Exum on Soft Power

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

I rarely interact with other bloggers, preferring to spend time in analysis.  But occasionally it’s best to spend a few minutes and join in the fray.  Andrew Exum of the blog Abu Muqawama gives us his raw feelings on soft power.  It’s is quoted in full.

Dear World:

We, the United States of America, a top quality supplier of the ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to this eight-year service outage has been located, and a decision was taken in early November to completely replace the software responsible. The new software became fully functional on January 20, 2009. Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are again operating correctly. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full service and hope to continue improvements in the years to come. We thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Well, the comments section gets pretty hard hitting, but it’s best to stick with the facts and analyze what Andrew says.

Given the billions upon billions of dollars spent by the U.S. on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan (in aid to fight the Taliban), AIDS in Africa and other such programs, it isn’t clear what might be Andrew’s objection.  Perhaps along with Secretary Gates he doesn’t like the fact that the application of reconstruction and soft power has been the U.S. military.  I don’t think the U.S. military likes it either, but if Andrew believes that this has been the choice of the Bush administration he is of course mistaken.  Does he not recall the near riotous behavior at the State Department when Condi Rice threatened mandatory overseas deployments of State employees?  Does he really believe that it will be any different under the new administration?  At least the Army and Marines had training and weapons.  Does Andrew have a plan for force protection of State employees when their heads turn up decapitated while deployed?  Does anyone really know how this is going to work?

Perhaps Andrew is talking about the use of diplomatic and political pressure.  True enough, both I and Michael Ledeen have both been strong proponents of political pressure on Iran in order to prevent war.  We have both lamented the sure-to-be heavy cost of war with Iran and advocated democracy programs (I and Michael), fomenting of an insurgency (I and Michael) and even targeted assassinations of select high ranking individuals (only me to the best of my knowledge).  We have said that Iranian General Qassem Suleimani (the very same one to whom Petraeus appealed to stop the shelling inside the Green zone) should know that he is a marked man.

But notwithstanding the brutish and heavy-handed tactics tactics I recommend, the State Department cannot even find it in themselves to continue with pressure on Iran during the Bush administration.  They gave up the only remaining democracy program in favor of – you guessed it, or maybe you didn’t because you couldn’t conceive of a program like this – student exchange.  Does Andrew believe that talks by the State Department which cannot even continue a democracy program for Iran will pressure them to relinquish their enrichment program?  This new State Department will clearly align with the new administration which believes in the eternal power of talk.  Will student exchange programs change the radical Mullahs?  Will we ultimately convince ourselves that we can live with a nuclear Iran, or will the new administration save the day with talks?

Perhaps Andrew has a thing for largesse.  Perhaps he believes that the U.S. is obligated to make payments across the globe in order to further democracy.  But if the global insurgency in which we are currently engaged was a function of poverty, then Bangladesh, which is not only one of the poorest countries on the face of the earth but Muslim as well, would be a well-spring of Islamic extremism.  But it’s not, because the notion that poverty causes extremism is a myth.  So that argument for international socialism borne on the shoulders of the American taxpayer rather falls apart at the hands of cold, hard logic.

Perhaps Andrew believes that more money should have been forthcoming from the government for the conduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  Okay.  His gripe should have been with the Congress, but it doesn’t seem to be.  Besides, given the funding of construction, arms, training for the Army and police, reconstruction of infrastructure such as the electrical grid and other gigantic programs such as payment to the Sons of Iraq, surely Andrew is aware of the massive amount of money we have spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps Andrew believes that the U.S. hasn’t worked for democracy throughout the world.  But I (and others) have strongly argued that it was precisely our irrational commitment to Maliki because of his having been democratically elected that caused such lethargy in the progress of pacification.

So then what is his gripe about soft power?  Who exactly has failed in this regard, and given his giddiness over the new administration, what does he know about their ability to exercise soft power that we don’t?  Does he know where the money is coming from, and how we would do this new and improved thing without bankrupting the country?

There are many unanswered questions from Andrew.  He has clearly told us all that he knows more than we do about soft power, to the point that he knows what this administration is going to do and how successful they are going to be.

More, Andrew?  Would you like to fill in the gaps of our knowledge with your deep, Gnostic learning?  Specifics please, rather than venom and invective!  We got the executive summary.  You forgot to give us the balance of the report.

UPDATE: TCJ thanks Abu for the link.


You are currently reading "Exum on Soft Power", entry #1971 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Abu Muqawama,Soft Power and was published January 26th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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