Posted by: ourvoicestogether | November 7, 2007

Smart Power, Smart Approach

Smart Power, Smart Approach“Smart Power” is the buzz in foreign policy circles inside the Beltway this fall. Nope. It doesn’t refer to renewable energy, although energy security and climate change issues are part of the deliberations. “Smart Power” is about more effectively wielding the mix between America’s “hard power” – military, economic, political and other coercive might – with our “soft power” – the power we have to attract via our values and ideals, our opportunities, our scholarship, our openness, our ingenuity, etc.

There are quite a number of blue-ribbon panels working on smart power recommendations for the next Administration. One of them, CSIS’s bipartisan Commission on Smart Power, co-chaired by Joseph Nye of Harvard (who coined the term soft power over a decade ago) and Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell, unveiled their report yesterday here in DC.

It starts out by recommending exactly what Our Voices Together has been practicing for the past several years: “…the United States must move from eliciting fear and anger to inspiring optimism and hope.”

And gets better. The Commission stresses that “The United States must become a smarter power by once again investing in the global good…”

The report focuses on five areas:

  1. Reinvigorating international alliances, partnerships and institutions;
  2. Elevating the role of global development in US foreign policy by starting with global health;
  3. Building long-term, people-to-people relationships, particularly among the youth (italics mine);
  4. Continued engagement with the global economy; and
  5. Leading on energy security and climate change through technology and innovation.

At the launch event yesterday many of the questions for the Commissioners had to do with that critical # 3, not on the getting-our-message/policy-out side which so many politicians and foreign policy experts mistakenly think is all there is to public diplomacy, but on the absolutely critical and too often ignored side of citizen diplomacy. As one person from the audience – who pointed out that volunteerism is one of our best and biggest assets – said, “public diplomacy is too important to be left to the diplomats.” I served almost 16 years as a diplomat specializing in public diplomacy and I couldn’t agree more.

The thousands who are part of the Our Voices Together network and hundreds of thousands more around the country who volunteer internationally, set up socially-responsible international businesses, study abroad, welcome foreign students and visitors, give globally, connect their town to one abroad, and in so many ways take actions that create a safer, better, more just and more compassionate world, have been practicing this for years.

Washington’s blue-ribbon foreign policy establishment is finally beginning to see our actions and hear our voices. Keep on adding your voice and actions and ask your friends, colleagues and neighbors to add theirs.

Together our voices and actions can make our nation smarter!

–Marianne

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