In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

225 7 Instruments of Power The notion of instruments of national power is an abstraction. Terminology in this domain is not widely agreed upon, but neither is it the subject of contentious debate. In many contexts the named instruments are merely quick jumping-off points on the way to discussing the concrete capabilities of the departments and agencies that house the instruments. In this book, I attempt to develop the idea of instruments a bit more fully before the necessary and inevitable shift to orchestrating the instrumental capacities housed in the departments and agencies—the mechanisms of national power. The perspective developed is not widely held, but it should not be controversial. Power, in the context of foreign affairs, can be defined as the ability to influence the behavior of others to achieve a desired outcome. And diplomacy projects power, including the potential for war. The seminal work of Edward Carr in 1939 provides a good starting point in discussing the instruments of power.1 Political power in the international sphere may be divided, for purpose of discussion, into three categories: (a) military power, (b) economic power, (c) power over opinion. . . . But power is an indivisible whole; one instrument cannot exist for long in the absence of the others.2 Carr’s formulation was later supplanted. During the Cold War, the acronym dime was used as a common shorthand for the diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments of national power. By the 1960s the instruments were housed in the State Department, the U.S. Information Agency, the Defense Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, respectively. There is no such simple 226 National Security Apparatus correlation of instrument to agency in the twenty-first century, but the dime acronym remains in use.3 More recently, midlife—military, informational, diplomatic, law enforcement, intelligence, financial, and economic—has gained some currency , reflecting the greater complexity in the ways and means of pursuing national security in the twenty-first century.4 Other meaningful lists are too long to be presented here.5 Why is it that Carr did not include diplomacy as an instrument of power? One possible extrapolation of Carr’s definition of power is that diplomacy is the art of applying the instruments of power rather than a separate instrument itself. The diplomatic instrument is often called the political instrument, and Carr’s definition actually defines political power as being subdivided into the three instruments. This formulation leaves the image of the diplomat negotiating with friends, enemies, and neutrals backed always by the potential application of American military power, economic power, and power over opinion. And the diplomat may be the traditional Foreign Service Officer from State negotiating with peers representing other states, or it may be a young Marine Corps captain negotiating with a village chief. Negotiation is the central task of diplomacy. Negotiation is a search for common ground between parties with disparate interests, objectives , and perspectives.6 It is also worth noting that Carr identified power over opinion rather than the power of information. As Carr emphasizes, the three elements of power are indivisible, and none can exist long in the absence of another. The substitution of informational power for the power over opinion was a significant innovation, but it is not at all clear that it was an improvement . How the United States uses its military and economic power communicates volumes and affects domestic and foreign opinion. Positive domestic opinion represents strategic staying power, and negative opinion can bring down a president’s policies. Foreign opinion can create either opposition or support for U.S. policies. There is but one message. It is the sum of action and word. Considering the information instrument as a message separate from action creates contradiction, dysfunction, and Instruments of Power 227 distrust. Moreover, governments’ ability to control information has been in rapid decline. Some also distinguish between hard power and soft power.7 Hard power is the power to coerce. That is, what can be compelled by military force or economic sanction or what can be purchased with economic incentives . Soft power is a shorthand for the power to attract. Soft power is far closer to Carr’s power over opinion than is the information instrument of dime. Soft power also includes U.S. influence abroad exerted through private commerce and society rather than through direct government effort. Some inaccurately equate hard power to that provided by the military and soft power to that provided by civilian departments and...


Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.