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Nye Power and the 2016 election

How the 2016 leaders should be deploying various aspects of American power in a modern context and explaining to the American people why we should invest in diplomatic solutions along with military ones: Post 9/11, “Smart Power,” Robert Gates.  Nick Burns, professor at Harvard Kennedy School in conversation with professor and author of The Future of Power Joe Nye.

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Video transcript

I'm Nick burns professor at Harvard Kennedy School here with my colleague at the Kennedy School Joan I'd as a third lesson we're going to have an election in 2016 and whoever the next president is he or she is going to have to think about how America deploys power in the world what advice would you give people who run our country about how we should in a modern context be deploying these various aspects of American power well I think the next president is going to have to do a important job of explaining to the American people what the tools are in the toolbox and why we need to invest in all of them there's a tendency for the American people to think that there is a military solution to everything sometimes there is but sometimes there's not so the joke goes of your little boy with a hammer every problem looks like a nail but some problems aren't nails that is going to take explanation to say that we have to be paying attention to all the tools in our toolbox what that means is we're going to have to invest more in diplomacy we're going to have to spend more on aid we're going to also have to realize that some things that are done in civil society we should leave them alone but not get the way me give you an example after nine eleven 2001 we suffered the shock of the fact that al-qaeda terrorists who entered the country and had done this destruction killing some 3,000 people so one of the first things he did was to shut down on visas for foreigners particularly foreign students well in fact that was shooting ourselves in the foot the your Dean of the Kennedy School that's right today we heard directly concerned and fortunately Colin Powell quickly understood this but not everybody in the Congress did or not everybody the public did but the fact that their 275,000 Chinese students in the United States a half a million foreign students in the United States is a great source of soft power these people get to know the United States not everybody loves it but the large majority do and to cut ourselves off from that was a way of cutting ourselves off for some of our soft power and we thought that the only response was hard power we needed both we obviously needed to go after the al-qaeda in Afghanistan as we did but forgetting the soft power to mentions of it was a big mistake Colin Powell used to say when I worked for him the proper way to think of American foreign policy is the diplomats the American diplomats should be his military term on point in front military in reserve after nine eleven we clearly reversed that we put the Bush administration the military out front do you think we've successfully kind of repositioned ourselves that we're almost we're looking for ways to resolve problems through diplomacy and negotiations when we can we're integrating the threat of force or the use of force when we must is that a way well I think that's the I think that's the right way to think about it which is how do you combine diplomacy and force so that you have smart power solutions but it's also worth noticing that we don't invest adequately in the soft power resources in 2007 then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who stayed on a secretary defense from the bush to the to the Obama administration but he was then working for the Bush administration gave a speech in kansas city in which he said we need to invest more in the State Department it said you may think this is really strange for the Secretary of Defense to come out to Kansas and say put more money into the State Department said it sounds a little bit like man bites dog said that's the truth we are not investing enough in the State Department and in aid and and the things that are what golden Power call at the point we're resting too much on the base of military power and in fact the last three secretaries of state john kerry Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice have all campaign for higher budgets they want to hire more diplomats we have about 6500 active diplomats that pales in comparison to our ability to put soldiers in the field so it's nice to see the Republicans and Democrats both identify the same problem I think there's a bipartisan agreement at one level of that but you don't have it in the Congress and you don't have it in the American public I've seen a figure I think it's true not apocryphal that there are more people playing in military bands that are in the Foreign Service in any case even if that's slightly off we could invest a lot more in the Foreign Service and I think the problem is you asked what does the next president have to do he or she is going to have to get that across to the American people the presidency has been called by Teddy Roosevelt a bully pulpit meaning a very good pulpit and so it's the voice that can be heard more than any other single voice in the country so the next president is going to have to use that pulpit to try to explain to the American people why these investments are important