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by Lieutenant General Norman R. Seip, Small Wars Journal Op-Ed
Leading up to the Presidential Inauguration, the use of military "Soft Power" has been roundly debated as military policy evolves under the new administration. The conventional thought process on how and why militaries conduct soft power operations, non-traditional missions involving humanitarian assistance, disaster response and infrastructure development in foreign nations, has been to view these missions as a means to increase the 'attractiveness' of American culture. In fact, the Los Angeles Times even likened these missions to getting "what you want through attraction rather than coercion..." (Joseph Nye, Los Angeles Times, Jan 21, 2009).
But to cast Soft Power as simply a ploy to win hearts and minds is to miss the larger goal. When U.S. forces open a clinic to treat patients in remote regions, our nation's image is not the doctor's motivation. When Air Forces exchange ideas on how to work together during natural disasters, influencing trade policy isn't part of the flight plan. And when a soldier sits down with a village elder to discuss assistance in erecting a bridge, whether or not the population finds American culture appealing is not in the blueprints.