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Tuesday 20 Feb 2018 | 13:05 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 20 Feb 2018 | 13:05 | SYDNEY

Washington's buzz-word bingo



14 January 2009 13:56

International relations, like all fields of endeavour, has its own jargon, some of which neatly encapsulates complex policy ideas while others are simply jibberish. The eminent IR theorist Joseph Nye Jr was largely responsible for an example of the former, with his neat delineation of 'soft' and 'hard' power.
In 2006 he added a new element to the mix — 'smart power'. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it would appear Professor Nye is on another winner. During her recent confirmation hearing, Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton invoked the phrase as a key element of restoring American leadership.
The seriousness with which the term is being taken is further evidenced by the fact that it has already been institutionalised with the creation in 2007 of a Smart Power Commission, as think tanks sensed the opportunity to mould the post-Bush foreign policy outlook.

While the smart power concept is quite straightforward, the difficulty will be in getting the balance right. The degree of soft and hard power to use, and the second- and third-order effects of getting the balance wrong (or even right) is what makes smart power such an art. The world will be watching to see what emerges out of Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon in the coming months and years.

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