NATO’s drawdown in Afghanistan in 2014 will bring to a close more than a decade of interventionist wars, a decade that has also witnessed major security challenges such as Iran’s nuclear programme, the continuing rise of China, Russia’s determination to reassert itself on the global stage, and the Arab spring. It is evident that the exercise of hard military and economic power alone would be an inadequate, if not disastrous response to these challenges, including those which were, at least in their early stages conceived as military operations. Soft power alone – the ability to attract rather than coerce others – would be equally lacking. The judicious exercise of all elements of state power – smart power – has thus been emphasised by the Obama administration as a solution to complex security problems. In her 2009 nomination statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for example, Hillary Clinton spoke of the need to use, “the full range of tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural – picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.”
ABCD 2013 took stock of the transatlantic community’s willingness and ability to exercise smart power, with a particular emphasis on aspects related to defence. We first looked at the effectiveness of the soft power component, and considered the West’s record in its application. We then considered the challenge that European nations face in providing enough hard power, specifically military capability, to underpin a successful smart power strategy. Finally, looked at some case studies of smart power strategies in action.