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The Military And "soft Power"

The Center for U.S. Global Engagement has just released the results of a new poll of U.S. military officers (both active and recently retired) on current U.S. security strategy, and its findings are pretty surprising: According to a majority of those polled, the overriding foreign policy concern of the nation--after "forcefully" defending itself from serious security threats--must be to "restore respect for U.S. around [the] world." What's more, according to the armed forces' top brass, the second highest national security priority (behind improved counter-insurgency training) must be to strengthen our diplomatic standing around the globe and to improve our efforts to "cooperate" with others.This is, of course, for strategic, not sentimental, reasons: According to more than three-quarters of the officers queried, the level of respect for the U.S. abroad makes "a lot of difference" to its ability to achieve military objectives.

The reason for all of this emphasis on diplomacy and global opinion in contrast to traditional armed power? Perhaps because, as the findings of the poll show, the military officer corps still sees terrorism overwhelmingly as the greatest threat to American security, and recognizes, rightly so, the insufficiency of "hard" power alone to meeting the complexities of this challenge. Only a very small minority of the officers cited major regional powers, like China, as significant security concerns. And only seven percent of those polled saw Iran as posing the primary threat to U.S. security.

Contra his critics, Obama might cite these findings in support of his call for "a new era of international cooperation": Is global approval still "overrated" if it is so highly valued by our nation's top soldiers?

--James Martin