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America will have to rely on soft power
12.05.2008.

Janusz Bugajski, director of New European Democracies Project in Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington talks over about necessity and prospects of “soft power” instruments in US politics.

Janusz Bugajski. Fot. CSIS
CSIS – Center for Strategic and International Studies – was launched 1962 and is one of the most respected public policy institutions on U.S. and international security. The Center conducts research and develops policy initiatives that are organized around more than 25 programs grouped under three themes: defence and security policy, global challenges (e.g. demographics, energy security, international financial and economic system) and regional problems (on all continents). Current CSIS Chairman is former Senator Sam Nun, among counselors and trustees are such personalities like Zbigniew Brzeziński and Henry Kissinger. From its beginning, CSIS has been committed to bipartisan problem solving. One of its rules says: „While partisan competition advances ideas, America prospers when policy leaders develop a consensus across the political spectrum”. Janusz Bugajski, director of one regional CSIS programs, New European Democracies Project, worked from Feb. 1984 until Nov. 1985 as Senior Research Analyst in RAD (Polish section) at Radio Free Europe in Munich.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about "soft power" policy in the US. What is the reason? Is it a kind of “fashion” (dictated by public opinion expectations), or assessment of "soft power" effectiveness in the past, or conclusion of ineffectiveness of "hard power" policy in the present?
 
J.B.: The focus on “soft power” is a result of a mix of factors: understanding the limits of “hard power” or “combat power”, the greater likelihood that other countries would join such initiatives, the relative successes of some non-military approaches, and the notion that the U.S. needs to improve its image in the world and not be seen as a unilateralist and militarist bully.
 
That are journalists and political analysts which are evocative of the idea and concept of "soft power". That’s at least how it looks like from afar. What is the opinion of politicians - alike from the government and the Congress – about intensifying of "soft power"? Which politician and circles refer to it?
 
J.B.: The simplified answer is that after the intervention in Iraq and the problems and costs associated with it, a broad spectrum of members of Congress in both parties will be wary of similar military initiatives in the future. If America is to restore and preserve a respected leadership position in the world it will have to increasingly rely on multilateralism, diplomacy, public relations, and other facets of “soft power.”
 

You have testifyed in March as an expert before US Senate Foreign Realations Commission to the situation in Kosova. You were clearly critical about plans for closing RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian language section over the coming year as “premature and short-sighted”. Indeed, this would be resignation of "soft power" instrument. How did the mebers of the Commission and the Congress (which is founding the RFE/RS) react?

J.B.: My comments are in the congressional record and I believe those congresspeople who have followed developments in the Balkans for the past two decades understand the necessity of maintaining the South Slavic and Albanian language services. This is clear if we look at the uncertain situation in Serbia, the continuing question marks over the future of Bosnia-Hercegovina, the dispute over Macedonia, and the slow emergence of Kosova’s statehood.
 
 
If we are talking about effectiveness of "soft power" during the cold war, it is also in praise of former RFE/RL. Looking back from the perspective, was the decision about ceasing broadcasting to East Europe taken at the right moment in 1994 or was it rather “premature and short-sighted”?
 
J.B.: I believe the decision was premature especially with regard to some states such as Slovakia. Ultimately, one must look at several factors, including political maturity, the degree of democratic stability, the extent of the audience, and the Radio’s impact on the country’s leadership and opinion makers before making any decision on folding any particular language service.
 
Is the bigger role of "soft power" in the US foreign politics due in coming presidential term, irrespective who will win?
 
J.B.: Most probably, given the broad disillusionment with mere military instruments, the costs of unilateral action, and the extent of anti-Americanism. All candidates for the presidency are strong supporters of various “soft power” instruments.

It surely does not mean complete abdication of "hard power". Can we expect a kind of "smart power" policy – a strategic concept, elaborated by one of CSIS Commission, which envisions integration of "soft" and "hard" power to address current and future challenges?

J.B.: It is useful to draw up concepts combining various instruments of power and influence. But the theoretical constructs need to be adapted to multiple and practical realities and as we know every case is unique.

Interviewed by Andrzej Borzym, May 2008

CSIS page

 

 
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