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Part of my answer, honestly, is that I don't know.  If I were big on the use of hard power, I wouldn't be here on a liberal blog.  I'm having trouble coming up with an answer.

As far as using soft power to protect "our interests" -- whatever those are; I don't think Americans have much by way of collective interests, and certainly not in the way that the word "interest" is often taken to mean -- is concerned, we do that all the time.  We're in the beginning stages of using it with China on trade and currency policy.  We're doing it with North Korea, too.  (For some reason, we love multilateralism, when the issue is North Korea'a nuclear weapons.  Just in case you didn't think the Bushees were complete hypocrites....)  It's just that the use of soft power is never published or thought of on the scale that hard power is, and understandably so.  The Iraq War is, after all, a much bigger story than trade talks.

But, again, I just don't get the sense that Americans are interested in being involved with "doing something about some issue" when the stakes are not high and "we" can't rationalize it with some view of our national security -- meaning some situation that might call for putting troops in harm's way.

The US doesn't even need to use hard power for anything, aside from police and intelligence personnel to track down al-Qaeda members.  It's such an economic giant, and many countries' economies are so dependent upon US consumers, that the use of hard power is just ridiculous, to me at least.  We could force, for example, China to open up to human rights tomorrow, if we would only put a bit of effort into it.  All we would have to do is threaten to close off trade with it, and the CCP would fold like a house of cards (or the Chinese economy would collapse in a matter of hours if the CCP refused our demands).

What's so frustrating, to me, is that the US could achieve all of the ideals it claims to represent, and it could achieve them without firing a shot.  It has the power to do so.  But no one, aside from Jimmy Carter, seems to advocate it.

With regard to Iraq, and US use of hard power there, I don't know the answer, honestly.  I don't see any economic interests in Iraq.  More oil is not in my interest.  (Oil represents the bad kind of interdependency, from an liberal economist's point of view.)  Democracy and liberty are, of course, in my interest, ideologically.  But they are elsewhere, too, and I don't believe they can be produced by an outside force in a country that has little or no history with the two.  Revolution towards liberal democracy has got to come from within.  Even if oil were seen as being in "our interest," it would've been a hell of a lot easier to simply open up trade.

I also don't follow the logic:  Why open up to China and India, who could each potentially pose a greater threat, but not Iraq?  I've wondered the same thing about Cuba, though Cuba, obviously, poses no threat to us.  (I can get tobacco elsewhere.)  Iraq might have posed a threat to Israel, but I doubt it.  Again, as with Iran, Israel could blow Iraq off the map in a matter of minutes.  The Israelis are hardly incompetent when it comes to war.  Nor is it in my interest to send my fellow citizens to protect a country whose leadership I don't trust.

Anyway, again, I don't know, and I've ranted quite a bit.  My mind is a bit clouded, since I didn't get a lot of sleep last night.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 01:38:04 PM EST
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