Author | Editor: Stevenson, J. (NSI, Inc.)
“Influence” and “power” are foundational to how geopolitics are discussed and understood. Many American planners and policymakers are strong believers in global influence: fearing both its relative and absolute loss; seeking to “grow” and “spread” the United States’ influence; and trying to counter the influence of critical competitors such as the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Jafri & Stevenson, 2019).
Yet, there has been little consensus-making in either policy or scholarly discourse about how to consistently measure, operationalize, or conceptualize global influence. Often left undefined, global influence is a concept presumed obvious: everyone always “knows (it) when they see it (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 1964).” Therefore, global influence is an observable phenomenon which lacks clearly defined parameters. Treating global influence in this manner is not ultimately in the best interest of planners, as concepts that could mean everything often mean nothing.