Throughout the 21st century, the United States has acted as the preeminent power broker in the Middle East. While the United States’ ability to influence the region is well-studied, it is less understood how Middle Eastern nations are able to influence the actions of the United States in reverse given their substantially smaller populations, militaries, and economies. Traditionally, international influence is measured by a country’s ability to coerce or induce other nations to act according to its preferred set of actions. Sources attributed to this influence, referred to as “hard power,” include military strength and economic prowess. However, these sources fail to account for the full array of assets possessed by nations seeking to exert outward influence. During the twilight of the Cold War, esteemed political scientist Joseph Nye proposed a new framework for understanding international relations that accounted for other sources of influence, including culture, values, and policy, which he referred to as “soft power.” This essay examines the modern relevance of Nye’s theory of soft power to achieving foreign policy goals and serves as a test case for its applicability throughout the Middle East and beyond. It accomplishes this by performing a comparative analysis between the sources of soft power possessed by Israel and Saudi Arabia and their attractiveness to the United States. Specifically, this paper examines fluctuations in their respective soft power over time between the Trump and Biden administrations and measures them against the levels of influence successfully exerted by Israel and Saudi Arabia on the United States to achieve foreign policy goals.
Grasz, Jackson T.
"The Shifting Sands of Soft Power: Comparing Soft Power Influences on U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East.,"
Pepperdine Policy Review: Vol. 14, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/ppr/vol14/iss1/5