Use of Political Power to Exert International Moral Influence

(This is an archived extract from the book Patterns of Power: Edition 2)

Politicians want to gain the approval of the populations they represent.  They can do this by projecting their own country's moral concerns into the international arena.  The European Union (EU), for example, is putting pressure on Turkey to improve its human rights record but, although that is a moral issue, the pressure is political and economic: holding out the possibility of EU membership in exchange for reform.[1]

Politicians can also try to ensure that their country’s values are seen in a positive light by people in other countries.  Joseph Nye commented, for example, that Al Qaeda would find it harder to recruit people to fight against America if the latter's values were seen as attractive.[2]  Although Nye was proposing the use of what he called ‘soft power’ as a means of exerting political influence, as discussed later (, it can also be regarded as a way of exerting moral influence on people in other countries – to encourage them to make progress in human rights.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014

[1] An EU policy document, on how human rights in Turkey would affect its accession to the EU, was published in 2006 and was available in May 2014 at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/fd/d-tr20060425_05/d-tr20060425_05en.pdf.

[2] Joseph Nye gave a lecture on 13 April 2004 entitled Soft Power: the Means to Success in World Politics (which is the title of the book that he was launching); in it, he made the following comment:

We will not prevail in this struggle against terrorism unless the majority wins, unless the moderates win. And we will not prevail against extremists unless we are able to attract that majority, those moderates. That is the role of soft power.”

The transcript of this lecture was available in May 2014 at http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20040413/index.html#section-10815.