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Small Wars Journal: US Army Africa: Smart Power in Action

Authors: Colonel Stephen Mariano, and Major Charles O'Brien
March 15, 2009


Secretary of State Clinton's use of the term "Smart Power" has stirred the proverbial pundit pot. A surge of talk show commentaries, opinion-editorials, and blog spots have questioned the wisdom of smart power, some going so far as to calling the idea "just plain dumb." Secretary Clinton's evocation of the "full range" of power tools was likely informed by a Center for Strategic and International Studies commission study headed by Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye.

Professors may define and debate smart power but the Nation's civilian and military leaders must develop security policies and employment concepts. The Obama administration, for example, has an objective to "Rebuild the Military for 21st Century Tasks."

Charting a course that implements the administration's notion of smart power will not be easy. The military must conceptualize its role in a smart power policy. Hard power is commonly associated with the military instrument but even hard power can be applied in softer ways to generate smart power. Strengthening a weak foreign military's capability or conducting foreign humanitarian assistance are examples of soft application of hard military power. The Department of Defense must further develop other smart power concepts.

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