November 09, 2005

Djerejian (Pere) On Public Diplomacy

A little while back, I mentioned my father (a retired diplomat, and currently the Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University) would generously agree to post a couple items here at B.D. related to the topic of public diplomacy. It's an issue that I believe doesn't get the requisite amount of attention it merits, for a variety of reasons I'll get into another time. For now, however, please find installment one of my father's guest post!

One of the most important challenges that the United States and international community face is the struggle for ideas within the Islamic world between the forces of moderation and extremism, particularly Islamic Radical Jihadism. While our foreign policy is the major instrument to address this challenge, public diplomacy plays a very important role in this struggle for ideas.

However, the United States today lacks the capabilities in public diplomacy to meet the national security threat emanating from political instability, economic deprivation, and extremism, especially in the Arab and Muslim world. Public diplomacy is defined as the promotion of the national interest by listening, understanding, and then informing, engaging, and influencing people around the world. Public diplomacy helped win the Cold War, and it has the potential to help win the war on terror and the struggle for ideas we now face. In the National Security Strategy statement of the United States in 2003, President George W. Bush recognized the importance of adapting public diplomacy to meet the post-September 11 challenge: "Just as our diplomatic institutions must adapt so that we can reach out to others, we also need a different and more comprehensive approach to public information efforts that can help people around the world learn about and understand America. The war on terrorism is not a clash of civilizations. It does, however, reveal the clash inside a civilization, a battle for the future of the Muslim world. This is a struggle of ideas and this is an area where America must excel."

But a process of unilateral disarmament in the weapons of advocacy over the last decade has contributed to widespread negative attitudes and even hostility toward the United States and left us vulnerable to lethal threats to our interests and our safety. The bottom has indeed fallen out of support for the United States in polls taken in Arab and Muslim countries over the past several years. America's position as, by far, the world's preeminent power may well contribute to the animosity, but it is not a satisfying explanation. The United States enjoyed the same level of relative power after World War II, for example, but was widely admired throughout the world. Arab and Muslim nations are a primary source of anger toward the United States, although such negative attitudes are paralleled in Europe and elsewhere.

Since September 11, 2001, the stakes have been raised. Attitudes toward the United States were important in the past, but now they have become a central national security concern. Although the objective of foreign policy is to promote our national interests and not, specifically, to inspire affection, hostility toward the United States makes achieving our policy goals far more difficult. The Defense Science Board reported nearly three years ago that effective "information dissemination capabilities are powerful assets vital to national security. They can create diplomatic opportunities, lessen tensions that might lead to war, contain conflicts, and address nontraditional threats to America's interests." Achieving our interests is far easier if we do not have to buck a tide of anti-Americanism in addition to considered policy opposition.

Today's public diplomacy has proven inadequate to the task. The creation of the United States Information Agency (USIA) 50 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, was a recognition that traditional state-to-state diplomacy alone could not achieve U.S. interests in a world of fast communications and sophisticated propaganda. Government is only one player among many trying to influence the opinions of people in other countries, and state-to-state diplomacy alone will not improve negative attitudes of citizens. Part of this inadequacy is the result of a lack of proper resources, both human and financial, but much of it is the result of insufficient strategic coordination at the top and a management structure that lacks flexibility and limits accountability.

Overall, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, our efforts at public diplomacy, especially in the Arab and Muslim world, have proven severely wanting. But with greater focus, commitment, and changes in management structure and resources, real progress can be made. What is needed is a consistent, strategic, well-managed, and properly funded approach to public diplomacy, one that credibly reflects U.S. values, promotes the positive thrust of U.S. policies, and takes seriously the needs and aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims for peace, prosperity, and social justice.

It is important to separate questions of policy from questions of communicating that policy. Surveys show clearly that specific American policies profoundly affect attitudes toward the United States. That stands to reason. For example, large majorities in the Arab and Muslim world view U.S. policy through the prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arabs and Muslims overwhelmingly opposed the post-9/11 U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, as well as the use of force against Iraq, and question the political motivations behind the war on terrorism in general. Further and equally important, many Muslims live in countries that lack representative political participation and economic opportunity. These political and economic grievances against their own regimes are often translated into negative attitudes toward the United States because many of these "electoral autocracies" are supported by the United States. While the United States cannot and should not simply change its policies to suit public opinion abroad, we must use the tools of public diplomacy to assess the likely effectiveness of particular policies. Without such assessment, our policies could produce unintended consequences that do not serve our interests. Public diplomacy needs new and efficient feedback mechanisms that can be brought to bear when policy is made. Separating simple opposition to policies from generalized anti-American attitudes is not easy. The two kinds of animosity interact and amplify through feedback loops. For example, a single word from the President of the United States (or from a congressman or even an American entertainer) can harden into formidable antagonism the view of an Arab citizen who was wavering on a policy question.

Americans are often perplexed by such antagonism. Unlike powerful nations of the past, the United States does not seek to conquer and colonize, but to spread universal ideals: liberty, democracy, human rights, equality for women and minorities, prosperity, and the rule of law. Specifically, according to our values and principles, the American vision for the Arab and Muslim world is for it to become a peaceful, prosperous region working toward participatory government, with democracy, social justice, human dignity, and individual freedom for all; a region where extremism, in either a secular or religious cloak, is marginalized and where the zone of tolerance is expanded.

In more concrete terms, stated American policy toward the Arab and Muslim world on issues like those below, needs to be more fully communicated:

-- peaceful settlement of conflicts between the Arabs and Israelis, in Kashmir, and in Western Sahara;

-- security, political stability and political and economic
development in Afghanistan and Iraq;

-- regional security cooperation;

--global energy security;

--free, open, representative, and tolerant political systems;

--economic growth through private market economies, free trade, and
investment;

--education systems that prepare students to participate constructively in civil society and the global marketplace;

--a free press, with public and private media that educate, inform, and entertain, with careful attention to accuracy and respect for the diversity of the region;

--full participation of women and minorities in society.

Our values and our policies are not always in agreement, however. As mentioned above, the U.S. Government often supports regimes in the Arab and Muslim world that are inimical to our values but that, in the short term, may advance some of our policies. Indeed, many Arabs and Muslims believe that such support indicates that the U.S. is determined to deny them freedom and political representation. This belief often stems from our own ambivalence about the possibility that democracy's first beneficiaries in the Arab and Muslim world will be extremists. It has caught us in a deep contradiction - one from which public diplomacy, as well as official diplomacy, could extricate us. But we must take these key policy challenges in the region seriously, and we must minimize the gap between what we say (the high ideals we espouse) and what we do (the day to day measures we take). We must underscore the common ground in both our values and policies. But we have failed to listen and failed to persuade. We have not taken the time to understand our audience and its specific culture, and we have not bothered to help them understand us. We cannot afford such shortcomings. Surveys show that Arabs and Muslims admire the universal values for which the United States stands. They admire, as well, our technology, entrepreneurial zeal, and the achievements of Americans as individuals. Arabs and Muslims, it seems, support our values but believe that our policies do not live up to them. A major project for public diplomacy is to reconcile this contradiction through effective communications and intelligent listening.

In order to work toward these first and foremost public diplomacy requires a new strategic direction informed by a seriousness and commitment that matches the gravity of our approach to national defense and traditional state-to-state diplomacy. This commitment must be led by the political will of the President and Congress and fueled by adequate financial and human resources. This effort is underway and specific recommendations on how to proceed have been made to the Administration, including the report of the congressionally mandated Public Diplomacy Advisory Group "Changing Minds, Winning Peace" (ed. note: PDF, but worth the click-thru!) which I chaired in 2003 at the request of then Secretary of State Colin Powell. A positive factor is that a real effort is being made by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes to address these issues across the board.

[ed. note: Second installment to follow in coming days]

I will send my father any and all constructive, polite comments--so please feel free to share observations and/or ask him any questions and such in comments below. And thanks again, Dad, for contributing to a nice father-son moment amidst the wilds of the foreign policy 'sphere.


Posted by Gregory at November 9, 2005 11:43 PM | TrackBack (17)
Comments

You state:
But a process of unilateral disarmament in the weapons of advocacy over the last decade has contributed to widespread negative attitudes and even hostility toward the United States and left us vulnerable to lethal threats to our interests and our safety. The bottom has indeed fallen out of support for the United States in polls taken in Arab and Muslim countries over the past several years. America's position as, by far, the world's preeminent power may well contribute to the animosity, but it is not a satisfying explanation.

Pardon me, sir, with all due respect- wouldnt our actual actions contribute to this, rather than just not enough money spent on "the weapons of advocacy"?
How about the actual weapons supplied to The Iraqui Baath regime by some of the very people (Cheney & Rumsfeld come to mind) who have, after a ruinous (for the common people) embargo against Iraq then launched a full scale military assault? And then did nothing- nothing- to see to the welfare of those same people, harshly victimized.
I think that a broad swath of the world is far more interested in our actual actions than "public diplomacy" I wont do more than just mention US Government support for what became the Northern Alliance, a group so bad folks thought the Taliban was a breath of fresh air. Then there is the widescale misery & slaughter in Central America in the 70's & 80's, the widescale slaughter of our crusade in Viet Nam, the support of ghastly African satraps, the "secret" bombing of Cambodia, without which the Khmer Rouge would have remained 150 sectarians in Cambodias mountains.....no sir, this isnt a failure of diplomatic skill or spin, but a massive failure of leadership. Of simple honesty, & decency. And common sense. Just a thought.

Posted by: MUTT at November 10, 2005 02:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some provocative thoughts here, that deserve careful consideration. It would be interesting to see how they would be manifested in policy by an Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy armed with knowledge and experience. I mention this only because it is at least possible and may be likely that Karen Hughes will soon be asked to return to the White House. Say what one will about the task of tending to the President's public image, but it is one Ms. Hughes is qualified to do. Public diplomacy is not.

Posted by: JEB at November 10, 2005 03:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sir:

I regularly follow English-language versions of the Israeli media, and I have seen a steady if occasional flow of articles there, criticizing the Israeli foreign ministry for failing to effectively champion and articulate the truth of the Israeli position to the world: criticizing the ministry for failing to effectively make their case. In other words, though they were shorter and less eloquent than your article, they carried the almost exact same argument and plea.

I don't think that this is a coincidence, but as a political scientist, strongly suspect that is correlates to a Western Democracy that finds itself in frequent armed conflict, and has a superior economic and military position vis-a-vis its neighbors, and has engaged in well-publicized unethical conduct during the course of its armed conflict, thus leading to a sharp decline in its world popularity.

The U.S. State Department makes its true impact on how America is seen by guiding the president to execute wise foreign policy. In the Clinton years, it did this effectively, and America was popular. In the Bush years, it did not. In one cycle, America was popular. In the other, America was not.

As nations everywhere have found throughout history, spending on public diplomacy is a useful soft power multiplier when the fundamentals are in your favor, and of marginal use when it is not, unless it crosses the line to functional aid and/or assistance, at which point it is policy, not 'public diplomacy'.

I completely agree with you about the strategic significance of soft power, but I challenge you to find a historical parallel to the magician's trick that would be neccesary to raise our standing in the Arab world simply by communicating our values, without policy to lend us credibility.

If the State Department had wanted to communicate America's support for these values - which would be their job - their only effective method would have been to oppose their own government - which is not their job.

There is no resolving the contradiction.

Despite this, I think that you absolutely have the right goals, and I admire your commitment to a positive vision. Eventually, US policy will change, and our soft power will recover.

There won't be any recovery discontinuous with policy change. Public diplomacy is not up to the task.

Jordan Willcox

Posted by: Jordan at November 10, 2005 05:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mutt said:

"I wont do more than just mention US Government support for what became the Northern Alliance, a group so bad folks thought the Taliban was a breath of fresh air. Then there is the widescale misery & slaughter in Central America in the 70's & 80's, the widescale slaughter of our crusade in Viet Nam, the support of ghastly African satraps, the "secret" bombing of Cambodia, without which the Khmer Rouge would have remained 150 sectarians in Cambodias mountains.....no sir, this isnt a failure of diplomatic skill or spin, but a massive failure of leadership. Of simple honesty, & decency"

Mutt, how many of the 100 million that died under communist rule have you mourned? Just curious.

Yes, the administration needs to do a better job of public diplomacy but I believe the biggest need is for the president and his people to aggressively get on the airwaves and not only defend their actions but challenge the distortions that the media have created. Follow Blair and Howard's lead. Don't shrink from challenges to current policy but embrace them and use them to make your case.

And I don't mean in general, I mean call a reporter on any distortion that them throws out right there in that press conference and embarrass the hell out of them (I don't understand mr. reporter, why would you ask a question that is so obviously based on fabricated information?) so that they are sure to have their facts straight the next time.

And send out the more articulate supportive pundits to challenge the Michael Moores to debate again and again and again until the ridiculous lies that pass for opposition are finally and fully exposed for everybody to see.

And stop it with the nuttier right wing issues. You only alienate the middle.

That is my suggestion.

Posted by: bb at November 10, 2005 07:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent synopsis, I am glad I came across it. What seems difficult is to maintain good public relations with Arab states who do so many things, like oppress women, that we disagree with. How do you support the state of Israel yet maintain some level of agreement and good will with Arab states?

Personally, I can understand the criticism of Bush overplaying the tough guy routine, but I fear that once we waver back, perhaps with a Democratic President, we will get the weak kneed approach again, equally unsatisfying. It seems very difficult to strike the right balance, we go back and forth from appeasement to overkill.

I look forward to part 2.

thanks

Posted by: Michael H. at November 10, 2005 08:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Beware of the man who speaks to much. This, my friend is a religous war. No amount of diplomacy will change the outcome of confrontation. It is a matter of time, question is, when will that time come.

Posted by: Jeffersoranch at November 10, 2005 12:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Forgive my ignorance, but in this post could I not insert the name "China" everytime you mention the U.S. (except for the articulation of our values)? Yet they do not seem to suffer the same hostility - or am I just not seeing it but it's there? Would appreciate someone reconciling why it seems to be that the U.S. elicits such strong feelings, but other nations who are far less ambitious in their values do not. Thank you for your post.

Posted by: Charles at November 10, 2005 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First of all, I'd like to that Greg for getting his dad to contribute to the discussion, and his dad for contributing.

It seems to me that the failure of public diplomacy after the fall of the Berlin Wall was (nearly) inevitable, and not the result of "structural" problems. The goal of public diplomacy during the Cold War was to promote the idea that "America is better than the commies". The ability to frame public diplomacy in an "us versus them" context made the message much easier to formulate and present, and made success far more likely.

In the post-Cold War era, public diplomacy was required to operate in an environment where there was a plethora of competing interests whose differences could not be finessed with a "yeah, but the commies are worse" message. Public diplomacy had to be "watered down" to avoid offending one group while appealing to another group.

Given the geopolitical reality of the US being the "hyper-power" with the rest of the world competing for part of a small share of the "power pie", I'd have to say that the emphasis on an "international co-operation under the benign leadership of the US" message was the right one, and was communicated fairly effectively.

Could it have been more effective? Sure. But the problems with the US image abroad today cannot be attributed to the failure of public diplomacy during the Clinton administration. The international image of the US was pretty good by the time Clinton left office, all things considered.

One need only contrast the international reaction to 9-11 to what the international reaction would be to an attack of similar severity today to understand where the problem lies. And although public diplomacy efforts could doubtless have been better over the last five years, the potential effectiveness of those efforts are severely limited when the policies of the USA, and the actions and pronouncements of its leaders, raise serious questions about the intentions of the United States.

You can't expect those involved in public diplomacy to convince the rest of the world that the cow's ear they are looking at is actually a silk purse--- it doesn't matter how well structured or funded the effort is, the cows ear will remain a cows ear.

Posted by: lukasiak at November 10, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you for taking the time to post here, Gregs dad.

I must take issue with this (pardon if it seems like a nitpick, but i think its importan)

The United States enjoyed the same level of relative power after World War II, for example, but was widely admired throughout the world


In 1945, the US had exerted dominant power for a very short period of time. Upto 1941 we had effectively been isolationist, and our global power was limited, whatever the GDP figures indicate. From 1942 to 1945 we were at war with a group of powers that few of the surviving powers had any sympathy for. And, yes, there was an alterntative superpower, the USSR, with a massive army in europe, balanced only by our air power and nuclear advantage.

And yet even then I suspect our popularity in, say, Latin America was limited. In most of the colonial world we were popular based on the assumption that we would turn on our european allies and enforce immediate decolonization - which would have alienated our european allies (And did, to the limited exten we followed through)

By the 1950s we had a non aligned movement hostile to the US, discontent on the european left, etc.


as far as i can tell, a very big part of the problem IS US dominance, and not the actions of either the Clinton or Bush admins.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 10, 2005 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent post. The short version, and the main thrust of what must be done can probably be boiled down to this quote:

"we must minimize the gap between what we say (the high ideals we espouse) and what we do (the day to day measures we take)"

Pretty much every criticism I've heard regarding US foreign policy these days can be traced back to that point. (Perhaps I should say decent criticism.) When you say one thing and do another, you look like a hypocrite, which erodes your credibility, which makes it harder for diplomatic efforts to succeed.

While you say the stated policy of the US in the Middle East needs to be better communicated, what you should be advising is that the stated policy be better acted upon. Otherwise when you say things like, “Unlike powerful nations of the past, the United States does not seek to conquer and colonize, but to spread universal ideals”, when the US has just conquered two Muslim nations and seems determined to keep its soldiers in both of them, you probably shouldn’t expect too many people to believe you.

Posted by: Northman at November 10, 2005 07:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think some of you guys are missing the Ambassador's point. From "Changing Minds Winning Peace, Report of the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World" chaired by Edward Djerejian comes the quote:

"Intercultural dialogue has always been an important part of public diplomacy. In this era of concern about conflict between the U.S. and Muslim culture, intercultural and interfaith dialogues are even more vital."

Dialog is not propaganda, dialog is a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution. Understanding your enemy is an advantage. Who knows? It might even lead to peace - God (Allah) forbid peace should break out in this most unholy of conflicts.

Riceman


mbassador Djerejian

Posted by: Riceman at November 10, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A very interesting post, thank you.
I found most of the follow up post however somewhat distorted and partisan in nature. Personally I viewed diplomacy as that tactic used by those who are losing a war, or used by someone who wants to “back away” from a situation they find themselves in. I do see the United States today a different nation; under Clinton we were viewed as a weak “paper tiger” having been attacked several times and did virtually nothing. So we suffered the loss of 3,000 Americans, a blow to our economy, esteem and our national pride with the 9/11 attack. For some reason I don't think any country will attack us today and think we will not hit back. But if we elect a democrat all bets are off, we will again be the big boy on the block, but without manhood, and plenty of diplomats to “spin” the reasons why we should turn the other cheek and slink away as a coward.

Posted by: SMichael at November 11, 2005 05:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wonder if the State Dept. is simply out of its depth or swamped on key PD issues. Perhaps a private non-profit with the purpose of "selling" democracy and defending the U.S. could do it better. One would have to pick the board very carefully, as well as find a suitable philanthropist. But I think that's the way to go: such an organization could risk failure in situations where State simply can't.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 11, 2005 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg:

Could you ask your father a question?

When I read his piece, my impression that he was speaking of public diplomacy's job as putting America's best foot forward in a truthful and ethical fashion. But something that Solomon2 said (and it may be something I read into his coment) reminded me that "public diplomacy" can also include disinformation and propaganda campaigns.

Does your father's view of what public diplomacy should be include disinformation and propaganda campaigns?

Posted by: lukasiak at November 11, 2005 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dialogue may be, in theory, "a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution" -- but this definition presumes that the involved parties all desire a mutually acceptable resolution. Wolf and sheep may dialogue, but there is no middle ground: either the sheep will be eaten or he will not.

Dialogue as it has been propounded by the secularist left has suffered from: willful denial of Islamists' openly stated objectives; projection of secularist materialist philosophy onto Islamists' motivations; and a naive faith that the reason for conflict is that Islamists have not yet come to understand Western culture. That the Islamists understand it all too well and reject it utterly is something that academics usually shrink from contemplating.

Aside: another reason that America was not despised in the years immediately following WWII is that American food kept the conquered lands from starving in the postwar years.

Posted by: craig at November 11, 2005 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Perhaps if public diplomacy was working, lies like Mutt's would be less frequent. Saddam's had two major sources for weapons. Russia was far and away #1, the source of its tanks and artillery, and most of its APCs, helicopters, and jets. Personal weapons were AKs and RPGs (Russian), France was #2 with some APCs, jets, and helicopters, plus a helpful nuclear reactor for weapons building - at least for a little while.

Iraq's #3 supplier was a distant third, and guess what? That wasn't America, either.

Saddam didn't have American weapons. What he did have, during the war with Iran, was radar and satellite data, food credits and shipments, and protection for shipping oil et. al. through the gulf.

With respect to changes in policy driving a more positive view in the Islamic world, the USA could simply announce a policy of setting up concentration camps, murdering its Jews, and liquidating Israel. This would skyrocket its popularity in the Muslim ummah, when Mein Kampf is a best-seller and Mahathir is considered not just moderate but liberal.

A culture weaned on carefully fostered hate and legitimized violence against unbelievers anywhere is not primarily a public diplomacy challenge. To make one's actions contingent on its approval is to implicitly adopt its world-view. As the reductio ad absurdum above clearly demonstrates.

At best, public diplomacy that offers wider and safe puclic expression (vid. blogging), attaches people to other memes or movements (Radio Sawa, gender equality, etc.), or dares to point out the lies, misdirection, injustice and hypocrisy underneath can be one useful tool in combatting the core problem and exposing inherent contradicitons. As it was against the Marxist lie, ultimately helping to free millions of its victims but still coming too late for over 100 million more.

A fight to cure that must necessarily be long and (often) unappreciated, as opposed to the short fight which would also solve the problem but not in a way many of us would prefer. Public diplomacy has a role to play, and as this essay notes, it has much more to do with promoting certain helpful messages (womens' rights, for instance, which acts to sow Islamofascism's harvesting grounds with salt) than it does with approval of any set of US policies. They can hate the USA all they want, but if they buy a certain set of memes, it's all over for Islamofascism. And in the struggle to give those ideas expression, they may discover that the USA isn't their real problem, and might even be a friend.

The way Iran is going, I'd say the short fight is just a matter of time and circumstance. But I'd rather fight the long fight, and ideas on how to do it better are always a good thing.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at November 11, 2005 09:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I studied international relations as an undergraduate and graduate student, intending to enter the foreign service. I veered off into a legal career instead. While it warms my heart to read this thoughtful analysis of public diplomacy, frankly it seems to me that US public diplomacy over the past 35 years has not been that effective.

On the whole, I believe that American diplomats are intelligent and well-intentioned, but their message and actions are - to put it kindly - inconsistent. It seems that Americans and their actions (like the US Navy personnel who provided tsunami aid) have been more effective ambassadors of our values and ideals.

Posted by: DRJ at November 11, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for taking the time to share insights you have gained over a long and distinguished career.

It cannot be disputed that America's public diplomacy has been ineffective for about a decade. However, I think a factor has been in play that isn't addressed in the post or the comments. It is the relentlessly negative attitude of the European press toward President Bush. He was mocked and ridiculed long before his election, and the ad hominem attacks only escalated after his inauguration.

There was perhaps a slight decrease in the inflamatory, unreasoning, unprincipled, and unfair rhetoric immediately after 9/11, but the anti-Bush propaganda machine quickly regained full speed in short order.

I think public diplomacy probably was doomed to failure in this scenario. In light of the relentless half-truths, outright lies, and smears from our erstwhile allies, it is no wonder that flames of hatred toward us were fanned in the hearts of those who long to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth.

It seems to me that the essence of public policy is an appeal to reason. But reason cannot successfully conduct a dialogue with those who are blinded by hatred and willing to believe anything that justifies their hatred.

Posted by: JSG at November 12, 2005 12:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The U.S. State Department makes its true impact on how America is seen by guiding the president to execute wise foreign policy. In the Clinton years, it did this effectively, and America was popular. In the Bush years, it did not. In one cycle, America was popular. In the other, America was not.

Posted by: Jordan at November 10, 2005 05:59 AM

I find it frighting that anyone could write or believe this. We have had a festering and growing Muslim/Arab problem for at least 60 years. Starting with the UN establishing the state of Isreal, the 8 murderous years in Algeria before the French were driven out in 1962 and the list just starts. The world suffered highjackings and terrorist attacks for two decades. As for the United States we had the bombings and withdrawl in Lebanon in 1983 in the middle of a 15 year civil war there between Christians and Muslins. We suffered the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2001, the failed mission in Somalia in 1993, the twin tower bombing in 1993 and then came 9/11.

Anyone who believes all was great in the Muslin/ Arab world until we went into Iraq is simply mistaken. Europe tried appeasement and we used money and protection. We were both wrong. We should have been paying more attention and done what is suggested. We talked about freedom and human rights but did nothing to help the average person secure them. Action not words was what was required and we didn't produce.

Now that we are in Iraq we must do everything we can to bring them security(their own) both physical and ecomonic. At the same time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be addressed and concluded in such a way that we not only appear but are a neutral mediator.

Posted by: tk at November 12, 2005 12:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems that many of the folks we're concerned about are rather rigid in their thought processes. Loosening up said thought processes might be a worthy goal in itself -- not changing minds directly, but opening them up to the possibility of change.

To that end, it's been suggested that it might be worthwhile to translate some of the classics of imaginative literature into Arabic. Science fiction generally appeals to the young ("the golden age of science fiction is ... twelve"), but the young will become adults before we are done worrying about this region. If by then they have goals and dreams, if their minds have been expanded by the possibilities of a wider world, they might be less susceptable to rigid ideologies.

This is not a new idea; I first read it on Jerry Pournelle's proto-blog shortly after September 11. It should be relatively inexpensive to implement.

Posted by: nixie at November 12, 2005 02:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I worked as a Public Diplomacy officer--first for USIA, then in State--for 25 years. My last assignment was a Counselor for Public Affairs in Riyadh, 2001-2003.

There is a very serious problem with America's Public Diplomacy (PD) effort. The problem has many fathers.

Amb. Djerejian is absolutely correct in his statement about the underfunding of the PD branch. When I was first in Saudi Arabia, 1981-83, the USIA operation existed in three cities, had 8 American officers, and about 40 locally hired staff, both American and Arab. When I returned in 2001, it had two cities, 4 American officers, and 24 local staff. In New Delhi, it was worse. From 16 American officers in five offices, and just over 2,000 local employees in the 80s, it was 9 Americans in four offices, and just over 200 local staff. Even the UK, home of America's greatest ally, staffing went from over 15 to 7; Edinburgh was closed; Belfast had only a local employee.

This was a direct result of a desire to somehow find a "peace dividend" at the end of the Cold War. Everyone, from the White House to the Congress, was asleep at the switch, never imagining that Public Diplomacy might be needed.

This is because most bought into the idea that USIA was a "Cold War Agency". It was and it wasn't. Much of what USIA did outside the Soviet Bloc had little to do with the clash between American and Communist values. It had lots to do with ensuring that the citizens of whatever country had accurate understanding of what the US was about--policy, but also culture and values.

The "hostile takover" (politically terms "consolidation" or "reorganization") of USIA by State in 1999 was a huge error. It was done for dumb reasons (thanks to Warren Christopher and Jesse Helms) anticipating that USIA's near $1 billion budget would magically tranfer to State's coffers.

State and Public Diplomacy are not a natural pairing. State needs to be more deliberate when it handles inter-state affairs like treaties, negotiations, dealing with International Organizations. PD needs to be quick, with minimal turnaround time. It can't be sloppy, of course, but it also needn't be the final official word.

In 1999, I happened to be running the office responsible for the distribution of policy information, the operation of Information Centers (libraries and other), and speakers programs for the Middle East and South Asia. Part of the duties of my branch was to translate, into Arabic, important speeches, announcements, briefings, etc., and to disseminate them to the region. Luckily, this was the time of Internet and e-mail, which provided much quicker response time than earlier days, when we were limited to radio teletype.

One of the first "confrontations" I had with State, post-consolidation, was in the matter of translations. State, you see, has a Bureau of Language Services. This is the office responsible for the official translators and translations of USG materials. That office was not happy that a dozen people, in a different part of Washington, were taking the Secretary of State's words, translating them, then transmitting those translations. Bureaucratically, it stepped on toes. Worse, though, it did not provide for a level of checking and editing that was the norm at State. Here I differ with Amb. Djerejian: there was entirely too much "accountability".

My office was essentially running a news bureau. It could not wait two or three days for paper to be run through the approval process. Even staler than old newspapers are old speeches. Even the quick turnaround we could manage--sometimes as quickly as an hour--was inadequate in the news business, though. We were only providing the text; commentary and, if you will, "spin", needed to get out there instantly, too.

Worse, I had to deal with far too many senior State officers or their assistants who tried to "walk back the cat." The official might have said something in a public venue that he later either regreted or thought he might have phrased better. They would try to get a story killed from our transmission even though it had been carried live on CNN. That doesn't work. Not only is it ethically dishonest, it's plain stupid in the news business.

But perhaps worst of all is a matter of time horizons. State is a far more politically-driven agency than was USIA. Its role includes making policy as well as advising the President. This means it must, necessarily, be attuned to the rhythms of the White House, including electoral cycles.

USIA's mission was less time-bound. We had programs that we knew well might take 20, 30, 40 years before they reach fruition. We didn't expect an immediate payback for the investment in a foreign undergraduate's studies (Fulbright Program). Nor did we expect a junior member of a foreign government to start making policy decisions favorable to the US as soon as he got off the plane from New York (Citizen Exchange Program). Getting people to use American textbooks, study in an American English language school, or to run an American Studies program pay off years down the road. While those programs continue, they are massively underfunded.

I believe that PD does not belong in State. Sometime, and the sooner the better, USIA needs to be re-created. It will have a different-enough name to avoid political embarrassment, but it needs to be there.

Much of what it did was contracted out--things like book publication, tech support, local distribution of materials, the International Visitors' Program. There is no reason why this should not continue. The core work, the face-to-face meetings with local audiences though, needs to be done by commissioned officers, IMO.

I left PD-in-State because I found that it was too rigid to face the challenges in information management that the US now faces. I keep my hand in through the use of my own blog, Crossroads Arabia. That is intended to do something that USIA--though mandated to do--did poorly and State does not at all. The "Second Mandate" was to inform American publics about foreign countries. Particularly when it comes to US-Saudi relations, I think the American public needs a lot more information than is readily available. And I do it without a penny of support from anyone, Saudi or American.

Posted by: John Burgess at November 12, 2005 02:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Burgess brought us his experiences and perspectives here. I think they highlight one of the problems with America's PD efforts -- the lack of co-ordination between agencies. Mr. Burgess's contribution highlights the importance of the structural reform that Ambassador Derejian emphasized.

However, I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Burgess's recommendations. To me, State is really where an agency like USIA belongs. The solution to the "translation of speeches" didn't seem, at least to me, to be to let the USIA send a different message than the official one, the solution was better co-ordination between USIA and the rest of the State Department so that translations of speeches and the determination of spin could be done in a timely fashion. The easy solution might have been two different agencies disseminating different translations, but the right decision was for our leaders to (figuratively) slap around a few State Department bureaucrats and explain to them that we were no longer living in the 19th Century.

USIA also comes off, at least to me, as something of a bureaucracy out of control. I think the Fulbright Scholarships are a great idea, but I really don't understand why they are a USIA program. The USIA obviously had lots of very bright people like Mr Burgess who had good ideas on how to improve the US image abroad, and USIA wound up implementing those ideas because of the failure of more appropriate agencies to recognize a good idea when it saw one. It was good that USIA took the balls and ran with them when nobody else did --- but it might be time to give some of those balls to others, so that USIA can concentrate on its specific mission.

Posted by: lukasiak at November 12, 2005 05:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When I started reading this very well-written article, I expected concrete ideas for the improvement of public diplomacy, but the article doesn't provide any. It states what is obvious to everyone: public diplomacy is a mess and not working! Will the second installment provide a list of different propositions for improvement?

I agree that USIA needs massive funding and separation from the State Department. Isn't State routinely described as having an Arabist pov frequently hostile to the interests of the US? Often critics insinuate that Saudi Arabia buys off bureaucrats in the State Dept, so why should they control USIA? If true and not just a figment of the imagination, then USIA must be separated from State.

The real issue is why wasn't this done three years ago? The Bush admin can piss money away on everything BUT public diplomacy. What is wrong with the administration? Where to begin....

Also, what is the role popular culture plays in this mess? Is it contributing to hostility?

Posted by: lindenen at November 12, 2005 07:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While there have been occasional problems with "blown" translations, those--in my experience--have mostly happened within VOA (which once was also part of USIA). If you ever want to see internecine combat at its bloodiest, I suggest you visit any VOA language service office. I'm unaware of any serious issues that have come from a divergence in translation, principally because State never quite got around to translating most of what USIA disseminated. USIA had a lock on translations outside of treaties and official interpreters.

If there's another agency more competent to handle the Fulbright program, I'm not personally adverse to considering it. I do not see another executive agency with the ability to do so, however.

It had been in State Dept. until the late 70s, when Pres. Carter took it (and the entire Cultural Affairs Bureau) and moved it to USIA (briefly renamed USICA). Because USIA had had a tradition of people-to-people, rather than government-to-government relations abroad, it was felt that it would have a finger closer to the pulse of a country. That's still my observation. While there is certainly some overlap between Political Offer contacts and PD contacts, they mostly do not have much overlap in a well-run embassy. POL concerns itself with the government and opposition; PD concerns itself with academics, the media, arts, culture, and humanities in general.

I'm not sure "out of control" is the right word to describe PD (USIA is defunct) now. The phrase assumes control in the first place. "Operating in a vacuum" is closer to the truth. There can be no consistent and convergent dissemination of policy when there is no clear-cut policy. That has been my experience over the past 15 years. USIA did not have an effective Director since Charles Wick. PD has not had an effective Undersecretary yet--though I withhold judgement on Hughes as she's still new in the job.

The strength of USIA was that it was not seen as simply pushing the party line of whomever was in the White House at a given moment. Working under vastly different Administrations does not lead to single-message programs. But that does not mean undercutting the current Administration either, of course. Instead, it means trying to ensure that foreign publics understand that policy formation is the result of differing and competing interests: politics, in other words. It also means explicating that the policy today is the policy of the United States.

It may not suit your preferences that policies change with Administrations, but it's a fact. USIA, to retain credibility, needed to ensure that all sides of a story were told. That is something that took a serious hit in consolidation.

I had to throw absolute fits, as Team Leader of the office responsible for information dissemination to Europe and the NIS, to have official statements of the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent out. While Jesse Helms may not be your favorite person--and he sure wasn't mine--what he said about foreign policy, as Chairman, was an important part of the picture. It doesn't matter if it's "company line", i.e., current White House policy. It is part of the dynamic of foreign policy formation. That is the "warts and all" truth of America.

Popular culture's role in PD is an interesting topic. Clearly, during the Cold War there was much benefit to be gained in having American artists and performers showing their stuff abroad. It challenged concepts of some Europeans that the US was devoid of culture; it showed Eastern Europeans that cultural diversity was alive and well. By highlighting Black performers, it showed that the US was coming to grasp with racial issues.

Today, I think, it's more complicated. American culture is broadcast over the vast, vast majority of TV stations around the world. Even in closed societies, like Saudi Arabia, over 80% of the population has access to satellite TV. This means they also have access to programs as diverse as MTV, "The Simple Life", "The Simpsons", FOX News, CNN (at least the internatonal version), and the HBO series. For better or worse, these are what inform international viewers of America, its culture and values.

These shows, shall we say, have "mixed messages". They are accurate depictions, in part. But they are also inaccurate, mostly through exaggeration. While I know people who are drug addicts or prostitutes, they do not comprise the majority of my acquaintances. "Cops" is not accurate if its perceived as being the norm. Nor is "America's Most Wanted" an accurate measure of the crime rates in the US.

These not-quite-true depictions are not a child of the modern communication era, of course. In the 60s, Frenchmen really thought that Capone-like gangs ran Chicago and that Red Indians could erupt into war on the Plains. But modern communications make these not-quite-true depictions ubiquitous. They cannot be escaped if one has a TV.

Cultural Affairs programming by USIA went into a decline post-Cold War. In large part, this was because there was no longer a will to spend money on a battle already won. But parts of it, too, was that things were adrift at the helm and budgets were being slashed.

One might do a successful program in the Arab Gulf region, bringing Native American dancers and musicians. This carried messages of the status of those peoples within the US; some were integrated into greater American society, some weren't. It brought a familiarity of lifestyles between Plains Indians and desert bedouins. It showed a different aspect of "American Values". The same could not be said about bringing a break-dancing group to the same region, however.

That particular program created hostility because it was so chaotic. Chaos, in the Middle East, is just about the worst situation imaginable. Much of contemporary American culture is chaotic, which is one of the reasons for culture "pushback" from other cultures. While Holland, Germany, Scandania might understand the values of contemporary pop culture, those values are gravely offensive to traditionalist culture. They do not help America's image in the least. But they are part of American culture and can't be hidden.

This represents a deeper problem, I think, in Cultural programming. That is that contemporary arts in America are not well-disposed toward America. The infection of academia by deconstructionism has made it very risky to send the traditional kinds of speakers out. To my mind, they are no longer "typical and average" Americans, but are spokespeople for a very particular political point of view. I've no objection to sending them out as part of a balanced program, but who provides the balance?

Posted by: John Burgess at November 13, 2005 03:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Many of the posts above illustrate why we cannot convince those in the Middle East. We cannot even convince our own people. Not because, as they universally maintain, we have spoken one way and acted another, but because of the very common psychological phenomenon of displacement, whereby those in fear lash out at a safe target, rather than the actual danger.

I cannot believe that purportedly intelligent people can examine only one side of the balance scale and make a judgement as to whether the pans balance. Even at this, I am granting only for the sake of argument that their criticisms of US behavior are accurate. Yet even if accurate, they are one side of the story, the critics know they are one side of the story, and yet somehow are unable to give a fraction of an inch, acknowledging even a mild or theoretical benefit to the policies of containment.

To take an analogy from another field. I know a small bit of the academic controversy surrounding the identification of the Indo-European homeland. Linguists and archaelogists take their separate tools and attempt to read the fragmentary evidence and ambiguous data to contruct hypotheticals of what occured 5-6 Millennia ago. They are spirited, sometimes angry, petulant, dismissive, and many other things one would rather that dispassionate academicians are not. But never -- never -- do they take a single bit of data and attempted to explain all things with it, refusing to even countenance alternative suggestions.

Yet that is what these political geniuses attempt here. I recognise the condescending tone -- it is a universal language in all fields of study -- but I find it unpersuasive in the extreme. Find another tool, gentlemen. I suggest that attempting to weigh both sides of complicated and ambiguous situations might prove a refreshing exercise. But sneering at your inferiors no longer cows us.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at November 13, 2005 04:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Many of the posts above illustrate why we cannot convince those in the Middle East. We cannot even convince our own people. Not because, as they universally maintain, we have spoken one way and acted another, but because of the very common psychological phenomenon of displacement, whereby those in fear lash out at a safe target, rather than the actual danger.

I cannot believe that purportedly intelligent people can examine only one side of the balance scale and make a judgement as to whether the pans balance. Even at this, I am granting only for the sake of argument that their criticisms of US behavior are accurate. Yet even if accurate, they are one side of the story, the critics know they are one side of the story, and yet somehow are unable to give a fraction of an inch, acknowledging even a mild or theoretical benefit to the policies of containment.

To take an analogy from another field. I know a small bit of the academic controversy surrounding the identification of the Indo-European homeland. Linguists and archaelogists take their separate tools and attempt to read the fragmentary evidence and ambiguous data to contruct hypotheticals of what occured 5-6 Millennia ago. They are spirited, sometimes angry, petulant, dismissive, and many other things one would rather that dispassionate academicians are not. But never -- never -- do they take a single bit of data and attempted to explain all things with it, refusing to even countenance alternative suggestions.

Yet that is what these political geniuses attempt here. I recognise the condescending tone -- it is a universal language in all fields of study -- but I find it unpersuasive in the extreme. Find another tool, gentlemen. I suggest that attempting to weigh both sides of complicated and ambiguous situations might prove a refreshing exercise. But sneering at your inferiors no longer cows us.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at November 13, 2005 04:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tell them we only wanted freedom and liberty for all!

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

From
Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement


Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

From:
The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

Posted by: NeoDude at November 13, 2005 04:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I neglected to thank Mr. Burgess for his posts, which though long, were worth it to try and understand the complex and often contradictory aims of public diplomacy.

@neo-dude I see the actions of US foreign policy 20-25 years ago as a necessary background to our current diplomacy, but ultimately only a mild irony that we were arming those we later wished to disarm. Such ironies are common in international relations, and should not be determinative. In general, I note that situations change, people change, parties change, objectives change. Today's dearest enemy is tomorrow's bitterest friend. In specific, I will note that many crazed dictators looked like promising individuals at first. Ceausescu in Romania looked to be a real reformer at first. Thus also Saddam Hussein, who did seem promising at first, and for good reasons. It is difficult to discern early in a "strongman's" career whether he will become an Ataturk or a Ho Chi Minh.

In my regrettable double-post above, I neglected to mention why I identified some of the Bush critics as focussing on one issue. It was certainly not apparent from their comments. The psychology of what people really mean, and how one can tell, is part of my 9-5 job. When people make categorical statements (like this one, perhaps), acknowledging no balancing factors, they have a single driving idea they are responding to. They may have a deserved reputation for subtle thought in other areas, but this sort of unmitigated declaration always conceals a monomania.

I cannot from this limited data tell what the individual sticking points are. Current nominations would include a belief that support of Israel is our central problem, a belief that conservatives are culturally retrograde and don't listen to intellectuals, or that capitalist exploitation of the world is our problem. As I said, I don't know which of these immovable thoughts animates each of the critics above. But I assure you the people around them know.

Another analogy from afield, hoping to make the point clear: if a group of Christians are discussing what worship they will have for an event, there will be a variety of opinions about music, history, structure, etc. Still discussion is possible -- plusses and minuses can be evaluated. The participant who is categorical on any side, "You can't have the Holy Spirit working if you're following a structure," or "the Mass was designed by Jesus himself," must be excluded from the conversation. Each might have interesting things to say, and real insight. But discussion is beyond them.

So too with several of the early critics above. They may be worth listening to. But discussion with them is not possible.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at November 13, 2005 06:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My point is this:

So is it liberty and freedom or geo-political expediency?

If we can't keep it straight the world will believe we use freedom and liberty as an excuse to kill and maim and make a few bucks for our richest citizens.

Crushing people under the jackboot of freedom and liberty is a tough one to swallow.

Posted by: NeoDude at November 14, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fine post. I look forward to the follow up.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 14, 2005 06:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ah, sorry, neo-dude. I had originally written to you as if you were a reasonable person.

Please attempt an argument. Your oversimplification is both inaccurate and unsubtle.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at November 15, 2005 01:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Assistant Village Idiot,

Truth hurts, princess?

Posted by: NeoDude at November 16, 2005 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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