Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 9 News List

US should be focusing on global public goods

Washington could go a long way toward lessening global antipathy toward it if it paid more attention to promoting international law, development and humanitarian issues

By Joseph Nye

Development will take a long time, and the international community needs to explore better ways to make sure that help actually reaches the poor, but both prudence and a concern for soft power suggest that the US should take the lead.

Finally, as a preponderant power, the US can provide an important public good by acting as a mediator and convener.

By using its good offices to mediate conflicts in places like Northern Ireland, Morocco and the Aegean Sea, the US has helped in shaping international order in ways that are beneficial to other nations.

The Middle East is the crucial current case. It is sometimes tempting to let intractable conflicts fester, and there are some situations where other countries can play the mediator's role more effectively.

Even when the US does not want to take the lead, it can share leadership with others, such as with Europe in the Balkans. But often the US is the only country that can bring parties together.

When successful, such leadership increases US soft power while reducing sources of instability. The US can also encourage other countries to share in production of such public goods. Welcoming the rise of Chinese power in terms of that country's becoming a "responsible stakeholder" is an invitation to begin such a dialogue.

Nevertheless, the US is likely to remain the world's preponderant power even after it extricates itself from Iraq.

But it will have to learn to work with other countries to share leadership. That will require combining the soft power of attraction with the hard power of military might to produce a "smart power" strategy for providing global public goods.

Joseph Nye is a professor at Harvard University.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

This story has been viewed 2632 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top