- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (March 16, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1586482254
- ISBN-13: 978-1586482251
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 37 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Soft Power: The Means To Success In World Politics Hardcover – March 16, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
This is an indispensable book for anyone wondering what sort of changes to expect in U.S. foreign policy should the Democrats retake the White House later this year. Nye (The Paradox of American Power, etc.), now dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, was an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and is certain to be a key player in a new Democratic administration. In fact, this book could all but guarantee it. Nye's careful analysis of the shortcomings of unilateralism and reliance solely on military power in confronting the threat posed by Islamic extremists is strong, all the more so because it is virtually devoid of partisanship. He gives credit to President Bush and his neoconservative advisers in their projection of "hard" military and economic power. But he shows how what he casts as their blindness to the significance of "soft" power seriously undermines hard power. Soft power"the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion"is cultivated through relations with allies, economic assistance and cultural exchanges with other countries, projecting a sense that U.S. behavior corresponds with rhetorical support for democracy and human rights and, more generally, maintaining favorable public opinion and credibility abroad. The go-it-alone approach, Nye argues, has led to an unprecedented drop in support for the U.S. abroad, which leaves us scrambling to rebuild Iraq almost singlehandedly, overstretching ourselves militarily and economically. It also hampers efforts to secure the voluntary cooperation of foreign governments essential to dismantling terrorist cells spread throughout the globe. The answer, Nye says, lies in a return to the mix of soft and hard power that cemented the Western alliance and won the Cold War.
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"This is an indispensable book..." -- Publishers Weekly, March 1, 2004
"[Nye] combines a theoretical argument about the nature of power in the modern, interdependent world with a practical critique..." -- Washington Post Book World, April 25, 2004
"[P]olicy makers who are reshaping America's world role and contemplating the decline of American prestige will find ... [this novel] indispensable. " -- Dallas Morning News, June 20, 2004
"mixture of a general primer on the topic and an appeal for more use of this tool of foreign policy." -- The Economist, April 22, 2004
Top customer reviews
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Personally, I was hoping for more concrete examples of corporations, non-state actors, historical anecdotes beyond just 20th century US, and examples of people who used principles of soft power to achieve goals in their own lives; more of a Robert Greene type book.
Still, it was informative for what it was.
I was just really wanting something less abstract and more practical for those of us who don’t have policy analysis jobs at the Rand Corporation. That’s my reason for the three stars.
Other commentators have made the point in their customer reviews here that the concept as presented by Professor Nye is too narrow, and I totally agree. But Prof. Nye was the first one to come up with the notion, long before it occurred to anybody, and that should be recognized. It is now up to others to expand on it and use it in new ways. In the meantime, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the concept.
At the introduction, Mr. Nye acknowledges that hard power, through force, can be used to conquer one state or, at most, a few states in the name of fighting terrorism. However, he asserts that it, alone, cannot create an international cooperation of governments to hunt down every person who serves as a threat to world peace. This latter objective, Mr. Nye proclaims, can be met by merging the coercive presence of hard power with the persuasive influences of soft power and that this combination is an effective approach to forming a coalition of nations. To draw a bold line of distinction between hard power, by itself, and the union of hard and soft power, Joseph Nye quotes Newt Gingrich, who comments that the measuring rod of success is not how many enemies are killed but, instead, how many allies are gathered.
Throughout the book, Nye reinforces that the overarching goal for America to effectively enact and establish its policies is to make the ideals of the United States as attractive as possible to the rest of the world. Though this extraordinary aim might be hailed as unrealistic, at worst, or as idealistic and Jeffersonian, at best, Nye contends, notwithstanding, that this intention is being panned because opponents misread it as appearing too soft. He subsequently reaffirms that the spread of any ideal is not often dependent upon hard or soft power, exclusively, but the proper melding of the two.
To support why soft power is so important, Nye states that it can be used in capacities that hard power cannot and identifies tools in which it can be put into effect. For example, broadcast capabilities and the internet can enhance communication strategies to spread democratic sentiments to other parts of the world. Also, soft power can be an aid in establishing peaceful relations among countries; for instance, programs established to send civilians such as doctors, teachers, and entertainers abroad to provide the types of services that other nations are seeking are powerful, positive overtures for democracy.
Intermittently, Nye states that the effective use of hard and soft power will come to fruition if the goals are properly stated. He cites instances of key shortcomings, the most recent of which pertains to the War in Iraq. Though the United States is criticized from an international perspective for going into war without U.N. consent, Nye states that on the domestic front, there was no solidarity on why the U.S. troops had to engage in combat. He blames this lack of cohesion on the Bush team, who used a wide variety of themes that appealed to so many different groups to the degree that no unifying consensus was ever reached.
Not only does Nye criticize the Bush White House for not properly enforcing hard and soft power, he also places a notable burden of responsibility on the Clinton administration. Nye highlights that a critical mistake that weakened U.S. soft power was the decision of Clinton and Congress to cut budgets and staff for cultural diplomacy and exchanges by almost thirty percent after 1993. How might this be regarded as weakening? Nye points out that knowledge is power and by failing to maintain closer lines of communication with the states concerned, we reduce our ability to select relevant themes and modify our short-term and long-term goals so as to establish and maintain stable relations.
Soft Power, overall, is a very interesting read that cites themes that argue how our U.S. government needs to invest more of its budget in the State Department in order to exercise not just hard or soft power, but smart power. For those interested in other types of power mentioned in war and politics that are synonymous with, if not identical to, hard power and soft power, another interesting book about power is Steven Brams? Theory of Moves. Brams does not use the words hard power and soft power; instead, he applies the terms threat power and moving power, both of which run on a respective, game theory parallel to the aforementioned.