Heritage Can Do Better Than This

On “The Foundry,” Heritage’s blog of anything political and societal, Theodore Bromund denounces many, many things in his brief blog post, oh-so-cleverly titled “dumb power.”

His qualms?

- The Marshall Plan:

Calls for ‘a new Marshall Plan,’ for example, are invariably made by people who know absolutely nothing about the original one.

- The BBC and the British Council:

Both of these are, of course, impeccably liberal-left organizations. The BBC never has a kind word to say about conservatives or Israel, and the Council focuses on programs promoting “English for Peace” and recognizing “Climate Change Champions.”

- Liberals (especially Hillary Clinton)

But this isn’t about relations between countries. It’s about relations between governments – in particular, between dictatorial and democratic ones. The more the ‘smart power’ advocates evade that reality, the more the world’s dictators will make them look dumb.

I find myself more than a little frustrated by this blog post. My response:

Your criticisms seem much more leveled at “soft power,” and the sort of public diplomacy of culture, news, and information advocated by Joseph Nye and others, but few legitimate diplomatic practitioners or scholars are advocating for an exclusive policy of conversation, information, and culture. THAT would be dumb power.

Hillary’s talk of “smart power” conspicuously avoids committing exclusively (or even mostly) to this feel-good type of diplomacy, and, if anything, indications are that she considers the coercive diplomacy of the Bush Administration to be a legitimate strategy (however to a lesser extent). If she was really dedicated to what you call “dumb power,” we’d have a nominee for Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs already. She has other things on her mind.

Criticizing the British Council is valid, as is criticizing liberals and Hillary Clinton. Uniting all of these rants under the argument that we must dismiss the idea of “smart power”?

I’m afraid the pot might be calling the kettle black on this one.

Your thoughts?

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One Response to Heritage Can Do Better Than This

  1. meznor says:

    I like AK’s comment, right after yours:

    “I dont know about what ‘hidden’ agenda Ms. Clinton or the admiistration has behind Smart Power but calling Public Diplomacy dumb is the dumbest thing you can ever do.”

    It definitely seems like the blog author is lumping the US policy with BBC’s/British Council’s. I also think he’s way too black-and-white re: a democracy’s capability to speak to dictatorships and maintain civil/friendly relations. I’m not well versed in its history, but isn’t that kind of mistrust what perpetuated the cold war?

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