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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