Is Soft Power Better Than Hard Power?
In this essay I will be examining the positives and negatives of hard and soft power with reference to case studies in an attempt to reach a conclusion upon which is the most useful form of power for a state to use to achieve its foreign policy. I will first define the two terms and I will speculate which I believe to be the most effective form of power. Then I will go into several case studies as evidence for both and in doing so conclude, which type of power is the most useful for achieving a successful foreign policy.
The most recognisable form of power, hard power is defined by J. Nye as “military and economic might … or threats”1. Simply put hard power is any and all military force at a state’s disposal or the ability to place economic sanctions on another state; hard power is the ability of one state to force another to do whatever it wishes usually to achieve an objective of that states foreign policy with the intention of furthering its own power, influence or wealth. Soft power is defined by J. Nye as “[the] ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals”2, this means that a state coerces another state or usually groups of a state’s population to change their behaviour or adopt new norms which benefits the agenda of the states foreign policy. Without a doubt hard power is a more decisive use of power and a much easier way to measure its effects usually with military victories or successful aggressive diplomacy. But as the 9/11 wars have shown state level victories alone are not a measure of success and only when soft power is used to gain the hearts and minds of a population can total victory be claimed. Therefore I propose that soft power is better than hard power, at least it is better in this modern information age.
An example of a successful use of soft power is by the Soviet Union (USSR), in power in Russia officially from 1922 to 19913. The USSR were able to promote their political ideology of the communist party across the globe, particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe. Although they did use force to ensure annexed states remained under their control, they primarily launched a communist propaganda campaign showing the virtues of their culture to entice other states to follow soviet sponsored communist parties with in other states. This was achieved through promoting their culture and appearing as an alternative to Nazi fascism and western imperialism4. Also through the promotion of peace protests and supplying arms to allied factions the USSR was able to undermine the United States and its own attempts to control other states, a good example of this is in Vietnam when the Soviet Union supplied the Viet Cong (Originally called Viet Minh but rebranded by US propaganda) with weapons and supplies which allowed them to fight a guerrilla war against the US and out last them as public opinion for the war turned at home for the US. In this conflict a country was literally split in two by two ideologies as soft power changed the opinions of the populations of the north and south of Vietnam5.
Another example of soft power is by the United Nations against Iraq. In 1990-91 the UN exacted several economic sanctions upon Iraq as a result of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Iraq was suffering economically from the previous Iran-Iraq war and accused Kuwait of increasing its hardships “tantamount to economic warfare”6. Saddam Hussein used this as an excuse to invade Kuwait and gain control of its lucrative oil fields. The UN sanctions although crippling were ignored along with all threats from the UN and USA. This shows some of the limitations of soft power which does not always work especially against authoritarian dictatorships as the will of the people has almost no effect on that nation’s policy. With this failure of soft power the UN began the implementation of hard power to force Iraq to