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Soft power

The "power" concept in politics is defined as having an influence over others and the ability to obtain what you want through co-option and attraction. A state having military and economic power is known to be influential over the attitude of another state or some other states.

Harvard University Professor Joseph Nye pointed out a new type of power in the 1990s called "soft power." Soft power doesn’t apply pressure methods of hard power. Soft power is formed by the culture of a society; the internal and external politics of a state based on moral values, human rights, democracy and state of law; and absorption of all these by a society and state. For this reason, that particular society and state may be attractive for others. And such a power of attraction allows a state to convince others and allows it to control others without applying hard power.

Soft power has gained importance through technological developments, globalization and the information age. Information and communication are transformed into a power source. So for a state it has become unavoidable to consider soft power while regulating internal and foreign policies. The system of values, human rights, democracy and state of law implementations shaping a society are the most important elements of soft power. If the culture of a society includes universal values, its having an influence over other states is more likely.

Culture and art are another source of soft power. France is one of the states that better knows this. The French culture, literature, philosophy, cuisine, wine and cheese are the key source of soft power, which is one of the most effective tools of French diplomacy.

Foreign politics is important in terms of the creation and use of soft power. Diplomacy is a soft power tool that states usually apply to influence public opinion. We saw a successful example of this during U.S. President Barack Obama’s Turkey trip. Another country successful in affecting public opinion is Norway. It is a small, remote European country with a population of 5 million and not an EU member. However, Norway successfully conveys a message to the world public opinion: "Norway is the peace force in the world." In the Middle East, in Sri Lanka and in Colombia, remarkable Norwegian efforts of mediation support this message.

Turkey tries to do the same. Plus its geopolitical situation is quite convenient for exerting similar efforts. However, Turkey, being different from Norway, makes this in a rather noisy way. Norway, on the other hand, conducts calm diplomacy and never takes the stage to say, "I am a broker." Turkey was successful in the Syrian-Israeli talks as a mediator. But the unexpected moves in Davos and the Rasmussen incident added value inside, though harmed the country’s image outside. Soft power dislikes hard moves. Turkey faces a public opinion issue in Europe even if it is willing to become an EU member. The negative image of Turkey in Europe should be changed. So it is better to think thoroughly about the methods of improving soft power. Information communication is a key source of soft power. Visual or written information about a society or a state in media affect public opinion. But even the best marketing methods cannot sell a defected product.

Marketing a country where torture somehow cannot be prevented, human rights are restricted arbitrarily, illegal eavesdropping is at issue, the accused kept in prison for years, media is pressured, children’s rights remain unprotected, and women are the victims of honor killing must have been really difficult. Turkey has authors, like Orhan Pamuk, or composers, like Fazıl Say, who add value to universal culture. These are very critical source of soft power. But unfortunately, Pamuk and Say are not enough to eliminate drawbacks of Turkey in the areas of democracy, human rights and the state of law.

Rıza Türmen is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece appeared yesterday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.