Last class we spoke briefly about soft power and its many definitions. One of the definitions we reviewed was from the Nye reading titled “Public Diplomacy & Soft Power.” In this reading, Nye defines soft power as “the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion or payment. A country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values, and policies. A smart power strategy combines hard and soft power resources. Public diplomacy is an important tool in the arsenal of smart power, but smart public diplomacy requires an understanding of the roles of credibility, self-criticism, and civil society in generating soft power.”
Nye later recognizes that there are three main ways in which power influences others’ behavior. The first being threats of coercion, then inducements and payments and finally “attraction,” that which makes others want what you want (soft power). He specifically mentions that “A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries want to follow it, admiring its values, emulating its example, and/or aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness.”
I would like to emphasize his idea of soft power being one that rests on culture and values. It is quite evident that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has openly been a strong proponent of soft power in all of its forms. I wrote about food in my first blog, and I should conclude by writing about food again. I’d like to briefly discuss the State Department’s food diplomacy program known as “Diplomatic Culinary Partnership.” I feel this is a great example of very soft power, one in which we share our U.S. values through food. I argue that this is an alternate form of dialogue that elicits emotion and communicates values, ideals and more. Many have criticized such a program, but they completely disregard the power of food as identity and as communication. Often, food says a lot more than what one can exchange at a negotiation table—there is obvious shared meaning. American Chef Corps is made up of 80 food professionals who are deployed abroad as culinary ambassadors who do what most diplomats would do, although with a culinary twist. They “cook for visiting dignitaries, speak to groups, write articles, blog, tweet or find other ways to extol the virtues of American cooking and food products.” I argue that with such programs in where emotions elicited and values are communicated in a way that most will understand (food), there is a greater likelihood for there to exist openness to an attraction in which others want what you want. Overall, food helps transcend boundaries, an imperative for public diplomacy.