Diary

President Obama and "soft power"

From Patterico’s Pontifications:

Putin “Orders” U.S. Fighter Planes Out of Syria, Bombs non-ISIS Opposition

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:31 pm

As we know, our lead-from-behind President has happily left the mess in Syria (a mess that he partly inherited but largely exacerbated with his own fecklessness) to our new and staunch ally Russia. Now we hear from Fox News that Russia is demanding that U.S. planes stop flying in Syrian airspace.

According to the Jerusalem Post, U.S. officials are said to be ignoring the request, but given the general weakness exhibited by the Obama-Kerry axis, and given their desperation to wash their hands of the whole mess, would it surprise any of us to discover that within a week or so we are no longer conducting flying missions over Syria?

There’s more at the link, and, as always, Patterico’s site is full of reader commentary.

Vladimir Putin took the measure of Barack Hussein Obama early, and has been conducting Russian policy based on it; he understands that our 44th President has no stomach for hard work or leadership, really knows nothing about the world at large, and is consumed by the liberal position that the United States has been overly aggressive on the world stage in the past.

The term is “soft power,” coined by Joseph Nye in the 1980s, meaning the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. Dr Nye argued that a country needs to employ both hard and soft power, but our President seems to have forgotten the necessity for hard power as well. Dr Nye himself wrote, in 2013, that Russian and China don’t really understand soft power, and don’t use it well, concluding:

China and Russia make the mistake of thinking that government is the main instrument of soft power. In today’s world, information is not scarce but attention is, and attention depends on credibility. Government propaganda is rarely credible. The best propaganda is not propaganda. For all the efforts to turn Xinhua and China Central Television into competitors to CNN and the BBC, there is little international audience for brittle propaganda. As the Economist noted about China, “the party has not bought into Mr. Nye’s view that soft power springs largely from individuals, the private sector, and civil society. So the government has taken to promoting ancient cultural icons whom it thinks might have global appeal.” But soft power doesn’t work that way. As Pang Zhongying of Renmin University put it, it highlights “a poverty of thought” among Chinese leaders.

The development of soft power need not be a zero-sum game. All countries can gain from finding each other attractive. But for China and Russia to succeed, they will need to match words and deeds in their policies, be self-critical, and unleash the full talents of their civil societies. Unfortunately, that is not about to happen soon.

This assumes a Western democracy type of thinking on the parts of Russia and China, an assumption which couldn’t be further from the truth. China has been enslaved by Communism for almost three generations, and while Russia is nominally a democracy — yeah, right — President Putin is a former KGB officer, and values democracy and freedom just as much as you’d expect from such a man.

The leadership of Russia and China aren’t really interested in soft power, except in places where it might save them a few rubles or yuan, but are very much interested in hard power, because that is what they know, and that is how they rose to power in the first place.

President Obama doesn’t know this or understand this, and seems thoroughly taken aback when Russia and China play hardball with him; why that just isn’t nice, that just isn’t fair!

Soft power might get a country what it wants on occasion, but if a country’s leaders aren’t willing to use hard power when necessary, it will always fail when confronted with hard power. And that’s why Vladimir Putin treats Barack Obama as his flunky, because he can.