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Soft power + hard power = “smart power”

by on December 2, 2011

What is “smart power” and why is it important?

According to Harvard intellectual Joseph Nye Jr., “power in a global information age, more than ever, will include a soft dimension of attraction as well as the hard dimensions of coercion and inducement. The ability to combine hard and soft power effectively is ‘smart power.’”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made her support of “smart power” abundantly clear. During her confirmation hearing in January 2009, Clinton used the phrase “smart power” four times in her opening statement and nine times during her testimony, the New York Times reported.

Clinton said in her opening statement that the U.S. must use smart power, or the “full range of tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political legal and cultural – picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy.”

Last month, Time magazine wrote a cover story about Clinton and the rise of smart power. Massimo Calabresi, Time’s Washington correspondent who wrote the Clinton cover story, explained the significance of smart power in an interview on CNN. (Click here for clip).

Calabresi’s explanation touched on many of the ideas we have studied in class. He said that we are moving into an era where power is seeping away from traditional centers towards networked individuals (Al Qaeda) and nongovernmental organizations, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Essentially, power is locating elsewhere in the world.

The notion of smart power is coming up with ways of influencing other areas of power, such as using technology to reach out to women everywhere in the world, he said.

Clinton has shown a great interest in the use of social media and Calebresi said that one of her technology initiatives boosted funding for the training of dissidents and surveillance-evading software from $15 million to $45 million.

Related to this issue is the State Department’s press for global Internet freedom, which represents an exertion of “soft power.” Nye defines soft power as “getting others to want the outcomes you want” by co-opting people rather than coercing them.

Clinton gave two major speeches on Internet freedom in 2010 and 2011 and has called out countries, such as China, where Internet freedom is threatened.

Clinton’s February 2011 speech on Internet rights and wrongs also laid out the challenges to a free and open Internet, which included achieving both liberty and security, protecting transparency and confidentiality and protecting free expression while fostering tolerance and civility.

By framing Internet freedom as a U.S. foreign policy priority, Clinton is raising the visibility of the issue and exerting pressure on other countries to conform to international standards of openness. The Internet freedom speeches also put pressure on companies and innovators to think creatively about how to resist or combat censorship around the world.

While I think the State Department is making strides in the right direction, the U.S. government must remember that if it wants to promote Internet freedom globally, it also has to promote a freer Internet within the U.S.




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One Comment
  1. I think it’s interesting how your article leads right into mine – the pending possibility of censored internet in the US, which, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton is a proponent of.

    I really don’t understand this divide between the necessity for a “free and open” internet around the world, but not for the US. HC claims that there is “no contradiction between web freedom and ip rights,” but the law she is a proponent of will give companies and the gov’t the right to take down basically whatever they see fit, smothering internet discussions and creativity.

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