Special Guest: Joseph Nye on the Future of Power
Joining us today is Professor Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean Emeritus of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a familiar name to many of our readers. He is the author of the new book, The Future of Power.
1. The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine features a survey of international security experts, including you, that seemed to paint a picture of a fundamentally benign geopolitical environment, at least for the US — war between the US and China is unlikely, a nuclear-armed Iran is not an “intolerable threat,” and the likeliest of wars may not even involve the US. What, then, are West Point cadets signing up for today — careers in humanitarian response, disaster relief, and international development (John Mueller at Ohio State suggests war will “cease to exist”), or is traditional warfare still a realistic possibility?
Alas, war will persist, for a variety of reasons, but it is not the only function of military power as I explain my my new book, The Future of Power. Deterrence, protection and assistance will be important military roles along with fighting. West Point will need to train for a variety of tasks. And the security environment may not be so benign when one includes non-state actors who will be empowered by information technology — witness cyber attacks where attribution and deterrence are difficult.
2. In December 2009, you wrote on Politico.com’s Arena that “American exceptionalism has been a constant since our earliest days, but its implementation in foreign policy has been interpreted in different ways by different presidents,” in response to former Vice President Cheney’s criticism of President Obama. Would you describe yourself as an American exceptionalist? If so, why?
Many countries think of themselves as exceptional. I think the United States is exceptional because of our early history and founding myths. We broke away from the old world and tried to shape something new. In John Winthrop’s words (later echoed by Ronald Reagan), we were to be “a city on a hill” extending a beacon to others. That exceptionalism has added a moral strand to American foreign policy that cannot be ignored. Moralism does not mean that we always live up to our ideals, but the tension is there and it is an important aspect of who we are as a people.
3. Are there any subjects in the international security realm that are either not getting enough attention or getting too much?
I believe that cyber security deserves more attention and that is why I devoted a chapter to cyber power in my book. We are at an early stage of trying to come to terms with cyber, and do not yet have a strategy. I have drawn an analogy to nuclear strategy as it seemed around 1950. We know something big is there, but we are not sure what offense means, what defense means, how deterrence works, what rules and norms can be developed, and so forth. I suspect we will be seeing more attention to this issue in the coming years.