, CA special operators provide critical expertise to host-nation governments and are also able to assess need for critical infrastructure projects such as roads, clinics, schools, power plants, water treatment facilities, etc. Once a project has been decided on, a contract is put out at a civil-military operations center for local contractors to come and bid. CA teams will periodically check up on the status of the project to make sure the money is being well-spent.

CA provides the commander with cultural expertise, assesses the needs of the civilian populace, handles civilians on the battlefield, refugee operations, keeps the commander informed of protected targets such as schools, churches, hospitals, etc., and interfaces with local and international NGOs and private volunteer organizations, which provides the commander with a unique battlefield overlay of all civilian activity, ongoing infrastructure projects, and the presence and mission of NGOs in the area.

Some of my free-time reading (the easily downloadable kind) on this subject includes:

Rand Document CF 251 Integrating Instruments of Power and Influence: Lessons Learned and Best Practices (http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF251/)

Rand Document MG 557, The Beginners Guide to Nation Building (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG557/)

Rand Document MG 304, The RAND History of Nation Building (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG304.1/)

02-02-2009, 09:32 PM
As a recently returned CA bubba and someone who has been working in Dreamland at Leavenworth for a few years, I would like to offer a few thoughts that I am considering putting into "learned paper format"... or... something that will will ably hold some portion of the front and back cover of some locally produced rag or another.

What I found for the most part, was battalion, brigade and (yes) division level commanders and staff that could ably regurgitate CA and CMO doctrine but were completely clueless when it came to actually planning, resourcing and executing CMO. In addition, there remains the saddest of shortsightedness... the viewing of a CAT as four dudes with a gun truck and some neat-o equipment and somewhat cooler than average hair.

Now, I will be the first to admit that, as with any enabler, the confidence and repoire between the supported commander and the CA asset in question must be developed and maintained. However, considering that my supported manuever commander met me while I was on a rooftop calling for fire in the middle of a firefight while my team helped tow a vehicle that had been disabled by an EFP, I would like to think that I established my tactical proficiency early. With that out of the way, I gave him a fullup brief of the civil picture in sector and what I could do to help influence the fight. He nodded, asked relevant questions, assured me that I had his support and then promptly sidelined my team and I so that he could kill people and break stuff.

There is certainly a time and place for killing people and breaking stuff but why are our officers failing to connect the dots?

I believe part of the issue is the black and white of kinetic/nonkinetic and lethal/nonlethal. In a fight that is nuanced, ambiguous and rarely easy to codify I would like to think that we, as professionals, would be able to recognize that binary definitions of most situations are not only lacking, but considerably dangerous. How is the maneuver commander supporting the commander's intent when he identifies the current situation as "too hot" for CA? Why does he think that CA can't do anything to help with that situation? Why does he fail to support CA when things have calmed down and CMO can have a very real and lasting impact on his battlespace? I believe it is because there is a sad tenacity for fitting the tactical, and even operational, picture into neat little kinetic/nonkinetic boxes.

Further, on the odd days when we managed to sneak out in spite of the best efforts of the commander and his S3, we rarely failed to return without actionable intelligence for his 2. In fact, we returned intel that led to the apprehension of the #3 and #10 of the battalion HVT list. If nothing else, and fully acknowledging that CA is not supposed to actively collect intel, I do wonder how a commander could fail to utilize a consistent source of viable intelligence.

Perhaps this sounds like disillusioned bellyaching but it is, in fact, some of the thoughts I am entertaining as I frame a paper meant to help both the CA community prepare to play nice with Mother Army and, perhaps, a primer for the maneuver folks. Remember... we're here to help you. We're here to support your intent. We're here to make your life interesting.

And no... no I don't have soccer balls to hand out.

01-25-2010, 07:07 PM
Here's a note (http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2010/01/in_a_world_of_o/) from a real-life CRCer in S/CRS. He used the term Comprehensive Interoperability (CINT) which I hadn't heard before and defines it as:

the ability down the road to mount joint stability operations

In addition:

CINT is critical to getting the civilian supply right, for no single government is building sufficient individual capacity to mount these operations on its own; nor politically would it be wise to try to do so. "Comprehensive" is a horizontal term, not a vertical term, that refers to foreign policy tools that range across the spectrum, including stability operations that employ the hard tools of military power and the soft tools of long term development. Improved coordination among actors can lead to better stability operations and better outcomes for the recipient nations.

He also states that he and S/CRS
are helping our own government's principal policy makers become fully familiar with the new soft power tool they hold in their hands

He nails it right there. Isn't part of the problem that these policy makers are all sitting around holding their tools of soft power in their hands?

Steve the Planner
01-26-2010, 01:37 PM
They are holding something in their hands.


SWJ Blog
04-15-2011, 04:00 PM
The War on Soft Power (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2011/04/the-war-on-soft-power/)

Entry Excerpt:

The War on Soft Power (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/12/the_war_on_soft_power) by Joseph S. Nye Jr., Foreign Policy. BLUF: "Even the U.S. military doesn't want to cut the State Department and foreign aid budget. So why is Congress playing a dangerous game with America's global influence?" Or as Doctrine Man (http://www.facebook.com/#!/DoctrineMan) succinctly puts it: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the need to build 'smart power' capability to face the challenges of an evolving global community. Separate hard and soft power efforts don't work much better than a tag-team midget wrestling match . . . those efforts need to be thoroughly integrated to be successful. We get it. We all get it. Okay, maybe Congress doesn't get it."

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2011/04/the-war-on-soft-power/) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

SWJ Blog
10-17-2013, 03:30 PM
Call Them Sticks and Carrots, or Direct and Indirect, or Hard and Soft Power Approaches (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/call-them-sticks-and-carrots-or-direct-and-indirect-or-hard-and-soft-power-approaches)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/call-them-sticks-and-carrots-or-direct-and-indirect-or-hard-and-soft-power-approaches) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

SWJ Blog
04-30-2014, 03:50 PM
U.S. Slowly But Surely Losing its Soft Power Capability? (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/us-slowly-but-surely-losing-its-soft-power-capability)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/us-slowly-but-surely-losing-its-soft-power-capability) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

09-07-2015, 02:50 PM
A short article on the British blog Defence in Depth (UK Staff College staffers) which starts with:
One of the most troubling concepts to appear on the scene in recent years is Joseph Nye’s much-popularized notion of ‘soft power’.

Bill Moore
09-08-2015, 03:08 AM
Thanks for sharing the link David, there were several parts I would like to quote, but will simply quote the section below.

Most importantly, though, what can soft power actually do as an instrument of policy? When it really comes down to it, it’s unclear how it is supposed to be used. Nye himself has always been vague and slippery when asked this question, often resorting to the fall back position that hard power is still useful.

While I consider myself a realist, which is one reason I reject much of our current COIN theory, I think the concept of soft power has merit. It certainly doesn't trump hard power, and I think my now the myth of the power of non-violent revolutions to triumph over hard power is discredited. Non-violence works when the other side isn't willing to use violence to crush the non-violent movement. That can be due to soft power (the power of the ideas of the non-violent groups), or the non-violent group co-opts that country's security forces and gets them to stand on the side line. Better yet, they protect the protestors. If this doesn't happen, and the state maintains the control of their security forces and willing to employ force to the level necessary the non-violent movement will fail.

At the higher level, state to state relations, I think soft power has more of an indirect effect than a direct effect. Yet at times it can have a powerful direct effect, I recall the USSR considered our declaration on human rights as equivalent to declaring war. They were scared to death of the power of that idea. Indirectly, when other states (especially democracies) consider who they're going to partner with their people and leaders do consider the power of ideas. For example, what international system they want to live within. One defined by the USSR (or even Putin now) or China, or one generally defined by the values promoted by the U.S. and other democracies? How many allies does Russia have? Belarus? China? North Korea? That translates to a balance of power in our favor, and that is a realist theory regarding power dynamics.

While the idea is iffy, historically there does seem to be merit to it. I do agree with our friends down under, that it shouldn't justify reducing your defense spending. Soft power still requires a hard power umbrella to have the desired effect.