I had thought that there were two views about "soft power" -- influencing foreigners (individually or collectively) with persuasion rather than force or the threat of force. First, that it was an important and useful part of our foreign policy arsenal. This view has governed US foreign policy since WW II, and is still widely held amongst the US military.
Or, alternatively, that soft power was basically useless, and so there is no reason to waste money and energy on it. This latter being, I thought, that of the current administration. As reflected in the slashing of the foreign aid budget in the current proposed budget.
But I was wrong. (Or, at least, overly simplistic.) It appears that there is a third view: that it is actually a negative. And that view is impacting people today.
Consider, an annual conference at USC on African and global economy and development normally ends up with about 40% of would-be delegates from outside the US being unable to get visas. But this year, the number of African delegates able to get visas was . . . zero. Yup, apparently nobody, even businessmen and academics who have been coming for years, was acceptable.
Then there's this: The White House as announced that foreign nationals who want to tour the White House need to see their embassy to arrange to do so. Just one thing -- the embassies have been told by the State Department that the process is on hold. Result, even Britons are discovering that they cannot get in. Tour the Capitol? No problem -- you don't even need a passport or other ID. Tour the Pentagon even? Still no problem. Just not the White House.
Well, at least the knowledge that they can visit other parts of the government may help them see that the paranoia is localized, rather than general to the entire US government.