Friday, November 13, 2009

Joe Nye: Soft Power Guy

I liked Nye's essay—not in the warm fuzzies sort of way I get when I read a particularly starry-eyed idealistic communications essay, but more of the appreciative academic sort of way when an essay just makes sense. (Wow, just read that sentence back and I'm starting to think I may have spent a bit too much time reading today….) It seems so logical that bringing people around to your way of thinking works so much better when your values and actions are in line and you're actually willing to listen as well as speak. And that your culture, values and politics are only going to attract others if they're (wait for it) attractive! Please stifle your gasps of shock. OK I'm getting sarcastic here because I spent twelve hours today reading academic essays and didn't get out of my pajamas until about 3 p.m. but I sincerely did enjoy it.

One thing Nye emphasizes (and everyone else too, really) is the importance of multi-directional communication and establishing relationships. Actually, Glassman really expands on this point in a way that did give me the academic warm fuzzies, probably because he just seems so darn confident in PD 2.0. But he does have a point. New Internet trends are better suited to the Western culture of free discourse than to the rigidity of extremism, and they are particularly suited to interactive communication and idea sharing.

Price's essay, on the other hand, was a little too dry for me, although I did appreciate the whole Keystone Cop description of the US and Serbs duking it out in Kosovo for broadcasting control. As for Powers and Gilboa, the piece was interesting, but didn't really seem to fit in with the others quite as well.

But let's not beat around the bush here. I think we all know I'm just excited about these essays because they deal with my favorite topic (starts with a P, rhymes with Jack Bauer). Yeah, I know, I'm a sucker for the power essays. But I'm just fascinated by the idea of constructing reality and shaping relationships with actions and words. It's an English-major's dream come true: that words and ideas actually matter.


  1. I have more of a quick question and a short comment. I too enjoyed Nye's article becuae it was very easy to read and understand. Soft power, hard power, and public diplomacy make almost perfect sense to me..notice I said ALMOST. However, with the PD 2.0 article, I was not totally convinced that Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups will be behind the U.S. due to our pro-interactivity on the internet. I do understand that the U.S. allows for more public discourse and extremist groups are very one-directional, yes/no type of communication, so to speak. Basically, is the author saying that due to the lack of interactivity amongst groups like Al-Qaeda, the U.S. can utilize discussion to muster up enough opposition and eventually "conquer" the extremists?? Just my thoughts in a loose manner...feel free to help out where possible. :)

  2. Hey Laura and Chemia,

    I too enjoyed Nye's article on both the importance and relatively straight forward approach that current PD necessitates. In regard to your comment, I would love to hear Glassman elaborate on his approach to "conquer" extremists on the internet. On a very basic level, I think he is trying to build on the notion that freedom of choice will always win out. I believe he is counting on the extremists one-way method of communicating to, at some point, cause their loyalists to desire a more proactive part in the revolution. And, moreover, not simply to participate within the structure of the extremist lines, but to progress beyond the established barriers. Especially as the US PD efforts increase and (hopefully) the global perception of "the West" gets better, it will not be as easy to be anti-west if we are actively seeking engagement from the global community.

    Perhaps we can add Glassman to the blog to avoid my speculations?

  3. Oh, I'm with you both. I think Glassman's a little starry-eyed, but I appreciated his enthusiasm. Obviously a wave of interactive Net activity isn't going to bring anti-American extremism to its knees. I think his argument is based on that Cold War logic that exposure to American ideals (and, in this case, demonstrative participation in free speech) is a winning tool. I don't think it's the only solution, but I do think it's a good path forward. It's engaging, it's open and (as Nick notes) it's got choices. But let's invite Glassman to weigh in. :)