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The Cantabridgians Come To Town

The "Ideas" section of Sunday's Boston Globe has a front-page story headlined "Cambridge on the Potomac" and sub-titled "For Harvard, 'change' means a return to power." With the continuation of the article on page 4 goes a set of 11 photographs ostensibly depicting who is moving on from Harvard to Washington in the Obama administration. Well, yes, there are Larry Summers, Cass Sunstein, Elena Kagan (all friends) and others I barely know or don't know at all. And they are all going to Washington and have probably already left Harvard Square to set themselves up in their federal offices come Tuesday. No, not Elena, she has to wait to be confirmed.

There is one photo that stands out. I may turn to be embarrassed if he gets a serious position. But I can't be believe that Joseph Nye, the Sultan of Oman professor of international relations at Harvard, will actually get a post. Too intellectually squishy. A photo, O.K. But he's not mentioned at all in the article. Wikipedia credits Nye, along with Robert Keohane (with whom I shared an office long ago while we were both teaching fellows), as the creator of the "concepts of asymmetrical and complex interdependence." An intricate concept, I'm sure. In the Carter administration he served as deputy to the assistant secretary of this and in the Clinton administration as assistant secretary of that. Unless I am very much mistaken, all the top posts in the relevant areas of the Obama administration are already taken.  Nye is also the inventor of another concept, "soft power," which he may have patented and about which he has written a book. He wrote a "Tripoli Diarist" for TNR in 2007.

What do you think are the uses of "soft power" with North Korea or the Taliban, Hugo Chavez or Hamas, Ahmadinejad's Iran or the wild regimes of
Sudan and the Congo?