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In the year 1517, an observer of power wrote, "since it is my intention to write of something of use, I deem it best
to stick to practical truth of things, rather to fancies. Many men have imagined republics and principalities
that never existed at all, yet, the way men live is far removed from the way they ought to live.
That anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation.
While Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in "The Prince" an extensive observation of power, here at BYU today we're
very pleased to welcome a preeminent scholar of power, Professor Joseph Nye.
As I mentioned, he is the University Distinguished Service Professor, former Dean of the Kennedy School of
Government at Harvard University, in 2008, a pole of international relations scholars ranked Professor Nye
as the most influential scholar in the field on American foreign policy, and in 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine
named him one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. He has extensive government service, including
serving as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, during which he was
awarded two distinguished service medals, as Deputy to the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance,
Science, and Technology, as chair of the National Security Council Group on Nonproliferation of Nuclear
Weapons, and as chair of the National Intelligence Council. Originally joining the Harvard faculty in 1964,
he served as director for the Center of International Affairs or Harvard's Kennedy Center, as it were.
His most recent books are the soon to be released "Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the
American Era," "The Future of Power," "The Powers to Lead," for which he offered an undergraduate seminar
earlier today, "Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics," and "The Power Game: A Washington Novel."
He is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
an honorary member of the British Academy, and North American Chairman of the Trilateral Commission.
Professor Nye received a B.A. summa cumme laude from Princeton University, did postgraduate work
as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, and recieved a PhD in political science from Harvard University.
Tonight, we invite you to join us as he explores his ideas about the future of American power.
Ladies and gentlemen, Joseph Nye.
Thank you very much, Cory. It is
a pleasure to be back at Brigham Young University. I had a very nice visit here about four or
five years ago. It's not just your mountains and scenery and so
forth, but what I really enjoyed today was not just the colleagues but the students I
met. It is really pleasant to see so many people with open and inquiring minds. Let
me say that tonight I would like to think about the condition of American power, where
have we been in the last century, and where are we going this century. [These are] issues
that have preoccupied me for the last twenty years or so. I don't know how many of you
remember that back in the Reagan period in, the 80's, there was a widespread view that the
United States was in decline. The book that was a best seller on the New York Times best
seller list at the time was a book by my friend, Paul Kennedy, a very distinguished Yale historian,
originally British, who said that the United States was finished. Basically, we were going
the way of Edwardian Britain or Philip II of Spain. It was all over, and his rise and fall
of the great powers became a best seller. I wrote a book at the time because I thought
he was wrong and I did not think the United States was in decline. I wrote a book called
"Bound to Lead." I am pleased to say that I think I got the answer right but, he got all
the royalties. There is a long standing tendency in the United States to worry about our decline
and to think we are in decline. As a people, we go through cycles of hubris and declinism;
if you think back to the 1960's in the Cold War, there was a belief that the Soviet Union
was overtaking us. In the 1980's the Japanese were overtaking us. Today, people think
the Chinese are overtaking us. [It] is interesting that the Soviets weren't 10 feet tall, the
Japanese weren't 10 feet tall, and the Chinese aren't 10 feet tall. I think the moral of
the story is that Americans have got to learn to have a clearer view of what the world is
like so that we have a better understanding of American power and our position in the world.
We have not always been as good at that understanding as we need to be. If you look at the situation
of the United States, it is quite remarkable that by the end of the 20th century, the United
States was the preeminent power in the world. We had about half of the world's military
budget, so nobody could form a balance of power against us. We had the world's largest economy,
still do. We had more soft power in the sense of the cultural resources in our universities
and our entertainment industry that attracted others. In that sense, it was quite remarkable
that we didn't have a global balance in power. You had American primacy, which has
sometimes been called the American Era. I have been interested in trying to explore
where that came from, where it is going, how the Americans got to be the prime power in
the world, and what is going to happen in the future. These are questions that have
been on my mind for a couple of decades since I wrote that book answering Paul Kennedy.
What I would like to do tonight is talk a about the next book that I am doing or the
one that is coming out in May on presidential leadership and the creation of the American
Era, because it may help us to answer the question of whether what our leaders say matters.
Putting in another way: Do leaders matter? If you look at the 2012 campaign,
both Governor Romney and President Obama promised that they would resist decline and
that they would maintain American primacy. The questions we ought to ask is [whether]
it is in their power to do anything about it, [whether] it matter[s] who is president,
and, thinking about it in another way, [whether] it is all in the cards that are dealt.
If you have a continent the size of ours, two oceans, and an economy that grows as well
as ours, are you just bound to become the primary leading country of the 20th century
anyway? Academics look at two sets of theories that go into this. The international relations
people tend to say it is in the structure of the situation; human leadership is secondary
or not all that important. The people who study leadership say it is leaders who matter. It
makes all the difference what kind of leaders you have.
I have been puzzling in this new book of how you would sort that out. I am interested that
Henry Kissinger is alleged to have said, when he was teaching at Harvard, where I studied
under him, that he thought it was all structural, that it was all just the way the cards were
dealt by geography and history and so forth. After he got to the White House, he decided
leadership mattered. I guess where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit. I
have tried to sort this out in a different way. I [ask], “Well, what would
happen if you looked at this president by president over the course of the 20th century
and you imagined that you had a different leader, a different president than the one
who was elected? Imagine that the next most likely person had been president. Would it
all have turned out the same or not?” Think back historically, if William McKinley hadn't
have been assassinated, there never would have been a Teddy Roosevelt. If Teddy Roosevelt
hadn't run as a third party candidate in 1912, there never would have been a Woodrow
Wilson. You can go on and on like that through the century [with] counterfactual history
of [whether] the leaders matter[ed]. Now when you look at leaders, there is a strong tendency
to look at leaders in terms of whether they are transformational or transactional. Ever
since James McGregor Burns wrote his book on leadership in 1978, the general preference
has been for transformational leaders, leaders who really shake things up, who make a big
change. Transactional leaders or managerial leaders are discounted, and so, in addition
to the question of [whether] leaders matter, I am interested in [if] it matter[s] what
kind of leaders you have in terms of whether America wouldn't become the power that it
dimensionally becomes. I think the general argument for why leaders probably play a role
and that it's not purely structural forces is partly answered by the fact
that the growth of American power in the 20th century wasn't smooth. If you just trace
the growth of the American economy, if you look at our structural strength, then American
power should have risen proportionately. We should have just kept getting stronger and
stronger and more influential in the world. What is interesting is, that is not the way
the history of the century turned out.
After the period 1900-1920, we had the next 20 years, a period where we were less influential,
where we turned inward and didn't play much of a role, yet our economy continued to grow.
Our share of the world economy continued to grow, yet our influence to the world diminished.
So if it were just structural, then you would say there is something wrong. These charts
don't fit together as well as they should. If you look over the century, the United States
was about a quarter of the world's economy at the start of the 20th century and about
22%, or almost a quarter of the world's economy, at the end of the 20th century rising
up to about 45% during WWII when everybody else was prostate because of the effects of
the war, which made us artificially large to others. By and large, we didn't suffer any
decline in our strength from the beginning to the end of the century. We did have this
odd pattern so that if you look at the periods which led to American power becoming preeminent,
you would say that either you have 1900-1920 and then 1920-1940 as sort of [an] inward
period, and then 1947-1970, a period in which we are turning outward again, but basically
with Vietnam and the aftermath of the Vietnam war up until 1980 I would argue our power
diminishes. In the 80's, it begins to increase again until with the collapse of the Soviet Union,
American primacy is clear. So, those are the periods in which you can divide the growth
of American power or which you can see American power which is 1900-1920, 1941 basically until
about 1970 and then 1980 until the end of the century. So, let's look at the presidents
who were in charge in those key periods and let's see whether they mattered, playing
this little counterfactual game that I suggested.
Well, 1900-1920, the two key presidents were Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Teddy
Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were both transformational leaders in the sense that they wanted to make
big changes. They didn't want the status quo. They were going to change the world.
They both were quite charismatic in their style. They had similarities. They both
were ivy league presidents, they both were writers and wrote a number of books, they
both won Nobel prizes for their work in foreign affairs while they were in office, but they
were very different otherwise. Indeed, they had quite opposite views of the world. Teddy
Roosevelt, who starts the century, built the American Navy, took the Panama Canal which
meant we could move the navy back and forth without having to go around The Cape, he mediated
in the Russo-Japanese war (that is what he got his Nobel prize for) and he mediated in the conflict
between Germany and France in Morocco. If you think about it, these were really quite
different positions than were traditional American positions. American traditional positions
in foreign policy really were the Monroe Doctrine, telling the Europeans to stay out of our hemisphere.
This idea of meddling in Asia or Europe, that ran against George Washington's and John
Quincy Adams' advice, which is to mind our own hemisphere. In that sense, Teddy Roosevelt
made a difference. Henry Kissinger makes an interesting point in his book on diplomacy
comparing Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt didn't leave much of a legacy because he
didn't educate the American people. His intervention in the global balance of power
for example, in Morocco was something he kept pretty much to himself. He didn't explain
it much to people and his congress. It ran against the tradition, and he didn't want
to get in trouble for doing this. While Roosevelt did some interesting and important things,
some of this might have happened anywhere. There would have been a Panama Canal within
another 10 years or so. It might have been a Nicaragua Canal, but the navy would have
been built, the canal would have been built, you might not have had the meddling in Europe
and Asia, but that part didn't really last anyway. As much as Teddy Roosevelt is a
personal hero of mine, particularly for what he did on the domestic front, I don't think
that he had a lasting effect as great as people think. The structural forces probably would
have produced the same outcome within another decade or so anyway. Now you go to Woodrow
Wilson, who as I mentioned, ironically would not have been president if Teddy Roosevelt
hadn't tried to become president again,
running as a Bull Moose candidate in 1912. Taft would have been reelected and Wilson
would have never made it. Wilson was interesting in the sense that he came into office not
wanting to be bothered with foreign affairs. The last thing he wanted was to get involved
in WWI. Getting involved in WWI really was against American tradition. The idea that
you would send two million American troops into a battle in Europe was just against everything
George Washington and his successors had told us was the right way to run a foreign policy,
yet Wilson did it. When he did it, Teddy Roosevelt had been urging him to do it well before that.
When he did it, Wilson did something very different from what Roosevelt would have done.
He wrapped it up in American morals. He had his fourteen points in which he was going
to change the world. He was going to abolish the balance of power, which he regarded as
a corrupt way of doing international politics, since it was the great countries, big powers
treat[ing] the little powers like cheeses to be cut up for the sake of the big powers. He promised
that we were going to get rid of all the iniquitous ways of European balance of power. We were
going to replace it by a League of Nations in which you didn't balance power by forming
alliances with others; you had a system where you had all the good guys against the bad
guy. Everybody teamed up against the aggressor. That theory of collective security, which
was embodied in the League of Nations, was Wilson's effort to transform the world,
to change the way politics had been done. The interesting thing about this is it was
initially popular with the American people and when Wilson made this huge transformation
of sending a massive American army to Europe, which is very different from anything we had
done before, he did it by appealing to the moral streak of Americans. We are going to
change the world. The trouble is that when he got back home, he wasn't able to sell
it. As he ran into resistance in the Senate with Henry Cabot Lodge and others, he decided
he would talk directly to the American people. He had his famous tour of the western states
and during his tour of the western states, he had a stroke. That stroke debilitated him.
Ironically, and this is one of the true ironies of history, if the stroke had killed him,
the United States probably would have joined the League of Nations because there was a
moderate group of Republicans who would have joined with a moderate group of Democrats
to ratify the treaty. Wilson, in his debilitated commission, forbade the moderate Democrats
to accept any reservations to the treaty. The treaty went down in flames and it led
to a rejection by the American people of the whole Wilsonian experience. So by the time
you got to the 1930's, rather than American strength growing smoothly through this period,
you had intense isolationism, saying what Wilson had done to get involved in Europe was wrong, his dreams about a League
of Nations were wrong, and we essentially had a munition of American influence in the
world; there is an irony there of this first phase.
The next phase in which the United States' power grows in the creation of the American
Era was [with] Franklin Roosevelt and his entry into WWII, where you send even more American
troops to fight not just a European, but also in a Pacific war. Franklin Roosevelt, when
he first came into power, was not very interested in foreign affairs, understandably. We had
a Great Depression here at home. It wasn't until 1938 that Roosevelt decided that Hitler
was a threat to us. After the Munich Pact and the Kristallnacht attack on Jewish stores in Germany,
Roosevelt said that at some point, history is going to show us to have made a mistake
if we don't resist Hitler. The American people weren't there. Every time Roosevelt
would hint at trying to move public opinion, he would have to snap back because the isolationist
strand was so strong. Roosevelt once said to one of his assistants, “What do you do
if you are a leader and you look over your shoulder and nobody is following?” So he
basically tried to manufacture some incidents that would make the American people realize
the danger they were in; it didn't work. For example, there is a case of a U.S. destroyer, the USS Greer,
where Franklin Roosevelt told the American people that a German U-boat had attacked the Greer.
(In fact, as historians now know, the Greer had attacked the German U-boat.) Even that
didn't turn American opinion. What turned American opinion was the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor. Some historians say that was manufactured too but as they look more
carefully on it, it wasn't something that Roosevelt deliberately engineered. The interesting
point is that was what brought the Americans in to WWII, which was a huge turning point
in terms of the creation of the American Era. One of the questions that we have to ask ourselves
is what would have happened if we hadn't gone in? So to play this counterfactual game
I was talking about, you have to imagine. Suppose that you had had a staunch isolationist
as president in power in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Is it possible that
we would not have entered the European war? Maybe. For example, the novelist Philip Roth
imagines the Republicans, instead of nominating Wendell Willkie, who was an internationalist in 1940,
had nominated Charles Lindbergh, the great air hero.
Lindbergh was a very staunch isolationist. Lindbergh might have said, “We are not going to get
involved in the European war; that is not our business.” If that had happened,
you really would have had a very different world, a world in which the United States,
not being involved in Europe, might not have countered Hitler's power. The likely result
of that would have been Stalin and Hitler, the Soviet Union and Germany, fighting a show
to a standstill and what you might call a tri-polar world where you would have the Western hemisphere
and Germany in control of the center of Europe and the Soviets in place and perhaps the
Japanese empire still in place in the Pacific. It would have been very different from what
we got. What we got was dominance in which the United States and its allies won WWII
and then the next key point was the decision by Harry Truman to stay there, because it wasn't
obvious that we had to stay there. There was a strong strand of opinion that says win the
war [then] come home as we did in WWI. But Truman, who, again, might not have been president
if Roosevelt had kept Henry Wallace as his vice president in 1944 and not switched over,
Truman, again, made a crucial decision, which is that not only had the United States intervened,
it was going to stay overseas. By 1947, when he decides on the Marshall Plan, and in 1949,
when he decides to create NATO, you had something which was very different, a permanent American
presence abroad. Remember George Washington's key advice,
no entangling alliances;
and here was the United States with a very entangling alliance, but one which gave us
enormous influence and power in the world. That again, might not have been the case if
you hadn't had Truman as president. If Wallace had been president, it is not clear that you
would have had that. Even that might not have made the difference because there was still
a strong strand of American opinion that wanted to come back home, that didn't want to stay
overseas. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower basically took this strategy of containment of American
presence overseas and made it the basic American policy. The fact that Eisenhower, as a Republican,
was consolidating the policy that Truman started, meant that it became the consensus for the
next half-century. That didn't have to happen if Robert Taft had become the Republican nominee
in 1952, and if the Republicans had turned down the Democrats—that was plausible because
there was a weariness with so many years of democratic rule—the Americans might now
have had a NATO or a permanent presence overseas. In that sense, I think Eisenhower made a difference.
He also made a difference in another way: He not only brought eight years of peace,
but he also avoided certain things that could have badly derailed the American presence.
Most importantly, he refused to get involved in saving the French in Vietnam, not because
he was sympathetic to Communism or didn't want to help the French, but because he said
that if we get involved in Vietnam, it will swallow up our armies by the divisions. [That
was] very wise advice, which John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson failed to follow. It did
mean that the Americans stayed out of that land war in Asia. The other thing that he
did was he refused the advice of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to use nuclear weapons against
Vietnam and China. He said at one point when they recommended to him, not just in Vietnam
but in the Quemoy-Matsu crisis of the islands off China's coast, he said, “You
boys must be crazy to think we would use those things on Asians.” He had a very strong
moral streak against the idea of using the nuclear weapons, though he was quite happy
to use them to bluff for his political purposes, but not to really use them. If Eisenhower had
not been president, you might not have had containment as a consolidated position of
American foreign policy, and you might have had a president who would have used the nuclear
weapons and that would have led to a very different world—one that I think would have
been much less stable. You could argue that this third period of the three periods of
America's entry into global politics with T.R., Wilson, and America's entry into WWII
under Franklin Roosevelt, and then the consolidation of America's presence abroad under containment
with Truman and Eisenhower. The fourth period
of the consolidation of the growth of American power was under Reagan and the first George
Bush. Trying to be objective and understand the
contribution of Ronald Reagan is difficult, because very often people will say Ronald
Reagan won the Cold War when he “knock[ed] down that wall!” In fact, the causation
is much more complex than that. I would argue [that] the truly transformational leader in
the end of the Cold War was Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev wanted to save the Soviet Union, and he did
that by basically instituting Perestroika, restructuring, and Glasnost, opening up. The idea that Gorbachev had was
this would save it. It turned out that Gorbachev was like a fellow who has a sweater on and the
sweater has a loose thread. He starts to pull on the loose thread and before you know it,
he has no sweater. Gorbachev was truly transformational but not in the direction he intended. He was
a little bit like Woodrow Wilson was, not in the direction he intended. Reagan's great
gift was to see that he could do a deal with Gorbachev. It wasn't the high defense budget and
the rhetoric, though they contributed something. It was the fact that Reagan said, “I can
do a deal with this guy.” He did. He reached a series of deals with Gorbachev, well ahead
of where other members of this administration thought that it was possible, which is kind
of ironic because when people talk about a Reaganite foreign policy, they often say a
Reaganite foreign policy is tough, taught, and [has] a big defense budget. In fact, Reagan's skill
as a politician was tough talk, a big defense budget, and a willingness to compromise, a rare leadership capacity that
not everybody had. I think Reagan gets credit, but sometimes not the way people thought.
If you do the counterfactual on this and you say, “Well suppose that somebody else had
been president,” the key question would be who would have been president when Gorbachev came
in? Imagine that Andropov, who was the Soviet Union leader after Brezhnev, had had healthy kidneys—he
died of kidney failure. Andropov was a tough KGB agent. Tough as nails. If he had stayed in power,
I think you could make an argument that Soviet Union would have lasted another ten or fifteen years.
Eventually it would have declined because it couldn't cope with what sometimes is called the third Industrial Revolution, the information revolution
in which they didn't have the agility of a market economy to cope with it, but they
could have persisted longer if you hadn't had this reformer, Gorbachev, pulling on the thread of the
sweater. Andropov could have kept them there for another decade or more. So if Reagan had faced
Andropov, I doubt that we would have been crediting Reagan with contributing to the end of the
Cold War. So the counterfactual testing on that one makes some difference.
That brings me to George H.W. Bush and the end of the Soviet Union, which really is when
the American preeminence in the world power becomes clear. Without the Soviets as a balancing
factor, the Americans really are the world's only superpower. George H.W. Bush, Bush 41,
as he's sometimes called, was not a flashy leader. He was not somebody who came in with
a goal of ending the Soviet Union. In fact, in his memoirs with Brent Scowcroft, he says just the
opposite. He had extraordinarily good judgment and extraordinarily good managerial experience.
If you think of what Bush did, he managed to see the end of the Soviet Union, the collapse
the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany inside NATO without any fighting,
without any bloodshed; quite an extraordinary accomplishment. It is interesting in that
sense that when Bush 41 was asked this question at the end of the Berlin Wall in November
of '89, “why don't you make more of this? Why don't you make some big speeches
that we won the Cold War? We should be going out and really making a Reaganite type speech
to show how well we have done”. Bush 41 said, “No. I am not going to dance on the
wall.” Instead of that, he kept relatively quiet and within the next month he went to
Malta for a summit with Gorbachev and began a process of negotiations, which successfully unraveled
the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War without violence. It is really quite an extraordinary
performance. So if Michael Dukakis who was Bush's opponent in 1988 had been elected,
would the outcome have been any different? Perhaps, because Dukakis would have wanted
to negotiate with Gorbachev. I am not sure he would have had the same experience in international
affairs, as the governor of Massachusetts, that Bush had had
running CIA, ambassador to China, UN ambassador, and so forth. So then
we have to ask ourselves the question, “Did leaders matter?” What I'm trying to demonstrate is yes, some of them matter,
but then notice something: It is not always the ones that you would have expected who
mattered most. Remember I said at the beginning that theorists
tell you that transformational leaders are terrific and transactional or managierial leaders are not too important, but
if you were listening closely to what I said, you would notice that two of the heroes of
my story were Dwight Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush, neither of them transformational,
neither of them flashy but both of them extremely skilled in managerial leadership. I think
when we look back at history and we ask what difference a leader makes, you have to ask
not only what did the leader decide that was a big issue, but [consider] the dogs that
didn't bark, [and] the things that the leader avoided. For example, if Eisenhower had used
nuclear weapons, how would the world look? Or if George H.W. Bush had not been so skillful
in nuclear weapons that were used at the end of the Cold War, how would the world look?
So the fact that these two men, who were transactional rather than transformational leaders, played such a large role means that of
the four key presidents in this story that I tell who, contributed positively to the growth
of the American Era, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were both transformational and
both somewhat more impressive on that scale. Eisenhower and Bush 41 were both largely managerial or transactional.
So yes, leaders matter, but we have to be careful not to think it is flamboyance that makes
a good leader. It may be contextual intelligence and judgement, knowing how to run things. Another way of
putting this is what are the lessons for American power in the 21st century of where we go from
here? Should we be looking for a transformational or transactional leader? The best would be
to have both, but compare Bush 41 who always said, “I don't do the vision thing.”
With Bush 43 who was keen to have a vision and as he said, “Not to play small ball.”
I think you can make an argument that Bush 41 had one of the best foreign policies we
have seen in the last half-century or so and Bush 43 won for poorest. What is interesting
is that you will never find two men as presidents, who were more similar in their genetic background
than these two men. So it is not in your genes, but I think it does suggest that as we look
for lessons for our century, we shouldn't be looking for flamboyance or great rhetoric;
we should be looking for the ability to have contextual intelligence and managerial skills.
If you can combine that with good rhetoric, fine. If you had to choose one or the other,
I think we would rather have the skill. The other thing is that we are dealing with
a world in foreign affairs where you have to realize that in the diversity of cultures
and amazing periods of revolutionary change, there is a lot to be said for the Hippocratic
oath, which as you will remember is first of all, do no harm. So before you plunge into
foreign affairs, where you don't know for sure what the outcome is going to be, you
want to remember that one of the basic principles of Just War Theory is that there should be
a reasonable prospect of success before you enter in to something. As we look ahead to the future of American power in this century,
I think we want to be prudent, have great contextual intelligence about what is going on, and avoid
these oversimplified metaphors like the United States is in decline or in control. The truth
of the matter is I think the United States is going to be the largest and strongest country
in the world for a good part of this century. I don't think the Chinese are about to pass
us or be stronger than we are. I agree with the recent conclusion of a report by the
National Intelligence Council of how the world will look in the year 2030 in which the National
Intelligence Council--I may be a little biased since I once ran it--but the National Intelligence
Council said that the world in 2030 is likely not to reproduce the world of the 20th century
with total American primacy, but is one in which the Americans are likely to be the leading
country. We are probably going to see a world in which we are primus inter pares, not the only country, but
the most important country. They also want to say the crucial thing for the United States
to realize in that world is that we can't do things alone. If we are going to succeed,
we are going to have to learn to work with others and developing networks and countries
that can work together on the problems we face. It is going to be the crucial aspect
of maintaining American power. I think the moral of the story that I have told you tonight
and that I spell out in more detail and more convincingly in my next book is that leaders
matter but how the leaders interact with their followers, the American people, and how they
explain things and make prudent judgments in a very complex, rapidly evolving world,
is going to be the secret of whether we are able to maintain American primacy well into this century. So thank
you very much for your attention.
Cory Leonard: We would invite your questions,
in particular from our students. Two things to remember: We would ask you to cue up here
on the west side at the rear of the room and then we would ask you to introduce yourself.
Tell us your name, your major what you are studying. We have a few minutes for questions
so please begin to form a line. Ryan Harrison: My name is Ryan Harrison. I
am an economics major. You speak about transactional leaders verses more leaders with a vision.
How do you convince American voters in a democracy to choose a more managerial leader verses
a transformational one that has very good rhetoric.
Nye: Well it is a very interesting question, particularly in a democracy in the information
age. There is likely to be an advantage to the person with the fancier rhetoric, but not always.
Harry Truman, who was appointed initially but got reelected in 1948, was really a man with a
transactional background. It is also worth noticing that we often are surprised by what
we get. In the 2000 election, foreign policy played almost no role. George W. Bush, Bush
43, came into office without much interest in foreign affairs. Yet, after 9/11 he was
transformed and then tried to transform the world by the invasion of Iraq. So he went
through a major change. It would have been hard to predict that. It goes back even earlier.
Woodrow Wilson in 1916 ran on a promise that he would keep us out of WWI and by April 1917,
he had us in WWI. So there is a problem for democratic theory of what happens when people
are trying to judge whether the person they are voting for is going to produce the policies
they prefer. It is often very hard to judge that. I think what I am suggesting is that
good rhetoric is good, but a good judgment is probably even more important. How do you
get the ability for voters to make that judgment about the candidates' good judgment, that
is hard and, we sometimes get it wrong. Luke Miller: My name is Luke Miller and I
am a history major. I just wanted to say thank you for coming today. I am a big admirer of
your work and I was excited to hear that you were coming. My question is about the mechanisms
about cultural power. I define power as our ability to get other nations to do things
that they wouldn't like to normally do. I am wondering, how our cultural power convinces
other nations to do things they wouldn't normally? Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly,
is our cultural power a more organic institution or is it something that influences our government or is
it something that our government can effectively cultivate in order to further whatever ends our leaders deem
desirable. Nye: Well it is interesting because I make
this distinction between hard powers. Power is the ability you say to get others to do
the things you want. You can do that three ways. You can do that with coercion and payment,
which I call hard power, or you can do it through attraction and persuasion, which I
call soft power. Culture is part of that soft power. Hard power is a lot easier to see and to demonstrate.
You sail a carrier off the cost or you put economic sanctions on.
It is very clear. Sometimes it may not be as effective for some instruments. For example,
if you are trying to promote democracy in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, that was
accomplished by that cultural power. When the Berlin Wall went down, it didn't go
down under a barrage of artillery, it went down under hammers and bulldozers, which were wielded by people behind the Iron Curtain,
whose minds had been changed by ideas and culture. That takes time, a long time. It
is also harder to see and harder to explain. It is harder to get Congress to appropriate
money for those purposes. The kinds of budgets that we have, if you look at what the government
spends on public diplomacy, which can include everything from the voice of America to leaders
exchange to student exchanges, is probably about a couple of hours of defense apartments
budget. It is a mouse and an elephant, or maybe it is a flea and an elephant. We just
don't spend a lot of money on it. Trying to persuade the American people that they
should spend more on it and particularly at a time while we are cutting budgets. The first
types of things that get cut are American libraries, American _______, and hours of broadcasting and so forth. I think it is rather
short-sighted, but I do think that these programs that take a long duration to have effect,
we associate soft power and often turn out to be extremely important. It is hard to show
it in the short run. You can do it with historical case studies and show a demonstration of some of these
facts of the past. It is often very hard to sell it to an appropriations committee.
Troy Tessem: Troy Tessem studying international relations and again, thank you for coming.
My question has a couple of different parts to it. You mentioned that in 2030 the United
States would need to be able to work with other countries in order to get their agenda
done. My question is, who are the countries that we need to maintain a critical alliance
with, who are the countries that we need to gain stronger alliances with, and do you think
that in order to do those things it is more successful to use bilateral, multilateral
avenues or to work through the United Nations? Then what is one thing that President Obama
should do today to begin that process for us to be prepared in 2030?
Nye: Well I think that it is all of the above in the sense that there is no one organization
or institution that is going to solve all problems. There is some things for which the
UN can be effective. The United Nations Peacekeeping for example, often is a way to prevent conflicts
from getting out of control, very useful. If you are trying to solve something like
climate and you are trying to get a broad agreement, trying to get 189 countries agree
at a conference, is not very plausible. We are going to need to use a variety of types
of networks of countries. One thing we should notice is that we already stand in a good
position by the alliances we have. Sometimes people say, “Europe doesn't matter anymore.”
Actually, Europe matters quite a lot. When Europe acts as an entity, its economy is bigger
than the United States'. What's more for many of the problems we're going to want to deal with relating to pandemics or monetary stability
or other such issues, the Europeans have enormous capacity, as do the Japanese, the third-largest
economy in the world. So in that sense, the fact that we have close relations with Europe
is something we should be maintaining, not letting erode. That goes also for our relationship,
our alliance with Japan. It is not just alliances in the traditional sense that we are going
to need. If you take international financial stability, this can have enormous impacts
as we have seen, on the prosperity and well-being of the American people, if international financial
stability is messed up. Now increasingly, we are going to have to have China working
with us in the international financial stability matters, which means that you are going to
need something like not only the G7 and G8, which originated with the finance ministers
of the rich countries, but you are now going to need to use G20 which includes China, India,
Brazil and others. We are going to have to learn to maintain our traditional alliances
and networks, but supplement it with other networks for particular purposes. That defies the tendency
of Americans to like a world in which they are good guys and bad guys. There are white
hats and black hats. In fact, we are going to have to work sometimes with white hats
and sometimes with black hats and often with a lot of gray hats. I think the lesson for
Obama—I think on this he has actually been pretty good—he is going to have to work
with China as well as work with our allies. He is going to have to work with India and
Brazil; we are going to have to help develop networks. One of the advantages the United
States has is that given the openness of our society and the multitude of our contacts,
we are probably better placed than almost any country to lead that network formation.
Indeed, if we pay tribute to what we were talking about at dinner here, what Brigham
Young University students when they do their missions and go overseas and learn other languages
and become aware of the rest of the world, that is an important contribution. I wish
we would see more of it in other parts of the United States. So we are going to have
to learn how to go out and use that skill of our openness to make multiple networks.
Not just say, "here are the good guys and here are the bad guys. Here is the institution. Here is the other institution." It is going to take
us to sort of grow up in how we see the world. Brandon Wilmore: My name is Brandon Wilmore
and I am a political science major from Idaho. My question is two parts. First of all, what
do you think the relationship is between democracy and economic development? Second, what do
you think the United States' role in democracy promotion?
Nye: Well, there is a large political science literature on democracy and economic development. The simplified
version is that--there are two simplified versions. One is that democracy is good for economic
development and the other is that it is bad for it. Both of those simplified versions
are wrong. People who say, “Look how much more rapidly China has grown than India.”
China is an authoritarian system. India is a democracy. If India were just authoritarian, it would grow like China. Or if China were
democratic, it would slow down like India.” That is simplistic because if you do a correlation
of all democratic countries and rates of economic growth, it turns out that some of the authoritarian
countries have the worst rates of economic growth.
For every China that's got a high rate of economic growth, there's a Zimbabwe that's got
an abysmal rate of economic growth. So that simple correlation that they are inversely
related is wrong. I think there is an argument that is made the other direction, that democracy
is necessary for economic growth. That, we know isn't true. We have seen rapid economic
growth in countries that are not democratic, not only China, but many of the countries
in South East Asia have had rapid rates of economic growth without being democracies. I think probably the causal
arrows were more in the direction that after a certain amount of economic growth, there
tends to be a demand of a middle class that is produced by economic growth for more participation
in the political system which eventually becomes more democratic. I think economic growth tends
to foster democracy. The argument that democracy is either a barrier or a necessary condition
for economic growth, I am not convinced by those arguments.
Peter Xia: I am Peter Xia and am a second year MBA student and I am here to represent
China. I have two questions actually. The first one is what do you see the challenges
that the United States face when they deal with the relationship with China? The second
question is, I read your recent remarks about China's soft power, so with a new leadership
with very little desire to develop democracy, what can the new leadership learn from United
States to become better leaders in the future? Nye: Well, I think that the good news about
the U.S.-China relationship is that while there is competition and difficulties and
you can point to all sorts of complaints on both sides all the time, neither country presents
an existential threat to each other. Unlike Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union, China doesn't present that kind of a threat
to us and vice versa. We are going to have a relationship with China which involves both
cooperation and competition. That's the proverbial problem in American folklore
of 'can you learn to walk and chew gum at the same time?' 'Can we learn to have
a good relation with China which is both competitive and cooperative?' I think we can, and I think
it is interesting that over the past 20 or 30 years, we have pretty well done that. There
are lots of problems in the U.S.-China relationship but by and large, we have managed to keep the cooperation ahead
of the conflict. Now, one of the interesting problems for China is going to be whether they
can they maintain the legitimacy of their political system without using too much nationalism.
So I think when you look at Shi Ji Ping, he has a problem which is the legitimacy of the Communist Party
rule in China has rested upon a high rate of economic growth and a certain amount of ethnic
nationalism. If the economic growth rate diminishes somewhat, will he have to dial up the nationalism? When you look at
the disputes between China and its neighbors, you will notice that nationalism does play
a role both in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. I think that is the piece
that would worry me, whether the new leadership in China, by increasing its
use of nationalism, worsens its relations with its neighbors and also with the U.S. It need
not happen. I think top Chinese leaders are aware of this, but if you look at China's
foreign policy between 2008 and 2011, they worstend their relations with India, Japan,
South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. That is not a very good foreign policy record.
I would argue that the key to success for China will go back to Deng Xiaoping's advice, which
is bide your time. What the Chinese did in the early part of the 2000's which some people called
a charm offensive, but was essentially to increase China's soft power or attractiveness
to its neighbors. I hope that is the path that Shi Ji Ping will take, but we will have to see.
Nick: My name is Nick Parickley. I am a sophomore studying statistics and I am from Richmond,
Virginia. During the course of your discourse, you alluded to George Washington and how he
said that the United States should have no entangling relationships. I was wondering
if you could expound a little more on what the founding fathers' vision was for foreign
policy when they formed the United States when they were meeting together and talking
about it. Nye: Well, it is an interesting period to
look at, because remember, the United States was small and weak. We had this big continent
but we hadn't filled it out. We were essentially an adjunct to the European balance of power.
Our independence had to do with the fact that France, because it was fighting Britain and
Europe, came and helped us. That final help with the battle of Yorktown made all the difference.
In that sense the European power balance helped us, but George Washington and the founding
fathers said that the last thing we want to do is get caught up in all of that. Washington
has this wonderful phrase. In fact, I use it to preface my new book saying, “Why would
somebody so perfectly situated as we are behind these oceans, want to get involved with the
rest of the world?” Good question. In a sense, one of the puzzles of the 20th century
is why did we leave that preferred position and get involved with the rest of the world?
I have tried, in a very abbreviated form, to spell out that story for you tonight. In
American foreign policy, not just among the founding fathers, but for the first century
was we will just stay in our hemisphere . The Monroe Doctrine says we will keep the Europeans
out of our hemisphere. We will just stay over here and not get involved in Europe. I think
what happened is that as we got bigger and had more of an influence on the world, we
discovered that we couldn't be that indifferent to what happened in more distant parts of the world, and whatever the truth that was in
1900 or 1918, it is certainly true today. In the world in which missiles can cross the
world in 30 minutes and cyber-attacks can cross the world in 300 milliseconds. The argument
that we have that luxury the founding fathers had, I think is long gone. It is interesting
to compare their perception of the world and how we can stay out of it with how we got
increasingly involved in it during the 20th century.
Reed Simons: Reed Simons, studying accounting. You talked about how leadership was responsible
for the growth of American power in the 20th century. I guess my question is, do you feel
that holds true or held true for the periods of decline in the 20th century in American power. Was leadership
as responsible as it was for the growth? Nye: I think so. I think the leadership of
Woodrow Wilson produced the conditions that led to the reaction against America's involvement
of the world. I think that decline of American power from 1920-1940 had a lot to do with
Wilson and of the leaders who followed him, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. I think leadership was
definitely important there. I would also say that leadership was important to the second
period where I think American power declined. I think the leaders who got us into the Vietnam
War, particularly John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, were basically hubristic and made
mistakes which cost us dearly. Nixon and Kissinger tried to—they saw the United States as declining
at that period, and they thought their opening to China would help to arrest that decline.
It was a response to what they saw as decline. Nixon's opening to China was a very good thing,
but it wasn't enough to reverse the problems that had been occurring by our involvement
in Vietnam. The other thing that Nixon did that was a mistake was to unleash rampant
inflation by breaking the international monitor system in 1971 so that Ford, his successor,
and Carter had to battle a situation where you had the reaction against the war, both at home and abroad,
plus a weakening of the American economy through this so-called stagflation. So, I would argue that bad
leadership in the period of the 60's and 70's contributed to a reversal of American growth
and power. So I would argue that the two periods of the century where we went in reverse, had
a lot to do with poor leadership. Thank you all very much.
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The Future of American Power - Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

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Caurora published on January 21, 2018
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