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October 20, 2012

The Efficacy of "Smart Power"

One of the loopier phrases coined by progressives is "smart power". At its essence, it seeks to counter violent aggression with the consensus-based woolgathering of the European Union. A post written back in August of 2011 seems eerily prescient in light of our non-response to the 9/11 attack in Benghazi, Libya:

The term was coined by Harvard’s Joe Nye, who used to it describe an ideal policy blend combining “hard power” with “soft power” (another, more memorable Nye coinage).

...In the case of Secretary of State Clinton she seems to be making it an excuse for inaction. How else to interpret her claim that the administration policies in Libya and Syria exemplify, you guessed it, “smart power”. The AP reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defended the U.S. response to crises in Libya and Syria on Tuesday, saying the Obama administration is projecting “smart power” by refusing to act alone or with brute force to stop autocratic repression in the two countries….

“It is not going to be any news if the United States says Assad needs to go,” she said. “Okay, fine, what’s next? If other people say it, if Turkey says it, if (Saudi) King Abdullah says it, there is no way the Assad regime can ignore it.”

“I think this is smart power, where it is not just brute force, it is not just unilateralism,” she said. “It is being smart enough to say you know what we want a bunch of people signing out of the same hymn book and we want them singing a song of universal freedom, human rights, democracy, everything that we have stood for and pioneered over 235 years.”

A little over a year later, we see how our enemies tremble at the merest hint of "smart power":

Witnesses and the authorities have called Ahmed Abu Khattala one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission here. But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.

Libya’s fledgling national army is a “national chicken,” Mr. Abu Khattala said, using an Arabic rhyme. Asked who should take responsibility for apprehending the mission’s attackers, he smirked at the idea that the weak Libyan government could possibly do it. And he accused the leaders of the United States of “playing with the emotions of the American people” and “using the consulate attack just to gather votes for their elections.”

Mr. Abu Khattala’s defiance — no authority has even questioned him about the attack, he said, and he has no plans to go into hiding — offered insight into the shadowy landscape of the self-formed militias that have come to constitute the only source of social order in Libya since the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

It also offers insights into how adversaries whose grasp of the uses of power is based more on the practical than the theoretical view the efficacy of "smart power".

They scoff. Whilst sipping a strawberry frappe.

Posted by Cassandra at October 20, 2012 09:03 AM

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Comments

"Mr. Abu Khattala’s defiance — no authority has even questioned him about the attack, he said, and he has no plans to go into hiding "...

Odds are he'll not be able to receive and respond to THE Ø's Beer Summit in the Rose Garden invitation to discuss how the Youtube video producer acted stupidly should Khattala take to hiding.

//As the days pass, more frequently does the Flashman worry that POTUS #44 might displace The Royal Flash from his esteemed role as the luckiest, most fortunate yet unqualified bounder ever to fall, arse over teakettle, into positions of leadership. Positions achieved by no less than the ignorance of evaluators and opportunistic happenstance slipping him, dazed, into ill gotten office.

Flash frets even more over the possibility that a large portion of the 2008 U.S. electorate proves to be immune to learning from past mistakes.//

Posted by: Gen. Sir Harry Flashman at October 20, 2012 03:54 PM

Power is a zero sum game.

Team Obama relinquish it, bad people grab it.

Posted by: jhstuart at October 22, 2012 05:42 AM

Matching means to ends or the right tools for the right job: "Smart" power is fine as long as it is the tool used for the right job and it's coupled with "hard" power that is also the right tool used for the right job. Bush rationally attempted to match means to end with the full spectrum of American power. Obama kept the same strategic ends from Bush but removed the necessary means.

Posted by: Eric at October 22, 2012 12:07 PM

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