“Hard and soft power”

Those are not my terms, but those terms are sometimes used in public policy contexts.  The contrast is one many of us might think of as a contrast between official and unofficial power. 

Those with official power may try to repress those with unofficial power, and sometimes they are so effective that the repressed can seem utterly powerless.

One way to deal with, e.g., terrorism would be to negotiate with – or go after – those with the hard power.  A very different project might be based on conceptualizing  the causes of terrorism – and many other highly negative features of human life –  in terms of the oppression of soft power that women ought to possess.  That different project is now a signature part of  Clinton’s and Obama’s foreign policy, according to an interview Clinton recently gave.  Here are some snippets:

[We in the Obama administration have] as a signature issue the fact that women and girls are a core factor in our foreign policy. … So it’s not one specific program, so much as a policy. When it comes to our global health agenda, maternal health is now part of the Obama administration’s outreach.

… the No. 1 thing most men and women want is a good job with a good income. It is at the core of the human aspiration to be able to support oneself, to give one’s children a better future. Microenterprise is uniquely designed to empower women because — through the trial and error of its development, going back to Muhammad Yunus’s invention of it in Bangladesh — women are much greater at investing in future goods than the men who have participated in microcredit have turned out to be.

If you look at where we are fighting terrorism, there is a connection to groups that are making a stand against modernity, and that is most evident in their treatment of women.

By making the arguments that I am making here — that so-called women’s issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues. The World Bank and many other analyses have proved over and over again that where women are mistreated, where they are denied equal rights, you will find instability that very often serves as an incubator of extremism. 

A woman who is safe enough in her own life to invest in her children and see them go to school is not going to have as many children. The resource battles over water and land will be diminished. This is all connected. And it’s an issue of how we take hard power and soft power, so called, and use it to advance not just American ends but, in advancing global progress, we are making the world safer for our own children.   (My stress.)

One thought on ““Hard and soft power”

Comments are closed.