Soft Power: Another Form of Imperialism?

Soft power as explained by Joseph Nye is getting others to want what you want without the use of coercive means. Reading Nye’s piece of public diplomacy and soft power from a post-colonial perspective motivated me to rethink my understanding of soft power and its place U.S. diplomacy. If we are a question that values diversity and freedom for all, is it ethically correct to use “soft power as a means to obtain our ends? That is the question that I’ve been reflecting upon since I read Nye’s piece.
The sole objective of soft power is to advance U.S. interests without making our nation look like the “bad guy.” It almost seems like a euphemism for manipulation. This is the problem that many developing and non-western nations have with the U.S. government. This to many of them is just another form of American imperialism. The most frustrating aspect of this is that it is packaged as something good and almost beneficial when for many, it is a manipulation of power.
I also understand that as a nation, the use of soft power is an important tool in our diplomatic toolbox. Rather than using force, this is seen as a more benevolent way of getting our objectives met. However, I think that it’s time to reconsider the way that we approach developing nations when practicing public diplomacy. If not reconsider than at least be honest about the approaches that we employ. I would love to hear other thoughts on this topic.


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