Free Media Learning Opportunity: Joseph Nye & American "Soft" Power; John Gaddis & Grand Strategy

Dr. Joseph Nye of Harvard is one of the smartest international relations minds one can find today. He has his name stamped on “neoliberalism,” and has contributed to thought on different types of power. I recently listened to a podcast of Nye speaking at Duke University on 23 March 2010, the talk entitled “Soft Power and Obama’s Grand Strategy.” There were several take-aways I wanted to mark:

(2 mins.) “I see smart power as the ability to combine hard and soft power into successful strategies.”

(4 mins.) “Soft power is the ability to get something by attraction rather than coercion.”

(6:30) “If you think of power as the ability to affect others, to get what you want, there are three ways you can do it. You can do it through sticks, threats coercion; you can do it through carrots, payments; or you can do it through getting others to want what you want.”

(10:30) “The soft power of a country rests very heavily on three major sources: one is a country’s culture, where the culture is attractive to others; a second is values, where values are shared or attractive to others; and the third are its policies, where the policies are seen as legitimate, or encompassing the interests of others.”

(13:30) “Beijing consensus = markets + authoritarianism; Washington consensus = liberal markets + democratic government.”

(17:50) “Soft power is hard to include in a grand strategy in that it often takes a long time.” Example ~ in 1958, President Eisenhower supported cultural exchanges with Soviet Russia (50 individuals going both ways). Alexander Yakovlev was one that came to study at Columbia University, who went on to be Gorbachev’s right hand guide to glasnost and perestroika.

Similarly impressive, Dr. John Gaddis of Yale has been called the “Dean of Cold War Historians,” and runs a course on Grand Strategy at Yale University. He gave a lecture on 26 February 2009 in conjunction with the Triangle Institute of Security Studies and Duke University entitled “What is Grand Strategy?” Much of it is a critique of the Clinton administration’s enlargement of NATO, but a lot of it contains interesting material that is relevant to my study.

(8 mins.) “President Clinton assured an aide in 1994 that Roosevelt and Truman had gotten along fine without grand strategies and that they had just made it up as they went along.”

(11 mins.) “Depend on it, sir, the prospect of trying to persuade bright students that you know more than they do, concentrates the mind amazingly.” ~Gaddis paraphrasing Samuel Johnson

(13) General George Marshall warns of “theateritis,” or, the “tendency of military commanders to look only at the needs of their own theater of operation, and not at the requirements of fighting the war as a whole. The best illustration of this was a Herblock cartoon from the Korean War. It showed General Douglas MacArthur, often a cause of General Marshalls anxieties, planning military operations on a square globe, with only the Asian mainland visible at the top of it. A nervous Washington official is reminding him: ‘we’ve been using more of a roundish one here lately, sir.'”

(May 7, 1951, Washington Post)

(26:08) “Grand strategy is the calculated relationship of means to large ends.”

~most knowledge of which is based on war and statecraft because those have forced most of the match of ends to means through history, of course, it can be applied to broader areas.

(34) “We’re good at training hedgehogs who know one big thing and much less at training foxes who know lots of little things and have great agility.” ~Gaddis paraphrasing Isaiah Berlin; he goes on to say that we need blends of both for strategy!

(49) Thucydides: history does not repeat, it resembles; Twain: history rhymes.

Author: ML Cavanaugh

Unequal parts strategist, assistant professor, wordsmith, runner, wine-o, reader, philosopher of firepower, and hopeless lover of three ladies named Rachel, Grace, and Georgie.

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