In This Review

Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics
Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics
By Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
192 pp, PublicAffairs, 2004

Coined by Nye in the late 1980s, the term "soft power" -- the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion -- is now widely invoked in foreign policy debates. This short book reintroduces the idea and argues for its relevance in forming post-September 11 U.S. foreign policy. Nye argues that successful states need both hard and soft power -- the ability to coerce others as well as the ability to shape their long-term attitudes and preferences. The United States can dominate others, but it has also excelled in projecting soft power, with the help of its companies, foundations, universities, churches, and other institutions of civil society; U.S. culture, ideals, and values have been extraordinarily important in helping Washington attract partners and supporters. Nye acknowledges the limits of soft power: it tends to have diffuse effects on the outside world and is not easily wielded to achieve specific outcomes. Indeed, societies often embrace American values and culture but resist U.S. foreign policies. But overall, Nye's message is that U.S. security hinges as much on winning hearts and minds as it does on winning wars.