Hard power and Soft power.
Hard Power is physical, it is armies and fleets, and it is economic strength and the ability to
frighten people who are weaker than you.
Soft Power is influence, it is perception, it comes from ideals and beliefs, it can be smoke and
mirrors, the velvet glove could be empty. Soft power is never letting your enemies know.
The US is a Hard Power. They have military forces that can defeat any two other nations.
They can reduce the entire world to radioactive glass. Fear the US Marines storming your beaches.
US trade sanctions can cripple your economy. This is Hard Power.
Soft power is the application of force and influence that you may or may not have. It is deals in
well appointed smoke filled rooms away from the public eye. Soft power relies on deception, it is
marketing and PR. It is making people belief you could even though there is no proof that you can.
Over the last few years the US government under Obama have worked extremely hard to
neutralise the underpinning strength that makes them a Hard power while at the same time doing
everything they can to abandon friends and allies and to weaken the influence that would allow them
to retain a Soft power.
This spying scandal is just the latest in a long string of acts that serve to weaken the world’s superpower
and the tattered shreds of trust we have in it.
Yes they can invade you but looking at Obama and the US government, anyone who is not a minor
Middle Eastern power is fully aware the chance of that happening is infinitesimally tiny.
Then you have Putin and Russia. He has mastered Soft power to a degree that the western world
can barely understand. Western press may laugh at the staged “Manly” photos of Putin swimming, riding a
nd fishing but they completely fail to understand what is happening.
Outside of the “sophisticated chattering idiots” of the coffee shops the rest of the world sees someone
who is a Man not an over dressed lightweight.
Across much of the world this perception of manly values is considered important.
In the Middle East, the Far East, South America etc perception is important, public school boys who look
and act as if they have never had mud on their shoes or dirt on their hands are not something to look up to.
Mere months ago Putin stepped onto the world stage, made Obama and Cameron look like hopeless and
helpless amateurs and solved a problem that was about to start a war. He did so without firing a shot
and he did so quickly.
The current reports about the speed with which the Syrian Gas production facilities have been
dismantled simply adds to Putin’s image and to his Soft power.
Putin wields Soft power to a level far beyond any Western leader.
You can laugh as much as you want about him, shirtless and manly, posed or not.
But the fact that significant parts of the world, including significant percentages of Western populations
trust him more than Obama is not a laughing matter.
Perception is everything when it comes to Soft power. Russia is led by a Man.
The West is lead by a Clown who turned up late to the mission that ended the most hunted terrorist in US history and was given a spare chair they took from the office next door. The guy sitting in the corner becasue he didn't have a place at the table where the important people were.
That is perception. That is power.
financial support. At the time I said this would be a bad idea and would lead the Egyptians straight
Well the US has declared it is not going to hand over advanced fighters it had promised and is
stopping several hundred million dollars of aid.
Within days of this, with the ink barely dry on the press releases, Egypt is talking to Russia about
mutual defence and support pacts.
I could see this as being likely with the information I could see from my office in deepest darkest
Did the vast legions of US analysts miss the clues? Are they perhaps too busy looking at
the data the NSA is grabbing on a billion or so US and European citizens? Or worst of all, is the US
leadership so far gone that they no longer care.
Again we have the application of Hard power and the perception of Soft power.
As the world looks on President Obama uses the vast might of the USA, he could deploy its very real
Hard economic and industrial power. But what does he do. To you and I a few hundred million dollars
is a lot of money, on the national level it is loose change. The Egyptian economic not something you
would describe as robust but even so, loose change.
To the world it looks like a temper tantrum. The once great and mighty US of A is shouting and
screaming and stamping its foot like a wayward four year old. Yet another act that weakens the
international image of America.
In return Egypt very publicly turns its back on the petulant child that leads America and goes to
talk to a man who leads Russia. The world watches as Egypt is walks away from a superpower that it
has stood beside for half a century and offers the hand of friendship to a nation that it thinks can
This is perception. This is the essence of Soft power.
Over the last half century Egypt and Israel have worked together to ensure there is some sort of
peace in the region.
I would not call them great friends but they have co-operated and worked closely together over the
Previous US presidents have tried to achieve peace between Israel and The Gaza Strip from a Pro
Israeli point of view, they all failed.
The current US president tried to do the same from an anti Israeli point of view, he failed.
Perhaps if Egypt is able and willing to join this process as a neutral, Middle Eastern nation, then
real progress could be made.
Or perhaps they could call on the help of the world’s most powerful man.
President Putin of Russia.