Friday, January 30, 2009

Why Al Arabiya? Not just publics, but experts and diplomats too

There's no question that President Obama's decision to hold his first big interview with Al Arabiya is of huge symbolic value. Jim Lobe emphasized in Hong Kong's Asia Times that Middle East specialists in Washington have taken to the message especially strongly, after years of feeling ignored about major foreign policy issues, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The extreme sensitivity in the Arab world over this issue in the wake of the Gaza conflict adds another layer to the question of why Obama chose Al Arabiya.

On this digest of blog posts from the Arab World, there is a lot of debate and mixed reaction to the interview. Everyone certainly agrees that the interview represents a step forward, but some are asking why, if the President was looking to make a real impression, he didn't go on al-Jazeera. Professor Hayden discusses al-Hurra's major credibility problems below, but according to the blog excerpts at the link above,

"Al-Arabiya is viewed by alot of people in the Middle East as a propaganda outlet for the conservative pro-American regimes."

"this is the channel dubbed Hibriya (The Hebrew One) because of its coverage of the Gaza crisis and that generally defends the views of Riyadh, Cairo and other problematic US allies."

Now obviously Obama can't make everyone happy, and Al Arabiya seems to me to be a great balanced choice to show he's serious about dialogue and righting wrongs, but he's not going to get into a shouting match with one of the notoriously independent (and correspondingly more credible) Al Jazeera anchors.

However, Obama's message decision to go on Al Arabiya may have been targeted more specifically than just being on Arab TV. Al Arabiya is a Saudi station (why the bloggers were skeptical), and the Saudi's have been especially incensed about the Gaza situation. Riyadh has been conducting a peace process with the rest of the Arab world for quite some time, and has been remarkably successful in pulling together the support of the rarely united Arab governments about the circumstances under which they will recognize and support Israel. The only problem is that they received no support from the Bush administration, to the extant that former Ambassador to the U.S. Turki al-Faisal wrote an angry article in the Financial Times blaming Bush's complacency for the Gaza attack and warning Obama that he has to move quickly and decisively if he wants to salvage any kind of progress.

Col. Pat Lang, former Pentagon advisor quoted in that Asia Times article up there, suggests that the Al Arabiya decision may have been as much about building bridges with Saudi Arabia specifically, public as well as government, as about general Muslim outreach. The strategy would be two fold: not only does Obama get a great piece of exposure in the Muslim world, showing he's sincere and wants to fix things (except maybe to the people that call the channel al-Hibriya), he also shows the Saudis, by picking their station, that he's serious about working with them on Israel-Palestine, and that he won't torpedo their efforts to contribute to a real peace process, which, unlike Annapolis, actually showed some support in the Arab world. That part is regular state-to-state diplomacy I guess, but its done in through public means, kind of sideways diplomacy I guess.

Also, to remind us what's at stake and how important PD really is, as Obama gives his first Presidential interview, Bush's first (though unofficial) presidential monument is being dismantled already . . .

Innovation and Shortcomings in US Public Diplomacy

Then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Colleen P. Graffy, contributed an article to the Washington Post entitled, "A Tweet in Foggy Bottom." In this article, Graffy speaks to several of the themes touched upon during the first meeting of this course. Namely, the world of public diplomacy is shifting to meet the demands of the 21st Century because government-to-government, diplomat-to-diplomat exchanges are no longer sufficient. Among the innovations, Graffy lists:
  • Green Diplomacy;
  • A Brussels "media hub";
  • Enhanced embassy websites; and
  • Facebook pages for embassies.
These new measures are the first steps in bolstering the traditional tools of journalist, musicians, and other "cultural envoys." A key contribution of Graffy's article is her mention of the lack of publicity surrounding the efforts and creativity across the more than 200 U.S. diplomatic missions abroad. Going forward, measures such as Facebook pages and "media hubs" - which aim to improve the quality of the presentation of information about the U.S. - will be essential in addressing this shortcoming. This is very important in today's international system due to the emphasis on multilateral relations and notions of "winning hearts and minds." As Graffy puts it, "public diplomacy is the art of communicating a country's policies, values, and culture."

In this light, a key role for public diplomacy in the context of the overall institution of U.S. foreign policy can be establishing a "constituency" for the State Department. A common thread through many conversations regarding the disadvantage of the State Department in comparison to other agencies and departments, e.g. the Department of Defense (DoD), is the lack of a domestic constituency, that is, a dedicated set of Americans that are directly reliant on the actions of the Department. For instance, DoD has everything from major commercial interests to large military populations inside and outside of the U.S. that are directly reliant on the "business" of the DoD. While it is not realistic to expect the State Department to develop a similar constituency, in size or type, it could be useful to consider the role of public diplomacy in informing the U.S. population and engaging it more fully in the "business" of foreign policy. In other words, the new U.S. administration's notion of a dialogue and teamwork must aim inward as much as it does outward in restoring, but also transforming, America's image. So much of the talk surrounding public diplomacy as a key part of U.S. foreign policy is limited to "winning hearts and minds" of "them." As with most things, there must be a compromise between "us" and "them" in order to establish a lasting way forward for both camps.

That said, public diplomacy has a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome in finding something closer to a true or right role in the U.S. foreign policy structure.

Obama's Personal Public Diplomacy

Traveling through Salvador Brazil last year, I was met by Afro-Brazilians who believed that their political voice would be strengthened through the election of Obama as president of the United States.  If the US could elect a black president, so could Salvador elect a black mayor.  As I left Brazil and ventured to Ghana, the majority of my fellow students at the University of Ghana wanted Obama elected.  They thought that Ghana would have a seat at the table and be recognized for it flourishing democracy.  Ghanaians foresaw an increase in aid throughout the continent.  The United States projected its changing views to the world through the election of President Obama. 

The ability of Obama to curb the gap between the United States and the rest of the world has been seen throughout his campaign and in his interview with Al-Arabiya.  As a campaign promise, Obama stated that he would visit a predominantly Muslim country in his first 100 days in office.  In an opinion piece by Robert Satloff titled "Obama's Personal 'Public Diplomacy': A Very Preliminary Assessment," Satloff marks the shift between the United States and the Muslim world from a "us v. them" approach to one of "mutuality." The dramatic initial shift in message to acceptance of the Muslim world is one unseen in the United States in the past eight years.  When the United States elected Barack Obama, they elected a man who has Muslim relatives that are from Muslim countries.  This close background positions the president as an ally rather than a threat to the Middle East.  Additionally, his statement regarding diplomacy and openness to talks with Iran passes a message of peace and forgiveness.

While this article pertains mostly to the Muslim world and the United States, the recent calls for Six-Party Talks with North Korea and the focus on development signals a broad change in America's message.  In Secretary Clinton's first address to the Department of State, she states that the "three legs to the stool of American foreign policy:" are "defense, diplomacy, and development."  Since the election, both Clinton and Obama reiterated that the key to defense is found in both development and diplomacy and positioned the US for superpower status.

Judith A. McHale: Democratic mega-donor...and Undersecretary for public diplomacy?

Al Kamen, columnist in the Washington Post, reported last week that newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "is poised to tap [Judith McHale] a longtime friend and Democratic mega-donor as her undersecretary for public diplomacy." Judith A. McHale's diplomatic credentials were explicitly questioned in the WaPo article but it also struck a conciliatory tone by reminding the reader that undersecretary for public diplomacy "is a job that involves selling a message," and in her capacity as former President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications and current Director of Polo/Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mrs. McHale certainly has a knack for branding.
Marc Lynch of Foreign Policy, however, did not strike the same tone in his overtly critical blog post entitled, "Why Judith McHale would be a bad public diplomacy choice." Mr. Lynch, as a staunch proponent of Obama's vision of global engageme
nt and public diplomacy, recalls Hilary Clinton's inattention to public diplomacy during the primaries, and sees the prospect of McHale's appointment as just a reaffirmation of Clinton's lackadaisical commitment to public diplomacy. Mr. Lynch insists that, "the position of Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs should go to someone with experience in and a vision for public diplomacy, and who will be in a position to effectively integrate public diplomacy concerns into the policy-making process," while recalling Charlotte DeBeers short tenure in the position as evidence that simply being able to "brand" America is not good enough. Lynch maintains that American public diplomacy is currently in the balance, and that whoever Clinton's appointment is, they need, "to be in a position to quickly assert authority over an inter-agency balance currently sharply skewed towards the Pentagon."
MountainRunner, a blog by Matt Armstrong, the principal and co-founder of Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, offers a similarly insightful observation with regards to the duties of the new undersecretary. Similarly to Lynch, he maintains that, "[p]ublic diplomacy is not public relations. For too long, public diplomacy languished u
nder absent leadership and a lost appreciation of its value and purpose." While he does not directly reference the WaPo rumor, the general inclination of his blog suggests that he also views the position as a "a national security imperative" and not just "selling a message," and would surely be critical of McHale's appointment.
If an unsubstantiated rumor can cause this much buzz, the future is indeed looking interesting as we await Clinton's appointment for the chief position of the public diplomacy office in the State Department. Whoever it is, the appointment is likely to draw intense scrutiny and rigorous debate both in the blogosphere and in mainstream media. To be Continued...(as they say).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

China's public diplomacy /Japan Times

Monday, Dec. 31, 2007

China's public diplomacy

China's public, or soft-power, diplomacy has traditionally consisted of "people's diplomacy," meaning the cultivation of people friendly to China within other countries. Under this method, China would nurture people sympathetic to its ideas within a country and use these figures to exert influence on the country's upper echelons or political leadership.

This modus operandi, however, belongs to the realm of socialist revolutionary diplomacy; while its legacy is still evident in some aspects of Chinese diplomacy, it is no longer the central pillar of China's soft-power diplomacy. Indeed, an analysis of recent developments suggests that China's soft-power diplomacy has at least four strands:

The first is "quiet diplomacy" designed to convey the message that China, as a major power, does not pose a threat to surrounding countries. In the late 1970s, for example, when Deng Xiaoping steered China down the road to modernization, there was growing anxiety around the world about what kind of country China might become.

Deng coined the term xiaokang (modest comfort) to signify that he wanted to make China a society in which everyone could be moderately well-off and to convey the image that China would not necessarily pursue a path of national wealth and military power.

The frequent use in recent times of the term heping jueqi (peaceful rise) is also related to China's soft-power diplomacy. This expression is designed to plant in people's minds the notion that China wishes to become a major power not by hardline means that push others away but by peaceful means that promote friendship with other countries. China created this soft image to counter arguments that it represents a threat to other nations. This is one aspect of China's recent public diplomacy.

As China emerges as a major power, its desire to present itself as a responsible, upstanding nation has come to form the second strand of its public diplomacy. An example of this is China's determined public relations campaign to highlight its efforts to tackle environmental and food-safety issues, which is intended to show that China is fulfilling its responsibilities as a major power.

China's enthusiastic transmission of Chinese culture through the establishment of Confucius Institutes around the world is another manifestation of its efforts to showcase its cultural sophistication and reassure people that its drive to gain major-power status is based not simply on military and economic might but also on sound foundations of tradition and culture.

In other words, China is attempting to project to the world the image of a Westernized, modernized country.

Campaigns to persuade citizens to adopt the custom of forming an orderly line when waiting for a bus and to dissuade them from spitting on the street can be considered part of an effort to ensure that China's image as a Westernized, modernized country is not tarnished in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics.

The third characteristic of China's public diplomacy is the country's linking of diplomacy's external and internal effects. The opera "First Emperor" is a case in point. Backed by the Chinese government, this production had the external effects of highlighting China's cultural sophistication to the world and providing Chinese musicians and performers with a stage to showcase their talents.

At the same time, one cannot help but assume that the government also wanted the production to have a domestic political impact — namely, that the praise from abroad for a production by Chinese people would help to restore Chinese pride.

The fourth aspect of China's public diplomacy that cannot be ignored is that this diplomacy is connected with the issue of the legitimacy of China's socialist government and of the Communist Party. China counters Western countries' assertions about the importance of the ideas of democracy and human rights, for example, with its doctrine of noninterference in countries' internal affairs. This is part of China's public diplomacy.

At the same time, as an extension of its idea of heping yanbian (peaceful evolution), China has developed the theory that Western attempts to foist the concepts of democracy and human rights upon it reveal the West's strategic goal of regime change in China. Using this theory, China is trying to make the case that Western countries' espousal of democracy and human rights reflects not simply their desire to share universal values but also their strategic objectives.

China's frequent raising of historical issues in its relations with Japan is also a part of its public diplomacy. It is true, of course, that Japan's past aggression provokes strong feelings among the Chinese populace and that, to some extent, the Chinese government has no choice but to reflect these feelings by making questions of historical perception a diplomatic and political issue. Transcending this factor, however, the raising of historical issues intersects with questions concerning the Chinese Communist Party's legitimacy and basic perception of history.

China's battle against Japanese invasion enables the Chinese government to highlight — more symbolically and more clearly than any other episode — the narrative of how the Communist Party overcame semi-colonial rule, resisted Western aggression, and built a new China.

Raising these issues gives China an advantage in bilateral negotiations by putting Japan on the defensive and, in relations with third countries, enables China to frame Japan as the aggressor or culprit and itself as the victim. Many observers are convinced that China uses historical issues in this way to further its strategic goals.

As we have seen, China is now highly adept at using a range of public diplomacy tools. This is in the long tradition of Chinese diplomacy, as well as a reflection of socialist ideology. It also constitutes a new face of Chinese diplomacy as the country assumes major-power status.

Kazuo Ogoura, a political science professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, is Japan Foundation president.

A New Era of Transatlantic Relations?

Barack Obama speaking in Berlin, Germany (7/24/08)

President Obama’s inauguration on January 20 has been well received in many European countries – including Germany. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, the image of the U.S. among the European public has suffered. A survey on transatlantic trends conducted by the German Marshall Fund shows that the number of Europeans viewing the U.S. as a desirable global leader dropped from 64 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2008.

The wide-spread popularity of President Obama in European countries literally raises hope of an improved transatlantic cooperation. John K. Glenn, director of foreign policy at the German Marshall Fund, sees potential in President Obama. However, he points out that electing Obama as the 44th President of the U.S. does not immediately reverse the U.S. image and improve the transatlantic relations.

In his POLITICO article “Obama to Europe: Ich bin ein listener,” Glenn underscores the need of Obama to listen to European allies and reshape the public opinion of Americans as a country not seeing Europeans as essential partners.

According to Glenn, one of the main reasons for the negative public opinion among Europeans was caused by a lack of cooperation with European countries in terms of dealing with terrorism. It is therefore not surprising that Angela Merkel attached the claim for better cooperation and communication between Europeans and Americans to her congratulating message for President Obama, stating that “no single country can solve the problems of the world.

From my perspective as a European native, Obama’s election can be seen as the first step to improve transatlantic relations. Yet, there have to be more to follow. Appointing the two renowned foreign policy experts George Mitchell and Richard Holbrook to special envoys has definitely been another step in the right direction, underscoring Obama’s intention to find a new strategy when dealing with the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As John K. Glenn states: “Obama’s great promise is that he has the potential to make collaboration with the United States not just politically possible but politically desirable.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Proactive" Diplomacy (Japan Times)

Hirofumi Nakasone, Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave a speech on Jan. 28 to the Japanese Diet detailing Japan's "dynamic" public diplomacy push in the future. This push calls for a more "mature" partnership with South Korea, resolution of the Kuril Island/Northern Territories border issues with Russia, as well as continued assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. An article on Japan Times called this "Proactive Diplomacy."

Specifically addressing PD in his speech, Nakasone said:

Strengthening Public Diplomacy and Exchanges with Other Countries

Increasing the understanding and trust that other countries have in the basic orientation of Japan's foreign policy, such as in the policy areas I have just discussed, contributes to the smooth advancement of our foreign policy. For this reason, Japan will undertake dynamic public diplomacy. In addition, Japan will strategically engage in public relations regarding points of cultural appeal, from traditional culture to pop culture, while promoting the Japanese language and intellectual exchanges as well. In addition to proactively providing assistance with the bidding activities that will bring about the holding of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2016, we will further promote exchanges in the area of sports.

Strengthening Japan's Diplomatic Infrastructure

Last but not least, I would like to emphasize the importance of strengthening Japan's diplomatic infrastructure. To respond swiftly to the numerous diplomatic challenges and to protect appropriately the lives and property of Japanese nationals overseas, it is vital to improve its diplomatic infrastructure, including diplomatic missions and staffing, as well as information gathering and protection, in ways reflecting the demand. We will develop Japan's diplomatic foundations and further enhance Japan's diplomatic capacity winning the support of the Japanese people.


I have visited a large number of countries and interacted with the people of each of those countries since before I began my tenure as Foreign Minister and up to the present day. What I have felt in common in all my travels is that, in every country, regardless of a country's size, people love their own country and hold pride in it. Our Constitution proclaims, "We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society." I believe that in just that way, it is important to be trusted and respected by other countries and to build a nation of which Japan's citizens can be proud.

As I stated at the beginning of my remarks, diplomacy aims at ensuring Japan's national interests, namely the security and prosperity of Japan and the lives and property of the Japanese people. I believe that diplomacy also means maintaining the nation's honor and prestige and ensuring that citizens can hold pride in their nation.

Japan's science and technology capabilities, its human resources, and its history of overcoming numerous difficulties are all points of pride on the world stage. Now, as the international community faces a growing number of challenges, Japan is pursuing proactive diplomacy. I firmly believe that Japan's proactive diplomacy and its accomplishments in the international society will lead to the Japanese people gaining confidence and pride in their own nation. I believe that the ruling and opposition parties should pursue our diplomatic goals fully in concert, as diplomacy transcends party interests. I therefore ask for the support and cooperation of the Japanese people and of the honorable members of the Diet, transcending party lines.

Looking at the goals Nakasone would like to accomplish, how feasible do they seem? Given that he calls for diplomacy through pop culture (or pop diplomacy) [In addition, Japan will strategically engage in public relations regarding points of cultural appeal, from traditional culture to pop culture, while promoting the Japanese language and intellectual exchanges as well.] are these goals that are likely to been fulfilled in the near future or will they not be fulfilled until 10+ years down the road?

Do you see the idea of cultural goods transmission as form of the passive audience assumption where Japan gives its message to other nations and they then understand the message the same way it was sent? How effective do you think government directed pop diplomacy really is?

Money Matters: Korean Blogger Jailed

A financial blogger in South Korea was jailed last week for blogging on his country’s economic policies. The blogger, Park De-Sung, posted on Dec. 29 that officials had ordered banks to stop buying dollars. His post allegedly damaged South Korea’s foreign exchange market. If convicted, Park could face a hefty fine or up to 5 years in prison. Check out the AP story or TIME article for details.

Korea’s bold response suggests that it saw the blogger’s information as inaccurate but dangerously persuasive. Why was the blog persuasive? First, Park had a track record of being correct. He anticipated the failure of Lehman Brothers, for example. Also, Park used technical jargon to increase his credibility. Third, Park’s blog was widely read by players in the exchange markets.

The situation reveals an emerging challenge for PD practitioners. How should governments respond to blogs? In this case, media coverage seems to favor the blogger. Park’s arrest ignited a discussion of bloggers’ rights to free speech. TIME quoted a Korean law professor who said, “There’s definitely elements of authoritarianism in the nooks and crannies of our legal system.” Should Korea have ignored the blogger?

Obama passes up the troubled Al-Hurra

Al-Hurra, the U.S. news channel designed to compete with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, has met with considerable criticism over the past year. A report commissioned by the BBG, the govenrment entity responsible for international broadcasting, was leaked to the ProPublica independent journalism outlet, revealing internal organizational problems and minimal impact abroad.

As we discussed last night, a tension in international broadcasting is the divide between providing credible journalism and a "voice" for the sponsoring country's perspective. Most IB professionals would indicate that journalism is the primary motivation, which probably explains why IB often gets attacked by legislators for not being "persuasive" enough, or more clearly articulating the U.S. case. (Why pay tax dollars for news that includes the "bad guy's" perspectives, as some might say). Nevertheless - Al-Hurra tried to have it both ways, and it didn't work out so well.

Given what we talked about last night about the communication infrastructure - the media and techonlogy people actually use to get information and communicate - where did President Obama go to talk to the Arab world? Not Al-Hurra - but Al-Arabiya.

Broken Public Diplomacy

Hi Everyone,
I found this article by a former USIA employee today when I was looking around. The article lays out the former structure of US public diplomacy under the USIA and the problems that have occurred since integration with the State Dept. From the article, one can see that the current public diplomacy framework is scattered and broken.

I think it elaborates well on the points Prof. Hayden made yesterday about the lack of deference given to PD.

Here is the link to the article,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Welcome to the Course Blog!

I just wanted to welcome the contributors to this course blog on Public Diplomacy. I will be periodically adding links and information to the site. [Incidentally, the image above is the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy now given out by the U.S. State Department]