American Hard Power and Soft Power – A Summary by John Brown, professor at Georgetown University

World to America: We want soft, not hard power – Bruce Stokes and Richard Wike, CNN: Public opinion data — including the results of the annual Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes surveys, the yearly Transatlantic Trends polls by the German Marshall Fund and other surveys — leave no doubt that foreign approval of the United States in most parts of the world is much higher today than it was in the waning days of President George W. Bush’s administration. In France, Spain, and Germany, for example, the percentage of people with a positive view of the U.S. is at least 20 percentage points higher than in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center studies.

And much of that rebound is attributable to the personal popularity of Barack Obama. But national stature fueled by presidential personality is inherently volatile. Once global publics soured on Bush, their view of most things American took on a negative hue. And his successor’s rock star attractiveness created an Obama-bounce for a range of measures of America’s influence. However, that Obama aura actually never existed in the Middle East. And it has already begun to fade, if only somewhat, in a number of countries. How the world would take to the largely unknown Romney as president remains to be seen. A potentially more sustainable measure of U.S. stature may be the global public’s assessment of the exercise of American power in all its forms, both soft and hard.

Here, polling data suggests respect for U.S. soft power is on the rise, although many measures of it still don’t enjoy majority support. Meanwhile, global publics are at times divided and in other instances strongly opposed to the exercise of U.S. hard power. A drone campaign against extremist leaders and organizations in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia has been one of the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy initiatives. Yet a median of 69 percent across 20 of the countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center this spring oppose such strikes. Moreover, just as in the Bush years, there’s a widespread perception that Washington acts unilaterally in world affairs. At the same time, aspects of American soft power are well-regarded. Looking at 16 countries polled by Pew in both 2007 and 2012, a median of 65 percent embraces American music, movies and television, up six percentage points from five years ago.

The appeal of American popular culture has increased even more in particular nations. It’s up 16 points in Mexico, 10 points in Russia and eight points in Italy and Turkey. More than half the population in 16 of 20 countries also admire the U.S. for its science and technology. And that backing is up 15 points in Spain, 11 points in Pakistan, seven points in Italy and six points in Japan. A median of just 45 percent like American ideas about democracy, but it’s notable that backing is up 10 points since 2007 in the 16 nations where there is comparable data. And such approval has jumped a whopping 30 points in Spain, 20 points in Italy and France and 14 points in Germany.

Meanwhile, a median of 43 percent admire American ways of doing business and such support is up 11 percentage points since 2007. There are good reasons to believe that the influence of U.S. soft power will continue to grow.  American popular culture and ideas about democracy are particularly appealing to young people who will be the leaders and opinion molders of the future. Still, there are limits to American soft power. Even as people embrace certain features of American culture, they also worry that it may crowd out their own cultures and traditions – Japan is the only nation of 20 surveyed where at least half the population believe it is a positive thing for U.S. ideas and customs to spread to their country. Nevertheless, the median percentage that sees such Americanization as a good thing has increased over the last five years.

For more information on John Brown, visit his blog! John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review


10 Reasons to Vote Yes on New Start

The Arms Control Association offers some great resources on the New Start treaty, including this list of 10 reasons why Congress should pass New Start now! Please remember to call your senator today and urge them to vote yes, if you haven’t already.

1. New START would make real cuts in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal.

Today, Russia deploys approximately 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads, not counting bomber weapons in storage, according to the Congressional Research Service.  Contrary to assertions by critics that New START would not reduce Russian forces, the treaty would in fact reduce Russia’s force of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 or less, meaning that hundreds of Russian nuclear warheads would no longer be deployed on ballistic missiles that could be aimed at the United States. Moreover, New START would lock-in these limits for the next decade or longer.

At the same time, New START would allow the United States to maintain a devastatingly powerful nuclear arsenal deployed on a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems: intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Nov. 11 that New START would leave the United States with nuclear forces that are “more than enough for us to handle our military responsibilities.”  Besides Russia, the United States’ only potential nuclear adversary is China, which has fewer than 50 nuclear-armed long-range missiles.

2. New START would resume inspections of Russian strategic forces.

It has been a year since the United States lost the ability to conduct intrusive, on-site inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal mandated by the 1991 START accord. The 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), still in force, contains no verification provisions.  The longer New START remains in limbo, the longer this strategic blackout will continue. Continue reading

This Week in National Security New: 12/1/10-12/8/10



South Korea:



Israel and Palestine:

(Information compiled by Grant Potter, National Security Intern)

This Week in National Security News: 11/22/10-12/1/10

Wiki Leaks:

  • Wiki Leaks has released a number of classified diplomatic cables that reveal the underbelly of how the US conducts its diplomacy. US officials, like Secretary of State Clinton, have roundly criticized the leak as a dangerous threat to US foreign policy and the occupations of our diplomats. Revelations include:
    • Arab states encouraging the US to bomb Iran
    • The Chinese Government’s culpability in internet hacking including the recent Google hack.
    • Obama administration horse-trading with other countries for the Guantanamo detainee transfers.
    • US secret effort to steal fuel from Pakistani nuclear reactors
    • Putin’s inability to influence his bureaucracy
    • Karzai’s brother is a major player in narcotrafficking.
    • US unable to stop Syria from funneling weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon
    • Colonel Qaddafi, in addition to his female bodyguard squad, has an attractive nurse.
  • This scandal has created a debate between those that feel that the US, in order to negotiate effectively, cannot be fully transparent vs. groups like Wikileaks and the New York Times who feel their responsibility is to force transparency on the US government.

North Korea:

  • North Korea attacked the South Korean Yeonpeng islands with and artillery barrage. Tensions have been steadily mounting since this incident.  2nd conflict in the yellow Seas since the North was accused of sinking the South Korea Cheonan warship in March killing 46.


  • The “senior” Taliban official who has participated in 2 peace negotiations with Karzai has been ousted as an imposter. Rather than the 2nd ranking member of the Taliban behind Mullah Omar, this con-man was a shopkeeper from Quetta, Pakistan.



This Week in National Security News: 11/15-11/22

NATO Summit

NATO states have agreed to a cooperative missile shield to defense against nuclear weapons. Despite the creation of NATO as an anti-Soviet institution, it is expected that the Russians will cooperate in the creation of an inter-operable missile shield.

North Korea

North Korea has announced that is nearly complete with a second nuclear reactor facility. Although they claim that it is a light-water reactor, capable only of producing energy, Ambassador Bosworth and other experts doubt these North Korean claims. Many feel that this announcement is intended to leverage aid and financial support for North Korea during the 6-country talks.


Obama received unprompted international support for the New START treaty by his counterparts at the NATO Lisbon summit. Of particular note is the support of New START by many Eastern European states who have the most to fear from a resurgent Russia. Support for foreign policy is in stark contrast to last weeks G-20 conference which was rife with acrimony over economic policy.


Karzai continues to criticize the US strategy in Afghanistan. He and Obama have split on the subject of night-raids which Karzai claims is a major tactic that undercuts the US legitimacy amongst the Afghan civilians. The administration and military leaders have denied that this strategy is counter-productive by saying that night-raids are highly targeted and thus only directed at Taliban leaders who already hate us.


Despite public outcry over invasive airport security measures that include body-scans or pat downs, TSA chief Pistole stated that the TSA will not dramatically alter its security procedures. He maintains that the high levels of security are necessary given recent bomb scares like the foiled bomb scare on Christmas 2009.

67 is the Magic Number for New START

Starting today with the return of Congress to the lame-duck session, the countdown begins for the Obama Administration to successfully lobby for the ratification of the “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty III” (henceforth New START) before the Senate. Given that New START is a treaty, it requires approval by 67 votes or 2/3rds of the Senate. Thus, even in the Democratically controlled lame-duck session, bipartisan support is required to reach the magic number of 67.  The Obama administration itself admits that the window for passage of New START will close after January when the Republicans can claim the 6 seats won in the 2010 Mid-term election.  Time is of the essence.

Prior to January, the Democrats need to peel off 8 votes from the bloc of 41 Republican Senators. It will be much easier for the Democrats to find 8 Republican votes from the 111th Congress than 14 votes from the 112th. Democrats need to hit the ground running once the lame-duck session starts and encourage Republicans to cross the aisle. Hopefully, national security concerns can transcend the naked partisanship that has increasingly become the norm.

One particularly encouraging example of bipartisanship was the passage of New START in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Committee voted 14-4 in favor of the treaty thanks to the wisdom and courage of Richard Lugar, R-Indiana; Bob Corker, R-Tennessee; and Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia.  The ability to acquire 3 Republican votes out of a pool of 8 is certainly encouraging to Democrats, who need only find 5 more votes out of the remaining 33 Republicans (if the 8 Committee votes remain static for the floor vote). In spite of this positive trend, it could be argued that these pro-treaty Republicans in the Committee are the exception not the rule due to their extensive foreign policy experience (e.g. Lugar has been pushing for disarmament his whole career). Convincing 5 votes on the floor might be a whole lot harder than it sounds. Continue reading

This Week in National Security News: 11/8-11/15

US Politics

Today the lame-duck session of Congress begins. Our legislators have a number of pressing issues to tackle prior to January such as the extension of Bush-era tax cuts, the extension of unemployment benefits, the fate of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the DREAM act, and the New START Treaty.


No consensus has been formed on trade or currency issues at the G-20 conference.  Progress stalled as many nations accused the US of hypocrisy for simultaneously accusing China of undervaluing currency while the Federal Reserve buys back $600 billion in bonds which some see as intentionally weakening the dollar.

Defense Spending

The recently released Deficit Panel proposal recommends cutting $100 billion out of the defense budget. The co-chairs of the panel, Bowles and Simpson, argue that the defense budget is bloated and filled with unnecessary projects, particularly the production of F-35 fighter jets. Defense Secretary Robert Gates immediately responded that it was irresponsible to cut defense spending in the midst of two wars and that the Defense Department could not absorb fiscal shocks of this magnitude.


The Obama administration has begun to move away from their original pledge to remove ground troops from Afghanistan in 2011. Rather, officials like Robert Gates argue that we should expect to stay in Afghanistan till 2014 when the Afghanistan National Army will be able to, on its own, defend the country.

North Korea

A UN report, long delayed by Chinese objections, states that North Korea is involved in a highly sophisticated black market that distributes nuclear and ballistic missile technology to other rogue states. The report cites “Iran, Syria, and Myanmar” as some of the countries that are the recipients of these transfers.


The Nigerian government has accused the Iranian government of smuggling weapons through Nigeria after discovering a cache of rockets and explosives. If this allegation is true then the Iranian government will have violated the June 2010 UN sanctions banning Iranian arms exports. Reports indicate that the final destination for these weapons was either the Afghani Taliban or Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


Despite claims that the Shia and Sunni blocs had resolved their issues and agreed to elect Maliki as Prime Minster and leader of the new coalition government, the Sunni bloc stormed out of the Iraqi Parliament. They claim that Maliki had not upheld the preconditions that he had promised at the time of their agreement. Most notably they demand the release of suspected Sunni terrorists that were, according to them, wrongly imprisoned and the reinstatement of former, low-level Baath party members that were purged from government office.