Nation must harness soft power

This is Part 2 in a three-part series on American global politics.

What makes gangs strong is not the strength of individual members. Rather, it is the collective strength of the entire clique – numbers. Who else can you get to show out? Also, allied gangs can intervene to restore peace. Clique A has a problem with clique B. Clique A calls clique C for backup. Clique C is cool with clique B. Clique C becomes an arbitrator.

Having allies in the political world can, and has, worked on the same principles. The larger a force you can muster, the cheaper the war, if necessary, will be. You can send in smaller numbers to be augmented by your friends. Your physical power increases. Your diplomatic power increases as well.

Having more friends means having more chances to try out multilateral interventions, U.N. resolutions, economic sanctions and so forth. It seriously increases your soft power and your power of persuasion. Oftentimes, good diplomacy can bring a more favorable result to a world issue at a lower cost than war ever could.

Once again we are weak. We had an alliance that helped us in Afghanistan. This alliance actually included Iran. After 9/11 the world was willing to swing the bat with us. That was a result of all the good public relations we garnered from years of aid missions and disaster assistance to the world.

That was our political capital. We had most of Europe, a bit of the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe and South Asia. We even had Canadians willing to help. But we blew it. We took a right turn at Kabul and lost our friends. Now if we need help, politicians are hard pressed to offer it because most citizens across the world view us as arrogant and dangerous.

We are in serious straits. It is not just the fact that we are begging our former allies to help us foot the bill if we increase our force in Afghanistan. It is not just the fact that Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez calls us the devil at U.N. meetings, or the applause that can almost lift the roof from time to time that he garners. It is not that Russians get heavy-handed with our buddy Georgia.

It is not the threat of an arms race that President George W. Bush issued without knowing it. It is not the fact that China and India are emerging as world economic powerhouses. It is all of the above.

Khan, a political science and history junior, can be reached via [email protected]

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