Tag Archives: security of US embassies

Soft Power, Cowering Embassies and Roman Forts

Joseph Nye, an eminent political scientist at Harvard, wrote a book about “soft power” a few years ago.  He followed that volume up by devoting a chapter to the concept in last year’s book The Future of Power.  So what is “soft power”?

According to Nye, whereas “hard power” grows out of a country’s military or economic might, soft power, “Arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies.”  In the Future of Power Nye examines what it means to be powerful in the twenty-first century, and how the US might set about retaining its place in the world.  He thinks soft power will be an important part of the mix, and I tend to agree.

But while I’m generally optimistic about the future of America’s place in the international order , one historical parallel related to soft power disturbs me:  the degree to which the threat of terrorism has led the US to create embassy buildings that appear to cower before contemporary threats.

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