An Analysis of Joseph Nye’s Use of “Soft Power” and its Relationship with Morality in International Relations
Recently, the United States has lost a great deal of power in the international arena because of its invasion of Iraq and torture of prisoners of war. The United States holds an incredible edge in military capabilities over any other nation and the US benefits from the largest economy in the world. In a world where there is one single superpower, why is that superpower unable to force-feed policy through coercion or payoff? Theoretically, the US ought to be able to rule the world with a double-edged sword of military muscle and economic supremacy. These tangible aspects of power should be all that US needs to be the prevailing global power, yet it obviously lacks some x-factor if its military and economic preponderance has remained and the US has lost power.
Traditionally, State power has been viewed without concern for morality. In most accounts, morality did not play a role in power, or reacted counterproductively towards power. The main school of thought in International Relations on the concept of State power, realism, is founded on self-interest and follows the mantra “might makes right.” The Realists believe that a nation should only act in a manner which enhances or advances its own national interest at all costs despite morality and the interests of other nations. A nation cannot successfully navigate the muddy waters of International Relations by waging war and imposing trade sanctions upon all of those who oppose that nation. The second viewpoint on State power is based purely in morality. Idealism requires self sacrifice for the overall good of the global community. Physical power should perform as little of a role as possible, if at all. Nations are expected to behave and get along. Both of these theories fail to account for many facets of International Relations. Joseph Nye offers an alternative theory for the construct of State power. He created a system in which State power is broken into two parts; “hard power” and “soft power.” “Hard power” consists of the traditional, tangible aspects of power namely, military and economic power. “Soft power” is the key distinguishing dynamic of Nye’s work from other theories. “Soft power” consists of all other facets of power, such as ideology, foreign policy, culture, stability, prosperity, and membership in international organizations (Bound to Lead 130 and Paradox xi, 8). The modern world is becoming more interconnected and interdependent with one another, hence depending less on “sticks and carrots” and more on “soft power.” The missing link within perceived State power is the role morality plays in actual power. This study will show that “soft power” is implicitly, and at rare times explicitly, founded in moral values.
The definition of morality or what constitutes proper morals is a difficult task and may be explained differently 100 times if one were to ask 100...