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?