Soft in the head

Tony Blair (picture European Commission)

By Richard Laming

Published in The Spectator, 17 February 2007

Sir: Tony Blair misunderstands the notion of ‘soft power’ when he uses it to refer to the non-military aspects of government foreign policy (Leading article, 10 February). Joseph Nye, coining the phrase in The Paradox of American Power, meant something different. In Nye’susage, soft power represents those aspects of a country’s external influence that are outside the direct control of the government: culture, the business community, educational institutions, and so on. What does it mean to be British? That is soft power.

Sadly, by chasing like a dog in a park after sticks thrown by the Bush administration, Mr Blair has allowed the UK’s soft power to decline to an alarming extent. He is the last person who should be seeking now to use it.

Richard Laming, London SE1

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