Date of Award

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Steve Yetiv

Committee Director

Simon Serfaty

Committee Member

Dale Miller

Committee Member

Francis Adams


Soft power, a concept developed and presented by Joseph Nye in 1990, has quickly become a critical concept in U.S. foreign policy. Scholars and practitioners discuss the utility or futility of soft power. Theorists rank countries by their use of effective soft power against one another. Critically lacking in the discussion, however, is an analysis of how one country’s use of soft power changes, or remains the same, over time.

Counterterrorism policy has been a focus of U.S. foreign policy since 9/11, and while there is a robust discussion on effectiveness of various policies and strategies, scholars have routinely failed to analyze the components of approaches over time.

This study analyzes how the U.S. used soft power and hard power to combat terrorism from 2000-2016. This research analyzes the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama in their preferences for hard and soft power approaches in their ideas, plans, and actions. Using a set of indicators against a research body of memoirs, budget levels, data on attacks, speeches, policies, and immigration data, this study concludes that ultimately counterterrorism policy in the U.S. remained relatively constant in execution despite Obama’s increase in preference for soft power approaches in ideas and plans, as compared to Bush.


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