[C]an we retire the term â€œsoft powerâ€ already? I always feel that itâ€™s been popularized not so much by Professor Nye as by deranged warmongers who like the idea of terming every alternative to militarism as somehow â€œsoft,â€ fluffy, and weak. Soft Power is a good book, but itâ€™s a bad coinage for an era in which national security issues have returned as a partisan political topic, and I donâ€™t think itâ€™s an especially great label for what Nyeâ€™s talking about.
Here’s a suggestion cribbed from an adaptation of an old tabletop game: power and influence. Roughly speaking, power is the ability to make people do things (or suffer the consequences); influence is the ability to get people to do things on their own (to gain the benefits). NATO has lots of power (and a good bit of influence), while the EU has an enormous amount of influence, but less power. Pointy-haired bosses use their power; good businesspeople use their influence.
Influence is not a second-rate type of power (soft rather than hard); it’s a separate, if related, capacity. So: power and influence.
I wrote to some of the folks whose blogs I cited. Everyone who has replied has been positive about the suggestion. Now to see if they will actually use it, and whether we can change the usage ourselves or whether we need Joe Nye to write an article.