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Discourse of Indonesia Smart Power

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Discourse of Indonesia smart power, possibility or mission impossible?

Analyzing the effectiveness of Smart Power use in Indonesia to Achieve Global Maritime Axis

In International Relation studies, nobody can deny the crucial role of power. It has been the most discussed and most important concept in this study. There are a lot of definitions about power according to many experts but I would like to approach the definition of Pallaver who asserts that “power is a process of interaction whereby a state is able to exercise influence over the actions of another state.”(Pallaver, 2011)

Currently there are 2 exist forms of power in international relation. According to Joseph Nye (Cited in Pallaver, 2011) soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others, with the ability to Co-opt people and attraction. There is also hard power, which define as the capacity to influence through the use of economic power or military force, by threatening others that you will use against them of your economic superiority or your coercive capabilities. Both of this power has implemented by countries throughout the history and are exercised based on their interests and desires.

However, both of these existing powers seems weak and ineffective if it only exercised separately. The characteristics of the contemporary world order weaken the effectiveness of hard power strategies (ibid). The example of the ineffectiveness on hard power strategy is the U.S. invasion into Iraq in 2003. Steinberg argues that “the strategy [of the invasion of Iraq] failed to understand what elements of power were needed most to defeat the emerging threat” as the hard power strategy ignored the two elements of hard power which are USA’s dependence on their allies’ intelligence and policy forces and on global public support; and secondly, the question of the legitimacy of the invasion was not attributed any importance (ibid). This is why Professor Joseph Nye believes that “militaries are well suited to defeating states but they are often poor instruments to fight ideas.” (ibid)

On the other hand, since the ability of soft power is to attract people to our side without coercion, therefore, legitimacy is central to soft power (ibid). Pallever argues that soft power cannot be successful without it. He continues that soft power works as long as the command issued and the objective desired are perceived as legitimate. Unfortunately the legitimacy of state is not universal and hence does not effective to the country who is not admitted other country’s legitimate.  For example, American films that make the United States attractive in China or Latin America may have the opposite effect and actually reduce American soft power in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan (Jan Phillip, 2014). Moreover, Pallever states that soft power resources are separate from the direct control of the government and are only partly responsive to its purposes (ibid).

The weaknesses of these powers then eventually overcome by the emergence of Smart Power. It is, according to Professor Joseph Nye, that “neither hard nor soft”, rather “the skilful combination of both. Smart power goes well beyond soft and hard as an approach to the use of power which gives to decision-makers the chance to choose the best way to address a specific issue (ibid). Moreover, Nye specifies the smart power as “an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships and institutions at all levels to expand American influence and establish the legitimacy of American action.” (ibid). Smart power narrowly discuss on the path towards decisions depending on context, political agenda, institutions, alliances and partnership, and desired outcome as Hillary Clinton once said in her speech “We must use what has been called ‘smart power’ 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.”

The emergence of Asian Economic Growth and Geo Politic shift in this world mark the importance of Indonesia to use Smart Power as its method to overcome challenges that Indonesia face. In my point of view, the most effective way to achieve the power in economy as well as politic from this situation is with Indonesia’s goal toward World Axis Maritime in which can only be achieved by the use of smart power.  This is in accordant to the strategic aims of Ministry of Foreign Affairs that focuses on two things: First, Strong Maritime Diplomacy and Strong Defense in Borders. Second, Increasing Indonesia’s leadership in ASEAN countries and Strengthen Economic Diplomacy (ibid). However we need to analyze the preparation of Indonesia on how far it can employ the smart power use to achieve the goal of World Axis Maritime. How well prepared are Indonesia’s soft power and hard power to create the combination into Smart Power.

In terms of Hard Power Resources, Indonesia is the 10th largest economic power in the world (ibid) and 4th largest population in the world. Moreover, The Indonesian Army military is ranked 14th in the world and the best in Southeast Asian based on the survey from Global Firepower. Moreover, the rich natural resources that Indonesia have especially in maritime should become the advantages to increase the hard power resources. This is making more prominent regarding the commitment of Indonesia Government to strengthen Military Navy Equipments and the vision to increase the economy in Maritime Sector. “We already have the Center of National Naval Design, and Ministry of Defense upgrade the status into Center of Design and engineering Naval Warship.” States Prof Eko Budi Djatmiko Head of Dean ITS in the meeting to cooperate with Ministry of Defense. (Kemenlu, 2015)

Let’s move on to the soft power resources. According to Nye, soft power of a country rests primarily on three resources: its culture, its political values and its foreign policies. He continues that when a country’s culture includes universal values and its policies promote values and interests that others share, it increases the probability of obtaining its desired outcome because of the relationship of attraction and duty that it creates. Indeed, the increasing multilateralism and accepting the diversity values (ibid) are in accordant to the values of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. This is the central part of Indonesia’s soft power in which develop many values that rest of the world accepted. Moreover, Hillary Clinton states during her time to visit Indonesia in 2009 “If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” (New York Times, 2009). Moreover, with the soft approach in economic diplomacy by creating the corporation between countries and promote the local product are great to increase the soft power resources. A strong economy not only provides resources for sanctions and payments, but can also be a source of attractiveness (ibid). Not only that, the principle of Foreign Policy in Indonesia as Independent and Active also should be the most prominent way to seek the legitimacy as well as understanding to overcome the world problem as well as achieve national interest.



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