Friday, December 02, 2005

The Failure of Soft Power

We frequently hear that soft power (diplomacy, for example) is as effective as and therefore preferable to military power. Unfortunately for proponents of soft power, reality shows that soft power is not very effective.

The U.S. has allowed the Europeans (specifically, Britain, France, and Germany) to take the lead in negotiating with Iran. To date, the negotiations have not led to any change in Iran's policy of pursuing nuclear weapons.

Another example of the limits of sort power is discussed by Wretchard at Belmont Club. According to the New York Times,

Nov. 27 - ... [T]he European Union opened a two-day conference [in Barcelona, Spain] on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim.

Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world - based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power - has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.

As Reuters pointed out, "only two of the 10 Mediterranean partners -- Turkey and the Palestinian Authority -- sent their top leaders to the two-day conference." The Financial Times concludes that the Barcelona conference on immigration and terrorism "has shown the limits of the soft (political) power that Europe likes to vaunt and contrast with US hard (military) power."

Belmont Club is one of the more insightful blogs. Read Wretchard's whole post.


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