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American Democracy and Soft Power

Summary:
As President Joe Biden meets with fellow leaders at COP26, many are asking just how badly US soft power was damaged by Donald Trump's presidency. True, Trump trashed democratic norms that must be restored, but American culture retains great sources of resilience which pessimists often underestimated. CAMBRIDGE – At a recent meeting of trans-Atlantic foreign policy experts, a European friend told the group that he used to worry about a decline in American hard power, but felt reassured. On the other hand, he now worried more about what was happening internally and how that would affect the soft power that underlies American foreign policy. Are his fears justified? The Subordination of Women in

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As President Joe Biden meets with fellow leaders at COP26, many are asking just how badly US soft power was damaged by Donald Trump's presidency. True, Trump trashed democratic norms that must be restored, but American culture retains great sources of resilience which pessimists often underestimated.

CAMBRIDGE – At a recent meeting of trans-Atlantic foreign policy experts, a European friend told the group that he used to worry about a decline in American hard power, but felt reassured. On the other hand, he now worried more about what was happening internally and how that would affect the soft power that underlies American foreign policy. Are his fears justified?

Smart political leaders have long understood that values can create power. If I can attract you and persuade you to want what I want, then I do not have to force you or pay you to do what I want. If the United States (or any country) represents values that others find attractive, it can economize on sticks and carrots. US soft power rests partly on American culture and foreign policies when they are attractive to others; but it also rests on our values and how we practice democracy at home.

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