I was impressed years ago when I read Paul Kennedy’s book, Preparing for the 21st Century. In it there is a chapter on the dilemma that the US faces: whether or not it has the capacity, or desire, to adjust to a changing world.
Among the many topics that fascinated me, none was more powerful than the idea surrounding America’s ability to mobilize and meet military challenges anywhere in the world within forty-eight hours. This global reach and access to “hard power”, as Kennedy puts it, has its limits and its costs, however. Just because the hammer works well, as the cliché goes, doesn’t mean that every problem is a nail.
So in the International Herald Tribune this morning, Kennedy writes about the potential for the US to begin using “soft power” as a way of getting its needs met. In my reading, I was struck by how his description reminded me of what enlightened communication might look like geopolitically:
What the next president needs to do is recognize clearly what the hopes are that have made him so popular in so many different parts of the world: the African hopes that he will give real help to their troubled continent; the desires across Latin America that he will keep to liberal policies on trade and immigration, offer to ease the impasse with Cuba, and pay their region real respect; the yearnings in Europe, Canada and Australasia that he will take seriously America’s obligations toward international institutions and treaties, including environmental and anti-protectionist commitments; and the moderate-Arab hopes that he will offer more than lip service to the Palestinians.
Let’s hope that opening replaces closure and power can manifest as something that serves to increase the world’s consciousness as opposed to something that serves the one-sidedness of egoic self-interest.