Mittwoch, Januar 04, 2006

The Failure of Soft Power...

Well, I'm back...

This is an excellent, if brief, analysis of what is going on between the US, the EU and Iran.

What is "soft power"? Well, according to Nye, soft power is the art of attracting others to your plan and getting them to agree to it via discussion and diplomacy.

What does Nye mean? What do others mean by "soft diplomacy" or "soft power"?

I'm not sure that they really know what they mean by it either. Why do I say this?

It's because most don't understand what Nye is actually saying: soft power and its corollary, soft diplomacy, is nothing more and nothing less than an adjunct to classic diplomacy. It cannot replace the traditional tools of diplomacy, of military force, of economic and political sanctions, of exercising the nation-state's inherent power to achieve its political goals abroad.

That's what diplomacy is about. It's not about persuading, It's about achieving goals. The worst kind of ambassador is one who is so fascinated by his host country that he ignores, even denies, that the country is being ruled by thugs and that the fawning attention being paid to him is the local version of the Potemkin village. The worst kind of diplomat is one who is so concerned with appearing to be a nice guy that he forgets why he is there: he's not there to make a great impression on the locals, he's there to represent the interests of his country.

You can be nice while doing that, but the greatest danger to diplomats is that they are manoeuvred into a situation where they simply can't make any impact whatsoever.

Let's get back to the US, EU and Iran.

Obviously the mullahs - and they are the power in Iran, despite all the subtleties and complexities of the Iranian body politic - are doing what they claim they are not doing: developing a nuclear capability.

The EU has been very nice about talking to the mullahs and pointing out that this is a really, really inapproprate thing to do at this point in time, and let's all sit down and understand each other so that we can work out a mutually acceptable solution to the problem.

The mullahs, apparently, consider this to be so pathetic that they aren't really interested in talking at all: it is beneath their contempt to even talk to the EU about this.

And they are right. The EU has nothing except soft power: it not only doesn't have a meaningful way of intervening in their own interest, they don't have any way of intervening if their lives depended upon it. All that the EU can do is talk: elevating that to a virtue is denying that you have a problem.

Soft power without hard power is, morally speaking, on the same level as the appeasement before WW2. It is the equivalent of getting in touch with the local mafia to invite them to break in to the house when the owners are away, so as to avoid any sort of conflict that might arise when burglars might find the homeowners at home.

The foreing policy of the EU has failed once again: it failed in the collapse of ex-Yugoslavia; it failed in Ruwanda, it is failing in the Sudan and it is failing in Iran.

Is there anywhere where the foreign policy of the EU has succeeded?


Niko hat gesagt…

I prefer to compare the late EU to the last decades of the Roman Empire. No, really. Crippled by expensive bureaucracy, weakened by imperial overstretch, and torn apart by rivaling lobbyist groups.

The irony being, of course, that the same European elite delights in depicting the US as the second coming of the Roman Empire. Well, if anything at all, then the US Empire represents that stage when Rome influenced if not controlled 9/10's of the known world, and planted their seeds of law and order, effective agriculture, and a sophisticated financial and tax system, in savage lands that later became the Britain and French Empire. The de-centralized topic of that time, or, as we rediscovered recently, "Think global, act local," is what America drives today.

Europe, however, chose, "Think big, act small." But not in the Jennings sense.

John F. Opie hat gesagt…

Hi Niko -

Sorry for the delay, my internet connection was down for a few days...

You're absolutely right, but there's one further thing to underscore your argument: the corruption of the EU and the accompanying tragedy of the commons. The EU is so corrupt that even the people who are supposed to watch over the EU have yet to open up their budget to controls, let alone get a clean bill of health from the accountants: that is perhaps the greatest scandal in the EU of all.

And it is in many ways ironic. The Europeans desperately want to be where the US is, and are clueless as to what it takes to be there.


Niko hat gesagt…

Absolutely, John. And I do believe that the lack of accountability is not merely a design flaw, but one of the intentions of post-WW2 Europe. After all, several "EU Founding Fathers" had publicly stated that they aimed at insulating the Bruxelles elite from the common folk because - get this - the average voter can't be trusted, and if you gave them power, for instance, to abandon the current course by extra elections (á la California) then you'd end up in another Third Reich.

By the way, look what Pope Benedict had to say yesterday:

"Pope Benedict, abandoning his prepared sermon, compared the wild excesses of the ancient Roman empire to 21st century society and urged people to rediscover their faith."

Obviously, he meant "21st century European society."

John F. Opie hat gesagt…

Hi -

Not entirely sure that the track record of the European voters has actually been all that good: their obvious ignorance of what is being done to them by their duly elected officials is a fairly good argument for insulating the functioning of the intranational European state from the vagaries of power-hungry demagogues.

Of course, that is the core of the problem: power-hungry demagogues. I was watching the German morning infotainment just a few minutes ago and Claudia Roth, the head of the Greens, was on: she promptly called policies that look to solve the problems that the Greens have created in Germany to be "backwards".

And isn't that part of the core problem of Europe, of not trusting the common man? Then again, it's also the core problem of the Democrats in the US as well...

Thanks for your comments... :-)