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Smart Power in Pakistan

Interviewees: Suzanne F. Nossel, Chief of Operations, Human Rights Watch
Jonah Blank, Chief Policy Advisor for South Asia, Central Asia, and Archipelagic Southeast Asia, Majority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org, Council on Foreign Relations
February 26, 2009

The Obama administration has pressed for a foreign policy based on smart power -- picking the right combination of diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural tools for a particular situation. The phrase was first coined in 2004 by Suzanne Nossel, now chief operating officer for Human Rights Watch, in a Foreign Affairs article. Nossel says the Bush administration "embodied a very depleting brand of American power" which placed too much emphasis on military power.

One of the most important tests for this approach may be Pakistan, say experts. The nuclear-armed country--riddled with a weak government, a faltering economy, deteriorating relations with India, and terrorist safe havens--is crucial to the United States winning the war in Afghanistan. Jonah Blank, chief policy adviser for South Asia on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says the best example of smart power in Pakistan may be the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act. The bill, if passed, would triple U.S. nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, and grant $7.5 billion over five years in assistance for development projects.

However, Blank admits that balancing soft and hard powers in Pakistan will not be easy, especially when using hard power turns public sentiment against the United States. Reported attacks by U.S. unmanned drone aircraft in Pakistan's tribal region have increased anti-Americanism in Pakistan. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, only 19 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the United States in 2008.  Nossel says the current financial crisis will present its own challenges and the United States will have to make "tough trade-offs" as it tries to deploy its resources most effectively in the short term.


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