Tuesday, January 15, 2008

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Projecting power

Let's see, today we've already blogged about the "erection theory of British foreign policy."

As an antidote, here's a link to my latest Newsweek column, which suggests that, "the competitiveness of the 2008 presidential election itself might already be augmenting America's soft power."

Here's how it closes:

[N]ot all dimensions of the 2008 campaign have been good for America's image abroad. With the exception of McCain, the Republican field has been obsessed with who sounds tougher on immigration issues. The Democrats have been less exercised over this issue, but when the topic turns to trade, it has been a race among the candidates to see who can bash China first.

All of the top-tier candidates have published essays in Foreign Affairs outlining their vision of international relations. One of the few areas where there is bipartisan agreement has been the need to improve America's image abroad. It will be a pleasant surprise if the election campaign itself helps them succeed in that effort.

I'd previously blogged about this question here.

posted by Dan on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM


So attempting to enforce immigration laws hurts our image abroad?

posted by: Joseph Sixpack on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

It does, just as it has hurt quite a few European countries who have done the same thing. It does not matter if you enforce already existing immigration laws or if you make new and tougher ones, the way it is going to be intepreted in some areas of the world is just the same. That is one of the points with soft power, the intended message or the actual deed matters less than the way it is being framed in the other end. At least in practice.

/Jeppe, a resident in the country of the infamous Muhammed Cartoons

posted by: Jeppe on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

Without being too partisan, what would really help America's image abroad would be for a Democrat to be elected president. The Republican candidates are pretty much beyond the pale for most of the world. I think there would be a big sigh of relief is the Democrat won. That doesn't mean that an era of pro-Americanism would begin, but at least there would be an opportunity. I can't see how any of the current GOP candidates could do much to improve our image abroad unless they govern completely differently from how they are running (as Bush did). Statements about doubling the size of Guantanamo, bringing in Jack Bauer, etc. are not exactly going to endear us to the rest of the world.

posted by: Marc Schneider on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

"Without being too partisan, what would really help America's image abroad would be for a Democrat to be elected president."

Yeah, that's not too partisan...

posted by: md on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

Yeah, that's not too partisan...

Ok, it's partisan but it's also realistic. Most other countries hate Bush and none of the GOP candidates are likely to distance themselves signficantly from Bush. I acknowledge that anti-Americanism preceded Bush but it's become much worse since he took office. Like it or not, I suspect most non-Americans are rooting for a Democrat to win.

posted by: Marc Schneider on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

Why would anyone not be "partisan" (whatever that even means)? Are there still some people who haven't noticed that the Republican Party has basically spent the last 15 years destroying one of the world's great republics? Hello??

posted by: Johann on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

Marc, Given the Democrats position on opening up trade ( ie. don't open it up & start restricting trade ), I find it hard to imagine why you'd think the rest of the world would consider either candidate a good thing.
Immigration, Religion, Abortion. Three words which restrict what by rights should be an increase in Soft Power, Immigration extremists like Huckabee just look bad, Religion & Government don't mix period, Roe v Wade has removed any subtlety from that debate causing both sides to look extremist.
But for all that, people like Ron Paul / John McCain do soften the US image.
The breadth of opinions is amazing, so there is some benefit, but it reminds of a book I read about the US struggling to work out just which message from the Kremlin was the important one during the Cold War & the US has turned into that now, it's very very difficult from the outside to work out what the primary US position is in regards trade, Iraq, Iran etc etc & that helps ensure that the gain in soft power is at best extremely minimal, if there is any gain at all.

posted by: Nigel on 01.15.08 at 10:27 PM [permalink]

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