This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Does U.S. Soft Power Translate into Foreign Countries' Support for U.S. Foreign Policies?




Lawniczak, Brent

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Political Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Power is a central concept in the study of international relations. This dissertation explores soft power as a facet of power which is seen as increasingly important. Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power has caught the attention of policymakers, scholars, and political pundits for the last thirty years. Scholarly studies of soft power most often focus on measures of public opinion toward a power-wielder and draw conclusions about a state’s level of soft power from that opinion. However, scholarship linking public opinion to target state policy decisions is mixed. This dissertation examines soft power influence by focusing on the elite discourse and the foreign policy decisions of states that are the target of soft power influence. Beginning with Nye’s conception that soft power is an attractive force that influences state policy decisions and its level of support for another state’s policies, this dissertation examines whether U.S. soft power was part of key policymakers’ decision calculus in four cases. Using within-case congruence and process-tracing methods, soft power is tested against two plausible alternate explanations – balancing and state identity. Data from the publicly available discourse of key foreign policymakers in France and Germany indicate that U.S. soft power does not account for those states’ policy decisions to support U.S.-led policy interventions in Kosovo in 1999, or against ISIS in 2014. Concerns associated with the distinctive French and German identities best explain their policymakers’ choices regarding the crisis in Kosovo. France’s decision to intervene against ISIS was driven by balancing concerns, while Germany’s decision in this case was driven by a combination of balancing and state identity. The results of this dissertation are suggestive regarding the potential of soft power influence and its implications on U.S. foreign policymaking, and further point to the difficulties in testing the underspecified concept of soft power.