Power play

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It IS interesting that Daniel Kenealy and Seán Molloy cite Reinhold Niebuhr as president Barack Obama’s “favourite thinker”, (Perspective, 3 September). Isn’t this an academic who advocated “primacy of power” in international relations and played down “idealism”?

Notably, it seems Niebuhr’s writings on foreign relations influenced Henry Kissinger and his policy of “realpolitik”. How does this square with what could be thought of as Obama’s leaning towards “idealism”?

It may be the US president is equally familiar with a line of reasoning called “sophisticated realists”. Obviously, they embrace the importance of economic interests such as, for example, the primacy of oil supplies. Arguably, safeguarding resources needed for trade doesn’t preclude the use of techniques of “attraction and persuasion”.

To what extent is Obama now influenced by recent academic thinking, which replaces realism and idealism with “hard, soft and smart power”?

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk

Inverurie, Aberdeenshire