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biscott@diploma... February 17, 2013

You are hard on the notion of kairos, Aldo! Just because the term is open to abuse, and may be used by those who want to ‘give the go’, this does not mean that it is only ever a code for NOW, or that it always gags other concerns, such as the means and methods of a recommended course of actions (as your image so aptly evokes). However, your posting does touch upon an issue in diplomacy that troubles me deeply: smart power. We are all familiar with Nye’s definition of it as “the ability to combine hard and soft power into a winning strategy.” Appeals to the ‘best of both worlds’ always sound like an optimal solution, and ‘smart’ is definitely what we all aspire to (if the alternative is its antonym). But unlike hard, soft or sticky power, each of which deals with a particular currency (coercion, attraction and finances), smart power is a superordinate category which mixes and matches coinage. Its success, or ‘smartness’, can only be judged by outcomes, not in principle. And if a course of action proves not to have been so smart after all, then there is little redress, since the parties can always claim to have acted in good faith (as Blair did about the invasion of Iraq). Smart power is, or may very well come to be, a promotion of ‘the ends justify the means.’ Combine the questionable principles of smart power with your analysis of kairos as a carte-blanche for the hot-headed and trigger-happy, and you have a potentially unbridled foreign policy. Quo Vadimus!

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