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Warren Bennis
Scholar

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

Neither Hard Nor Soft, Just Plain Smart

Isn't eight years of sabre-rattling enough! It has only worsened the parlous state of our overseas relations with allies and antagonists. The sole purpose of this trip was to convince the world that this is a different, more conciliatory and secure America.

This is a new America attempting to use "smart power;" that is, the power to be confident enough to create a holding space of safety and trust where nations with different interests than ours can try to resolve conflicts before we blow each other up. Obama's Prague speech, after the aborted missile launch of North Korea, was neither hard nor soft. It was just plain smart.

What a relief to hear a reasonable president discuss unreasonable problems with composure, tact, and strength. Think back -- it wasn't too long ago -- when Bush's out-of-control ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, kept hard-lining the North Koreans, to the embarrassment of most UN nations, and only worsened our relations with North Korea. The proof of the pudding in Obama's approach has led China, for one, to take a more active role, which will most certainly have more influence on North Korea's threats and taunts than anything we could do. That's progress.

By Warren Bennis

 |  April 7, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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