The Cable

The origins of "Smart Power"

Granted, it's not as urgent perhaps as debates over how to engage Iran, counter rising instability in Afghanistan, or tackle other global crises. But within the ivory towers and hallways of foreign-policy land, an etymological debate as heated if not as strategically pressing hisses. At stake is nothing less than who should be credited with the origins of the concept of "smart power," which got heavy, prime-time use at Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing yesterday.

Politico says it wasn't HRC who coined "smart power," but D.C. think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies about two years ago.

Soft-power heavyweight Joe Nye, the former undersecretary of defense, national intelligence council chair, and Harvard Kennedy School dean, has also staked claim to the concept.

But as The Cable noted yesterday, the framing of "smart power" was, so far as we can determine, actually introduced into the public sphere by former deputy to the U.S. mission at the U.N. Suzanne Nossel, now COO of Human Rights Watch, in this 2004 Foreign Affairs article, aply titled "Smart Power."

Reached by e-mail, Nossel wouldn't comment on the debate. Case closed?


Load More Comments