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In this global information age, a computer or cell phone can be as powerful as a gun or a tank. International relations scholar Joseph S. Nye, Jr. explores the role of information and technology in a shifting geopolitical landscape and maps out what the United States must do to maintain its influence in the twenty-first century.
- Joseph S. Nye, Jr. University Distinguished Professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Author, The Future of Power
Read an Excerpt
From The Future of Power by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Reprinted by arrangement with PublicAffairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2011.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Conventional wisdom may say that whoever has the biggest guns wins the war. But as we've seen in the Middle East and Africa, the internet can be an important weapon, too. In today's global information age, some experts believe a computer or cell phone may be as powerful as a tank or a rocket.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe result is that traditional notions of world power are changing. The instantaneous spread of information across the globe is empowering new groups and individuals who are influencing both the international discourse and the outcome of conflicts. As the political landscape shifts, countries like the United States are being forced to rethink the way they wield influence on the world stage.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining me to explore the tools of power in the 21st century is Joseph Nye. He is university distinguished professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. From 1977 to 1979, Joseph Nye served as deputy undersecretary of state for security assistance, science and technology and chaired the National Security Council group on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. In 1993, 1994, he was chairman of the National Intelligence Council. And in 1994, '95, he served as assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. His latest book is called, "The Future of Power." Joseph Nye, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. JOSEPH S. NYE JR.It's nice to be with you.
NNAMDIWhen we think about what makes some countries more powerful than others, most of think about, well, their military. But in the internet age, information is power, too. How is technology diffusing power in the 21st century?
JR.Well, what's fascinating is we always used to say the country with the biggest army wins. But in an information age, sometimes the country with the best story that wins, as well as the biggest army. You take a little bit of a country like Qatar in the Persian Gulf, has virtually no army at all. And that we're paying a lot of attention to Qatar because it's the home of Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera has become basically the key source of information in much of the Middle East. So, there's an example of a country with virtually no military power, but with a lot of power in the region. But that's just an extreme example.
JR.I think if you take a country like the United States, obviously our military force remains important. But the question of the story we tell, the narrative we have, is also important. So you look at the events like Tahrir Square in Egypt. We needed to have good relations with the Egyptian military because they still have a lot of power, the traditional sort. But we also need to have good relations with that younger generation in Tahrir Square. They represented the future. So we had to have story for them as well as having the military assistance for the army.
NNAMDII'm glad you brought up Tahrir Square because let's focus on Egypt for a second and the role that the internet has played in taking power away from the ruler in that specific country because, in Egypt, how did access to the internet essentially expand choices for Egyptians?
JR.Well, there were two ways. If you look back 10, 15, 20 years, people would say there was no choice in Egypt between Mubarak, the autocrat, and the Muslim Brotherhood on the right or religious extreme. But what information did was create a new middle, a secular middle, which is that Tahrir Square generation. But what it also did was provide them with devices, like Twitter and Facebook, to coordinate so that they can actually organize those demonstrations. So it both helped to create this new group and it helped this new group to organize itself.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Joseph Nye, Jr. He is author of the book, "The Future of Power," and university distinguished professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. What role do you think the internet is playing in world politics and the distribution of world power today? 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there.
NNAMDIA lot has been written about the importance of the internet and social media in the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and their neighbors. What lessons should we take from those experiences about the role of information and technology in domestic rebellions?
JR.Well, what we realize is that it's no longer a situation where governments can control everything. I mean, some governments try to control the internet and some do better than others. Egypt had its own controls on the internet. In fact, when the demonstrations got too large, they cut off Egypt from the internet for a few days. But as we saw, that was not sufficient. China tries to control the internet. There is what they call the great firewall China. And if you are not cautious, you can be thrown in jail for what you write on the internet in China.
JR.But nonetheless, there's a lot of leakage. They can't catch everyone. And some of these younger, tech savvy Chinese are able to work around some of those things. There's a wonderful story that when China said you can't go on a search engine in China, look up Egypt because it might mean you're looking for revolutionary information. Some of these Chinese internet types developed a new term they called Hu Jintao, which is a combination of the Hu from the Chinese president and they called it Hu Mubarak or Hubarak.
JR.So they figured out words that you can put into a search engine that -- or Mujintao, something like that so that the filters don't catch them. But they know, you know, their friends know how to get around them.
NNAMDIBut you have made the point in "The Future of Power" that there's a warning there. You also wrote about this in "New Republic," a warning for a cyber utopians that the electronic trails created by social networks like Twitter and Facebook sometimes make the job of the secret police easier.
JR.That's absolutely right. I mean, we sometimes think that, well, this is going to automatically produce democracy and freedom. Well, not necessarily. In Syria, for example, the secret police say what's better than Facebook? Tells you that you have a dissenter, tells you who all the dissenter's friends are. So these tools can be used in both directions.
JR.I think in the long term, as what I argue in the book, is we're seeing a diffusion of power away from governments even though governments try to control this. In the long term, I don't think they can control it. There's going to be leakage and that's going to lead to change. But in the short term, yeah, they can sometimes be used quite effectively by the secret police.
NNAMDIAnd you also made the point that size still matters and that is even though it's cheap now to disseminate existing information, the collection and production of new information still often requires a major investment.
JR.That's right. I mean, if you look at intelligence, which is actually seeking information, a major intelligence operation is something that governments can do. They spend billions of dollars on it. And if you're a group of hackers, you probably have less resources to spend on that. So there is -- there's still something to be said for governments and size.
NNAMDIIf information confers power, what does that mean for the role of military force in the 21st century? The national intelligence council says military force is becoming less useful. Why?
JR.Well, military force is less useful for some things. For example, if you look at climate change, what can you do with military force on climate change. China is building a new coal power plant every week. That's putting carbon dioxide in the air, which is damaging us as well as China. What do we do about that? Do we send a cruise missile to knock out the Chinese military -- use military means to knock out the Chinese energy plants? This is crazy.
JR.So in fact -- or take something like pandemics, spread of SARS or diseases or take something like financial stability. You can't solve these with military force. On the other hand, if you're trying to deter the Chinese from, let's say, pushing their weight around in the South China Sea as they did last year, then a naval presence, American naval presence is important.
NNAMDISo military force is not obsolete instrument.
JR.Not obsolete, not obsolete. It still matters, but it's just more limited what it can accomplish.
NNAMDILet's go to the telephones. We'll talk with Tom in Washington, D.C. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
TOMYes, Tom, thank you so much. Yes, Tom, sorry. Thank you for taking my call. My question is that, uh, you know, how do we take advantage of access to the internet in countries, especially in that region, for example, who shut down the internet or shut down the satellites and keep people away from accessing, you know, even Facebook or Twitter? What's the solution for that? Thank you.
JR.Well, in the short run, there's not an easy solution. We have tried to set up devices which people in other countries can use to escape some of this internet censorship. There are networks, something like Tor, T-O-R, which people can use for anonymity. There are devices you can use, but let's face it, in the short run, if you're a country like, let's say, Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, you can control the internet pretty tightly. But if you do try to control it very tightly, you probably pay a price for it. I mean, Egypt when it closed off the internet for those four days, it was very expensive to them.
NNAMDITom, thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Do you think cyber power is going to overtake military or economic power as the most important tool in international politics? What do you think? 800-433-8850. When President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he said, quoting here, "There will be times when nations acting individually or in concert to find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified." So do you agree that military power will continue to play an important role in global politics?
JR.Oh, I think that's clearly true. I mean, it's interesting to look at the recent events in Libya. There you had Colonel Gadhafi using military force to put down the rebels and there was a danger of that leading to a massacre of civilians in Benghazi. What's interesting is to look at how President Obama reacted to that. He didn't just rush in with American military force unilaterally, as some urged him to do, because he knew if he did that, the story, the narrative that would echo from Morocco to Indonesia would be United States invades third Muslim country in a row.
JR.By waiting until the Arab League and the U.N. had a resolution saying that this was necessary to protect civilians, the use of military force is necessary to protect civilians, President Obama was able to use force. But the story that went with it is U.S. joins with U.N. group to protect civilians, which is quite different. So that's a good example where military force was crucial, but so was the narrative that went with it.
NNAMDIIn 2007, Joe, now you were in Libya and met Moammar Gadhafi. At the time, he had abandoned his nuclear program. He'd won a seat on the United Nations Security Council. But sitting in a tent in Tripoli, he asked you how Libya could increase its use of soft power on the world stage and you offered some suggestions, I'm curious about your assessment of his actions then as compared -- or his words then as compared to his actions today in the face of efforts to topple his government.
JR.Well, Gadhafi is a strange man who has basically mixed up his own personal ego with the country. But at that time, he was trying to broaden out. I mean, he was trying to open up the country somewhat. And he asked about how he could make Libya more attractive to increase its soft power. I told him that his chances of doing that in the United States depended on changing his human rights policy, in particular at that time there were a group of Bulgarian nurses who were being held unjustly.
JR.And I said, you have to free these nurses and you have to change your record on human rights. He responded with a long diatribe about the fact that they have economic rights and so on and so forth. So I don't think he took on board the advice that I was suggesting. But it was true at that time when they gave up their nuclear program and stopped their support on terrorism that it looked like they were trying to open up. They just didn't have the capacity to do it. He still had to keep his own dictatorial control and that meant change on human rights was too far.
NNAMDIHow important was it, in your view, at that time, that he even sought your advice?
JR.Well, it's interesting because the fact that he was looking for outside advice is an indication that they were interested in change. One of his sons who had -- named Saif Gadhafi, I think, had been influenced by his studies in London to try to influence his father to open up. And they hired a company called Monitor Group, which then had hired a group of other people, like myself and Bob Putnam and Tony Giddens and so forth, to go and meet with Gadhafi to bring in new ideas.
JR.But it turned out, alas, not to have a very strong effect and what we've seen is the disaster we see today.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Joseph S. Nye, Jr. His latest book is called, "The Future of Power." Later, we will talk with him about why he's written so many books with power in the title. 800-433-8850 or shoot us an e-mail to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Joseph S. Nye, Jr. His latest book is called, "The Future of Power." Jo Nye is university distinguished professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Phone lines are busy, if you'd like to get in touch with us, try our website, kojoshow.org or shoot us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet at kojoshow. Today, a lot of people worry that the United States is in decline and is seeing its power wane in relation to the rest of the world.
NNAMDIBut you've said a more accurate way to describe the changing landscape would be the rise of the rest. What do you mean by that?
JR.Well, the world -- decline combines two very different ideas. One is absolute decay, like happened to ancient Rome, which essentially had no economic growth and succumbed to internecine warfare and hordes of barbarians for outside. That's not the United States. We have one of the world's most productive economies. The world economic forum ranks us as the fourth most competitive in the world. So decline isn't the right way to describe what's happening to the U.S. in an absolute sense.
JR.But if you ask, is the United States as far ahead of, let's say, China, Brazil, India and others as it once was? Well, no. They're catching up. That's the rise of the rest. Now, some people call that relative decline because the gap between us and others is shrinking. But, you know, you can have that relative decline as shrinking of the gap and the United States can still stay ahead. I think we will.
NNAMDII'd like to get to the phones, but I'd like to pursue that line of argument for a second. Because a lot of commentators today spend a lot of time worrying about what the rise of China and Asia as a whole will mean for the United States. You've said we should herald the power shift that's restored Asia to the position it held before the industrial revolution lead to the rise of the west. Why?
JR.Well, if you look at the world in 1800, Asia was more than half the world's people, but only -- and about half the world's product. But by 1900, that had declined to 20 percent of the world's product. And sometime in this century, we're going to see Asia having what you might call, more normal proportions, half the world's population and half the world's product. That means there are a lot of people who are in poverty today who are going to be doing better. That's something we should celebrate. The fact that Chinese have raised 3 or 400 million people out of poverty, that's a good thing.
JR.Now, we also have to worry about the power implications since some people say, yes, but China is getting so strong that they're going to pass us and dominate us. I don't believe that and I give a lot of facts and figures in the book why this is not true, I mean, why I don't think that China is going to pass us. So in that sense, when you're looking at economics, you can have a, what's called, a positive sum relation. They get richer, we get richer. It's not one at the cost of the other.
JR.Power is sometimes in military power. There's more of a zero sum. If they get too strong, they challenge us. But I think those things can be worked out as well, unless we become too fearful.
NNAMDIThe notion exists that, I guess, deep within the recesses of human nature is the desire to dominate others and that economic power can provide a basis to do that, of course, along with military powers. So what role do you see economic power playing in the 21st century?
JR.Oh, economic power is now and always will be very important. And that's why it's extremely important for the United States to continue to strengthen its own economy. This is one of the reasons we have to get the budget deficit under control. But we can. I mean, people forget that only 10 years ago, we had a surplus in this country. We could get this under control, if we, basically, wanted to.
JR.But it's important that we do. Because maintaining a strong economic base is the key to a strong American power, both military power and what I call soft power of attractiveness in the future. This is a place where Dwight Eisenhower was actually a pretty smart President. Said the basis of American strength, military and otherwise, is with our domestic economy.
NNAMDISo the need to use economic power to dominate others does not necessarily factor into this equation at all?
JR.Oh, sometimes you do use economic power. I mean, the Chinese will go to a country in Africa and offer bribes or corruption or build a stadium so that they can get access to resources. We sometimes are handicapped because of our foreign corrupt practices act that we can't compete in quite the same way. So economic power can be used for short term gains of this sort in short term competition. But if you ask, Can China lock up world resources? No, they can't.
JR.And if you ask, Can the Americans maintain their cutting edge in new technologies and to the competitiveness of our society, the answer is yes, if we take some of the key steps that I mentioned.
NNAMDIBecause in the final analysis, it's the strength of the domestic economy that counts.
JR.Yes, yeah. If -- the domestic economy has to be strong and that's why we, you know, a smart approach to American power starts with our domestic economy.
NNAMDIOn to Brian in Manassas, Va. Brian, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANHow you doing, Kojo? Thanks for taking my call.
BRIANMy -- just a brief comment. I see that there's more of a focus on the -- we talk about the four elements of national power being diplomatic information on military and economic. And I see over the past, you know, America is changing the way it fights its wars and I think there's more an emphasis on the informational part instead of necessarily the military part. You can say, more of an emphasis on the D, I and E instead of the M. I would like to hear what your guest has to say about that. Thank you.
NNAMDII'm glad you mentioned that because our guest has written a great deal about soft power and now he's writing a lot more about smart power.
JR.Well, power is the ability to affect others to get what you want. And you can do it by threatening them, let's say, with coercion or by paying them or by attracting them and persuading them. And the ability to combine all three of those, military, economic and soft or attractive power, is smart power. Indeed Hilary Clinton has said that, that's the theme of the Obama administration is to use smart power, all the tools in our toolbox.
JR.But I think your caller is correct. Which is that, in an information age, the role of information in that mix of D, I, M, E that he mentioned, increases. And we've got to be very careful to make sure that we adjust our thinking to realize that.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Joseph S. Nye, Jr. His latest book is called, "The Future of Power." He's university distinguished professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. You can call us 800-433-8850, send us a tweet at kojoshow. How do you think the rise of cyber power will affect American -- the American position in the world, 800-433-8850? Here is Cassandra in Silver Spring, Md. Cassandra, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CASSANDRAYes, thank you for your call. Dr. Nye, I'm concerned deeply about the so-called digital divide, both within our own country and abroad. And my concerns are based on the fact that I think there's something going on which I'm labeling digital hoarding, i.e., those who create the technology, control the means by which it's produced and (word?) within our country and around the world, have no reason to let us in on the secret of how it's done and what they intend to do on it -- with it.
CASSANDRAExamples are, those who've used the technology for fraud. I think Bernie Madoff or those who've used the technology to expose what were heretofore secrets. I think of Wikileak and the information sharing aspects and the positive aspects of informational technology are certainly to be valued by all of us. But by the same token, it would appear that those who control the technologies, are able to use it for whatever purposes they wish and we don't necessarily know what they're doing. Most (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDICassandra, by way of explanation, would you characterize Wikileaks and Julian Assange as among those people who control the technology?
CASSANDRAI'm talking about the capacity of the technology for exposing what were secrets. I'm not calling them, controllers. I would say that, a few years ago, I heard someone argue that Bill Gates was the anti-Christ because of the wide spread proliferation of Microsoft technologies throughout the business world and beyond. That's what I mean by (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to have Jo Nye respond to your concerns and your questions.
JR.Well, you -- it's a very interesting question. If somebody were able to get a monopoly in this area, it would indeed be a great danger. But notice that about a decade ago, there was a big anti-trust case against Microsoft and Bill Gates. Now, nobody is worried about that. Now, they're all worried about should we have an anti-trust case against Google.
NNAMDIYes, Bill Gates.
JR.Well, then in another five years, it'll be, should we have an anti-trust suit against Facebook? What's happening is, this technology is so dominate that nobody really can control it. But what you're -- what the caller is correct about is that, it's a double edge sword. It could be used for good and for bad. If you look at some of the benefits that we get from this technology, they're enormous. And it's not just for rich countries. In Kenya now, for example, the use of cell phones is so important because it becomes a source not just of communication, but of banking.
JR.People actually do their banking on cell phone and in small villages where there otherwise aren't any access to banks.
NNAMDIWe saw the same thing in Haiti, people...
NNAMDI...bills with cell phones.
JR.It's -- and so there are great benefits from this. But on the other side of that ledger is they're great vulnerabilities. You start doing your banking on cell phone, and guess what, if somebody can crack into your cell phone and get into your cyber security, they can empty your account. So it's a double edged sword. And what we have to be doing is realizing that -- not worrying that there's one central monopoly that's controlling it. That's not the problem.
JR.It's that it's open to prey by all kinds of predators. Some of whom, basically, are simple thieves, but some of whom are really very large organized crimes.
NNAMDITo what extent is the digital divide being bridged by the increasing use of smaller and smaller forms of digital communication? Because the average person in rural Kenya may not have a laptop, but that person may have a cell phone that can do a whole lot of things.
JR.That's right. I mean, what's fascinating is this possibility of what sometimes is called leapfrogging. I mean, people say, you know, if the computer -- the internet depends on access to, let's say, wire lines, copper lines, connecting villages together, you know. This is decades before governments are going to stream these wire lines and so forth. If you have cell phones, which are really cheap, you don't even need the wire lines, you don't even need the computer. You can actually just get access to information a lot more quickly than in the past. This is the good side of the equation.
NNAMDICassandra, thank you very much for your call. Here is Ralph in Gaithersburg, Md. Ralph, your turn.
RALPHHi, Kojo. One of my main concerns is it's an open internet. Right now, we have five large media conglomerates which are owned by the corporate -- basically we call them the corporate media that control our information flow. It's 70, 80 percent. And, you know, with -- they don’t do it like communists do where they take you out and shoot you behind the building. What they do is they strip you of your million dollar a year job or they just don't hire you. So they put you out of business. This information -- the control of information, like, with the open internet and not letting the companies control or build based on the contents is critically important. I'll give you one quick example (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, we've had several discussions on this broadcast about this with -- about what the federal communications commission is trying to do and the ongoing debate about this. And we're planning on having an FCC commissioner again soon to have that conversation. In a way, it's another conversation, though, conceivably related, Jo Nye?
JR.Well, I think if we did have a monopoly on the internet or if there were -- there are five big internet service providers, but I don't think they have the monopoly. For example, if you wanted to shut down the internet in the U.S., as the Egyptians did, it'd be almost impossible to do in the U.S. because you should have shut down these five internet services providers. There's still lots of (word?) internet services providers. So I don't think we're at risk of that same sort of centralized control that other countries are.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Ralph. And please stay tuned for that discussion that we will have at a future date, probably on a tech Tuesday. Here is Carla in Arlington, Va. Hi, Carla.
CARLAOh, hi, good afternoon. I'm so excited to hear Kennedy School of Government. I pricked up my ears. Some years back, a distinguished Buddhist scholar, Dr. Ikeda Geizig (sp?), lectured there possibly during your tenure on the topic of soft power. And I was wonder -- well, creating kind of a dialogical paradigm shifting away from hard power that often manifests itself in the form of violent conflicts. I was wondering if you could speak on that for a moment and speak about the change in women's participation and how women's lack of participation has been the norm and what can be done to change that?
NNAMDIWell, first on the issue of soft power, Jo Nye has written a great deal about soft power and I guess it could be equated with winning hearts and minds. But for the benefit of our listening audience, could you explain what soft power is?
JR.Yeah, soft power is the ability to get what you want through persuasion and attraction as opposed to coercion and payment. And, frankly, we all use it every day in our lives. I mean, you know, we don't go around beating people over the head or paying for everything we want. Use traction and persuasion all the time. So there's nothing unique about it. I'm always reminded that General Eisenhower, President Eisenhower, once said, you know, giving people a command when you're the boss, he said, that's easy. Getting people to do things for you because they want to, that's hard. That's soft power.
JR.But the caller's right. Mr. Ikeda did give a speech at the Kennedy school on soft power and he is head of a major Buddhist organization, Soka Gakkai, in Japan. But on this question of women, I think you could argue that in our culture, very often, women are better at understanding soft power because of the way they've been brought up. If you think of -- I wrote another book called, "The Powers to Lead." And I hear that, traditionally, you can think of power as being sort of king of the mountain, the guy on top who gives orders and they cascade down.
JR.But you can also think of power as being in the center of a circle of getting others to want to work with you to develop networks to get things done. And I think males in our society tend to be inculcated with a sort of king of the mountain view of power. I think, often, women are better tuned to this idea of being in the center of circle and getting the people to want to work with you in the terms that Eisenhower is talking about. Some people argue that, indeed, with the information age, this second type of power is going to be more significant than it's been in the past.
NNAMDICarla, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIYou, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. Do you think the uprisings in the Arab world and Africa could have taken place without the internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter? Call us 800-433-8850. Jo Nye, we counted and this is the eighth book you've written with the word power in the title. How has the nature of power, which you've been writing about so extensively over the years, in international politics changed over those decades that you've been writing about it?
JR.Well, I first started writing about power and international relations in the '70s when you had a big shift at the time of the Arab oil embargo against the U.S. and the view is now economic power was going to replace military power. I wrote a book with a colleague, Robert Keohane, called "Power and Interdependence." I said, yes, you can use economic power, and it's going to be very important and very effective, but it doesn't fully replace military power. And so I've been intrigued by this theme for, you know, quite some time. Indeed, I then -- I wrote a book in 1989 that was the question about, is the United States in decline? Is this the end of American power?
JR.And at that time, it looked -- there were many people in public opinion polls thought this was the case. I said, no, it wasn't. And this new book, "The Future of Power" continues that theme. How do you think about economic power, military power, and soft power, and what will that mean for America's position in the world? And that's basically a theme that's been intriguing me for decades.
NNAMDIIf you have already called, stay on the line. We will get to your call after this short break. If the lines are busy, then go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. We're talking about world power in the internet age with Joseph Nye. His latest book is called, "The Future of Power." I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Joseph S. Nye, Jr. His latest book is called "The Future of Power." Joe Nye is a university distinguished professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. We have a lot of callers on the line so I'll go immediately to Burton in Washington D.C. Burton, your turn.
BURTONThank you. Mr. Nye, your emphasis on smart power includes trying to convince the administration, I assume, to do more of it, and I want to go back to your point about firewalls. It's been widely acknowledged that the best software for getting around that, the most effective state-of-the-art is developed by the Falun Gong whose software was used in Iran and other places as well as China. Congress has, over the last four years, appropriated some 30 or 40 million dollars, and the State Department, despite continued anger or pressure from Congress, refuses to give it as it was intended primary to the Falun Gong.
BURTONIt's given it to people that are really irrelevant. It's held it back, and I'm wondering, and it's candidly admitted -- the State Department has candidly admitted to people on the Hill that if they gave more money openly to Falun Gong, China would be upset so they're gonna give it a small amount through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. They've given a tiny amount. If it had been given as intended by Congress and the capacity could have been doubled or tripled, you might have had a real revolution in Iran. Ironically, now they're meeting on human rights in China.
BURTONI'm wondering how can we avoid this intent to not do anything that would upset China about the Falun Gong, and give money that would be extremely effectively used for precisely what you are advocating?
NNAMDIBurton, you mentioned Iran. Are you talking about both Iran or China, or just China?
BURTONThe software that Falun Gong developed, Kojo, has been used in many countries, and it's widely acknowledged to be the software that is most effecting in getting around the firewalls.
NNAMDIAnd you're saying it was used -- it was used in Iran?
BURTONYes, it was. But it could have been used many fold more. There was a capacity limit on the...
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to have Joe Nye respond.
JR.Yeah. There has been some controversy about Falun Gong. I think one of the reasons the State Department was reluctant to pour all those resources into Falun Gong is it appeared to be not just an investment in software, but investment in a particular religious group. And so I think that was why they basically put some money into it, but didn't pour all of it into it. But there's also the question of whether that is the sole software you want to support. In other words, there are many different types of software which you can use, in addition to the one developed by Falun Gong.
NNAMDIHow about the issue of the nature of the diplomatic relationship between the United States and China, that obviously has to be a factor in these kinds of decisions?
JR.Well, I think that's right. I mean, the -- I think the State Department was also concerned about if it looked like we were pouring all this money into Falun Gong, the Chinese have defined Falun Gong as an enemy, does it look like we're supporting an enemy? I think what the State Department has tried to do is to say we're not going to pour all this money into Falun Gong, but we are going to support the technology that's developed by Falun Gong up to a point.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Burton. Here is Sammie in Reston, Va. Sammy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SAMMIEGood afternoon. I'm a contractor in Afghanistan, and I see the use of soft power as a weakness of the United States. And because the amount of money that America spends in Afghanistan was not really advertised, and I go through these scenarios every day when I'm there. People are not aware that all the roads and bridges and schools and policy and army and tanks and the airplanes are purchased by the United States, plus the food and agriculture and everything else. And so when the Taliban comes up with a lie, they win, because there's nothing against them.
SAMMIEThere's no propaganda or awareness that people would get from the media or internet or any other source that United States did fund, and win people's hearts and minds. And I think that's a weakness.
JR.Well, there is a problem with developing soft power in places like Afghanistan, as the caller knows better than I. One of the problems is that when you build a clinic or a school or a bridge, if you don't understand how it's going to affect local relations, I mean, benefiting one tribe or one village rather than another, what you think you're doing should earn gratitude, but looked at from the point of view from the bottom up of some of the local society, you may win on one group and lose on another. In addition to that, among some of them there's -- some of the groups there, there's a feeling that this is an outside presence.
JR.So the problem of how you develop soft power in Afghanistan is not easy or in any country, for that matter. And we need a lot more sophistication in the way we study this. Just pouring money in isn't enough. You better have a much better understanding at the -- you might call it the anthropological level of how your acts that you think are acts of kindness are perceived by those who are the recipients.
NNAMDISammie, thank you for your call. And then, there is this. Another fact of the internet age is that governments are no longer the only ones who control the flow of information, which means that governments are no longer the only practitioners, the only people pushing world politics. What happens when, say, a terrorist group has the power to, as you would put it, narrate the story and set the agenda?
JR.Well, it's -- it makes it a more dangerous world for us. I mean, you have somebody like this fellow Awlaki in Yemen who has got his own internet magazine for jihadists, and you also have -- so far terrorists have used the internet for communication or propaganda or recruitment, but someday we have to worry about whether they will use it to attack us. So I have a chapter in the book on cyber power, which looks at the question of whether this so-called stuxnet virus, which was developed to attack centrifuges in Iran, could someday be used against us. And if so, would we know who did it?
JR.It might be another government, it might be a terrorist group, it might be a criminal group.
NNAMDIOn to Ibrahim in Loudon County, Va. Ibrahim, your turn.
IBRAHIMYes. Thank you, Kojo. Good afternoon, Dr. Nye. My name is Ibrahim. You've eluded that the rest of the (unintelligible) well, there is no problem, but the rise of the military, there's a problem. You eluded there might be (unintelligible) . How do you differentiate? Don't you think if the rise of the rest, so long as the rest rises, your influence will fall?
JR.Well, let's look at...
IBRAHIMDo you understand my question?
JR.Look at the way the United States responded to the growth of Chinese economy. We could have tried to just contain China. Instead, what we did was say we will integrate China, but we'll also have a hedge. We'll maintain our alliances with Japan, we'll develop better relations with Vietnam, with India. And what we're trying to do is shape the environment so that China has incentives for good behavior, and disincentives for bad behavior. So that -- that strategy in terms of how do you approach the rise of China, has been integrate but hedge. It's a mixture if you like of economic and hard and soft powers. I think it's a smart policy.
NNAMDIThank you for your call Ibrahim. And speaking of soft power, here is Francesco in Falls Church, Va. Francesco, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FRANCESCOThank you very much. I just think that one of the key issues I see these days is credibility. We can talk about economics, military, Facebook, and other things. I think credibility is huge. At this time, the United States has a lot of work to do in reestablishing credibility around the world. A lot of people stay away from the United States because the United States government is perceived as shifty, unreliable, and unpredictable. Believe it or not, (unintelligible) I don't know what the solution for this will be, but I see too many mistakes, I would say infantile mistakes, such as the ones made in Venezuela, okay. I don't have time to elaborate on those details.
NNAMDIWell, are you talking…
FRANCESCOAnd from other places. Let's just keep it this way. I'll let you go on.
NNAMDIYou're obviously talking about in Venezuela when the United States was under the impression that Hugo Chavez would be replaced, and seemed to be seeking to support whatever the replacement was, and it turned out not to happen at all. But when you talk about credibility, Joe Nye, do you have to talk about it differently in different parts of the world?
JR.Well, credibility is crucial in an information age, because we're all deluged with information. And when you're deluged with information, the question is what do you pay attention to. And you pay attention to what you think is credible. And so the coin of the realm in an information age is credibility. That means that if you say one thing, if you have broadcasts which say one thing, but your actions go the other direction, you lose credibility, and then all that money in those broadcasts is wasted.
JR.So in some ways, a phrase that I coined, it -- a quote in the book by a young Czech, the best propaganda is not propaganda. In other words, if you're -- if you look at the BBC, what's interesting is even though the BBC is paid for by the government, it's developed a reputation for credibility, and that's crucial. In other words, if you lose your reputation for credibility, then basically all the money you spent on this is wasted.
NNAMDIThank you so much for your call. We got this e-mail from Peter. "Do you think the Obama administration is following the smart power philosophy of foreign policy, and have the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa made an argument for your approach and against real politic?
JR.Well, I think Obama has tried to follow smart power, but notice that it's a difficult tightrope to walk. When Mubarak was there, if he had just stopped Mubarak right away, or if he now tries to dump the Egyptian Army...
JR....what -- well, credibility, but also, what happens to certain goals that you have like keeping the peace with Israel or balancing Iranian power and so forth. But on the other hand, if you just sit down and support the army, then what about the aspirations of this younger generation, and the fact that we say we're in favor of democracy, and if we don't do anything about it, we lose credibility there. So Obama, I think, if you watch what the administration did in the early days of the up rise in Egypt, they were trying to walk this tightrope without wobbling too much in one direction or the other.
JR.I think by and large they got across it reasonably well, but it's not an easy job. Foreign policy is always sort of trying to get as many different competing values as you can, and I think Obama by and large had a smart job on that.
NNAMDIYou write in "The Future of Power" on immigration, and we got this e-mail from Jackie in Washington D.C. "I wonder how the U.S. can maintain a reasonable level of power when so many of our top industries, financial institutions and medical institutes depend on foreign scientists, engineers, doctors and computer experts. Surely many of these people will not be content to stay here as employees, but will decide one day to go home and form their own companies and institutions. I guess in a lot of cases they don't even have to go home to do that.
JR.Well, in the long run, we benefit from this. I quote in the book a comment that -- a conversation I had with Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore. He said, you know, if you look at China, it can draw upon the talents of 1.3 billion people. If you look at the United States, it can draw on the talents of seven billion people you can get the best from the whole world and recombine them in a way which is far more diverse and more creative than the Chinese can do when they're limited by (word?) nationalism.
JR.So suppose that 25 percent, suppose 50 percent of them go back, but if we're drawing on the best and brightest from 7 billion people, that immigration is a net plus for us. And it's sometimes hard for Americans to realize this, but, you know, we are a country of immigrants. That's what's made us.
NNAMDIWhat do think is the greatest threat to American power today? Is it an external threat, an internal one, in the 30 seconds or so we have left?
JR.Two things worry me most. One is that we don't get our own internal deficit control problem under control, I think in that we will. But the other on the external side would be terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and creating such a disarray that we fail to live up to our own best values.
NNAMDIJoseph Nye, Jr. is the author of the book "The Future of Power." He is university distinguished professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Thank you so much for joining us.
JR.It's nice to be with you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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