Cooper Vs. Kagan
The debate centred on definitions of hard and soft power but never really broke free of definitions and dichotomies. Hard power is military power. Soft power, such as diplomacy, economic ties and cultural links, is less clearly defined. The stereotype discussed is hard power being American foreign policy, soft power European.
Robert Cooper spoke first, setting the cliche then challenging it: the US, he argues, is parodied as a Swarzenegger figure. But the US is more Lara Croft, wielding considerable soft power. Kagan largely agreed, but looked deeper at the nature of soft power, examining its features: it is not all about popularity and diplomacy; it is not always possible to switch it on and off; and not all soft power is soft, some results from the power to defend people. Furthermore, use varies by more than continent- administrations differ. Bush is incompetent at soft power; Clinton was over-reliant.
If Cooper and Kagan perform well when discussing this strained dichotomy; the lecture had an obvious subtext ' the state of EU-US relations. The US is sick, they suggest, of taking the burden. Assuming soft needs to be backed by hard, Europe is a free-rider. So US anger at European 'obstructionism' is justified; a Europe with little hard power cannot control how it is used. Kagan went further, arguing this had come about through a European belief in a post-war world beyond geopolitics, but one of geoeconomics.
So European concerns at unilateral Americanism are right, but until Europe provides its share of the hard power burden, the US has a case for acting on its own. Europe must provide an alternative, or watch passively as the US acts. The European Kantian fantasy can only exist on the back of Hobbesian US establishment.