/* */

30 July 2007

The underpinnings of soft power

We often have occasion to debate the utility of application of soft power in the contemporary strategic environment. There are too few which are willing to discuss the full spectrum of soft power applications, let alone to understand the fist within the glove - the potential utility of non-kinetic measures in close concert with controlled violence for overarching strategic purposes. There are even fewer willing to undertake the hard work of outreach to those outside the community that is necessary to make the purely softer elements of national power work effectively in the international environment, and almost none among those outside the community willing to commit the time, resources, and energies required to help pursue long term strategic soft power effects. It is at these times we wish for Peter Schwartz’s prediction that we will soon see “novels to emerge in the next two decades that will reveal the workings of this form of power, in the same way that Tom Clancy’s novels illuminate the underpinnings of American military culture.” (Although Schwartz expects these novels to be written in French, we sincerely hope one of the bright young Generation Victory will take up the pen first.)

This is not to say that we are anything other than unabashed fans of robust soft power capabilities – after all, American covert action at its best throughout history has been largely about the effects of soft power properly applied. One thinks of the Italian elections of 1948, or the FAREWELL Dossier and similar operations which blunted the effectiveness of KGB Line X operations.

It has thus been with great distress we have witnessed the resistance of the academy, along with the reluctance and even outright hostility of many of the other key owners of the infrastructure of American soft power, to programs and efforts which would help increase American influence abroad, and to blunt attacks against our interests at home.

We therefore are pleased to note the apparent traction, at least in the short term, of recent outreach efforts to involve the scientific establishment in the counterintelligence process. (Profiled here at the blog of Bugs n’ Gas Gal, which we are pleased to discover for the first time.)

There have been too few of these successes in these dark days. And it says something profound, and not altogether pleasant, about American intellectual life when what should have been a natural part of a citizen’s responsibilities becomes something so noteworthy as to be singled out for specific praise. Without more of these efforts, American soft power will remain a myth or a fantasy, and the overwhelming burden will continue to be carried by the kinetic side.

Labels: , ,