Public Affairs: Soap Box - Andrew Hammond, associate partner, ReputationInc

The US and wider Western response to the attacks of 11 September 2001 has been dominated by counter-terrorism and military might. While major successes have been achieved, an overwhelming emphasis on 'hard power' has fuelled controversy.

The overall fall-off in popularity of the US in the past decade is so serious because of the erosion of US soft power - the ability to influence the preferences of others derived from the attractiveness of a state's values, ideals and policies. History underlines the key role that soft-power instruments, including diplomacy, economic assistance and comms, have played in obtaining desirable outcomes.

For example, the US used soft resources skilfully after the Second World War to encourage other countries into a system of alliances and institutions, such as NATO, the IMF, the World Bank and the UN. The Cold War was subsequently won by a strategy of containment and cultural vigour.

President Obama now has such a precious political window of opportunity to relaunch the campaign against terrorism. Seizing the moment would require the US giving higher priority to activities such as public diplomacy, broadcasting and development assistance.

Obama should fully implement the 'strengthening US engagement with the world' strategic initiative launched last year. This identifies many priorities, including better combating the messages of violent extremists, and ensuring US policy is informed by an understanding of attitudes of foreign publics.

Such a relaunched campaign would continue to include a significant military and counter-terrorism component. However, barring a major new attack, hard power could be de-emphasised.

This is an edited version of a feature on prweek.com/uk

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