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It Is Time for the US to Move from Hard to Soft Power

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From Korea over Vietnam to Central America, and then Iraq and Afghanistan, the US used its military superiority to purchase respect

It Is Time for the US to Move from Hard to Soft Power

Military trucks are unloaded from the nose ramp of a C-5A Galaxy transport aircraft of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Military Airlift Command, in support of Operation Desert Shield.

Author: Julian Harston. Originally appeared at Politika, translated by A. Đurić exclusively for SouthFront

“America has never ceased to be big,” is one of the slogans of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidential elections in the United States. Campaign that eventually shaped into one of the worst choices ever: an aggressive multimillionaire, racist and a man who has no political experience nor a real interest in international relations, and US Secretary of State, which was responsible for US international policy at a time when the world order collapsed, which is lying in connection with Libya and on the content of their e-mails; who was the landlady of one of the most selfish and insincere White House in recent US history.

Hillary, you’re right when you say that the United States never ceased to be significant. But as for me, the question is when and how we began to understand that the true American moral, religious, economic and family values, are the one that we should continue to admire, but that’s not the case with political values, which were top of the list of US export products almost fifty years.

In the period after World War II, the US invested huge effort to spread American values, especially in Germany and devastated Japan, and, consequently, in an attempt to prevent further development of communism throughout the world. Even in Bush’s time, most Americans considered the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq were good ideas, same as an attempt to rewrite laws and institutions in these countries according to American standards.
But, a prominent magazine Poll in Atlantic has recently discovered that Americans today have a bad opinion about the values that their country nourishes, believing that they are in decline. The Americans think that the family, moral and religious values, which are almost impossible to export somewhere and simply establish them there, are the most valuable, and the political values compared to them are poorly quoted. They, like most of us believe that the ruling elites are corrupt, that they lack leaders of strong moral, and that the money governs political system in which they live.

Linda Coker, British Minister for Transoceanic Development asked me in 1993 if I would go to Malawi in order to suggest President Banda, whom I knew, to step down and introduce more democratic form of government (the code name for the Westminster-type democracy). I did it in spite I knew in advance that this can not be good. A year later Banda was no more, and Malawi was sinking – from stable and relatively benevolent autocracy it turned into an economic and political morass.

So it was with the influence of the United States since the end of the Cold War onwards. From Korea over Vietnam to Central America, and then Iraq and Afghanistan, the US used its military superiority to buy the respect that they considered indispensable resource in inculcating moral standards around the world and to ensure its position and indeed US played a role as they believed that the world expects.

Joseph Nye Jr., who passed month visited Belgrade participating in the forum which was organized Vuk Jeremich, in the late eighties coined the term “soft power” – referring to the ability of a country to persuade others to act in accordance with her wishes without force or coercion. Nye argues that successful countries equally needs hard and soft power – ability to force someone and without coercion to shape its long-term attitudes and aspirations. United States and its allies can dominate others, but should also be strained in the attempt to do so through “soft power”, to help companies, foundations, universities, churches and other institutions of civil society of a country.
Conflicts rich and corrupt political system of the United States can not be a model for the rest of the world. It is quite possible that the people and governments admire genuine American moral values, while at the same time they resist its international policy. As Nye would say, the US security depends more on winning the minds and hearts than from wining wars.

To conclude with one suitable but, maybe, uncomfortable observation. From numerous studies we know that the majority of Americans support the use of drones abroad, where CIA killing alleged “militants” without any transparency or previous legal process, sometimes even without knowing the exact identity of those targets. This is an unusual power that the American ruling elite asserts: the power to kill anyone on the basis of the assessment of a few people in Washington.

The fundamental contradiction in the moral attitude of the American public, which believes that the leaders, on the one hand, may delegate the right to secretly carry out this awesome power, while the other, at the same time, considers that these leaders lack strong moral values, that they are prone to scandals and easily corrupt, for many of us is confusing.

The author is a former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations


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Crap article. The US is rapacious empire with no morals. The US has brought misery to the world on a massive scale. Has killed millions and has overthrown many governments.

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