The most important lesson from the 5 years after 9/11 is that terrorism cannot be defeated by military might alone, and the only way to win is to combine "hard power" with "soft power," a prominent U.S. scholar told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"Winning the war on terror requires more use of the soft power of attraction rather than relying so heavily on hard military power, as the Bush administration has done," said Joseph Nye, a leading professor in international relations at Harvard University who initiated the "soft power" theory.
According to Nye, "soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion," while "hard power" is to achieve goals by force.
"The ability to combine hard and soft power is smart power, which is vital to the outcome of war on terror," he said.
In Nye's view, the United States fought terrorism in two rounds after 9/11.
The first round was Afghanistan where the United States won.
"While it was far from perfect, the United States successfully removed the Taliban government, avoided large civilian casualties, and created a political framework. Al-Qaida lost the sanctuaries from which it planned its attacks; many of leaders killed or captured; and its chain of command was severely disrupted," said Nye.
However, in the second round, the Bush administration "made the colossal mistake of invading Iraq without broad international support," and "provided the symbols, civilian casualties and recruiting ground that terrorists want most," he noted.
"Iraq was Bush's gift to Osama bin Laden and the second round went to the extremists," he added.
Nye said the Bush administration's heavy reliance on "hard power," especially in Iraq, was also hurting the country's "soft power."
Soon after 9/11, there was sympathy and understanding around the world for the war on terror but the administration squandered that good will by invading Iraq, Nye said.
For example, people who think the United States is attractive in Muslim countries like Indonesia plummeted soon after 9/11 from 75 percent to half that level today, he noted.
"Terrorism can't be defeated unless the mainstream of nonviolent believers in Muslim countries wins and 'soft power' is essential to attracting the mainstream and drying up support for extremists," Nye said.
"The war on terror is a just cause supported by the majority of the people in the world. But failure to combine hard and soft powers into a smart strategy could be fatal," he warned.