Dumb Power

Ted Bromund /

In the world of international affairs, popular phrases usually signify not thought, but its absence. Calls for ‘a new Marshall Plan,’ for example, are invariably made by people who know absolutely nothing about the original one. The appearance of these phrases is the surest proof that the speaker is content to think in cliches.

The latest catchphrase is ‘smart power,’ which is what Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has promised the Obama Administration will wield. In theory, ‘smart power’ is the use of diplomacy, economic leverage, military muscle, political suasion, legal structures, and cultural appeals to achieve national ends. In practice, ‘smart power’ is simply a way for the Secretary of State to say that liberals are smart and conservatives – especially those who served in the administration of George W. Bush – are not.

But no one’s against diplomacy, if it works. And cultural appeals sound wonderful too. After all, conservatives believe in the American way of life, and aren’t shy about saying so. The only question is how to go about promoting it overseas. Fortunately, Britain offers some revealing models. (more…)