Hard Power, Soft Power

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I was recently rereading Robert Kagan’s 2003 book ‘Of Paradise and Power’, in which he contrasts European and American reactions to other states that oppose them. He argues (to simplify very considerably) that where Europe typically pursues its goals through negotiation, the USA is more ready to rely on force. After taking this picture it struck me it captured the rather similar contrast between reliance upon cast iron strength and unobtrusive silky envelopment.

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5 Responses to Hard Power, Soft Power

  1. ninamishkin says:

    I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt, early in the twentieth century, who said, “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” He was only operating in one hemisphere, though. These days, I think even our insane Congress is beginning to think twice, thrice, more times than that, about taking on the whole world. (John McCain & Co. excepted, of course.) Beautiful cobweb, though. And unbroken. Any thoughts on who is silkily enveloping who?

    • Trifocal says:

      Like your Roosevelt quotation. As Al Capone put it: ‘You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.’

      Kagan would agree that you need access to both hard and soft power in international relations, but argued that the European Union and the USA differ in the emphasis they give to each.

      The typical European priority is to try to create multiple relationships with potential opponents (political, economic, cultural, social, industrial and educational). Which is what made me think of the spider’s web. This approach works fine if the attempt leads to the conversion of foes into friends, as it did after WW2 in Western Europe, and after ’89 in Central Europe. But it has not worked with Russia. And as that case is currently illustrating, if things go wrong these links quickly turn from assets to liabilities, for both sides.

  2. Maria F. says:

    What a beautiful image and symbolism. The 2nd amendment in the U.S. has done a lot of harm in that anyone, literally anyone, can own a gun. This has been going on for a long time and has done a lot of harm I think. If you want self-defense carry some maze or a knife, but don’t hand out ammunition like candy and then create a gun culture with the NRA.

    • Maria F. says:

      Well, I hope I wasn’t too rough with this comment, I do love the U.S., I just wish it didn’t issue so many gun permits.

      • Trifocal says:

        This is the position in the UK (as currently shown on Wikipedia).
        ‘Ownership of most types of firearm in the UK requires either a Shotgun Certificate (SGC) or a Firearm Certificate (FAC). Both of these are issued by local police after the applicant has met the required criteria. For a Shotgun Certificate the applicant need to demonstrate that they can securely store the firearms (usually a gun safe bolted to a solid wall), have no criminal convictions, no history of any medical condition or disability including alcohol and drug related conditions, no history of treatment for depression or any other kind of mental or nervous disorder, or epilepsy.
        Once a SGC is granted the person is free to purchase single shot, multi-barreled and repeating shotguns of lever action, pump action or semi-automatic with non detachable magazine that hold no more than 2 rounds of ammunition, plus one in the breech. There is no restriction on the number of shotguns that can be held on a SGC nor are there any restrictions on the amount of ammunition one can possess. The shotguns can be used wherever one has permission.
        The criteria required for the grant of a Firearm certificate are far more stringent. Alongside safe storage requirements and checks on previous convictions and medical records, the applicant must also demonstrated a Good reason for each firearm they wish to hold (Good reason may include hunting, pest control, collecting or target shooting). Police may restrict the type and amount of ammunition held, and where and how the firearms are used.’
        Only in Northern Ireland is self defence an acceptable reason for ownership.

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