Soft Power Matters, but Hard Power Matters More

In the past few decades, Israel has undergone a diplomatic revolution, in part by using its newfound status as an engine of technological innovation, reversing many years of isolation and hostility. These achievements can in many ways be chalked up to what political scientists call “soft power.” But Israel has always known that soft power can supplement, but not replace, the state’s capacity to defend itself from terrorism and military aggression, and to project its own deterrent force. The rest of the world is again learning to appreciate the irreplaceable necessities of “hard power.” Rich Lowry writes:

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky had bucketfuls of soft power. He was the most admired man in the world. He spoke at the United Nations, to Congress and other national legislative bodies, and even at the Grammys. What did that get him? It helped solidify the good will of Western countries, which was essential. He constantly tried to leverage that sentiment, though, for the hardheaded priority of more weapons.

Zelensky could still be admired in death, or in a Russian prison, or as an exile. Yet, if he wanted to continue to be admired as the leader of an independent country, he needed sheer firepower. Ukraine’s cause hasn’t gotten any more just or inspiring over the last couple of months; it’s gotten better armed.

The United States is a marvel of soft power, binding allies to us, attracting people all over the world who want to come here, and reaching the most far-flung places in the world. What we’ve been able to provide Ukraine that has been most telling, though, hasn’t been diplomatic or moral support, rather a system that can put a rocket directly on a target up to 50 miles away.

That’s been the game changer, as better military technology has always been, from long bows to arquebuses, from muskets to fighter jets. There is simply no substitute for hard power.

Read more at National Review

More about: Israeli Security, Volodymyr Zelensky, War in Ukraine


How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy