Hard and soft power
NATIONAL security strategy seeks to maintain the survival of the nation-state through use of economic, military and political power and exercise of diplomacy. An effective national security system (1) translates national strategy into policy options to orchestrate the various factors of national power; (2) allocates priorities and objectives; and (3) selects foreign-policy options within a national strategic framework: these include political and diplomatic, economic and commercial, moral and psychological, geographic and demographic, and cultural and technological factors.
In pursuit of national security objectives modern discourse generally pertains to state power, indicating both economic and military power. Various concepts of political power used are: (a) as a goal of states and/or leaders; (b) as a measure of influence or control over outcomes, events, actors and issues; (c) as reflecting victory in conflict and attainment of security; and (d) as status, which some states or actors possess and other do not.
Power projection is the ability of a state to apply all or some of its elements of national power – political, economic, informational, or military – to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability. Any state able to direct its military forces outside the limited bounds of its territory is said to have some level of power-projection capability. Countries are thus seeking to redesign their strategies by restructuring military forces with an emphasis on strategic and operational mobility. “Hard power” describes the ability of a nation or political body to use economic incentives or military strength to influence other actors’ behaviours. Hard power serves to induce compliance, but also presents some glaring shortcomings with regard to its wielder’s legitimacy and credibility. Power is linked with the possession of certain tangible resources, including population, territory, natural resources, and economic and military strength, among others, and is often aggressive. Most effective when imposed by one political body upon another of less military and/or economic power, hard power strategies include a wide range of measures geared toward coercing or threatening other entities into compliance.
These measures might include the use of “sticks,” such as the threat of military assault or the implementation of an economic embargo; they might also include the use of “carrots,” such as promise of military protection or reduction of trade barriers.
Joseph S Nye (University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University, dean of the university’s John F Kennedy School of Government, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council and assistant secretary of defence in the Clinton government) identifies hard power as “the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will.” Ernest Wilson – author, professor, and dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication – describes it as the capacity to coerce “another to act in ways in which that entity would not have acted otherwise.”
Kurt Campbell and Michael O’Hanlon, authors of Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security, define it as “the application of military power to meet national ends – that is, the deployment of ground troops, naval assets, and precision munitions to secure a vital national objective.” A plethora of 20th century examples include the 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany, triggering the Second World War; the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union; the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by the US to destroy Al-Qaeda’s bases by eliminating the Taliban; and the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US over concerns about Iraq’s weapons capabilities. Economic pressure can also be deployed for similar ends. US trade embargos on countries such as Cuba, Iran and Iraq provide prime examples of such exercise of hard power. The threat of either military or economic force also functions as an exercise of hard power. Described by Alexander George as “coercive diplomacy,” this strategy involves backing one’s demands “with a threat of punishment for noncompliance that he will consider credible and potent enough to persuade him to comply with the demand.” Thus, the threat of military or economic force – whether explicitly stated or implicitly acknowledged – serves as a method of compelling behaviour.
Strategies that do not take into account a country’s international image with respect to legitimacy and credibility may have serious consequences. If a country’s credibility abroad deteriorates, attitudes of mistrust tend to grow while international cooperation diminishes, such that the country’s capacity to obtain its objectives is damaged. India’s hard-power policy in the subcontinent failed miserably. From 1971 to 1990-1991 India intervened in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Indian support for East Pakistani rebels underlined India’s diplomatic hard-power strategy that was followed by the military intervention in December 1971 and the defeat of the Pakistani army.
In Bangladesh, despite India’s full fledged support in 1971, it was only during the first three years that India could really be regarded as a hegemonic power in Bangladesh on the basis of its hard power. After 1975, successive regimes in Dhaka were able to retain their independence so that India was not able to settle bilateral disputes unilaterally. In Sri Lanka, after the civil war escalated into full-fledged war with the LTTE who were trained by the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, India intervened, seeing this as an opportunity to stamp its hegemonic power. Deployed in Sri Lanka against the wishes of the host country, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) finally had to withdraw in March 1990; marking another failure of India in exercising its hard power.