THE STATE OF HARD AND SOFT POWER POLITICAL RULE IN CONTEMPORARY FOREIGN POLICIES AND GLOBAL CRISES
[When political power is hard, it destroys without mercy but when political power is soft it delays the solution. The world of man is in grave crises and what we need is perhaps a moderate political power that will put the feeble civilian first before an execution. We are all affected by the politics around us and no one can claim not to care about it because if you decide not to care, then those who decide to care will conclude the decisions that will affect your carelessness and political folly. ─S.C. Agbelengor]
The politics of this world has been influenced greatly by several ancient empires since the day the first man stepped foot on this earth. Men have lived as hunters and gatherers, foragers, nomads, agriculturalist, feudalist, industrialist and now an age dominated by high tech science and technology.
The days of the Egyptian Pharaohs were not as technologically advanced as we have today, yet many of the pyramids and ancient monuments they built can still not be understood by our so-called high technology.
During the periods when men lived in small family bands, tribes and miniature societies; they believed that the world around them was the best until they encounter other societies that were bigger and powerful than them.
This is what we call today as shattered microcosm leading to shattered macrocosm. Men became shattered with a micro vision and condition until they encountered a broader macro world view that was higher than their own horizon. Those were the periods that Thomas Hobbes described as “the state of nature where the life of man was solitary, nasty, brutish, poor and short”.
Until the society could relinquish their sovereignty to an authority; societal chaos was bound to prevail. The state of nature─ even at the level where there were strong leaders; opposition still prevailed and men had to fight against their foes for survival.
Tribes, bands and groups fought over land, territory and domination on each other. In the state of nature, societies tended to use their shattered military strength to rule over one another. Once in a while, primitive diplomacy was also applied.
THE WORLD OF TODAY
Today, we live in a world of multifarious problems, crises and successes combined. Our world of technology is magnificent because we enjoy many scientific equipment and gadgets that the old ancient medieval world did not have access to; though they were also glad in their own antediluvian civilization.
Can you imagine a computer, internet or mobile phone in the hands of Aristotle? But our great successes have also brought its countless problems. Aristotle believed in the medieval age he lived in. So was his tutor Plato and Plato's tutor Socrates. So do the people of this current dispensation.
But believe me; our politics today is characterized by many hilarious but serious stories. We have all the academic knowledge and we've done all the researches, yet when political crises arise, our research findings do little to solve the problem. Consider the number of people who died as a result of electoral disputes in Ivory Coast- what about Gaddafi against Libyan Rebels, Somali crises or Assad against Syria freedom fighters, Israeli- Palestinian war etc. Innocent civilians; women, children and men are killed without any substantive reason. Then consider the number of undergraduate long essays, master's thesis or PHD dissertations of students on international issues that universities and their professors supervise every year and they all lay in our university libraries – yet global crises worsen at every period.
In spite of all these, many countries today have full control of their territories and sovereignty through revolutions and international legal developments- and they are struggling hard to bring peace and stability in their domain. Today, almost all countries have clearly defined territorial boundaries─ thus land, sea and airspace. The colonial and imperial days are past─ the days when powerful leviathans invaded and control native territories.
The dark days of colonialism, Trans-Saharan slavery, transatlantic slave trade, European expansionism and racism are all history. The vision of many native societies and races to have their own homeland and rule themselves has been fully realized─ only a few groups are struggling for full legitimacy-the Kurds in Turkey.
Although we have independent countries today, it is just impossible for countries to consider their internal affairs only. How can Ghana think about itself when it directly shares boundaries with Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo and the Gulf of Guinea? If Ghana cares less about these neighbors then obviously it cannot claim to have oil today since its southern neighbor─ i.e. the Gulf of Guinea holds the offshore oil. The gulf of guinea though not a country but a water body, yet it is a strategic territory at the southern part of Ghana─ providing oil for the country.
The United States cannot also think about its homeland policy and security when Mexico and Latin America are producing numerous opportunities and complications─ not forgetting the massive drug trade and high criminalities. The days of pre-world war isolationist polices are passed and in those days, the USA had to change its isolationist foreign policies into multilateralism. For example, when the USA was not directly part of World War II; it could no longer hold unto isolationism as foreign policy when Japan bombed one of its strategic facilities (Pearl Harbor).
The response of the USA to this crises development was the infamous Hiroshima and Nagasaki destructive atomic bombing incident. This was compete eastern hard power versus western hard power. How can the USA today depart from its post world war II multilateral foreign policy? Perhaps, only the morass of economic depression can cause such a decision.How can the US again flee from Middle Eastern issues and crises when it has Israel as a powerful ally and even some Arab neighbors as strategic partners in terms of the politics of black gold?(Strategic Oil resources)
The simple truth is that no country today can live in isolation or mine its own internal business since the world of yesterday has changed today into a single global unit that is inextricably intertwined with hard political chains. The nation-states of this contemporary world are like ships travelling in deep sea together. A friendly wave will give all ships a smooth voyage but a hostile and turbulent one will bring marine havoc to all.
This is the main reason why Aristotle of blessed medieval memory said that every man is by nature a political animal. Whether individuals or city-states, we are all affected by the politics around us and no one can claim not to care about it because if you decide not to care, then those who decide to care will conclude decisions that will affect your carelessness and political folly.
POST WORLD WAR II POLITICS
After the Second World War, the politics of the world changed in many continents and countries. In Europe for example; because of their legacy of starting world wars, (especially Germany) they decided to form a union of European countries.
The Encyclopedia Britannica (1980) states that “the EU represents one in a series of efforts to integrate Europe since World War II. At the end of the war, several western European countries sought closer economic, social, and political ties to achieve economic growth and military security and to promote a lasting reconciliation between France and Germany. To this end, in 1951 the leaders of six countries—Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and West Germany—signed the Treaty of Paris, which founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)”.
The main aim of European Union was to unite European countries so that individual states will see themselves as one and be concern about the decisions they take nationally that affects their macro world view. Pan Africanism also went further to form the Organization of Africa Unity- now African Union whiles the earlier league of nations metamorphosed into United Nations Organizations- now United Nations- serving as a mother to all independent countries to promote global peace. In the Arabian Peninsula, the Arab nations formed a powerful Arab league excluding the indefatigable nation Israel.
Although the cold war politics between the USA and the former Soviet Union attempted to destroy the cause of these unions, the collapse of the Soviet Union eventually collapsed these massive Eastern and Western political and military tensions against regional, continental and global organizations.
But the question to ask is whether thee organizations have been able to fulfill their core mandate in the midst of the current global terrorism, political instability and civil wars etc.
HARD AND SOFT POWER POLITCS
This is where the many complications lie in global crises─ the exercise of hard and soft power in foreign polices and global crises. Power in political sense is the exercise of force, cooptation and inducement by one party to control other groups mostly against their intended will. Hard power is a form of power that has been with humanity for a very long time. It is simply the application of military and economic strength to influence the behaviour or interest of states and political bodies. The use of military strength in the world has led to numerous of wars.
Joseph Nye, termed Hard Power as the “the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will. He states that here, “carrots” are inducements such as the reduction of trade barriers, the offer of an alliance or the promise of military protection. On the other hand, “sticks” are threats including the use of coercive diplomacy, the threat of military intervention, or the implementation of economic sanctions.─ (from Wikipedia encyclopedia)
Hard Power has always been a historical building block when discuss the exercise of national strength and state power. In the 17th century, Napoleon Bonaparte applied hard power vigorously and rigorouslyin France to conquer almost the whole of Europe for the purpose of expanding French territories─ but he could obviously not sustain the conquest. The empires in ancient Africa conquered many kingdoms but today they are no more. The Ghana Empire, Songhai and Mali Empire are all dead. Hard power was also applied by the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greece, Crusaders, Roman Empire, Ottoman Turkish and even the British Empire etc─ but all those empires lost their regional or global powers one after the other─ some even no longer exist.
When the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in US, the then president George Bush declared “war on terrorism” especially in the Middle East. The United States embarked on a hard power politics in the Iraqi war, against the Taliban, Afghanistan War etc. The cost of all these wars against global terrorism was costly in both financial and human resources. Financial in terms of huge sums of money in military spending and human in terms of soldiers dying─ Military resources and men were very much frittered.
The ramifications of hard power politics are questionable and I contend that the economic woes of the United States are one of the reasons for Mr. Obama's decision to gradually end the war in the Middle East. Simply put, military budget in the Middle East is unbearable for the US and needs to reduce for the sake of their current economic crises.
Obama declared that US troops will be gradually leaving the very land that his predecessor dispatched them in the bid to fight terrorism. What do international policy analysts think will prompt such a decision aside the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Has the US finally won the war on terrorism? Consider how some radicals stormed the premises of the US ambassador in Benghazi and killed him like a criminal with other staff members─ the same US that supported their course through NATO to uproot the strongman Gaddafi.
“The United States provided the military power to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi….Ambassador Stevens was personally involved. He risked his life to help ensure the Libyans would have a more democratic government. Because of his efforts to promote democracy, Stevens became the target of a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda”.(Gerald Flurry- the Philadelphia trumpet, December 2012)
When you see the pictures of the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, especially the ambassador Christopher Stevens─ how he was held on the streets of Benghazi; it looks similar to the way Qaddafi died. These inhumane extremist could not spare the life of this diplomat─ a representative of president Obama. They obstinately broke the international law that guide and protects consuls and ambassadors ─ (called extraterritoriality) a retaliation of hard power politics in global crises.
The supposed war of the US on terrorism has killed many US military servicemen and “a double of the many” natives of the Middle East homelands in questions where US hard power politics has been operative. We can talk of Afghanistan and Iraq. Hard power in today's global crises is rather deepening our woes and thwarting the progress of future utopian peace and global stability─ at least in the dominion of mortals.
The US may claim that Al Qaeda is on the run but careful global studies may actually show that as the US is trying to vacate the region, these groups are rushing to fill the power void left by a superpower that has spent its strength in vain. This is according to the Philadelphian Trumpet magazine (4) ─ December 2012.
Simply put, the hard power politics of the United States of America since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has not in anyway explicitly solved global crises. It has increased defense budget but failed to defend peace; it has increased the distribution and proliferation of arms and artilleries but not enough has been done to solve global hunger. Hard power politics by the Super powers─ not only them but also by terrorist groups, rebels and so called freedom fighters has only caused crises in this contemporary global world. What has soft power also done to us?
Soft Power was a term developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Nye coined the term in a 1990 book, 'Bound to Lead': The Changing Nature of American Power. He further developed the concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power-: (from Wikipedia Encyclopedia April 2012)
Soft power ensures that instead of the use of coercive force in the international system, diplomacy and rules of peaceful engagement must be the model. Sometimes soft power works, other times it does not. For example, ancient Israel lost its homeland since AD 70. For over 1000 years, most of them were in the diaspora dreaming of coming back to their homeland. In November 2nd 1917, the Zionist aspirations were brought to the office of the then British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour who further wrote a letter to His Majesty's government about the need for a Zionist Federation and state.
This Zionist move was a mark of soft power yet the Jewish state failed to materialize. What later happened was tragedy to the Jews especially in Europe─ anti-Semitism and eventually the ill-famed, inhumaneand barbaric holocaust. When Israel finally had its independence and statehood in 1948, they could no longer depend on soft power─ realizing that they were surrounded by hostile neighbors who wanted their destruction.
As far as Israeli history─ since 1948 is concern, hard power is ultimate over soft power because for the Israelis, that's what their hostile neighbors know and understand better. This was evident when the application of hard power in the six day war in 1967 led to the capturing of Israel's ancient capital Jerusalem and other territories. By this example, hard power to the Israelis is a powerful model in their modern history─ they lost their nation through hard power by the Romans and have won and sustain it today by the same manner of hard power.
On the other hand, quoting from an online source in the concluding paragraphs; published by the Center for Public Leadership (2004);“Soft power has always been a key element of leadership. The power to attract—to get others to want what you want, to frame the issues, to set the agenda—has its roots in thousands of years of human experience. Skillful leaders have always understood that attractiveness stems from credibility and legitimacy. Power has never flowed solely from the barrel of a gun; even the most brutal dictators have relied on attraction as well as fear”.
Again the article states that “when the United States paid insufficient attention to issues of legitimacy and credibility in the way it went about its policy on Iraq, polls showed a dramatic drop in American soft power. That did not prevent the United States from entering Iraq, but it meant that it had to pay higher costs in the blood and treasure than would otherwise have been the case. Similarly, if Yasser Arafat had chosen the soft power model of Gandhi or Martin Luther King rather than the hard power of terrorism, he could have attracted moderate Israelis and would have a Palestinian state by now”. Since Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization faced Israel with hard power, the Israeli defense machinery and intelligence agency like the Mossad had no option than to counteract hard power terrorism hard power national militarism.
The quotation above reveals the importance of soft power in the international system. Soft power or hard power implementation depends on the situation on the ground. In Ivory Coast electoral disputes for example, the AU's soft power failed and the French forces had to use hard power to finally capture Laurent Gbagbo. But never forget that rebels and government forces caused real havoc to civilians─ simply put the killing of many Ivorian's.
The foreign policies of developing countries are all about soft power and as a matter of fact must always be about soft power. Most of us even struggle for common basic needs─ why should we then indulge ourselves in hard power politics─ simple electoral disputes that can be resolved will lead to the death of many─ some loosing their homes, belongings, businesses and annulling their projects.The best that Africans can do if they want to exercise hard poweris to maintain the dispatching of troops into UN or AU forces to mediate militarily in conflict situations.
Our contemporary world is in great crises─ indeed, dominated by hard and soft power. The super powers have attempted to operationalize hard power politics in their foreign policies by increasing defense budgets with the aim of solving these crises but it is getting worse everyday─ we cannot even imagine or comprehend. Every single moment in the Middle East there are terrorist attacks, rebellion, civil wars, extremism and radicalism under the clove of religious fundamentalism.
That is the top news we always here when we tune to BBC, VOA, CNN and other international news. Indeed, the US cannot even claim to be winning the war against terrorism though they successfully eliminated the al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. Obama had a foreign policy to capture and eliminate Osama Bin Laden in order to gain momentum over Al-Qaeda yet this terrorist group is still getting stronger in its operations even when their military champion Bin Laden is no more.
As terrorist groups are hit with sophisticated grenades and now with the invisible drone attacks; these terrorist also attack in a different mode on the same soil or sometimes on another region where US military is not powerfully present─ they will attack the US or any think connected to the west─ This is what Boko Haram has been doing in Nigeria.
Today, it is alleged that a sovereign state like Iran has become the safe military resource haven for many terrorist groups. How can this global crisis thenend? Iran is alleged to be fuelling Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist group both directly and indirectly. If sovereign nations with representatives in the UN can freely support terrorist groups, then the world is in a great mess. Gadhafi did same till he later repented due to western vengeance in strict economic sanctions. Charles Taylor also supported rebels in Sierra Leone and he is now in jail for a jubilee. State support of terrorism is a bad precedence and will only aggravate the political and economic wars surrounding this contemporary world. This form of hard power supported by sovereign states is unacceptable.
But unfortunately, every country of the world today has a national and international ego─ seeking its own national interest just like individuals would be influenced by their eccentricity to promote their sole welfare above normal standards.
Why will Iran be testing its missile capability to the world─ why will North Korea try its nuclear capacity in the glare of the public? Why is China increasing its military strength day in day out with the assistance of Russia and why are many developed nations purchasing modern military equipment or increasing their defense capacities. Is the world anticipating a World War III or some astronomical crises in the future? Soft power is gradually fading away in contemporary times and hard power seems to be reining.
Adolf Hitler used hard power to conquer almost the whole Europe─ the aftermath was that Europe fell in deep economic, political and social crises for several years before it stood once again. Which kind of power dominates the current foreign policy of Europe today? Which foreign policy does this world need to implement in order to curb the current crises? Is it the increase in hard power politics again or soft power─ or a combination of the two or perhaps another new foreign policy altogether.
The way forward to global crises such as terrorism, rebellion, suicide bombing and all hard power political ramifications is a very difficult question to answer. Soft power politics should have been the best for the world where opposing groups will engage each other and come to a consensus. Men have been made different and cannot always agree on issues─ there will always be problems.
Unfortunately, many of the operators and supporters of instability and crises do not understand or agree with soft power engagements but rather facing hard power with hard power. These are the extremist and trouble causes in the international system that according to Machiavelli, must be uprooted away.
In the world of today where the UN is even finding it difficult to bring some of its members to order, ─ we have lots of problems ahead of us. Hard power politics for many cases has aggravated the problems characterizing many global crises.
The country that applies them has good intentions though but at the end the situation gets beyond control and only extinction of civilians becomes the cost that is paid.
I guess this poses a big challenge to world leaders, international analyst, academics and global organizations to decipher the pragmatic way forward.
A guess what we need to do is apply either of these foreign policies carefully depending on the current situation on the ground by taking into consideration the cost and benefits to the mass of citizens─ or best still let us go for a middle way of soft and hard power─ what I call “moderate civilian power”. In national crises, let the civilians decide what is best for them. The interest and life of civilians must be weighed in the political balance before taking any decision during global crises situations.
“European Union (EU)”. (1980). Encyclopedia Britannica; Ultimate Reference Suite, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica.
Joseph S. Nye Jr. (2004), “The Benefits of Soft Power”: the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
King John (1993), “Conflicts in the Middle East”: Wayland (Publishers) Limited, 61 Western Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 1JD
Gerald Flurry (Dec. 2012), “The Truth about Benghazi”; the Philadelphia Trumpet
Stephen Flurry and Joel Hilliker (Dec. 2012), “The Truth about Benghazi”; the Philadelphia Trumpet
“Hard Power” (April 2012), Free Wikipedia encyclopedia
“Soft Power” (April 2012), Free Wikipedia encyclopedia
Samson C. Agbelengor
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