Obama’s tightrope

Smart power – The US balancing act between defense and diplomacy – has many historic roots in international relations.

According to a US State Department official, the concept of “smart power” – the intelligent integration and networking of diplomacy, defence, development, and other tools of so-called “hard” and “soft” power – is at the heart of the Obama administration’s foreign policy vision. Currently, however, Obama’s smart-power strategy is facing a stiff challenge from events in the Middle East.

If Obama fails to support the governments in Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen, he may jeopardize important foreign policy goals such as Middle East peace, a naval base in the Persian gulf, stability in oil markets, and cooperation against al Qaeda terrorists. On the other hand, if he does support such governments, he will antagonize those countries’ information-empowered civil society, thus jeopardizing longer-term stability.

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