There has never been a better time than right now to set in motion Smart Power as the new pardigm of American foreign policy than during current belt tightening by governments on both sides of the Atlantic. I have always disliked what I would call the predecessor of Smart Power: “Do more with less!” Unless we are talking about nuclear breeder reactors, there really is no “more with less.” In an organizational context that term has always suggested to me that people should work more hours, achieve all the same goals with little or no prioritization, and with fewer resources and even less compensation for their efforts. You can do this for a brief period to bridge a temporary crisis, but in the long term, any organization that demands more with less ends up only achieving less with less and demoralizing its workforce, robbing it of its creative energies.
In contrast, Smart Power proposes to to do more and to do it better by combining the energies of more contributors to a common goal, even as program and human resources of individual organizational units are being reduced. Take as an example Secretary of State Clinton’s “3 D’s ” of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, defense, and development. Through the combined efforts of the Department of State, the Pentagon and USAID, along with those of other U.S. government entities in support of the 3 D’s, U.S. foreign policy becomes smarter and more effective, even as the budget knife cuts into U.S. government outlays.
Such constructive interagency cooperation is far from routine in an environment famous for interagency disagreements and outright bureaucratic battles. And while the leadership of President Obama and his relevant cabinet officers is a decisive factor in making Smart Power work, necessity also plays a key role. The common enemy of deficits and economic downturn is no small motivating factor in turn bureaucratic warriors into Smart Power players. In Washington and around the world, we have already made a strong start down the Smart Power road and the coming years will show whether we can sustain this new foreign policy paradigm even as our fiscal situation improves.
Our friends here in Estonia are also Smart Power players. Estonia, since regaining its independence 20 years ago has been a Smart Power nation. The rewards for the country and its people have been remarkable, making Estonia today one of the most economically and politically stable and future-oriented places in the world. And here too, sustainability of Smart Power policies will be tested as things get better, as prosperity and popular demand for public services grows, and as government’s ability to do more with more becomes possible.
In the United States and in Estonia, we should look forward to that happy dilemma, but remain unalterably committed to Smart Power.