Restoring America's Reputation in the World and Why It Matters

| March 4, 2010

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.'s Testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. House of Representatives

An excerpt from Joseph S. Nye, Jr.'s testimony:

In his inaugural address in 2009, President Barack Obama stated that "our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. We must use what has been called 'smart power', the full range of tools at our disposal." Earlier, Defense Secretary Robert Gates had called for the U.S. government to commit more money and effort to soft power tools including diplomacy, economic assistance, and communications because the military alone cannot defend America's interests around the world. He pointed out that military spending totals more than half a trillion dollars annually compared with a State Department budget of $36 billion. In his words, "I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use soft power and for better integrating it with hard power." What does this mean for policy?

I developed the concept of soft power in 1989 while writing a book that questioned the conventional wisdom about American decline. After examining American economic and military power, I found that something was still missing — the ability of the United States to attract others and thus increase the probability of obtaining the outcomes we wanted. It has been interesting to see an academic concept migrate to the front pages of newspapers, and to see it used by top leaders in China, India, Indonesia, Europe, and elsewhere over the past two decades. But wide usage has sometimes meant misuse of the concept as a synonym for anything other than military force.

Properly defined, soft power is the ability to affect others to obtain preferred outcomes by the co-optive means of framing the agenda, persuasion and positive attraction. My friend Andrew Kohut will present the evidence about how America's attractiveness to other countries has changed in recent years, so I will confine my remarks to the mechanisms by which such changes produce power, which I define as the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants. My remarks are drawn from my forthcoming book on smart power....

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For Academic Citation: Nye, Joseph S. Jr.. “Restoring America's Reputation in the World and Why It Matters.” Testimony to United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Relations. Washington, D.C., March 4, 2010.