In fact it may be that the distinction between "hard" and "soft" power may be morphing into a new concept put forward by Prof Nye, that of "smart power".
However you define it, power is important because it allows you to get things done. Whether you are a politician or an executive, you must seek power to achieve objectives. Yet power never stays constant, but has always been highly dependent on context and, in today’s world of rapidly shifting contexts, emerging sources of power are often the most potent.
Pakistan is blessed with a vast pool of ingredients that constitute an ideal platform to project its soft power. Although mired with challenges to overcome violence, mismanagement and corruption, Pakistan still has a lot to offer to this world.
Much current analysis of Russian influence in its neighbourhood focuses on its use of ‘hard power’ tools. However, analysing Russia’s soft power efforts is no less important for understanding the full nature of Moscow’s power strategy in its neighbourhood.
One topic that greatly interests Nye is the rise of China. With a fundamental reassessment of American foreign policy and military spending as it moves out of a period of intense engagement in the Middle East, the threat of China as a peer competitor has loomed large in the thoughts of American policymakers. John Mearshimer, Nye’s intellectual sparring partner, claims that this geopolitical shift eastward, and an increasingly assertive China, is bound to lead to greater tension, and an “inevitable US-Chinese conﬂict”.
More than 130,000 people are said to have died in Syria’s civil war. United Nations reports of atrocities, Internet images of attacks on civilians, and accounts of suffering refugees rend our hearts. But what is to be done – and by whom?
“Soft power” is an important element of foreign policy, emphasizing attraction rather than coercion. The concept, popularized by Harvard professor Joseph Nye, provides counterbalance to the infatuation with hard power, especially military force, which has been driven by the accelerated development of “smart” weaponry. Drones, for example, are appealing to their users because their “pilots” may be thousands of miles away, wholly out of danger while people on the ground are dying. It is war without cost for one side.
As the year comes to an end, it is only natural to ask what might lie ahead. But, instead of asking what may lie ahead in 2014, let us jump to mid-century. What will governance look like in 2050? That is what the World Economic Forum (WEF) asked at a recent meeting in Abu Dhabi that focused on the future of governance under three potential scenarios arising from the ongoing information revolution. With that revolution already marginalizing some countries and communities – and creating new opportunities for others – the question could hardly be more timely.