On Point: The Biden Administration's Destruction of American Soft Power

by Austin Bay
August 9, 2023

For three decades diplomats and foreign policy wonks have used the term "soft power" to describe employing nonmilitary persuasive operations to achieve American diplomatic goals.

Soft-power advocates in leftist academia and media would snarkily contrast what they regard as sophisticated and smart soft-power persuasion by Democrat administrations with an alleged Republican preference for "hard power" coercion -- saber-rattling military might, harsh economic sanctions and, heavens, bullying language.

In early 2021, The Washington Post noted former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power (now directing the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID) was arguing the incoming Biden administration "could beat China at the biggest soft-power contest in generations" if the U.S. distributed COVID-19 vaccines globally. America is back!

An implication readers were to draw: The Trump administration had failed to use soft power.

Harvard prof Joseph Nye is credited with coining the term in the early 1990s, but soft power (with or without a hyphen) isn't a new concept. Sending a neighboring tribe two sheep for their feast day was a soft-power diplomatic gesture 6,000 years ago. On a personal level, gift-giving without expecting a quid pro quo is an exercise in soft power.

Nye and others argue pursuing "morality-based interests," such as protecting human rights, benefits the entire international system which ultimately benefits the nation employing them. It's a good argument.

Quiet encouragement, demonstrating responsible behavior (leading by example), cultural attraction and generosity have always been U.S. diplomatic tools. The Eisenhower administration, pursuing a policy of "contact with the captive peoples," sent American athletes and jazz musicians to Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck were both "jazz ambassadors." Ike himself understood America's and the West's cultural attraction was an instrument of power in a struggle with communist tyranny. No contest. Rock 'n' roll beats lifeless socialist realist art.

The U.S. government and private American organizations lead the world in providing generous food, medical, emergency relief and economic aid. I think honest historians in 20 years will see former President Donald Trump's North Korea initiative and the Abraham Accords as highly responsible actions -- and that his administration used both hard and soft power.

For at least two centuries, American diplomats have depicted America as a global "beacon of hope." America's free elections and rule of law provide justice and stability. Rule by junta or a dictator's whim provides neither.

I know for a fact U.S. diplomats argue the rule of law forwards genuine internal stability. Fragile developing countries seeking internal stability should emulate America's judicial system of honest courts and police forces. Eliminating corruption will strengthen all domestic institutions. The U.S. and other donor nations often demand countries receiving economic assistance confront and reduce internal corruption. Ukraine is the most notable example, while Congo is another.

Ukraine. That leads to the question of the moment, made explicit by Hunter Biden's laptop and Devon Archer's recent testimony before Congress. Archer confirmed in 2015 Ukraine's corrupt Burisma energy company paid the Biden crime family to help get a troublesome anti-corruption prosecutor fired.

Video footage shows Joe Biden bragging about getting the prosecutor fired. As vice president in the Obama administration, the current president threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid.

ManhattanContrarian.com blog sums it crisply: "...there is now lay-down evidence of all the elements of a multi-million-dollar bribery scheme in which our current President was directly involved, and in which a billion dollars of taxpayer-funded U.S. aid was leveraged to secure a direct benefit for a Ukrainian oligarch and a big personal payday for the President and his son."

Joe Biden undermined a U.S. soft-power diplomatic operation. If that isn't treason, it's close.

Attention, soft-power advocates of all political stripes: Joe Biden is utterly crooked. The wages of his corruption include international weakness in the "soft-power contest" The Washington Post touted over two years ago.

To salvage U.S. soft power as well as the rule of law, Joe and Hunter Biden both need to go to prison.

As for our free elections and honest courts? Dictator Vlad Putin's kangaroo courts have sentenced Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny to 30 years in prison. Biden's Department of Justice has charged Trump with suspect crimes. It appears whim rules the Washington Beltway.

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To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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