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
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
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
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
By John Deutch
John Deutch, the former U.S. director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense and who is now an institute professor at MIT, has challenged his friend Joseph Nye to complete an unusual “assignment.” Deutch called on Nye to use the analytical lens that Nye has long focused on international problems to tackle a domestic crisis – what Deutch describes as the breakdown of governance in the United States. Deutch gave Nye this assignment at a gathering of colleagues on May 17 at the Harvard Kennedy School to honor Nye’s decades of academic and public service. Nye, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, is a Harvard University distinguished service professor and former dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. Deutch is a member of the board and International Council of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
The Nye assignment forms the basis of a new installment of The Power Problem, an occasional feature on the Power & Policy blog to allow experts to propose answers to pressing policy problems. Joe Nye will respond soon on this blog to Deutch’s challenge – and virtual comments on Joe’s proposed repairs will be welcome, from participants at the gathering and from others who care about the problem. The goal is to foster a serious debate that generates specific suggestions. Read more
By Joseph S. Nye
In my last posting, I agreed with my colleagues that Libya did not involve vital interests, but I said that it did involve humanitarian interests and they can be important. In general, I agree with my friends that humanitarian intervention is a dangerous process, fraught with unintended consequences and costs. Thus the presumption should be against such interventions. After all, John Quincy Adams provided sound advice when he said we should not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. There are too many of them, and we cannot control or police the world.
Why then do I support the Obama Administration actions on Libya? Read more
By Joseph S. Nye
In view of the criticism by Martin Peretz of The New Republic and in Mother Jones magazine of my meeting in 2007 with Muammar Qaddafi and my subsequent article in The New Republic, let me try to clarify what actually happened.
In February 2007, I was invited by a former student who was working for Monitor Group to go to Libya to give a speech on globalization, meet with government officials and probably meet with Qaddafi. My colleague Bob Putnam had recently done so and found it interesting. Monitor offered to pay a consulting fee plus expenses, and as someone who writes on international politics and leaders, I was curious to see what Qaddafi was like. Bad leaders are as interesting a topic for research as good leaders, and I later used some of the interview material in my book on leadership. I spent several hours with him, which I described as surreal, but as factually as possible in an article in December 10, 2007, issue of The New Republic. Read more
By Joseph S. Nye
As authoritarian Arab regimes struggle with Twitter and Al Jazeera inflamed-demonstrations; Iran tries to cope with the cyber sabotage of its nuclear enrichment program; and American diplomats try to understand the impact of Wikileaks, it is clear that smart policy in an information age will need a more sophisticated understanding of power in world politics.
That is the argument of my new book The Future of Power. Two types of power shifts are occurring in this century – power transition and power diffusion. Power transition from one dominant state to another is a familiar historical event, but power diffusion is a more novel process. The problem for all states in today’s global information age is that more things are happening outside the control of even the most powerful states. In the words of Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (and once a faculty member at the Kennedy School), “the proliferation of information is as much a cause of nonpolarity as is the proliferation of weaponry.” Read more