01/24/2007 06:18 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Day One at Davos and the Low Ebb of American Soft Power

Day 1 at Davos. A maddening process. Too many people and too many topics
crowded into too little space and time. But worth it for the insights that
can be gleaned from people drawn from all over. One nice feature this year
is that the Young Global Leaders selected by the World Economic Forum (which include business, academics, and non-profits) were given a prominent
role in the opening plenary. The theme this year is "power shifts," and
Angela Merkel referred to the importance of soft power in her keynote. But
my strongest take-away of the day was a seasoned Asian diplomat telling me
that in all his travels, he has never seen American soft power at such a
low ebb. In his words, only the Israelis, Indians, and Vietnamese have a
positive view of the U.S. Then he added, "and Iran, if you look only at
the people, not the government." But there is much speculation that the
Administration will change that for the worse.