More on Soft Power

Two of my friends, both writing in Army.ca have picked up on an important idea:

PizzaHutChinaOne asks ~ “Is it reasonable to suggest that Coca Cola, McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut are more effective at selling America than any government programme?  And,” he adds, “they create American jobs both at home and overseas;”

The second responds ~ “For many progressives, the idea that Capitalism and the Free Market represent an effective means of “selling” America abroad is repugnant in the extreme. Only qualified and credentialed “experts” could possibly make the right choices and do the right things to project American values and power abroad. And look at the unbroken string of successes they have run up since…..um….” … [and] …  Sadly, the political and bureaucratic classes in America (and their academic and media allies) are far more interested in expressing solidarity with their political and bureaucratic counterparts abroad rather than representing the interests of the hundreds of millions of Americans for whom Coca-Cola, MacDonald’s. KFC and Pizza Hut are familiar symbols of the Clodiusneighbourhood and even valued employers. The divide isn’t even really “Left/Right” as most people traditionally think of politics, but rather a horizontal line dividing “Patricians/Plebeians”. And history tells us that that sort of division is much more prone to violent overturning than simple “Left/Right” models (look at the Social Wars in the Res Publica Roma for an early example).

I think both my friends are right on both counts.

First, as I mentioned, over a year ago, we have lost trust in governments because, as my Army.ca friend says “the political and bureaucratic classes in America (and their academic and media allies) are far more interested in expressing solidarity with their political and bureaucratic counterparts abroad rather than representing the interests of the [people]or, as I said, “And so it will be with every other social problem … governments can help, they can follow civil society’s lead, but they cannot “do” it themselves and we are wrong to ask them to try or to be disappointed when they fail.

 Despite what the Chinese are trying to do, governments, generally, are not very good at deploying and using (or even understanding) soft power. This is especially the case for Canadian progressive governments who do not understand that if you do not have enough hard  power to make people pay attention then nothing that you do will produce any real, tangible soft power benefits.

We need soft power, we need to understand it and use it when we can, within a broader grand strategy. But we need, mainly, to unleash the soft power makers and brokers, 99% of whom  are unpolitical, apolitical and even anti-political entertainers, entrepreneurs, artists, businessmen, poets and inventors.

Government, in the main, needs to get out of the way and to try to stop “guiding” cultural initiatives and industries.

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