Council on Foreign Relations
New York, New York
JOSEPH LELYVELD: Good evening. I'm Joe Lelyveld. Our guest, as you know, this evening is Joseph Nye, who for the last eight-plus years has been the dean of the Kennedy School, which is situated on a non-land-grant university on the outskirts of Boston. [Laughter.] He was previously an official in the [former U.S. President Jimmy] Carter and [former U.S. President Bill] Clinton administrations. In the Carter administration, he was the point man on non-proliferation. In the Clinton administration, he was, for a time, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council [at the Central Intelligence Agency]. Maybe somebody here knows what that is, but—[laughter]
JOSEPH NYE: We're now getting into the press. [Laughter.]
LELYVELD: And he can't say, I suppose. And he was assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. He's been writing more than a book a year, on average, in the last few years, preparing for his imminent departure from Cambridge—well, I don't know from Cambridge, but from the Kennedy School. And the next one is a novel, I am told. But we're discussing the penultimate one of 2004, and that's this book, “Soft Power,” which elaborates on what he himself coined, I think, about 10 years ago, and does so in the context of the Iraq war and September 11th—the events following September 11th.
The session is entirely on-the-record, and I always like having the opportunity to say that, because I'm uncomfortable when I do these things and have to say the opposite. And I'll start off in a discussion with Mr. Nye, and then we'll do that for awhile, and then we'll turn it over to you, and you—I think it looks as if many of you have done the reading for the course, so—[laughter]—perhaps you'll be able to carry it further than I can, although I read the book with great edification.
I'll take a crack at saying what I think soft power means, and then give him an opportunity to reply authoritatively. It has something to do with what was once quaintly called a decent respect for the opinion of mankind, and—or at least in keeping up an appearance that you have a decent respect for the opinion of mankind—and some kind of belief that the conventions of diplomacy, of speaking to other people and perhaps listening to what they have to say—or, again, appearing to listen to what they have to say—have something to do with protecting American interests in the world order.
That view—in other words, it has something to do with an old consensus that's been around for a long time about how you manage the relationships of states. That view more or less was discarded even before September 11th by this administration, and so—and they had their own view of how soft power arises, which they've really put to the test in Iraq, which was that soft power—the ability to influence others—some of the Maoist view flows out of the barrel of a gun, and that American influence would be expanded in the world at large, and specifically in the Middle East, if we made a demonstration of our ability to democratize a tyranny-ridden state such as Iraq.
So let me start by asking Mr. Nye, who writes in this book that the Bush administration has squandered American soft power, what he would say the scorecard is at this stage on this whole venture of transformation, if that's the term.
NYE: Well, let me first say I think you've got a third of soft power, an important third. But to go back to basics, power is the ability to influence others to get what you want. And you do that three ways. You can do it with threats or sticks. You can do it with payments or bribes. You can do it with attraction or co-option. And it's the third of those that's soft power. And your soft power, or attractiveness, grows out of three things.
One is the way you frame your policies, which is what you just described. If you frame your policies in a way that's broad, that includes the interests of others, [then] they feel they've been consulted, [and] you are more likely to be seen as legitimate, more likely to get cooperation. But soft power also grows out of your values and ideals, like democracy and human rights, when you live out of them. And it also grows out of your popular culture, everything from Hollywood to Harvard, when it's attractive to others.
I think the problem that we see in the polls that are reported in the book is that our attractiveness to others has declined quite dramatically in the last couple of years. We've lost about 30 points on average in European countries, including ones like Britain and Italy and Spain that supported us in the war. But it's even more dramatic in the Islamic world. In the largest Islamic country, Indonesia, three-quarters of the people said they were attracted to the United States in 2000; and that dropped to 15 percent—one, five—in May of last year. And it hasn't gotten better. The latest Pew [Research Center for People and the Press] poll shows, if anything, it's gotten worse.
So in that scorecard I would say that we're not doing too well. These are the people that we're going to need when we're trying to struggle against [Osama] bin Laden or al Qaeda, or Jemaat-al-Islamiyya [an Egyption terrorist group]. And the fact that we have lost our attractiveness is, I think, a real problem for us. And I think, without sounding partisan about it, when you just read the poll evidence, and you ask people why have they lost this feeling about the United States, and you ask them, “Is it American culture or is it American policies?” It's American policy. So in that sense, you've gone to the heart of where we've lost our soft power.
The good news, the silver lining in that cloud, is when you ask the same people, “How do you feel about Americans or American culture?”—we still have a reservoir of good will to build on, but it's going to require some changes in the style and perhaps substance of our foreign policy to be able to rebuild it.
LELYVELD: Would it have been possible to pursue the same policies and not suffer this loss?
NYE: Yeah, I think you could have done some of the same things. I mean, to be fair to a number of the people in the Bush administration, they do care about soft power—if you look at President Bush's investments in the Millennium Challenge Account [for foreign aid], which is the first time we've increased development assistance in a long time; if you look at the money that has been poured into combating AIDS, HIV/AIDS. These are good investments in soft power, and that's I think something they deserve credit for.
And for the people who wanted to democratize the Middle East, I think they had a valid point. I mean, I think the idea that we needed to get beyond the status quo of propping up the existing regimes is correct. But the way they went about it was their problem. But it wasn't just going in and imposing it with the barrel of a gun in Iraq. It also—take something like the new democracy initiative [Greater Middle East Partnership Initiative] that the administration has launched. What worse way to do this than to announce that we are going to discuss it with the Europeans and then tell them the answer? I mean, this is bound to create resentment. Suppose instead of that, we had taken the Arab Human Development Report, which is under the U.N. Development Program, which is written by Arabs, which is extraordinarily critical of what's happening in the Arab world—you know, low growth, closed international trade, terrible education system, wasting opportunities for women, no scientific and technical literature. I mean, this is the—if we had written this it would have been politically incorrect. But instead of that, why didn't we take that and say, “Can we help you? How can we help you?” Maybe it's not the government. Maybe it's through American civil organizations, foundations, universities, and so forth. That's the way to go about it, exercising your soft power.
So even though I think the neo-conservatives are right to say that democracy is part of our soft power, the means that they've chosen to implement that—they've stepped on their own message.
LELYVELD: Still, I have to wonder how much influence even a very rich and powerful non-Muslim country can have in an organized way in influencing the outcome of a cultural debate at the core of Islam. Anything we do is—well, not anything, because we've done some very dramatic things—but anything we do aimed at influencing cultural debate, supporting moderate Islam, something you say we should be doing in the book—is bound, it seems to me, to be quite marginal in the final outcome, don't you think?
NYE: Well, I hope it's not too marginal, because in some ways rather than a clash of civilizations that [Harvard professor] Sam Huntington describes between Islam and the West, we really have a civil war inside Islamic civilization, between an extremist group that wants to use force to impose upon others their version of their religion, and a majority—whether you want to call them moderate, or just not extremist, who want things like opportunities for their kids, better education, health care, dignity—those are things that we do stand for and that we can help provide. But unless the moderates or this non-extremist majority wins that civil war inside Islam, we will lose.
[U.S. Secretary of Defense] Don Rumsfeld had this question in his leaked memo in which he said, “How do you get the metric for the war on terrorism?” And he suggested the metric is, are the numbers that we are killing and deterring greater than the numbers that the madrassas [Islamic religious schools] are producing and bin Laden is recruiting? Well, he got that right in the sense of comparing our hard power and bin Laden's soft power. What he left out of that equation is, wait, what about American soft power? How about the numbers that we inoculate against recruitment by bin Laden?
LELYVELD: How would you apply that paradigm to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? Those are two countries that are obviously very important to us, two countries that are manifestly not democracies, where we—the last thing we seek at the moment is regime change. How do we influence the debate in that kind of situation?
NYE: Well, in Pakistan you have an interesting situation. Obviously, if we tried for democracy overnight, we would probably get something worse. I don't know if any of you have seen the Pew polls that bin Laden outpolls George Bush and [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair.
LELYVELD: What was it, 65 [percent] to 9 [percent]?
NYE: Yeah, it's pretty bad. So if you say, given our security concern, could we insist on democratic elections in Pakistan now—and the same thing [is] probably true in Saudi Arabia—the answer is no. But there's a difference between that and saying, what kind of Pakistan do we want to see 10 years from now, and what are we doing to move it in that direction? What are we doing to do things like increasing growth rates, opening up more international trade, reducing our tariffs against their textile imports, trying to get help changing their educational system—not through the U.S. government, but perhaps [in] partnership with U.S. universities, foundations? Those are the things that are crucial. You don't do democracy overnight. When you do, you probably get it wrong. But you can have—there's a difference between a policy which says just give the status quo—you know, that's the only thing you need—as opposed to saying, let's see if we can't move toward change over time. So Pakistan, Saudi Arabia—too rapid a change, too rapid an effort to create democracy, I think, would be counterproductive. But it would be very foolish on the contrary for us to sit still and pretend that we want to be 10 years from now where we are now.
LELYVELD: What about our own attitude to the rest of the world? You talk about listening in the book. And yet there are a lot of signs in our culture that—except for the big flashpoints like Iraq—we're somewhat less interested than we were during the Cold War. The media organizations that guide their strategies by what they call their market share have all—I'm thinking of the networks and the news weeklies in particular—have all drastically reduced in normal times the amount of foreign news they cover, their staffing in these places. The amount of basic information in this information age flowing to Americans about the rest of the world [is], I think, arguably decreasing. And we elect presidents, the last—the two presidents after the Cold War were both people who obviously had not come to office with much of a world view. What—and yet we presume to set standards for other societies. How do we resolve this contradiction within ourselves?
NYE: Well, we've got to learn to listen more. We talk about how badly we're doing in the communications with the rest of the world, and that's true. I mean, after the Cold War we cut back on exchange programs by a third, the number of people in USIA [United States Information Agency] before it was abolished was half of what it was during the Cold War. We abolished USIA. In the private sector, the networks have gone to about one-third of the foreign coverage they had—at least before 9/11.
We aren't doing as much listening, because we didn't feel that clear and present danger that the [former] Soviet Union presented. As we look at how we're communicating with the rest of the world now, there really is a gap there. I mean, it's quite extraordinary. There's a statistic that comes out of [Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University] Ed Djerejian's [October 2003] report [“Changing Minds, Winning Peace”] on public diplomacy with the Islamic world. They claim that we spent 150 billion [dollars] last year on all public diplomacy toward the Islamic world. That's about [inaudible] of the defense budget. I mean, that's an extraordinary number. Ask how many hours do we broadcast Urdu, which is the lingua franca of Pakistan? Two hours. I mean, this, for the world's greatest communicating country—we're doing a lousy job. You know, we spend—I argue in the book we spend 400 times more on hard power than on soft power. There's something wrong with that ratio. But then people listen to that and say, “Oh, well, then you mean we’ve just got to pour more money into more broadcasts?” Not unless the broadcasts are going to be received well. And to be able to understand whether your broadcasts are received well, you've got to listen. To listen you have to have people who study Arabic, who study the languages of all the Islamic cultures, as well as the religion, so that when you are communicating you know how to make sure it's not just hours of broadcast time for what you're spending, but how are they hearing you. And we're not doing that. We're neither spending adequate funds; nor are we preparing the ground properly in terms of the people who we want to hear us.
LELYVELD: One of the most striking points you make in the book, it seems to me, was when—you have a line in there about talking about Islamic communities within our own Western societies, and you say we can't bomb Hamburg or Detroit to deal with al Qaeda cells in these places. Well, it's striking, if you think of the recent arrests in Britain and the 70 field investigations, the CIA briefing that the president referred to, in our society a lot of the people who are perhaps the most threatening to us have grown up here or have lived here for a considerable time. What does that tell us?
NYE: Well, it tells us that the problem is not just what some people think [it is:] poor, impoverished people who then turn to bombs before they're so poorly off. It's a much deeper problem than that. And this, I think, is one of the difficulties with what [syndicated columnist] Charles Krauthammer calls the "new unilateralists," who you started out describing. Krauthammer invented that phrase with a sense of approval, and it was the view that the Soviet Union is gone, nobody balances American power, we're big enough and strong enough, we should decide what's right and just do it. The others have no choice but to follow. And after Afghanistan, Krauthammer wrote a column in which he said “Afghanistan proves the new unilateralists have worked: We went in there alone, we cleaned their clocks. It worked out, that's it.”
The trouble with that is that it worked against the Taliban government, and properly. I mean, we should have used force there, I'm not disagreeing in the least. But it's only half the answer. Our military wrapped up about a quarter of al Qaeda in Pakistan—I mean, in Afghanistan. And the only way you can wrap up a transnational network which has cells in 50 or 60 countries is by close civilian cooperation—intelligence sharing, police work across borders, tracing financial flows, and so forth. And that's the point, that you can't bomb Hamburg or Kuala Lumpur or Detroit. You've got to have close civilian cooperation. And the extent to which others cooperate with you depends in part on their own self-interests. But it also depends on how attractive you are. I mean, the degree of cooperation depends on your soft power. If being pro-American is the kiss of death in the domestic politics of another country, a political leader, even if he is sympathetic to you and wants to cooperate, is not going to go too far out on a limb. And by squandering our soft power, we are not going to get as much cooperation as we need.
LELYVELD: OK. My final question: Is the metaphor “the war on terror” itself a useful metaphor in this sense? Because it so emphasizes hard power as a solution to the very violent threats and scary threats we're undoubtedly facing. But it seems to point to a one-track response.
NYE: Well, there is a danger—I can understand why the metaphor was used. The president wanted to rally popular support after a physical attack. We needed to use hard military power in Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban and the havens they were giving to al Qaeda. But I think it may have outlived its usefulness, because it may divert us from a more sensible strategy. Probably a struggle against terrorism is a better way of thinking about it.
There's also the problem, which is that if we—right now our major threat is transnational Islamic extremism terrorism. But the terrorist threat we face is actually more than that. I mean, I argue in the book that it's worth remembering that the worst terrorist event in the United States before September 11th was [the 1995 bombing of a federal office building by] Tim McVeigh in Oklahoma City—purely homegrown. And that what's happening with the democratization of technology and others in which technology is putting capabilities into the hands of pathological individuals of whatever background, capacities that were once reserved to government. That's not just an Islamic problem. And, I think, probably thinking of terrorism as a tactic rather than as a particular discrete enemy is better as a metaphor. We now have the term "war on terrorism." I suppose that we think of it as a war on drugs or war on poverty, that they broadened the metaphor. But I think it may also divert us from a sensible strategy for really defeating the tactic of terrorism over the longer term.
LELYVELD: I think, folks, it's time to turn the floor over to you. And that will relieve me of the need to keep the conversation going and keep you in the batting cage. Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: Larry McQuade. Tell me, given where we are in Iraq, how could we best move to something which would be effective? [Laughter.]
NYE: Well, I'm tempted to say we shouldn't be where we are, but that's not—I can't get away from that. No, I think there's going to have to be a large political element in the solution. The idea that we, with hard power alone, are going to conquer the cities is probably very unlikely. Putting it another way around, if you just read the paper last week, every time you bomb a mosque you probably produce more people who are resisting you than you kill. And I think the—I don't know how this current uprising is going to go, but I would hope that they will move towards some sort of a political agreement.
Last fall—this isn't just 20/20 hindsight—I remember last fall saying what we should do, is do a deal with [influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-] Sistani while we can. And instead of that we held out for more optimal arrangements. This is not going to be an American-style democracy in Iraq. It never was scheduled to be. I mean, that's not how things work in terms of building democracy. But we could have produced, perhaps, a stable and pluralistic Iraq that would have been a lot better than Saddam [Hussein’s] Iraq. But what I fear is that by not going for a political solution more quickly or earlier, we're now in a situation where the politics is getting out of control. And whether, at this stage, you could do something that said, let's see if we could use Sistani and [political leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-] Hakim and use divisions within the Shi'a, and make a political deal with them, where they will get a majoritarian control—enough autonomy for the Kurds to not be independent but to protect them. And then with the policing of the Sunni Triangle, try to internationalize that as much as possible, keeping Americans outside of the center cities, maybe getting [the] U.N. and Arab League to try to produce a degree of day-to-day livable order in that area. That's the best I can come up with.
LELYVELD: There was a curious article today on the front page of a local newspaper that talked about generals and officials at the Pentagon worrying about the lack of a political process and the failure to find a way of communicating with Iraqis and forecasting that if this problem wasn't solved they might have to fight these battles over and over. They said everything but read "Soft Power." [Laughter.] Yes?
QUESTIONER: Thank you, professor, I'm Diana Glassman. It seems to me that there is a lot of spending that we do on soft power efforts, whether it be the AIDS Millennium Challenge, OPIC [Overseas Private Investment Corporation], USAID [United States Agency for International Development], and on and on and on. I'm wondering if there's some way that we could better leverage that spending—perhaps with a czar in the National Security Council. And, secondly, I'm wondering what is the role of the private sector? Can we leverage the private sector in the service of public diplomacy beyond the media component?
NYE: Well, it's a very good question, because we are doing a number of things which deserve more attention. We're not very good at communicating them. I've been struck at how the world's leading country in the Information Age, the world's greatest communicating country, has been so inept. Just to take the example of Iraq for a minute, you know, we had a television station in Iraq which broadcasts four hours a day with communiques from the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, while [Arab-language satellite news station] al Jazeera and the Iranian television were on 24/7. I mean, it's fascinating to me that we have not been more adept at getting out our message. There are good messages, such as the ones you've mentioned, or the fact that in Bosnia and in Kosovo we were defending Muslim lives. I mean, there are things that we could be trying to get across that we have been surprisingly inept at getting across.
But I think the other point of your question—and it's important—is America generates a tremendous amount of soft power out of our civil society. It's not just the government. And if you think of, for example, the half a million students who come to the United States every year and go home with American ideas in their head, that's a tremendous source of soft power. Or think of American foundations that are supporting developing education in other countries. Or think of the various NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] that are providing food or care. Those people are Americans who are not ugly Americans, but friendly Americans. That's a tremendous source of soft power.
The Council, in their study group on public diplomacy, which it was quite a good report which the Council did, recommended a corporation for public diplomacy, which would be a framework organization which would help civil society organizations to organize this way. That may or may not happen. But there are also business groups—[DDB Worldwide Chairman] Keith Reinhard has started a new group, Business for Diplomatic Action, I think he calls it, asking American corporations, “What can we do as corporations to present a better image of the United States?” And, frankly, more people around the world see America through corporations, through American products, than through American government. So civil society has got to be a large part of the solution.
LELYVELD: Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: Dan Sharp with the Royal Institution World Science Assembly. Joe, ever since your Foreign Affairs article on soft power, it's been a concept that has been fully understood, if not fully accepted. It seems to me the challenge is persuading our leaders to pay attention to it. And I wonder if you can talk about how you would use soft power to persuade our leaders that soft power is necessary. Obviously the message has not yet gotten through, despite your mentioning the AIDS issue.
NYE: Well, to be fair to the administration, there are some people who do fully understand. [Secretary of State] Colin Powell understands it. He used the term. When [Council on Foreign Relations President] Richard Haass was there, the State Department fully understood it. I think to be more accurate, the Office of the Defense Secretary—not the military, the civilians in defense—have been most resistant. And I think they had the view that Joe Lelyveld described at the beginning that, you know, we're big enough, we're strong enough, why are we paying attention to these others? Eventually they're going to realize they have nowhere else to go, and they're going to follow us. And that, I think, is where the problem lies. In the preface to the book I recount this little anecdote about talking at a conference of generals, in which I was the morning speaker and talked about soft power. And one of the generals must have been convinced, because he asked Rumsfeld, who was the evening speaker, what he thought of soft power. And Rumsfeld said, "I don't understand it." And my reaction is, that's part of the problem. [Laughter.]
LELYVELD: Yes, ma'am?
QUESTIONER: Robin Duke, [The Alan] Guttmacher Institute. You speak of some of the ways to implement soft power. And I'm going from the NGO world, and it worked in Bangladesh and Pakistan and places like that. And the funding for many issues that have to do basically with women's health have been withdrawn. So we are dealing with a situation now in an administration that is using what is, you know, the personal religious convictions of one institution or one president or one person affecting some of these policies that are very, very useful, and we've accomplished a lot in those areas of the world. How can we make people understand that domestic U.S. policies coming from the White House regarding—whether it's religion or whatever else—should be put aside, and women's health and health, in general, of a country of women and children should be emphasized?
NYE: Well, I think you're exactly right. I mean, I think the woman who has found that she has been able to control her fertility or has been able to decide her child because there was an American helping has a different view of the United States than if she hadn't had that experience. Right now, because of political divisions, the government has withdrawn from that. But that's a point where I think we are fortunate to have the strength of our civil society, which is going to have to fill in some of that gap. I mean, we can try to change that position politically. That's what democracy is about. But it's also worth noticing that in a democracy like ours we have more sources than just government. I think that's going to mean that civil society is going to have to fill in where government is doing an inadequate job.
QUESTIONER: Bruce Gelb. Several interwoven questions. The impression I have from your comments, Dr. Nye, [is] that so much of this lack of soft power just started in the last administration, and I am reminded of the fact they tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, blew up two of our embassies in Africa in '97, '98, and have blown up the Khobar Towers [in Saudi Arabia in 1996] all before this unfeeling group got in there, who are only interested in hard power. The information that is provided about Osama bin Laden as the—potentially the resurrection of the man who will bring the Islam world back into a power of greatness, which seems to have a great deal of interest, currency, and following in Muslim countries all over the world, which used to be very easy countries to get along with, things were going well, and the attitude towards the United States was best demonstrated by the numbers of millions who did everything but beg, borrow, and steal transportation to come into this country raises this question: What do all of those things have to do with trying to be nice, decent, honest, democratic people filled with human rights feelings when you are dealing with, not a state, but you're dealing with a religion?
NYE: Well, you're correct that the problems that we face from bin Laden and al Qaeda go back well before this administration, and that threat has been there—in fact, I remember writing about it when I was in the intelligence community more than a decade ago—so that's not new. And soft power does not attract—I mean, remember soft power is your attractive power. Soft power does not attract a bin Laden or a Taliban or so forth—that's not the point. [The point is] how do you prevent bin Laden from recruiting? How do you develop the support more generally? How do you deprive him of the broad support that he needs to accomplish his goals? That's where these women who helped in Bangladesh fertility, where the people in [US]AID or various non-profit groups who go out and deliver food or the people who volunteer in schools overseas [come in]. That view is, well, the Americans, you know, they're pretty good—they did this for me, that for me. It's that inoculation of the majority against that recruitment by the extremists. That's where soft power plays. Not in the power. For bin Laden, you have no choice but to use hard power.
LELYVELD: Yes, ma'am, right here.
QUESTIONER: My name is Laurie Garrett. I'm a new senior fellow here [at the Council on Foreign Relations] for soft power, sort of, global health. And I'm curious how you would address the question of the difference between a sort of Kennedy-esque Peace Corps approach, if you would, to soft power, versus where we are now where the oft-cited $15 billion for dealing with global AIDS, which in truth is only, so far, $350 million—logarithmically different—but, at any rate, that this sum has actually been conjured as being necessary for moral reasons. And the president framed it as when you see a stranger lying on the road to Jericho, you must reach out and lift the individual up. We had one person ask, what do you do if you're dealing with religion? I ask it from this side: What do you do if you're dealing with the notion that soft power is a sort of moralistic religious power from our side?
NYE: Well, I think from the point of view of the person who was getting retrovirals [drug treatment] which they wouldn't have, it's not the rhetoric that matters, it's the cure that matters. And I think also if you are going to an AIDS conference and you're able to say that we are going to make major new investments, it's the numbers that matter. I think the rhetoric about the motivation may be less important than the results. I think the key point is the one that you started with, which is, will that 350 [million dollars] grow as promised to the full 15 [billion dollars]? And that's going to be a question of whether the president will be able to fulfill his own promises, and whether he'll be able to get the Congress to go along with him. So I think, in that sense, the results will be determined by whether we live up to the promises.
The rhetoric of whether you put it in terms of parables from the Bible or whether you put it in more civic terms, obviously when you're dealing with the Islamic world, parables from the Bible are not perhaps the best way to communicate. [Laughter.] But I still think that probably it's the results that are going to make the difference.
LELYVELD: The gentleman over here.
QUESTIONER: Kenneth Bialkin, Skadden, Arps, [Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP]. I'm very impressed with your observation that the only way we can really succeed is to reach the hearts and minds and opinions of the moderate Muslims and try to dissuade—get them to help dissuade others who have a more warlike approach. But wouldn't you accept the proposition that in power there's soft power, which is most effective in what you suggest to be used when usable, and there are other powers that may have to be used in short term? And wouldn't you accept the fact that this administration, as others, have really accepted the soft power notion? After all, most of the stories we get about the military in Iraq, when they're not being attacked by insurgents, are reconstructing schools, water pumps, restoring the electric grid, reinstituting schools. I mean, it's not as though we haven't really embarked on it. And I would appreciate whether you could evaluate the extent to which we've used soft power in an effort to do exactly what it is you're advocating. But let me ask you then how—with the soft power using to do that, how would you respond to an unprovoked killing of four civilians and then burning them alive, or burning them after having been hacked? What exactly should our response be or have been? Are we overreacting? Or how do you get your arms around the immediate situation?
NYE: Well, let me make sure that I explained something which I point out in the book. I'm a former assistant secretary of defense. I believe in hard power. What I don't think is that hard power is sufficient. There are times when you have to use hard power. And the case that you just mentioned is one. Now, the tactics of how much you combine hard power with political bargaining and bribing of tribal chiefs and so forth, all that's different. But if you ask me, haven't we been using soft power? My answer to that would be, too little, too late.
I wrote an op-ed in the [International] Herald Tribune a year ago, and I said, OK, now we won our victory. If we were really smart, what we would do is immediately bring in the U.N. and other countries, including those that opposed us, and say constructing a pluralistic and stable Iraq is a global task, and we want everybody involved. And that would have legitimized, I think, our policy. We didn't do that. In fact, if you remember reading [Chairman of the Defense Policy Board] Richard Perle and others, they said, thank God the U.N. failed on this. I mean, there was a hubris that was true at the time. And so this advice that we should share the burden then was rejected.
By the summer of '03, when we started to run into problems, we suddenly started to turn back and say—remember we asked the Indians for a division? We asked the NATO allies to come in and so forth. By that time we had so squandered our soft power by the hubris and the arrogance that we couldn't get others to help us. And that's gotten us into the mess that we're in now.
So on [the question of] have we used soft power? Yes, but too little and too late. Is soft power sufficient? No. You have to combine hard and soft power. What I say in the book is the aim we should have in foreign policy is not to use soft power. It's to combine soft and hard power so that we're a smart power—and we haven't been.
QUESTIONER: Martha Teichner. Given that you've described the situation in the Middle East, and particularly in— well, Iraq and the Middle East—as a civil war between the radical elements of Islam and the more moderate reform-minded elements of Islam, what would you propose to do right now after the last week in Iraq: to put a Band-Aid on it or to try to correct the course, given that long-term soft power has been squandered and something has to be done to right the balance in some way or it could deteriorate further?
NYE: Well, there are several things. I mean, the first part is to go back to Larry McQuade's first question, [which] was to see whether we can't find a political solution which won't produce a wonderfully American-looking democracy, but could produce a stable Iraq.
The second is to move ahead on the Middle East peace process, which doesn't mean undercutting Israel. Quite the contrary, as Bill Clinton used to say, you have to absolutely guarantee Israeli security to allow them to have the flexibility to move forward. But having guaranteed security, we have to put more pressure on to move forward issues like the settlements and so forth.
A third thing that we need to do is do a much better job of investing in our capacity to communicate to various parts of the Islamic world—not just in the Middle East, but also remember you have all of Southeast Asia—Malaysia and Indonesia and so forth. We've got to do a lot more to restore our soft power. We have been in a fix like this once before, in Vietnam, and we got out of it. How did we get out of it? We changed our policy. And in the Reagan administration we began—well, both the Carter and Reagan administrations— remember Carter talked about human rights and actually had a serious human rights policy? Reagan followed it up with human rights and democracy. From being at the very low point in attractiveness around the world at the end of Vietnam, we recovered by the late '70s and early '80s, because we changed our policy and did a better job of promoting our values. We've got to do something analogous to that right now.
LELYVELD: The gentleman right here.
QUESTIONER: Ralph Buultjens, New York University. Professor Nye, listening to you and the discussion, I'm a little disturbed because the implication of using soft power as an instrument of policy is that our soft power has more attractiveness, therefore may be better than anybody else's soft power. Isn't receptivity to other people's soft power also part of what you're talking about? And, if so, how do we balance our soft power with soft power and values of other people, which may be better or more attractive than our own?
NYE: Well, that's a very important question, and in fact there's a chapter in the book called "The Soft Power of Others." The nice thing about soft power is that it's not necessarily a zero-sum game. If the Europeans, who have a degree of soft power, because of what they created in Europe, are able to persuade people in Morocco or Algeria or Tunisia that they should gradually democratize, that's a plus for us. Who cares that it's their soft power that did it rather than ours? So by all means. And in fact, should others' soft power influence us? Yes, that goes back to this earlier question about learning to listen. I mean, the idea that this country gets into a pique and renames French fries "freedom fries" —I mean, this is demeaning for a country like this. You know, we have got to get above that kind of thing, and I think your point is well taken.
QUESTIONER: John Brademas. Joe, as you know, we have been singing out of the same hymnbook for a long time. I was author in Congress of the International Education Act of 1966, the purpose of which was to make grants to colleges and universities in the United States for studying countries and cultures other than our own. But Congress never appropriated the money for it. And last December, I was in Morocco speaking and quoting you on soft power.
My questions are two. Could you, given your extraordinary background in this area, make a general observation about the status of international studies at universities in the United States today and give particular attention to how we're doing with respect to the study of the Islamic world and the study of the Arabic language?
NYE: Well, John, you probably know the answers better than I, given your experience and background, but we are not doing well. We need to do much, much more than we're doing. I don't have the figures right at our fingertips, but I did see some recently on the number of students studying Arabic, and it is appallingly low. And we are, in general regional studies and area studies, not getting the support they want. I mean, it is ironic when you were saying about the International Education Act, I said, yes, but what about the appropriators, and then you mentioned them. And we aren't investing enough in this area. Richard Pell, an historian, has pointed out that there are fewer people who are actually taking up the Fulbright grants and going overseas. We're also in the process of through our visa policies discouraging international students. You know, yes, we do have a security concern, but discouraging international students is shooting ourselves in our foot.
I mean, one of the things I did as dean of the Kennedy School is double the percentage of international students, so we are now 43 percent international— we are the most international school at Harvard. People would say to me, “Why are you giving away these American positions to foreigners?” And I said, “Because each one of those people not only gets American ideas to go home with, but they help to educate at least one American while they're here.” And I think we just have to rethink the focus of what we're doing in terms of relating to the rest of the world. We're what? Five percent of the world's population, and we are going to become smaller. And unless we're investing more in that capacity to understand the rest of the world, we're going to be in deep trouble.
LELYVELD: Mr. [Theodore] Sorensen?
QUESTIONER: Before I get to my question, Joe, having been present at the creation of the Kennedy School, I want to salute you for your leadership of that wonderful institution, as well as for your public service and intellectual leadership with books like this one. [Applause.] My question is this—There are a lot of tough questions about Iraq. I think the toughest today is: What should the United Nations do? For two years or whatever, it was disdained, dismissed, insulted, and bypassed and defied. And finally, it was invited to send a group over at a time when the American occupation was at its worst, and the best and brightest got slaughtered over there because they were identified as part of the occupation. Now everyone is saying, ah, bring the United Nations in—that's their obligation, to send more people over at the time when Iraq has turned into a killing field. What is the U.N.'s solution under this situation?
NYE: It's a good and tough question, Ted. I don't think—I mean, I think in some ways [senior political adviser to President Bush] Karl Rove would love to hand the hot potato to the U.N., and therefore when it fails, it's the U.N.'s fault, not ours. And I think [U.N. Secretary-General] Kofi Annan is smart enough to know that he shouldn't take the hot potato under those terms. And as I understand what Kofi has said is that when the Iraqis agree on a U.N. role, and there's adequate security, then the U.N. can play a role—which is a way of protecting himself against being stuck with this thing.
But I think there are—short of that there are a couple of things the U.N. can do which are very important. One—they are doing it right now—is by sending [U.N. Special Envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi to help to negotiate, they are getting somebody who has not only Arabic language and culture, but also diplomatic skills who may be able to work this political solution that we think is necessary in a way an American can't do. So in that sense of diplomatic intermediary, [it is an] important role.
And then if there is some sort of agreement, if Brahimi is able to get some, let's say, expanded Governing Council or whatever other body will be put forward on June 30th, if he could get—if the U.N. were to legitimize that by a Security Council resolution saying that this will now be the interim government until the elections are held next January or sometime next winter, and if that would then allow countries—maybe some Arab League countries, some NATO countries, to help in sharing the burden of policing, that would make a huge difference. So you are not putting U.N. personnel in the center saying, now you administer this, and watching them fail. You're saying, what can the U.N. do? It can do a lot diplomatically. It can do a lot by creating legitimacy, which may allow others to put in resources. I think that's the role for the U.N.
LELYVELD: In the back. Yes, over there.
QUESTIONER: Dr. Nye, this is Kareem Idriss, Middle East studies here at the Council. Perhaps this is a shallow question, but I have been troubled by it extremely, and that is President Bush's recent joke during a campaign speech about not finding WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] in Iraq. Am I overestimating the potential consequence of that on the audience in the Middle East at such a critical time? Thank you.
NYE: Well, I gather, to be fair, that the context of that was one of these press corps dinners where if a political leader doesn't poke fun at himself, he gets criticized. And I think the joke was meant for that setting, and I think there wasn't enough attention as to how it would play when you thought about a broader setting. So I don't—I mean, the president has done some things which are quite sensitive. If you think of the fact that immediately after 9/11, when we had the service in the cathedral, service of mourning cathedral, we had Muslim clerics there. I mean, the administration has done a number of things to indicate sensitivity. But there are times when it hasn't been adequately sympathetic, and joke would have been better thought through— you know, another self-deprecating joke would have been much more appropriate than that one.
LELYVELD: Possible to think of them—[laughter]—but—
QUESTIONER: Susan Purcell, Council of the Americas. My sense is that part of the problem that we're in now has to do not so much with the relative balance of hard force versus soft power, but pre-emptive force. And that a lot of the polls that you mentioned are really very much the result of a combination of pre-emptive force and a lack of easy success or clear success and maybe even a sense of deception. What is your position on pre-emptive force, and with or without a combination of soft power?
NYE: Well, when the administration issued its National Security Strategy in September of 2002, there were many good things in the strategy. But I thought one of the mistakes was to make [the use of] pre-emptive [force] into a doctrine and blur the difference between pre-emption and prevention. Classically there's nothing new or wrong about pre-emption, meaning you strike if you're under imminent threat, before someone strikes you. That, I believe, is an extension of the right of self-defense. That's what Israel used in '67, when it was about to be attacked by the Arab armies or air forces. That's been accepted pretty much in international law and norms for a long time.
What the administration did was say we could take this not when there's an imminent threat, but when there's some far-stretched-out threat, A; and, B, we'll decide what it is; and, C, we're going to elevate it into a doctrine. It would have been much better to have just left it where it was, which is, yes, from time to time every president in an extreme situation may have to resort to pre-emption. But the last thing you want to do is elevate it into a doctrine, which tears away the fabric of international order, gives excuses for Indians against Pakistan, or Russians against Central Asian states, and so forth. I mean this is, to my mind, a case where the ideological preferences of the new unilateralists drove us into a position where we actually had a policy that was counterproductive. We scared a lot more people—we may have scared Saddam, but we scared too many others as well. And that, in turn, was bad for our soft power. So back to Teddy Roosevelt: If you've got a big stick, speak softly.
LELYVELD: I think we have time for just one more. Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Scott Mortman of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. With respect to the soft power of others, what specifically can a country such as Israel do to employ soft power with respect to its neighbors?
NYE: Well, I think the—if you look back at earlier Israeli governments, they were very often trying to do so. If you look at the efforts in the early '90s at the time of the Oslo peace process—I mean, to say that we will look for reasonable accommodation. If you look at efforts to help develop the region—in other words, if you think of the attraction that Israel has as a successful economy [and] laborers who wanted to work there, Arab students who wanted to go there—these were ways to enhance Israeli soft power. But, alas, in the last—under the current government, the Likud government, there has been much more emphasis on hard power and very little emphasis on soft power.
One of my friends, one of my Israeli friends who was once head of a very important Israeli security service, I remember telling me just before the second intifada that if we lose this ability to attract moderate Arabs, we are going to learn our intelligence capacities—we are going to blind ourselves, and it's all going to be much worse. And he turned out to be right.
LELYVELD: Well, I would say, Mr. Nye, you've been preaching to the converted here. I wouldn't say you've come under withering attack. [Laughter.]
NYE: Where's Don Rumsfeld when we need him? [Laughter.]
LELYVELD: Right. But you withstood all this agreement very well—[laughter] —and we want to thank you. [Applause.]
(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1919 M ST. NW; SUITE 220; WASHINGTON, DC - 20036, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.