America’s Subversive Soft Power

One other area where the draft GT 2030 could go into greater depth is in analyzing the effect of ideas — the isms that can be motivators of collective action and accelerants to global change.  America’s global role is inextricably linked to the influence of ideas.  America’s global influence turns on its soft power as well as its hard power.

The United States does not confront an ideological enemy with the resources and global appeal that Communism enjoyed at the height of the Cold War, but there are contending isms ranging from militant islamism to authoritarian crony-capitalism (or whatever label one would assign to the middle way approach China and Russia appear to be trying to forge).

The past decade of kinetic war has been directed at the threat from militant islamism, and it is striking how optimistic GT 2030 is about how that contest will unfold in the coming decades.  I think GT 2030 may be too optimistic, perhaps reflecting the difficulty the Intelligence Community has grappling with religious-based movements.

But I agree that the U.S. has the ideological advantage in the long run. Many aspects of American/Western ideology seem destined to subvert the appeal of militant islamism, such as feminism or respect for individual liberty.  

Yet I would single out for special consideration religious toleration.  It took the West a long time, too long, to figure this out but after centuries of bloody warfare the West (and especially the United States) has done it.  We have figured out how to be both religiously fervent AND tolerant of other religiously fervent people (provided they are not using coercive means against others). Tolerance does not require abandoning religious, even exclusive religious convictions.  Religious toleration implies believing your religious position to be superior to others — you are right, they are wrong — but it does so in a way that lets them be “wrong.”  It preserves space for proselytizing — there cannot be true toleration if you deny faiths the opportunity to “compete” by trying to persuade/convert others.  But it is proselytizing through the marketplace of ideas, not through the barrel of a gun.

This form of religious toleration is anathema to militant islamists and yet should have a wide appeal for most everyone else.  It is thus quite subversive to others and props up U.S. power.

Perhaps that topic is too delicate for the IC to touch, but with religious revivals spreading across much of sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, and East Asia, it seems too important to ignore.

By pfeaver Posted in GT2030

4 comments on “America’s Subversive Soft Power

  1. Thank you for this post. I think that kindness is sadly oevrseen when people talk about their personal goals and development.Kindness is my own personal goal. I have a great role model and that is my husband. He is the kindest person I have ever met. When in doubt I always think: -” What would M do?” :)He extend this kindness to everyone around him, and he is not (like some ignorant people think), a coward or unmanly because of it. It is quite the opposite. It takes a lot a strength, courage and responsibility to be kind.Examples of small things he do without even consider it before:He always brings an extra water bottle for my mother because he knows that she rather go thirsty than carry extra weight.Offering hugs, 100 dollars and his warm jacket to a passed out homeless man on Christmas morning (we were poor students at the time).Always offering help to anyone that looks lost, sad, in pain or carrying heavy things.Refusing to curse or verbally abuse someone during fights (not even something like Shut up)Never point out others weaknesses or faultsI had a boyfriend a long time ago that had really high ambitions for his soul. He was never kind though. It was like his religious ambitions never truly permeated his soul, it only created vanity. I see this in a lot of people that are religiously involved. They have some kind of soul aspirations but their acts of kindness are mainly goal driven actions.I believe in the small kind acts. The big ones usually feels like that are meant to be seen by others.//livia

  2. Pingback: “Global Trends”-Prognose der US-Geheimdienste: Asien überflügelt USA und Europa. Zum ersten Mal überhaupt wird eine Mehrheit der Erdenbewohner 2030 nicht mehr in Armut leben, “erstmals wird die Mittelschicht in den meisten Ländern da

  3. Actually I think Peter may underplay the usefulness of tolerance. I think there may be a lot for appeal to a broader notion – cosmopolitanism, as discussed by Anthony Appiah — at least to the emerging class of netwise younger global citizens. (Appiah himself – an African immigrant to the U.S. who is a gay Princeton professor — is perhaps the incarnation of this trend.)

  4. Hello pfeaver. I think you are underestimating the escalation of expansion we see in Islam. They are beaming into all the accountant, human resources and management positions where they are empowering other Islam insurgents. You and the US are blind to their sly intrusion and will see your christian people sit without work when the day comes.

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