Examples of soft, hard and smart power

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  • Different types of power
    • Soft power
      • A reason for the USSR's collapse was that its communist ideology couldn't compete with the attractions of capitalist materialism. As American satirist PJ O'Rourke put it, communism collapsed because 'nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes'.
      • According to David Miliband, the global influence of the EU primarily derives from it being a 'model power'. This is why regional organisations like the ASAN + AU have emulated it.
      • During the Vietnam War, US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara remarked that, as well as a military conflict, the war was a battle for 'hearts and minds'.
        • Today in the war against terror, pressure groups like the Quilliam Foundation emphasise that the only fully effective way to combat extremism is to achieve reconciliation and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
      • China is extending its international influence by opening Confucius Institutes globally, designed to promote an understanding of Chinese values especially among young people.
    • Hard
      • In the 1970s Henry Kissinger brilliantly deployed diplomatic skills to achieve detente with the Soviet Union. He opened diplomatic relations with China, therefore isolating the USSR. This pressured it into reaching a nuclear settlement with the US in the SALT (1972).
      • EU utilises its huge economic influence when it negotiates trade deals on the WTO for all its members.
      • EU used economic power when it imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Crimea and Belarus to encourage political reform.
      • In 1991 NATO used military power to stop Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
      • In 2011 NATO air power led to regime change in Libya.
      • In 2017 Trump used military hard power when 59 American tomahawk cruise missiles were launched against Syria following the regime's gas attack on civilians.
        • This was to deter any further attack by President Assad as he would fully understand the consequences
    • Smart
      • Example of the Taliban government which aided and supported Al-Qaeda.
        • Using only soft power resources to change the hearts and minds of regime members would have proved ineffective.
          • Force was required to remove the regime and isolate Al-Qaeda.
        • In developing relationships with the mainstream Muslim world, like Saudi Arabia and Libya, using hard power would alienate them.
          • In this case, soft power would be a more fruitful strategy.


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