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Developing an Integrated Foreign Policy

What Is Smart Power?


October 30, 2007

In foreign policy circles, the term "hard power" refers to guns and bombs, the military force of a country. "Soft power" is used to describe other forms of persuasion a country can employ: trade deals, foreign aid, diplomacy, cultural influence (like movies and music), and more.

America frequently uses both hard and soft power to protect interests and maintain influence around the world. But a new term is catching on. "Smart power" is being used to describe how the nation can wisely use (and preserve) both hard and soft power in the world.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has launched a high-level, bipartisan Commission on Smart Power to make "...recommendations for developing an integrated policy to strengthen U.S. influence, image and effectiveness in the world." Their report will be released November 6. These working papers have been developed as part of the process.

In a recent interview, some of those involved in the commission gave this definition:

John Hamre: Joe, Rich, what is smart power?

Joseph Nye: Rich and I and the rest of the commission are looking at how America wields power in the world and what type of posture is most effective. Hard power – basically military and economic might (coercion and payments) – is a vital element, but as we’ve seen over the past few years, it doesn’t necessarily translate into influence in today’s world. Smart power is about tapping into diverse sources of American power, including our soft power, to attract others. It is about how we can get other countries to share our goals without resorting to coercion, which is limited and inevitably costly.

Richard Armitage: If we look at the main challenges facing us today – terrorism, climate change, people left behind or threatened by globalization, changing relationships with Asia – none of these can be solved by hard power alone. We need to figure out how to integrate military and civilian tools and how to work more effectively with others. After 9/11 we found ourselves exporting something foreign from America: fear and anger. Smart power is a part of a strategy designed to return to more traditional American values of hope and optimism. The United States should be a beacon for the rest of the world, not out of step and out of favor.

You can read the full article from The American Interest here.

The commission is a running a blog and a flash movie contest.

The Foreign Policy Passport blog has this early review of the Commission on Smart Power.

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