Friday, January 30, 2009

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment