The concept of “soft power” evokes for many a benign alternative to the exercise of hard power as nations strive for strategic influence abroad. Among the United States and its democratic allies, soft power involves public diplomacy, people-to-people programs, student exchanges, cultural outreach and broadcasting news to foreign publics. For authoritarian regimes, however, the open exchange of ideas that characterize democracies is seen as a weakness and vulnerability to be exploited. In our globalized information environment, countries like China and Russia practice a very different kind of influence projection, termed “sharp power” by the authors of a new study published by the National Endowment of Democracy.
As we near the anniversary of President Reagan’s address at Westminster in defense of liberty and democratic values, please join us for a discussion of the emerging “sharp power” threat.