Critical Analysis on “Soft Power and [Global] Politics” III

[Continued from Part II]

Fourth Subtheme: “Hard Power Can Be Measured, and Soft Power Cannot” 

Falsesoft power, like globalization, is too ‘elastic’ a concept to be useful. Like others, he [Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland] fails to understand the difference between power resources and behavior. … possible to quantify sources of soft power. … measure and compare the cultural, communications, and diplomatic resources that might produce soft power for a country. Public opinion polls can quantify changes in a country’s attractiveness over time. … The United States had far more measurable military resources than North Vietnam, but it nonetheless lost the Vietnam War. …”[36] 

Again in this subtheme, Nye clearly reveals what he and his colleague strategists within America’s ruling elites would like to do with this soft power concept. He seems not to have critically reflected, therefore not repented at all what America’s hegemonic military power had done to the peoples of both Vietnam and America itself. He only regrettably highlights “the loss of a war” to Vietnamese people due to “America’s strategic mistakes.”

There is none he ever regrets or apologizes for what America’s killing machines had resulted there both People and the Mother Nature. I wonder that’s probably why, being conscious of this kind of critiques, a top America’s military strategist Nye justifies his language in his 2006 Foreign Policy article by saying, “soft power is not an ethical prescription.”[37] This particular statement in Nye’s deceptive language play seemingly reaches to or culminates to the highest point. 

As fully argued in the First Subtheme discussions, here in this Fourth Subtheme, too, Nye again seems mostly, if not only, care about how America should be able to “attract or lure” other countries in order to eventually “alter their behaviors through its soft power such as “the cultural, communications, and diplomatic resources” and thereby “get what America preferably wants.”[38]

It seems that’s probably why he regrettably admits the following: “The United States had far more measurable military resources than North Vietnam, but it nonetheless lost the Vietnam War,” because it did not use soft power resources enough and effectively. Again, Nye seems right to say that America’s soft power is not designed for those ethical issues but rather for its global hegemonic power! 

Fifth Subtheme: “Europe Counts Too Much on Soft Power and the United States Too Much on Hard Power” 

True. … Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus is an overstatement, but it contains a core of truth. Europe has successfully used the attraction of its successful political and economic integration to obtain outcomes it wants, and the United States has often acted as though its military preeminence can solve all problems. But it is a mistake to rely on hard or soft power alone. The ability to combine them effectively might be termed ‘smart power.’ …”[39] 

Nye’s language play seems continue in the following statement: “Americans are from Mars (meaning, hard-military-power) and Europeans are from Venus (meaning, soft power).” Basically, he talks about Europeans use soft power resources better than Americans. This is typically another language play I’ve been vigorously arguing about in this paper!

However, he looks again as if he denounces America’s “military preeminence,” by refuting the neo-con claims that America’s military might “could solve all problems.” But apparently he’s not! He instead argues America should be able to master a “smart power” which is “an ability to combine both hard and soft power effectively.” So, his following statement, “it’s a mistake to rely on hard or soft power alone,” once again amply substantiates how his logic and language play in global politics.

Therefore, Nye’s language of soft or smart power concept, no matter how Nye further argues, elaborates and justifies, it’s all about how to effectively get what America wants, by any means necessary

Sixth Subtheme: “The Bush Administration Neglects America’s Soft Power” 

More true in the first term than the second. … The administration and the country paid a high price for that ignorance. Fortunately, in Bush’s second term, with Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes at the State Dept. and … the second term team has shown an increased concern about America’s soft power. The president has stressed values in foreign policy and has increased the budget for public diplomacy.”[40] 

The Sixth Subtheme brings us into one of the suggested Conference themes, “Public Diplomacy.” Nye basically argues the first Bush term did not use soft power enough, but in second term a little bit better with people like Condi Rice and Karen Hughes. He also highlighted in that second term Bush administration increased “budget for public diplomacy.”

There are two different issues to be dealt with in this sixth subtheme. First, Nye again, as repeatedly pointed out before in this paper, does not honestly acknowledge how arrogant, failed, irrational, morally-bankrupt, deceptive, and imperial not only The First but also “The Second” term of BUSH PRESIDENCY had been!

While (seemingly!) reluctantly admitting it, however, he nonetheless again uses very subtle thereby confusing and deceptive language in another discreet admission of “disastrous failure during the Bush presidency” (The New York Times’ language) by saying, “Paid a high price for that ignorance” or “Bush administration neglects America’s soft power.” How would you like to further characterize now Nye’s sophistications of deceptive language play? 

Second, the reason why Nye praises the second Bush term was because it had Rice and Hughes. It’s amazing if Nye had ever truly believed the world would readily agree with him on this particular point.

Now I am really getting afraid if his arguments seem becoming more and more like comical cartoons. According to Nye’s logic, however, Rice and Hughes, two female senior assistants to President, one is black and the other white, must have been Bush’s “soft power” card. But didn’t even this “female and black” card, too, as Bush government’s official Madam or as his convenient facial mask, intend to disguise “the worst-possible administration ever existed in the History of American Presidency” (The New York Times’ language)? Also didn’t Bush administration with this card try to look like a “racially and sexually inclusive” one?

However, both Rice and Hughes, other than the fact that they are female, were well-known for their “blind loyalty” and faith in Bush’s neo-conservatism not only throughout those eight years with him at the White House but also even till this very day. Again Nye seems not bothered at all with unspeakable plights and sufferings that might have been caused mostly by his and America’s undying “imperial ambitions” around the globe.

But he instead, like America’s other military strategists, does very much (seemingly only!) care the methodological or tactical sophistications and deceptiveness of those masks. In this regard, Nye’s talk of “public diplomacy” seems most likely fall into the same line where those sophistications and deceptiveness of America’s “imperial ambitions,” with specific purposes of how its “raw power politics” could be best possibly “hyped” would well function! 

Seventh Subtheme: “Some Goals Can Only Be Achieved by Hard Power” 

No Doubt. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s penchant for Hollywood movies is unlikely to affect his decision on developing nuclear weapons. … Nor will soft power be sufficient to stop the Iranian nuclear program, though the legitimacy of the administration’s current multilateral approach may to recruit other countries to a coalition that isolates Iran. … Taliban… It took American military might to do that. But other goals, such as the promotion of democracy and human rights are better achieved by soft power. Coercive democratization has its limits – as the United States has (re)discovered in Iraq.”[41] 

In this seventh subtheme, Nye alludes those America’s traditional enemies of so-called “rogue states” like North Korea and Iran likely continue to stay further in their infamous “axis of evil” list for a while to come. He also implies these two “rogue” nations’ nuclear programs which seemed to have been further developed respectively through two different stages.

According to Nye’s language, however, it seems he discreetly implies there are no further credible ways to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program, as America’s top intelligence officer like Ret. Admiral Dennis Blaire (Director of National Intelligence) also did.[42]

However, again according to Nye, Iran seems still there in everybody’s agenda, particularly among most American and Western military strategists. They are still talking about how to eventually subdue Iran to follow American/Western/Israel’s orders and wishes. In order to make that happen, as always, they’ve been at times threatening Iran with economic sanctions, international isolations, or, if necessary, use of “America’s awesome military might.”

Nye, thus, suggests the use of hard power, by saying “soft power will not be sufficient to stop the Iranian nuclear program.” Hence, he boastfully lists Taliban as a country America’s military might took care of. The exact wording Nye spoke of Taliban was this: “Soft power got nowhere in luring the Taliban away from al Qaeda in the 1990s. It took American military might to do that.”

So, he plainly said “No doubt! Some goals [he did not specify but, those goals could include most likely so-called “regime changes” in those “rogue states” like North Korea and Iran] can only be achieved by hard power,” as America already did with Taliban in Afganistan and Hussein’s Baath Party in Iraq in most recent years! 

Nye plainly argues how and what “public diplomacy” should look like by saying, “Other goals, such as the promotion of democracy and human rights are better achieved by soft power.” “Soft power resources such as culture, public diplomacy, global mass media, international communications, and so on should be wisely” (Nye’s language) employed in order to “carry out big sticks” (Roosevelt’s language) or “America’s strategic goals to be successfully met” (the Pentagon language).

In fact, Nye’s soft power concept seems to have continually enjoyed more spot lights, even when America’s hard (economic and military) power has been humbled and in some aspects defeated. Again, he’s not still honest enough to plainly admit what America has really wanted from its invasion of Iraq, by calling it “coercive democratization.”

In his 2006 “Think Again: Soft Power” article, Nye characterizes Bush’s invasion of Iraq “coercive democratization.” Would you be able to agree with him on that? This is what I am talking about all along in this paper in terms of the critical issues of language deception in America’s military strategies and tactics, particularly in the case of Joseph Nye’s soft power concept. 

Eighth Subtheme: “Soft Power Is Irrelevant to the Current Terrorist Threat” 

False. … Mohammed Atta or Osama bin Laden. We need hard power to deal with people like them. But the current terrorist threat is not Samuel Huntington’s class of civilizations. It is a civil war within Islam between a majority of moderates and a small minority who want to coerce others into an extremist and oversimplified version of their religion. The United States cannot win unless the moderates win. We cannot win unless the number of people the extremists are recruiting is lower than the number we are killing and deterring. … That equation will be very hard to balance without a strategy to win hearts and minds. Soft power is more relevant than ever.”[43] 

This last subtheme also plainly reveals how dishonest (therefore dangerous!) Nye’s language play could be. For example, in this subtheme, he seems strategically apply one of the most typical “divide and conquer” colonial strategies among/to Islamic Muslim populations. How? As usual, he depicts America like an innocent bystander or a “good cop,” while the so-called “Islamic extremists and religious fundamentalists” as “bad guys.”

So that they are most likely to be “expendable peoples,” like the “communists” in the past and still strongly present in some parts of the world, most distinctively in South Korea, Japan and the United States. In Nye’s worldview, those Muslim people seem like Black people in the United States not only in the past but also still this very day even today under the first Black President sitting at the White House. 

At any rate, according to Bush’s “preventive war” theory,[44] if any of those Muslim people are “presumed, by America, to be Islamic radicals, extremists or fanatics who deem to pose threats to America,” then those Muslims could have been arraigned and caught as “enemy combatants” any time and anywhere. And then, as these stories have been broadcasted worldwide now, like the cases of Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, they could be thrown into any jails, including secret jail cells around the globe for indefinite periods.

Of course, they are mostly out of any legal assistants including those internationally-recognized legal procedures and/or legally-bound processes. In those indefinite periods, they were also often “destined to beinhumanely tortured, mercilessly destroyed both body and mind and spirit, and/or wiped out/taken away by an “innocently good global cop” to somewhere for unknown places in the name of “human rights, freedom, and democracy.”

This “self-appointed global cop” is also infamous for its “arrogant, dualistic (“good or evil”), and self-righteous” perspectives of the world, as historically existed in the past histories and even still this very day of 21st century, such as the “Holy Crusade” mentality. America’s “War against Terrorism,” as Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld and many others in America then literally believed, might have been carried out probably in the name of “God’s holy commissions for them to finish the mission.”[45]   

Nye, thus, defines what’s happening now in Iraq in particular and the whole Middle Eastern region in general (where America’s strategic interests are heavily involved!) is “a civil war within Islam between a majority of moderates and a small minority who want to coerce others into an extremist and oversimplified version of their religion.”

Wow! It’s indeed quite surprising to realize again a high-powered figure like Nye, who is anyway considered a globally-recognized scholar and strategist, though mainstream, how far he could go with his distortions and misinformation which seem extreme!

Again, this is the very example how much deceptive, divisive, and cunning American/Western colonial powers could be! Right here, Nye, like many of his colleagues in mainstream media, academia, church, and government positions, seems no different from President Bush’s arbitrariness, arrogance, denials, distortions, lies, oversimplified dualistic worldview of good or evil, Christian fundamentalism (exactly like that of Islam!), willful misidentification, misinformation, and/or finally self-righteousness.

Again in any of his statements, Nye never mentions or admits the ongoing military, socio-political, and economic conflicts in the Middle East that have continued for a couple of centuries now are due to mainly Western/America’s strategic control and never-dying greed for the vast Oil Reserves in the region. Instead he blames the “civil war” between moderates and extremists in Islamic world. It’s really hard to judge now whether we should further continue if Nye’s soft power concept does deserve more studies or even arguments. 



[36] Ibid.

[37] Nye, Think Again: Soft Power, p. 2

[38] All italicized are Nye’s own language.

[39] Ibid., p. 3

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Including Director Blair, a number of other well-known key figures and experts like Kissinger and Leon Segal in America both inside and outside of U.S. government have admitted “North Korea already a nuclear power,” even if U.S. government had not officially acknowledged yet for a number of other strategic reasons in the region.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions, pp. 1-17, 42-91.

[45] Ibid. Also Bush made his infamous May 2003 speech on a U.S. warship under a “Mission Accomplished!” banner which he later acknowledged “a mistake” is one of the many examples to plainly show how Crusade-like missionary mentalities he and his associates were during his two terms at the White House.

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