Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication Date

February 2013

Journal or Book Title

Conference Paper


The concept of soft power and its corollary smart power have generated great attention, not only in scholarly circles but in policy areas and popular dialogue on issues of power. Few scholarly concepts have made such an impact on the public and policymakers around the globe, especially those in the U.S. Both President Barrack Obama in a speech on foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa and Hillary Clinton in her confirmation hearing as Secretary of State explicitly used the term in talking about an optimal foreign policy for the U.S. The scholarly attention to the concepts has risen conterminously. Yet with all this scholarly attention, the concepts have evolved little theoretically, and their historical applications have been limited and far from rigorously executed (being principally restricted to the analysis of contemporary U.S. foreign policy). In essence, the analyses of soft and smart power have developed little beyond what its critics would refer to as “soft theory,” and in both cases the theoretical development is less than “smart.”Furthermore, there has been insufficient attention to the how changes in world politics have affected the importance of smart power. Finally, little has been said about the decisionmaking conditions required for leaders to appreciate and effectively use smart power.

This article attempts to offer contributions that address all three of these deficiencies: to articulate a more rigorous and systematic understanding of the processes of soft and smart power, to explain how changes in world politics have raised the value of smart power relative to hard power, and finally to propose several prescriptions that will encourage decisionmakers to appreciate and effectively use smart power strategies in their foreign policies.