Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What is soft power?

THIS is soft power. From President Elect Obama's victory speech:

To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you.

To those who seek peace and security, we support you.

And to all of those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright. Tonight we have proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms, or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

Many of us are still rightly concerned about the "war on terror". The more observant of us might have noticed a few things about the war in Afghanistan. We cannot win that conflict with only military power. It cannot be won even with military power coupled with economic power.

The war in Afghanistan, and the wider war on terror, is a war of ideas. What side can best persuade the people of the world to join their cause? This is what George Bush always failed to understand. It is what General Petraeus, the architect of the surge in Iraq, always did understand. You have to get the people on your side. The policies of George Bush: preemptive war, unilateralism, arrogance, belligerence, and torture, only yielded short term gain at a long-term loss.

Obama is a much needed clean break from the policies of Bush: unity. He preaches it. He acts it. He literally embodies it. He is a descendant of both Christian and Muslim, black and white. The soft power of the United States has literally gone up by orders of magnitude just now.

It, of course, remains to be seen if Obama is indeed crafty enough to capitalize on this resurgence of American soft power. To bring the war in Iraq to a swift and stable close. To bring some peace to Afghanistan. Resolve Darfur, strengthen international institutions. The world is desperate for physical and moral leadership right now, and only the United States can fill that role today. President Obama will make it happen.

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