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Posts by Joseph S. Nye

North Korea’s Uncertain Future

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

The death of Kim Jong Il may gradually unlock change in North Korea, but the process is unlikely to be smooth or quick. In 2010, Kim promoted his 20s-something son Kim Jong Eun to be a four star general and spent the last year trying to bolster his standing among top party and military leaders. Whether Kim Jong Il will posthumously succeed in consolidating an oxymoronic communist monarchy is unlikely, but the succession politics of the last year were marked by two dangerous bellicose events – the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel and the shelling of a South Korean island. Read more

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A Reviving Japan?

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

I recently visited Japan and met with Prime Minister Noda, Foreign Minister Genba, and several Diet members, as well as business people and members of the press. The good news is that I came away encouraged. During my last visit, a year ago, I came away worried that Japan was turning inward and might not face up to the problems of slow growth. Now that may be changing.

The tragedy of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March may have provided a stimulus for change. Many Americans admired the dignity and calmness with which the Japanese public dealt with the tragedy, and that increased Japan’s attractiveness or soft power. But there was worry about the economic effects. Now the latest figures show that Japan’s economy grew 1.5% in the third quarter, (an annualized rate of 6%.)  This represents the first expansion of the economy in four quarters. Read more

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The Threat from Europe

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

The recovery of the American economy has slowed, and the collapse of the Euro  — a financial crisis in Europe — could tip the United States into the feared double dip of recession. Ironically for the Obama Administration, the greatest threat to the president’s re-election comes not from Afghanistan or Yemen, but from our allies in Europe.

What are the prospects of a collapse of the Euro? On Wednesday, 20,000 Greeks rioted in Athens in opposition to the austerity measures that are required to meet the conditions for payments from the $600 billion European Financial Stability Facility. As one observer noted, “there is no sign of a national spirit of sacrifice to save the country.”  And although the German Bundestag voted on September 29 for an expanded bailout fund, there is still resistance in Germany to allowing the European Central Bank to issue Eurobonds or act as an unlimited lender of last resort to prevent the contagion of loss of confidence spreading from Greece to the sovereign debt of Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy (as well as to the Northern European banks that hold much of that debt.)  Markets believe that the EFSF is too small to deal with the problem, but German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble says “we do not have the intention” of enlarging the emergency fund. Read more

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Lessons learned since 9/11: Narratives matter

The Power Problem: First in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. Comments from readers are welcome.

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

Was 9/11 a turning point in world history?  It is too soon to be tell. After all, the lessons of World War I  looked very different in 1939 than they did a mere decade after 1918.

As I argue in The Future of Power, one of the great powers shifts of this century is the increased empowerment of non-state actors, and 9/11 was a dramatic illustration of this long term trend. In 2001 an attack by non-state actors killed more Americans than a  government attack did at Pearl Harbor in 1941. But this “privatization of war”  was occurring before 9/11 and some American government reports in the 1990s even warned it was coming. Read more

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The U.S. needs a real national cyber-security strategy

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

The Pentagon recently released a new doctrine for cyberspace. It is an intelligent document that stresses defense, and reserves the right to reply to a cyber attack by the means of our choice. But for all its virtues, it is not a national strategy, because ninety percent of the internet is outside the purview of the military.

Four decades ago, the Pentagon created the internet, and today, by most accounts, the U.S.remains the leading country in both its military and societal use. However, technology is a two-edged sword. It eventually spreads, and becomes available to adversaries who may have primitive capabilities, but also are less vulnerable. At the same time, because of our greater dependence on networked computers and communication, the U.S.is more vulnerable than many other countries, and the cyber domain has become a major source of insecurity that can be utilized byAmerica’s enemies. Read more

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Obama’s Afghanistan speech: A missing piece in the puzzle

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan has been described as a domestic political compromise between those who want a rapid drawdown and those who want more time. Foreign policy always rests on domestic compromises in a democracy, and the initial reaction appears to be that the speech has been a success – so far. But let’s engage in a thought experiment, and imagine a world without domestic politics. In such an imaginary world, what would be the right strategy?

As I argue in The Future of Power, a smart strategy for the U.S. in the 21st century would return to the wisdom of Dwight Eisenhower:  strengthen the domestic economy and avoid involvement in a land war in Asia. Afghanistan violates both those considerations. Read more

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Facing up to cyber security challenges

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

When I was asked recently by a British literary website to recommend five books about global power, I naturally started with my favorite – Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. But I also included a recent book by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake, Cyber War, because it is a useful primer on an increasingly important dimension of power.

(Dick Clarke is a faculty affiliate in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs — and is a contributor to Power & Policy; his initial blog post on cyber security is a stark survey of cyber concerns.)

While techies have been aware of cyber problems for some time, political leaders and strategists are just beginning to come to terms with cyber power. In February, for the first time in its 47 years, the Munich Security Conference included a session on cyber security: it was a major issue at the April meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington; and the EastWest Institute held its second worldwide cybersecurity summit of more than 400 people from 40 countries in London in early June. Now the British government is planning a major intergovernmental conference in November. Read more

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Joe Nye’s answer to John Deutch on governance

At a Harvard Kennedy School conference last week, John Deutch, the former director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense who is now an institute professor at MIT, challenged his friend Joseph Nye to complete an unusual “assignment.” Nye — a former senior Pentagon official, a Harvard University distinguished service professor, and former dean of the Kennedy School — has now handed in his homework. We hope this kicks off a useful discussion among those concerned about governance in the United States. Readers are invited to use the comment form at the end of this post to contribute their views and join this debate.

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

My friend John Deutch has challenged me to explain the breakdown of governance in the United States and to identify what can be done about our capacity to deal with it.

The problems are real, but “breakdown” is too strong a word to describe them, and it is important to put current problems in historical perspective. The founders deliberately designed American government to be inefficient with checks, balances, and delays. As the joke goes, it was designed so King George could not rule over us — nor anyone else. Some argue that an inefficient 18th century design cannot cope with 21st century global problems like the rise of Asia or the transnational diffusion that I describe in The Future of Power. However, our inefficient system has coped with even greater problems in the past with only one serious breakdown a century and a half ago. Read more

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Leveraging smart power against terrorists

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

Some hawks have cited the skillful military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden as proof that terrorism must be dealt with by hard power, not soft power. But such conclusions are mistaken. A smart strategy against terrorism also requires a large measure of soft power.

Terrorists have long understood that they can never hope to compete head on with a major government in terms of hard power. Instead, they use violence to create drama and narrative that gives them the soft power of attraction. Terrorists rarely overthrow a government. Instead, they try to follow the insights of jujitsu to leverage the strength of a powerful government against itself. Terrorist actions are designed to outrage and provoke over-reactions by the strong. Read more

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Killing bin Laden’s myth and his brand

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

Killing Bin Laden does not end terrorism. In the short run, it may even lead to a spurt of decentralized revenge attacks, but in the longer term it deals Al Qaeda a severe blow. Over the past decade, Al Qaeda became a loose network, almost a franchise, where much of the activity was developed by local terrorist entrepreneurs. Now the value of the brand name is diminished, and that makes the franchise less valuable.

As I describe in The Future of Power, terrorism is not about military strength or military victory. In an information age, it is not always whose army wins, but also whose story wins. Read more

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