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The Decline of America's Soft Power

Courtesy Reuters

Anti-Americanism has increased in recent years, and the United States' soft power -- its ability to attract others by the legitimacy of U.S. policies and the values that underlie them -- is in decline as a result. According to Gallup International polls, pluralities in 29 countries say that Washington's policies have had a negative effect on their view of the United States. A Eurobarometer poll found that a majority of Europeans believes that Washington has hindered efforts to fight global poverty, protect the environment, and maintain peace. Such attitudes undercut soft power, reducing the ability of the United States to achieve its goals without resorting to coercion or payment.

Skeptics of soft power (Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld professes not even to understand the term) claim that popularity is ephemeral and should not guide foreign policy. The United States, they assert, is strong enough to do as it wishes with

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