by Dmitry MININ
Why the use of soft power leads to grave consequences
The hypocrisy intrinsic to American policy is especially apparent in the use of soft or smart power. Joseph Nye, former Deputy to the Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance, Science, and Technology and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, coined the term. He had accumulated the experience of reaching the political goals without the use of force to make it an independent policy direction. According to him, «Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced». (1) Then he concluded that soft power alone was not enough so he came up with combination of hard and soft power to create optimal strategies in particular contexts.
Power is the ability to affect others to get what you want, and that requires a set of tools. Some of these are tools of coercion or payment, or hard power, and some are tools of attraction, or soft power. But soft power or hard power, American politicians always want the same thing – to establish their superiority at the lowest possible price. The White House primarily saw the smart power as an effective instrument of manipulation. Actually it was manipulation that brought Obama to power. His duplicity became evident when he received the Nobel Prize. It’s not clear what achievements made him a prize-winner. Back then he said something totally inconsistent with the purpose of the ceremony, «We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.» (2) Perhaps it was not the fault of Joseph Nye – he was misunderstood. Citing scholars politicians always pick up only what sounds right to serve their point.
For instance, Joseph Nye envisioned the possibility of one power undermining another, especially as a result of the actions undertaken by military. He believed that economic sanctions rarely result in achieving political goals because they first hurt common people, not ruling elites. Even financial aid often results in more corruption, including among the ranks of privileged. By undermining the balance between social groups it rather leads to exasperation instead of desired reaction. According to Nye, some saw soft power in the XXI century as a form of cultural imperialism. Mythmaking becomes a currency of soft power and governments compete with each other and other actors to gain more trust while debilitating the confidence in others. Clumsy shots in a propaganda war may provoke derision; they could be counterproductive to tarnish the country’s reputation and undermine its credibility. Too much coercion may be damageable if it leads to excessive self-confidence. In this case soft power happens to be nothing more than a cover for hard power to prevent the accomplishment of set goals. For instance, the scenes of mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the Abu Ghraib have not only reduced trust in American values but rather engendered strong belief that they were permeated by hypocrisy.
The Obama administration ignored all the Joseph Nye’s warnings. The double standards did not make the US policy more attractive neither in the Middle East, nor Ukraine. Former European commissioner for international relations Chris Patten says that when even high standing foreign officials meet someone from US administration they should remember that they are not the ones who call the shots. No matter how polite Americans could be, an official is made feel dependent and the task is to demonstrate zeal hoping to get away with the blessings for one’s future endeavors. Going abroad American officials bring along retinues big enough to make Persian King Darius envy them. They book entire hotels, city life stops, men with bull necks and communication earpieces knock out innocent pedestrians on the streets. It’s not the way to capture hearts and souls, says Chris Patten. But it’s only one side of the coin.
The other side is the fact that ensuing repercussions are to be faced by those soft or smart power is targeted at. They are catastrophic. The new strategy of the White House destabilizes the situation in the world and kills people even more than hard power does because it’s built on provoking internal conflicts and dissemination of uncontrollable chaos. By no possible stretch of imagination could Joseph Nye see himself giving birth to this type of Frankenstein.
In the eyes of Washington the need to democratize (meaning a bloody regime change in a country) depends on the loyalty to «democratizer» (the United States). Well-known US political scholar Fareed Zakaria writes that the United States never uttered a word when democrats in Taiwan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were made to keep their mouths shut. Mr. Zakaria believes that if Washington makes exclusions from the rule, then others will follow the suit. The US has the option of making no exclusions. But to do neither or to call for doing one thing and then do something else is hypocrisy. It undermines the trust in America. Pierre Hassner writes that the United States has lost the ability to have a critical view of the plans to establish its hegemony in the unipolar world that emerged after the Cold War. If power is uncontrolled and subject to corruption at home then how can the world be protected when it becomes global? (3). This is the impact of intrinsic specific feature of American mentality – one can own black slaves and at the same time believe that he sets the example of democracy-minded politician.
According to Israeli political and military expert, the former head of the Israeli secret services «Nativ» Yaakov Kedmi, the US duplicity and unscrupulousness became evident before WWII when the United States supported the fascists when they came to power hoping they would attack the Soviet bolshevism. After WWII America gave refuge to former Nazi, including those who had served in Gestapo and Abwehr, no matter what crimes they committed, because the US believed they were useful in their struggle against the main enemy – the Soviet Union. Then the United States decided that every bandit ready to fight the Soviet expansion and intervention in Afghanistan should be supported. That’s how Al-Qaeda was born. The same way the ISIS terrorist group appeared. In the name of democracy European countries and the United States pretend not to see the outright undemocratic and discriminatory attitude towards Russian minorities in the Baltic States. They turn a blind eye on the fact that fascism is being resurrected in Eastern Europe where those who fought side by side with Nazi are praised and made national heroes! For instance, Herberts Cukurs eliminated (probably by Israeli intelligence service Mossad) for his crimes is a national hero in Latvia, like Shukhevych and Bandera in Ukraine, says Yaakov Kedmi.
The events in Ukraine are a classic example of bloody consequences entailed by the use of what was soft power at first – peaceful protests, the demands for freedom and honest government. In his State of the Union address Obama haughtily announces the victory of American «new thinking». He said, «…today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.» (4) According to Dimitri Simes, the president of the Center for the National Interest and publisher of the foreign policy journal the National Interest, the Obama administration contributed into aggravation of the crisis in Ukraine taking the side of protesters. He notes, «…essentially the United States and the European Union have decided to side with the protesters. Let me say, too, if they were using that kind of force and those techniques against a friendly government we would not call them protesters, we would call them rebels. We have sided with these protesters slash rebels.» (5) According to Leonid Bershidsky, the Berlin-based Bloomberg View contributor, the Obama’s State of the Union address proves that Obama either does not understand how dangerous the exacerbation of the relations between the West and Moscow could be or jumps the gun to make the unachieved victory a feather in his head. «That’s how America leads,» Obama said proudly. It’s more comforting to think he’s faking that pride than to imagine he really doesn’t understand how ineffective the U.S. has been in Ukraine. The president would have done better not to talk about Russia and Ukraine at all.
(To be continued)
1) Nye J. Jr. The Paradox of American Power: Why The World’s Superpower Can’t Go It Alone. N. Y: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 8
3) Pierre Hassner, «Definitions, Doctrines, and Divergences», National Interest no. 69 (2002): 30-34.