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Smart power diplomacy

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 7 June 2012

The influential foreign policy scholar Joseph Nye, a former Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, has argued for many years that nations need to combine the use of “soft power” and “hard power” to leverage what he calls “smart power”.

The United States is arguably the greatest industrial military complex the world has ever seen and its conventional military dominance is currently unchallenged by any nation on earth.

During visits to U.S. warships and submarines I have often marvelled at the advanced systems and capabilities on board those vessels that underpin the ability to project “hard power” across the globe.


The U.S. is the first naval power in human history to have predominance in all of the world’s great oceans at the one time.

This military might has obvious leverage in the field of international relations, but what is often overlooked is the large and clever effort that the U.S. puts into its “soft power”.

I witnessed a small but telling example of this when I travelled recently to Samoa as part of Australia's delegation to attend celebrations commemorating the 50thanniversary of Independence.

One of the major events was aflag raising and parade that lasted for six hours, as groups of proud Samoans marched past thelarge crowds of local people and overseas visitors.  

The U.S. had a number of warships berthed in the harbour of the capital Apia and the sailors combined with staff from the embassy formed an impressive display of US support, complete with a full U.S. Navy marching band, large flags and banners.

Dozens of U.S. Peace Corps members dressed in red, white and blue shirts also danced through the parade in a spectacular display.


New Zealand was represented by their Governor General.

China's presence was also apparent with large flags and banners.

Australia is the single largest donor of foreign aid to Samoa, providing about 30 per cent of total aid to the country, and I had expected that Australia would make a strong showing at those celebrations as an indication of our level of interest and influence.

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Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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