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    "Smart Power" Against Latin America

    By Manuel Yepe*

    “Smart power” has been practically officialized by the Obama administration as a weapon of U.S. foreign policy, with Hillary Clinton as its main spokesperson.

    At the Senate hearing in January that confirmed her as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton proclaimed that the United States must utilize a diplomacy of Smart Power, without expanding on the essence of that policy.

    In an ironical article by the former senior writer for the Council on Foreign Relations, Lionel Beehner, published by the Huffington Post on Jan. 23, the author affirmed that Hillary Clinton “has managed to sum up the bold new direction of U.S. foreign policy into a bumper-friendly catchphrase: Smart Power. Sufficiently vague, the phrase is remarkable for its meaninglessness. Ostensibly it combines "hard" with "soft" power, a win-win policy that will wow the pants off the world's tyrants and restore American leadership in the world.”

    Beehner wondered whether Smart Power wouldn't be a sophisticated way to call for a traditional policy that might seek to restore liberal internationalism to its previous position, countering Bush doctrines that nobody supports, “outside of a few Palins and fossilized experts at the American Enterprise Institute.”

    But on April 5 the Secretary of State defined more precisely the essence of Smart Power, which she described as the Obama doctrine of foreign policy. She said it consists of “the full range of tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural -- picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.”

    “Military force may sometimes be necessary to protect our people and our interests,” Clinton said. “But diplomacy and development will be equally important in creating conditions for a peaceful, stable and prosperous world.”

    According to Clinton, Smart Power requires the ability to "reach out to old friends and adversaries, bolstering old alliances and forging new ones," with tools such as:

    • “Negotiating, persuading and exerting leverage;

    • “Cooperating with our military partners and other agencies of government;

    • “Partnering with NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], the private sector and international organizations;

    • “Using modern technologies for public outreach, and

    • “Empowering negotiators who can protect our interests while understanding those of our negotiating partners.”

    The doctrine of Smart Power has been put to the test in Latin America. It has been seen in the current counteroffensive by the U.S. in the continent, a strategy designed by the ultra-reactionary forces of neoconservatism during the Bush administration.

    The adaptation of the old imperialist practices to the sophisticated methods of Smart Power has brought to the surface numerous contradictions. Some are apparent, others are real, and some are simulated within the schemes of Smart Power.

    That has become evident on several world stages. In this continent, it has been observed in the destabilizing intrigues against the government of President Colom in Guatemala, in the divisionist tricks in Bolivia, in the maneuvers to prevent the consolidation of the platform that propitiated the election of President Funes in El Salvador, and in the aggressive deals made to secure military bases that would turn Colombia into a country militarily occupied by the United States in the bosom of Latin American.

    The coup d'état in Honduras, whose purpose was to eliminate what was supposedly the ALBA's weakest link, undoubtedly was adapted from Smart Power.

    The unfolding of events, and especially the "unexpected" attitude of the Honduran popular forces in support of President Zelaya's valiant attitude, revealed serious contradictions in the way the U.S. government expresses itself. Far from profiting from a "smart" behavior, the U.S. attitude has antagonized Hondurans, who see its linkage with the oligarchy in that Central American nation.

    As regards policy toward Cuba, high-ranking diplomatic officials close to Clinton have divulged the bases for a new tactic to not eliminate the blockade but to turn it into "an effective instrument of Smart Power to achieve the objectives of U.S. policy toward Cuba."

    For that reason, the recommendations and initiatives made do not erode the principles of the embargo but seek to liberalize it in aspects that benefit the powerful economic interests within the U.S. by means of specific licenses and concessions, without affecting their usefulness as weapons of pressure.

    The scheme of "soft" imperialism being fabricated by The Powers That Be to save the system with the charismatic figure of the black president who promises change, using the perfidious doctrine of Smart Power as a method, is being answered by the people of Latin America, who see in it more of the same.

    *Manuel E. Yepe Menéndez is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba’s ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.

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