“Soft power” is an important element of foreign policy, emphasizing attraction rather than coercion. The concept, popularized by Harvard professor Joseph Nye, provides counterbalance to the infatuation with hard power, especially military force, which has been driven by the accelerated development of “smart” weaponry. Drones, for example, are appealing to their users because their “pilots” may be thousands of miles away, wholly out of danger while people on the ground are dying. It is war without cost for one side.
While attending a Wilton Park (UK) conference on the future of public diplomacy, I was pleased to see this facet of foreign policy gaining traction. About 50 diplomats and a handful of academics took part in discussions ranging from the military use of soft power to the roles of religion and sports in public diplomacy.