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January 24, 2009

America: Bully or Friend?

By Ai Lung Nguyen - January 2009.

POLITICS - Is the United States a bully or friend? Depends who you are.

"The rest of the world knows that the USA is the big kid on the block, and that this will likely remain the case for years to come. But our staying power has a great deal to do with whether we are perceived as a bully or a friend. Humility increases America's greatness, it does not weaken it." – U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.


The United States is about to relearn what it should already know: Even a superpower needs more than military force to maintain its leadership status.

According to insiders Barack Obama's administration will be using a "smart-power" approach to foreign policy, flexing the USA's brains and diplomatic strength in addition to its military power.

Smart power is the integration of hard and soft power, maintaining military strength while using persuasion and example to seed democracy, human rights and other Western ideas throughout the world.

This is in opposition to the deposed Bush Administration's "hard power" strategy and a "You're either with us or you are with the terrorists" mantra.

During the election, Obama said he wants a "tough, smart and principled" policy that preserves American pre-eminence as a force for good. Or, rather, given the state of loathing and distrust of the United States in parts of the world, re-establishes it.

Past examples of smart power:
  • Woodrow Wilson's theory of liberal internationalism (stable democracies are less likely to go to war).
  • Marshall's post-war plan to rebuild a shattered Europe in ways that would repel communism.
  • John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

    Smart power is credited with winning the Cold War with the communists and brought the Berlin Wall down. America deterred Soviet aggression with hard military power, but ate away belief in Communist ideas with soft power.

    The concept was ignored during George W. Bush's "war on terrorism" response to September 11th. Bush's failures in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrates that hard power alone can't secure global or U.S. security.

    In other news... Obama sets up his Wii house

    ENTERTAINMENT/TECHNOLOGY - A Nintendo Wii game console was one of the items moved into the 216-year-old White House. Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle bought a Wii for their daughters, Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, over the Christmas season.

    The popular Wii console will be connected to the television in the mansion's family room, occupied by children for the first time since 1993, when then 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton spent time there.

    So will the Obama First Family choose to play Wii Bowling or go for the real thing? (Richard Nixon had a bowling alley installed at the White House during the Vietnam War).
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