Saturday, February 28, 2009

Art = Heritage?

BBC has an interesting article up about the sale of the Yves Saint Laurent estate, specifically two bronze statues that Christie's [at the time of the article] would be auctioning.
The statues apparently were once located in the Summer Palace in Beijing that was burnt during the second Opium war in the 1800's. The statues were taken and eventually ended up in Yves Saint Laurent's collection.
China believes that rather than be auctioned off, the statues should be returned to China as a form of heritage reparation.
The Chinese heritage administration said the auction would bring repercussions as it had "harmed the cultural rights and national feeling of the Chinese people".
"This will have a serious impact on its development in China," it said in the statement to the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

There was a follow-up piece on with responses and analysis of the reactions to the auction which sold the two statues for approx. US$34 million.
The sale of the lost treasures has whipped up nationalistic passion among Chinese in and outside China.
Luo Zhewen, chairman of the Chinese Heritage Society said, "The biggest value of the bronze heads is that they are evidence of the crime committed by imperialists who invaded China. The despicable part the auction is not that it has breached international agreements, but that it is trading criminal evidence for a massive profit."
Movie star Jackie Chan agrees.
"It has broken the hearts of the 1.3 billion people of China," he said. "All these national treasures should be returned to their home countries. In future, these fountainheads will not belong to anybody and they should all be returned to the Summer Palace."

The furor over these items brought to mind David Lowenthal's piece on cultural heritage title "Heritage Wars"
Chauvinism underpins heritage rapine. The Rosetta Stone entered the British Museum 'honourably acquired by the fortune of war'; Napoleon looted all Europe and North Africa to prove France the Roman Empire's rightful heir; fin-de-si├Ęcle Americans threatened to buy up all England. Jingoist rivalry still foments plunder and inhibits global sharing. National and local self-esteem are sacred writ in international protocols. Equating heritage with identity justifies every group's claim to the bones, the belongings, the riddles, and the refuse of every forebear back into the mists of time. All that stands in the way of everyone's reunion with all their ancestral things is its utter impossibility.
It is impossible because it flies in the face of historical reality. There are no well-attested, long-enduring, pure, unchanged social or cultural entities. Every people are hybrid, every legacy multiple, every society heterogeneous, every tradition as much recent as ancient. All cultures are compages stemming from manifold antecedents. The farther back in time the more mixed is every ancestry. Multiple entitlements vitiate demands based on prior existence, occupance, use and discovery.

The CNN articles describes at the end of it two views on the auction within China.
A debate is raging in China's mainstream media and cyberspace over China's lost treasures.
"We don't have to be so angry over losing historical relics," wrote a person in "China has countless historical pieces lost overseas. We have to build many museums if we get all of them back. If we put them in foreign museums, people still can see China's ancient civilization and understand the history of crimes committed by foreign countries."
Others were more introspective.
"If the Red Guards smashed the Rabbit Head in the Old Summer Palace, whom will you cry to?" asks one person posting in the People's Daily Forum. "We Chinese have destroyed our own things more than the invaders, and the destruction is more extensive, lasting, and thorough."
Tao Duanfang, an international affairs commentator in Beijing, said that, though the bronze sculptures were national treasures, "what are really valuable are not these 'dead relics,' but China's economic progress, social stability and systemic progress."

Cultural heritage can be a very touchy subject which can have significant PD implications. While a lot of people may never hear about or relate to PD efforts outside their country, cultural artifacts are something they can identify with and they are also an issue which is fought out in the media providing wider access to the general populace.
The BBC and CNN articles mention that not only is Christie's coming under attack in China, but France itself as well.
How do you see cultural heritage issues? Do you think they are related to PD?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Citizen Diplomacy

I attended the first day of the Marshall Conference on Citizen Diplomacy at the State Department on Thursday. While I believe there was a lot to be learned, I also feel that, much like Public Diplomacy, nobody could give a clear answer on what their idea of Citizen Diplomacy was. The audience was given the responses of "anyone with a passport" to "US citizens partnering with the government" and then the all-encompassing "I perform citizen diplomacy with every action, every day". To be honest, I was hoping for a little more from the conference overall, and then I got my chance to ask a question to the panel:
"Since there have been such successes with citizen and cultural diplomacy when they are not related directly to the government, how would the government be able to utilize these aspects of diplomacy without tainting it by the generally negative opinion abroad of the US government."

The answer I received?
In a nutshell, it was, Public Diplomacy needs to participate in more listening. Although we've mentioned that it's obvious, it's nice to hear statements like these coming directly from a conference related somewhat to the government and not only P.D. scholars and analysts. Now, we will see if there is any follow-through and if this thought is put into practice.

Listening and PD Policy

An editorial in the Washington-based Middle East Times today cited a public opinion survey of the Muslim world, based on polling in Jordan, Turkey, Nigeria and Azerbaijan, and more than 3,000 in-depth interviews in Egypt, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories. The editorial summarized several important conclusions of the study, which applied across the Muslim world.

1. Significant majorities in all countries covered "firmly reject" attacks against American civilians for political goals, ranging from 80% in Egypt and Azerbaijan to 60% in Pakistan and Palestine.

2. Equally large majorities disapprove of U.S. military action in the Middle East. This doesn't seem terribly shocking at first, but its corollary is:

"the disturbing finding that very significant majorities approve of attacks on U.S. troops based in Iraq, the Gulf, and Afghanistan. Large majorities approve of attacks in Egypt (over 78 percent), the Palestinian territories (87 percent), and Jordan (66 percent). In Turkey and Pakistan views are more divided. However, only minorities in Indonesia and Azerbaijan would endorse such attacks."

In other words, the same majority that rejects "terrorism," meaning attacks on U.S. civilians, does in fact support violent attacks on U.S. military. The fact that respondents lump the Gulf in with Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that this goes for "peacekeeping" or "advisory" forces as well as combat troops.

I think these findings are especially important in light of the Iraq plan Obama unveiled today, in which he plans to leave a reserve of 50,000 non-combat troops for year or so after removing "all combat troops." The findings of this study suggest that this is a distinction that people in the Muslim world do not make.

This goes directly to the question of whether Public Diplomacy should play a role in policy development, i.e. whether there should be a Secretary of Public Diplomacy in the cabinet. Obama's plan was clearly drawn up with careful and sound military advice about security concerns and the strength of the Iraqi military. Maybe these facts can't be avoided. But at the same time, it would have been worthwhile to have someone at that meeting to say: "Most people in the Middle East strongly distinguish between civilian and military, but not between combat and non-combat troops."

A voice like that in the meeting could have led to some alternatives: replacing some of those 50,000 advisory troops with civilian USAID staff, for example. Maybe that's an oversimplification, but it seems like the PD perspective would be useful for major decisions like this.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wake Up Call for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

I must say that I appreciate the the energy around PD, especially from the Senate, however, I think it is far more telling than you may think and in a bad way. If I may rob a phrase that is common currency for such feelings in Sierra Leone, my response to the Senate, "Eh bo! U hav not don good fo mi." Highlighting the closure of American Centers (among the other names given to them in S.R. 49) or the restructuring of these institutions within embassy compounds couldn't be farther from the reality. Instead, speaking for myself and myself alone, it shows that, even when we start to get serious about PD and how to revamp it, we are out of the we, I mean the federal government in the School House Rock sense (you haven't lived if you haven't seen School House Rock, but I digress).

Commence reality check sequence in 4...3...2...1...

Please check this quick reference to how citizens of Bo, Sierra Leone's 2nd city, commemorated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (actually the event was on 1-28-09). What's that, Senate? You wasted tax dollars drafting S.R. 49 and my valuable time reading the linked document? I'll accept your apology on official letterhead. Oh, still not convinced? Okay, well, follow this link and realize that you will need both hands to account for all of the American Corner locations in Indonesia alone. We don't have that many embassy compounds within which to barricade all of these American Corners...instead, we've partnered with local institutions to bring America to each locality in the way that matches the people, the time, and the place. Sens. Lugar and Kerry, you still haven't had enough? That's fine, I'm serving it up all day here. You're going to need an abacus to count all of the American Corner locations on this spreadsheet that comes to you care of one of the four American Corner locations in Hungary alone. On top of the spreadsheet, the same American Corner in Eger, Hungary brings you a full agenda for 2008-2009 which includes a lecture series on American culture, a chance to talk with an economist about the economic crisis, a competition on knowledge of the U.S. for secondary students, workshops on studying in the U.S., a lecture series on the 1960s U.S. talking about the movements and people that shaped the decade, "America through Hungarian Eyes" - an amateur photo competition for Hungarians, and a "My America, or that's how I see the U.S." multimedia art competition for primary and secondary school students. After checking out some of these links, it's plain to me that the U.S. Foreign Service is overwhelmingly hunkered down behind embassy walls and scrambling. Okay, so I suppose I laid the sarcasm on a little thick here. Let's step back

Security concerns are not an issue when the U.S. partners with local institutions and actors to bring the message of the U.S. to foreign audiences through an institution that is a step removed from the source. In other words, and as we've seen in our reading assignments and course discussions on propaganda, S.R. 49 would only serve to bring American Corners back closer to the realm of propaganda to be dismissed by the audience rather than a valuable message that comes in a digestible package for foreign publics.

So, requests to our dear Senate: one, please recoup the payments rendered to any staffer associated with the formulation of S.R. 49's understanding of American corners/hubs/centers/resource centers/(insert other name that shows that someone didn't do their research and was trying to cover the bases here) and redirect it to expanding PD in Washington and abroad; two, please invite more important people to the Hill to discuss this topic because any attention is good attention right now - perhaps we can get former Secretary Albright in on a book deal; three, please put a little more effort into the institutionalization of PD in the national security apparatus, but also into the federal government as a whole.

With this last point, it does fall somewhat in line with the "unity of message" point cited from Lugar in the comment to Leslie's posting, but at the same time, it must be comprehensive because there are several departments and agencies that work abroad in oft overlooked capacities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has its own foreign service and even the Department of Interior has the authority to engage in international affairs.

Image repair through medical diplomacy

In her recent contribution to the Diplomatic CourierMedical Relief: An Effective Diplomacy Tool,” Rebecca Wexler looks at how supporting other countries with medical products and service can assist the US to improve its image.

She says that “medical diplomacy presents the United States with the chance to reaffirm its commitment to humanitarianism and reawaken the spirit that once spawned the Peace Corps and USAID.”

Wexler outlines some of the advantages of medical diplomacy:
  • it can be applied both as a short-term or long-term strategy
  • it can help both to prevent conflict and assist in post-conflict reconstruction

"Healthy populations are able to work, cultivate food, and earn wages—all of which contribute to economic productivity and a functioning society. Conversely, disease is often born in conditions of poverty, festering in unsanitary sewage systems, overcrowded living quarters, and dilapidated housing structures."

But what exactly is medical diplomacy? Former health and human services secretary and chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Tommy G. Thompson defines it in his 2005 Op-Ed for the Boston Globe:

Medical diplomacy is "the winning of hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise, and personnel to help those who need it most."

Arguing that in the fight to end tyranny and the effort to spread democracy, Thompson states it is important that States such as the US apply all “weapons of freedom” to win. Medical diplomacy is one of those weapons.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Reaction

Engaging with Muslim Commuities Around the World

I attended today’s Foreign Relations Committee “Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World” hearing for the first panel with former Secretary of State Albright and Adm. William Fallon former head of CENTCOM and PACOM.

I included links to the opening statements of all witnesses today including those from the second panel at the bottom of this page.

The language at the hearing today indicated that public diplomacy is on the rise, particularly smart PD. Senator Kerry said in his opening statement, “We need smart public diplomacy that is embedded in our political and military decision-making.”

Senator Lugar, minority leader on the committee, had some very insightful and relevant comments on Public Diplomacy in his opening statement, particularly to our discussion of how the US can effectively reach out.

Regarding the Message/Means of PD;

“President Obama’s popularity alone will not guarantee success in the absence of a consistent and compelling American narrative that is closely synchronized with our policies. This narrative must be embraced and implemented throughout our government. It must be echoed by diplomats, development experts, contractors, and military professionals alike. We must continue to support exchanges that bring people from other nations into contact with talented Americans capable of explaining and representing our country.”

Regarding the Undersecretary of State for PD;

“This Committee stands ready to support the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. We want the Undersecretary to have the power, the funding, and the political backing required to do the job. Funds for public diplomacy will have to be spent efficiently and creatively if we are to explain the views of the United States, display the humanity and generosity of our citizens, and expand opportunities for interaction between Americans and foreign peoples.”

I learned at the hearing about a piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Lugar, S.Res 49. It is “A resolution to express the sense of the Senate regarding the importance of public diplomacy.”

A major piece of this resolution is the consideration of re-opening American libraries and learning centers all over the world like we once had throughout the cold war. He and Madame Albright agreed that this would be vitally important for public diplomacy; it would allow anyone to come in and be exposed to US history, government, and culture. However, the concerns for security which led to their closures in the 90’s must be weighed carefully.

Action was also stressed. The humanitarian aid that the U.S. engages in does a great deal for our image. Admiral Fallon spoke highly of this point and believes firmly that the more the military forces all over the world engage with communities and not hide behind walls, the greater their positive impact.

This hearing is evidence that the US government is eager to engage in dialogue and put PD forward. The Chairman (Sen. Kerry) made clear that this is not a onetime event but will be part of a greater dialogue. Members of the committee on both sides of the aisle seem to be in agreement on the importance of engagement with the Muslim world and what that requires. There was recognition of the need for a dialogue and a new approach to how the US engages the Muslim-world and these ideas can apply all over.

Testimonies Today;

Madame Albright, former Secretary of State

Admiral William Fallon, Former head of CENTCOM and PACOM

Dalia E. Mogahed, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies
Dr. Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core
Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow, Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World Hudson Institute

Foreign Services Hearing Today

For anyone on the Hill today,

Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at 2.3o pm, "U.S. Engaging Muslim Communities." Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright is the witness.

On the website for the committee you can click on the title of the hearing for a live video feed. I am going and will write up a blog about it after. Hopefully something PD related will come out of this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Semantics of Terror

To think that the success or failure of U.S. public diplomacy can sometimes hinge on something as little--and as much--as a word is not a comforting thought. But it is the reality of the U.S. message in the modern Middle East. A New York Times piece--a “Memo from Cairo [and Gaza]” explains why:

A battle over the term terrorist has become a proxy for the larger issues that divide Washington and the Arab public.
President Obama told his envoy, George J. Mitchell, to go to the Middle East and listen. But when the United States refers to Hamas, or the Lebanese group Hezbollah, as a terrorist organization, the popular view here is that Washington still is not listening.

If President Obama is serious about repairing relations with the Arab world and re-establishing the United States as an honest broker in Middle East peace talks, one step would be to bridge a chasm in perception that centers on one contentious word: terrorism.

“If Obama thinks these organizations are terrorists, there will never be peace,” said Hany Hassan, 29, who was selling flowers from his uncle’s shop in the quiet Cairo suburb of Maadi. “Bin Laden, he is a terrorist. These organizations, if America thinks they are terrorists, they will have to convince us.”

Much like the al-Khoury op-ed, Hassan’s take at least leaves open the possibility that the U.S. has the potential--or expectation--to refine its message; that it still has a sliver of the benefit of the doubt. For the moment, at least, prospects remain bleak:

People interviewed in Egypt, Gaza, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon said they saw nothing but hypocrisy in the way the West applied the terrorist label — a feeling tied very closely to a belief that the West reserved the term for Muslims. President Obama has tried to counter that perception with his outreach to the Muslim world, but with the memory of Gaza so fresh, and with Washington still defining Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, opinions have not shifted.

While the new Administration’s dislike for the loaded phrase “Global War on Terror” is a recognition of layered-meaning in this part of the world, the ‘terrorist’/ally dichotomy may be overshadowing such subtle changes in rhetoric with a discouraging return to Mattern’s idea of “verbal fighting via representational force.”

What has happened, [Ron Pundak, director of the Peres Center for Peace in Israel] and other regional analysts said, is that the use of the term “terrorist” has become a simplistic point, counterpoint offensive of its own, reflecting the growing influence of radicalism on both sides. It is often used to cloud issues, to avoid having to talk and to try to appear to take the moral high ground, they said.

Mr. Pundak said it was useful to recall, for example, that while the United States and Israel recognized Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah faction as the legitimate leader of the Palestinians, not long ago Fatah and its leader, Yasir Arafat, were considered terrorists...“We are fueling each other’s paranoia by the simplistic discourse we are pursuing,” Mr. Pundak said.

Pundak’s view brings to mind Jay Black’s concept of creative communication, which may give us an analytic framework for understanding just how Arab publics arrive at the conclusion that Washington’s seemingly-selective labeling of ‘terrorists’ is, at best diplomatic double-speak and, at worst, propaganda:

Whereas creative communication accepts pluralism and displays expectations that its receivers should conduct further investigations of its observations, allegations, and conclusions...this type of communication seems noncreative and appears to have as its purpose the evaluative narrowing of its receivers: A finalistic or fixed view of people, institutions, and situations divided into broad, all-inclusive categories of in-groups (friends) and out-groups (enemies), beliefs and disbeliefs, and situations to be accepted or rejected in toto.

Although the U.S. may readily reject the notion that using ‘terrorist’ as an adjective for at least the violent armed wings of popularly-elected political parties like Hamas and Hezbollah is tantamount to propaganda, recognizing that the message is oft received in this way in the Arab world may be the first step towards bridging the linguistically-loaded divide. As Corman et al. remind us, listeners create their own meaning of messages from “history, local context, and power relations.” The reality in Gaza and many surrounding Arab states is in ready supply of each.

There is no easy out for U.S. public diplomacy in this bind. It cannot eschew negative terminology in characterizing groups that seek the violent destruction of a key U.S. ally. But perhaps acknowledging the fact that it does not have ownership over the ‘terrorist’ designation, nor a monopoly on value judgements about the use of violence, is the key. The take-away lesson here may be that President Obama’s “disruptive move” in appearing on al Arabiyya was a laudable first step, but that given the proportionality disputes and power relations in play in Gaza, U.S. public diplomacy should “expect and plan for failure” in continuing to employ the terrorist label over the short term in its messages to Arab publics.

--apologies for a long post--

Shanghai Barks

Last week, Hilary Clinton, the Secretary of State was in Asia for her first overseas diplomatic visit. At the same time, a group of Chinese officials from Shanghai consisting of police officers, retired officials, a reported and officials from a public safety campaign began a cultural tour of five American cities to exchange ideas, learn about local policy-implementation practices and discover ways of doing things outside of China. As noted in “Orem offers lessons in crime fighting: Chinese delegation see how K-9, SWAT units operate in U.S.” from the Deseret News:

"They're excited to see how things are done outside China," said Orem police dispatcher Susan Shumway…. "(The visit) has opened their eyes to the possibilities."

This article highlights many important issues about public diplomacy, including the scope and parameters of the term itself. In this case, the “public” that is affected may be somewhat ambiguous. For instance, is it constrained to the government-to-government interaction or rather the local readers for whom the American officials provide daily services. The fact that a story like this one was published in the first place is likely designed to increase readers’ opinion of local officials and remind them that their government is efficient and culturally aware.

However, this story also highlights the importance of defining the stakeholders in public diplomacy. Numerous parties have a tangible interest in a this cultural tour including the officials from Shanghai, who stand to bring back lessons learned to their fellow citizens; the local American officials who are highlighting their diplomatic skills and may stand to increase tourist revenues; or the Shanghai residents who may gain from the policy best practices gleaned from the tour’s observations.

"In public safety, the government and police officers serve the citizens more (here)," Han said through translator Grace Liu. "They serve their citizens much more and better than in China."

He [Han] praised the United States and Orem for their coordination between police, fire and paramedics, adding that he didn't know if such an organized system would ever exist in China.

Although the visit mainly benefits the Chinese delegates, it also allows Orem to be open and friendly and increase diplomacy, said Orem Police Lt. Ralph Crabb, who oversees dispatch and organized the classes.

Either way, it is important to note that we often focus on a one-way exchange of diplomatic and cultural information. This story about Shanghai officials points out, however, that both sides of the exchange have something to gain and both have a real stake in the outcome of their public diplomacy efforts.

Orem is a city in Utah. The article noted that

Orem was the middle stop on their tour, which includes Los Angeles, Denver, Las Vegas and New York, and their only visit to a police station.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clinton takes diplomacy to the people
Source from Xinhua News Agency

The article below pays great attention to Clinton's intentional going public diplomacy during her three-day visit in Beijing. "Public" in this article denotes more of the "common people". The wielding of public diplomacy in her Asia trip was closely observed by Chinese scholars, one of whom call it post-modern approach, meaning beyond the state-to-state/gov-to-gov contacts.

Clinton takes diplomacy to the people
BEIJING, Feb. 23 -- Despite a grueling schedule that involved traveling to four countries in just seven days, Hillary Clinton looked as sprightly as ever when she addressed Chinese students in Beijing at the weekend.

Dressed in a smart black suit, the United States secretary of state raised her index finger and said: "I'm pleased I have a chance to see some of the young people who are going to make a difference in the future."

But the 10-minute speech at China's biggest thermo-energy plant on Saturday was not Clinton's first chance to meet the public on her week-long maiden overseas trip.

Apart from singing on a television show in Indonesia, she also chatted with Japanese students during a visit to Tokyo University last Tuesday, with topics ranging from her conversation with the Japanese empress to baseball and robots.

"This is what diplomacy is about," Clinton said. "It doesn't just operate government to government. It operates people to people."

Furthering public diplomacy and meeting ordinary people was a "key part" of Clinton's tour, explained Professor Pang Zhongying, of Renmin University of China. Pang, who described Clinton's approach as post-modern, added: "Diplomacy has extended far beyond state level. Today, statesmen need to go public."

Clinton was indeed going public in Beijing.
After getting her audience's full attention with Chinese proverbs and a warning for China not to repeat the mistakes made by the US industrialization, she left the podium to shake hands with the students from Tsinghua University, some of whom clutched her autobiography Living History in the hope to have it signed.

"She's very attractive. Her eyes were deep and sincere as they looked straight at me," said Yao Yao, a journalism researcher who was in the US last year when Barack Obama romped to victory in the race to the White House.

"She asked me whether I am optimistic about China-US relations. I replied, I am," added an undergraduate in international relations who chatted with Clinton at the event.
Clinton attended a service at Haidian Christian Church in Beijing yesterday morning before wrapping up her 40-hour visit to the capital by talking with readers in an exclusive live webchat broadcast on the China Daily website.

"By exercising public diplomacy she is attempting to restore an American image tarnished by the war on terror," added Pang, who referred to Clinton's visit to Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, as an example.

While there, the former First Lady walked through a poverty-stricken neighborhood in the capital Jakarta to visit development projects funded by Washington. They include water purification and recycling schemes, as well as health projects for mothers and children. "I want to listen to the voices of the people as well," she said.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pakistan Truce

The Pakistani government, unable to contain the threat from the Taliban militants in the Swat Valley, signed a truce last week pulling away its military effectively allowing Sharia to be implemented in the region. This is not unlike the truce Musharraf signed in 2006 in Waziristan that gave rise to names like Baitullah Mehsud to flourish in the region. The militants have held out a long fight in the region, terrorized the local population with floggings and the burning of schools. Under pressure, the Pakistani government has granted autonomy to around 70 percent of the Swat Valley, just 100 miles from Islamabad. The move has been criticized by Pakistani and western analysts as a capitulation by a government desperate to stop Taliban abuses and a military embarrassed at losing ground after more than a year of intermittent fighting.

But, in an op-ed published by the USA Today on Thursday (, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has said the Swat deal should not be taken as a concession to Taliban. He defends his government's actions as an attempt "to drive a wedge between al-Qaeda and the militant Taliban on the one hand, and Swat's indigenous movement that seeks to restore traditional law in the district." He claims that the insurgency in the Swat Valley is mostly indigenous, has been present for decades, and which demands primarily the implementation of traditional law in the region. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are looking to incorporate this movement into their scope in order to strengthen its abilities. Ambassador Haqqani states that this is a pragmatic military and political strategy to turn the native population against the real terrorists. Both the government and the militants are looking to sway the local population their way and the government's strategy here is to grant the natives what they are asking for while turning them against foreign terrorists who have a global jihadist agenda. While the move creates a safehaven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants to operate freely, it also makes pragmatic sense for a military that is stretched beyond its capability to face a small defeat now in order to win big later. Ambassador Haqqani makes an interesting distinction between the two movements (out of many) in Pakistan that westerners just lump together as one. In a way, it is a success point for Al-Qaeda's public diplomacy that they are able to mesh their agenda with local insurgency agendas and increase its base such that is is becoming harder to distinguish the various groups.

Bureau of African Affairs

I found this PD/PA effort ( by the Bureau of African Affairs in the State Department and thought it sounds like it has the potential to be a really effective program. Providing aid and support to help develop Africa is something that has become a prominent issue in the media over the past decade or so, and this program certainly could help achieve two very important goals: develop African nations, and boost the US government's legitimacy in the international community.
Unfortunately, this program has been relatively inactive over the past few years, as the program's most recent initiative took place way back in April 2007. I think that if our government is at all serious about providing any sort of aid to Africa, a program, such as this one, within the State Department needs to be more active than it currently is, as not only does it boost awareness of the problems that African nations are facing within the US, but it also provides some actual support within Africa to help boost literacy rates, train workers, etc.

Letter Diplomacy

So I read an interesting story yesterday that illustrates just how complex diplomacy can be.

Apparently during a trip to Israel, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) toured Gaza and an official from UNRWA gave him a letter that addressed to President Obama along with other documents. Senator Kerry learned later from news reports that it was from Hamas. The letter is now with the consulate in Jerusalem where they will decide what action to take.

According to news outlets, U.S. officials are furious with the UN for passing this letter along. This letter could cause diplomatic complications for the U.S who does not recognize Hamas.
From Fox News:
"A potential concern was whether such a letter would violate the United States' policy toward Hamas. Obama has said his administration will not engage in diplomatic talks with Hamas unless the group renounces terrorism and affirms Israel's right to exist."

So what should the US do? If they ignore the letter now that the press knows who it is from will that create a backlash? Is it better that the President receive the letter and would it perhaps open up some good will and avenues to peace?

Foreign Policy magazine's blog had some good thoughts on this story as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Clinton and Japan

I was very interested in Hilary Clinton's choice to go to Japan as her first official international visit as Secretary of State. I came across a video of her the other day giving an interview on Japanese TV. She seems very relaxed, smiling, and seems to stand in for an image that promises to reassure Japan about their international concerns with the United States.

The issue that is highlighted in this video clip would be the abduction issue that occurred by North Koreans several years ago. Most Americans are unfamiliar with the backstory, but it's a heated cause for debate amongst the Japanese. In my opinion, this is understandably so. A few decades back, several Japanese were illegally taken from Japan, kidnapped, and transported to North Korea. Some of them have managed to get back, but several haven't. One particular victim was a 13 year old girl, who was kidnapped while walking back on her way from her after school badminton club. Since then, no words remains on her whereabouts from the North Koreans, and she hasn't been allowed back to Japan since. It's a highly emotional issue for many Japanese, with television melodramas having been produced, comics, and books chronicling the issue. Consequently, it remains a persistent roadblock when it comes to discussions on the North Korea issue involving Asia as a whole. President Bush met with the parents of the abducted girl, but little progress was made with the North Koreans on the issue of the abduction. Clinton seems to take a different approach to this issue and seems to stress this during her interview. She recognizes that the problem has many different facets, and emphasizes how she understands the problem from the perspective of a mother, daughter, and family member. Whether or not actual progress will be made remains to be seen on the issue. Yet, she seems to have reassured Japan of US involvement in the case, and watching her, I can understand why. The video also ends with a very cute, Japanese-style discussion on smart power

This other article from blog WhirledView also talks about how Clinton seems to be making a difference. I know that in Asia, Clinton is well respected because she seems to exemplify the ideals of a good wife, mother, and woman. Many think highly of Clinton because she has pulled herself together after the Monica Lewinsky incident, has raised a good daughter without the fallout the Bush twins faced, and has also successfully created a name for herself as well. I can understand why Asia is going crazy about her. It makes me wonder just how much personal reputation and a kind of "celebrity" status among high ranking diplomats affects geopolitical relationships between countries.

In this picture, Clinton certainly seems to be smiling and portraying a good image. The article mentions how Rice almost never smiled. The more I thought about it, the more their point was understood. What do you all think about personal mannerisms, appearance, and character in the role of public diplomacy?

White Oak Recommendation

"White Oak Recommendations on Public Diplomacy"

"Nothing New in White Oak Recommendations on Public Diplomacy" by Steven Corman

"A Proposed Strategy for Public Diplomacy" by Spencer Ackerman

"White Oak Recommendations: Rethinking Public Diplomacy" by Matt Armstrong

"Reinventing America's Public Diplomacy 2009: Step by Step" by Pat Kushlis

"White Oak: We're Going to Need a Bigger Boat (PD") by Craig Hayden

Recently, a group of seventy diplomatic leaders conferred in White Oak to devise the public diplomacy plan for the new Obama administration and this past week they submitted their recommendations.  While some critics claim that the recommendation did not include an action plan or means to reach the prescribed goals, the proposal does shed light on the next four to eight years.  Instead of holding the ideas set forth to a vote, the commission reached a consensus.  This brings together the factions of opinion that have popped up in the last administration, signifying a unified step forward and newfound attention on public diplomacy.  Under the leadership of a charismatic and visible leader, public diplomacy has gained a new position.  The "White Oak Recommendations on Public Diplomacy" stress the need for a concerted, planned, funded, and leadership driven approach to public diplomacy.  While our class may find the ten recommendations obvious, the coming together of experts and the dedication to increasing funds has put a spotlight on public diplomacy. 


The Areas Addressed in the Recommendation:

-         stakeholder: holistic approach

-         outreach: holistic approach

-         clear structure

-         well-qualified and staffed personnel

-         increase reliance on technology/ communication

-         international exchanges

-         role of citizen diplomacy

-         increased funding

-         role of Congress

-         leadership and organization

Friday, February 20, 2009

Food Diplomacy

I’d like to propose a toast… to food diplomacy! On this topic, PD scholars seem surprisingly quiet. Here are a few examples of the role food can play in PD:

1) Food as aid. While other countries send cash, America ships food around the world stamped with USA. Our method has drawn criticism from many but satisfies American agribusiness and shipping companies. Click here to see a Business Week article on the problems with America's food aid, a key element of soft power.

2) Winning hearts, minds and stomachs in other countries. According to an article in Korea’s JoongAng Daily, the popularity of Korean food abroad is (quite literally) fueling diplomatic efforts. The article mentions gifts of Kimchi to Colin Powell, "known to be a kimchi maniac." Currently, Korean officials are planning food-related events in Mexico, Dubai, and Egypt.

3) Globalization of food--accidental PD. Sasha Issenberg’s book The Sushi Economy describes the journey of sushi around the world. Sushi is often reinterpreted and recreated to match local tastes. Can favorable views of Japanese food lead to favorable views of Japan?

4) Hunger and poverty. On a more serious note, food highlights the paradoxes in our world- the challenges of abundance in some countries and the reality of chronic hunger in others. These present long-term challenges for NGOs, governments, and individuals.

I’m only scratching the surface here… health, security and energy issues are all connected to the politics of food. In fact, last summer, the LA Times did an entire series on food diplomacy.

Any other examples of food in public diplomacy?

ICFJ Puts Public Diplomacy to Work

While researching international journalism, I came upon a very interesting exchange program run by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). If you’re not familiar with ICFJ, according to its Web site, “The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition.”

The program, called the International Journalism Exchange, seems highly effective and engaging, promoting American ideals of freedom of the press and the American journalistic standards of objectivity and professionalism. The argument can be made that these standards are not always abided by in U.S. media sphere, but these are the ethics taught in journalism schools across the country and many journalists strive to abide by them.

Here is a description of the program from the ICFJ Web site:

“The International Center for Journalists’ International Journalism Exchange brings ten or more newspaper or online editors with at least five years’ professional experience from the developing world to the U.S. in October and November every year.

Participants first take part in a week-long program orientation in Washington, D.C. where they attend seminars and workshops conducted by seasoned media executives, practitioners, and other experts on a wide range of topics, visit major U.S. newspapers such as The Washington Post and USA Today, observe press-government relations, and learn about the fundamental principles and current trends of U.S. journalism. Then, they head out to different parts of the country to work at a newspaper of comparable size as their home publication or online news outlet in their country. There, the editors spend three weeks to gain hands-on, all-around knowledge and experience of U.S. newsroom operation and management, as well as exposure to the social and cultural life in a U.S. community. The participants then reconvene in New York, where the program concludes with a debriefing and evaluation. In addition, participants get to visit major media organizations such as The New York Times and the Associated Press, as well as experiencing the vibrancy and cultural richness of the largest city in the U.S.”

Participants from the 2008 program came from every corner of the globe: Pakistan, Argentina, Kenya, the Philippines, Croatia, Macedonia and South Africa. According to ICFJ, “More than 200 editors worldwide have participated in the International Journalism Exchange since its inception in 1984.”

This journalism exchange is just one of the many small examples of American public diplomacy at work by the non-governmental sector. It is well known that the media has a profound effect on societies, culturally, politically and economically. Although the benefits of an exchange program such as this certainly take time to develop, the International Journalism Exchange works to create cross-cultural understanding and higher quality journalism over time. It allows the participants to take what they have learned with them and strive to improve their work as journalists in their home countries. The end result benefits the U.S. and the world as a whole.

Clinton and soft power

There is a transcript of Clinton's remarks en route to South Korea yesterday posted on the State Department website. The remarks are label "Putting the Elements of Soft Power Into Practice".

Clinton remarked that she and her delegation had engaged in both government-to-government relations as well attending civil society gatherings and appearing on television shows.

And I really believe that it's that kind of outreach that we've got to do everywhere. Some settings are more susceptible than others, but there's a real hunger for the United States to be present again. I was so struck when the Secretary General at ASEAN said that he thought that the United States had just been absent. And showing up is not all of life, but it counts for a lot. And especially when you are the most powerful country in the world, if you're not paying attention, people are going to feel like somehow they're not important to you.

Her use of the term "susceptible" strikes me as a bit of wanting to have it both ways. To describe places as more susceptible than others seems to indicate a monologue, rather than dialogue, approach to public diplomacy which the target is to full or trick the receiving country into accepting the accepting US outreach. Yet, she goes on to remark how the US needs to rejoin the world table, pay attention to what the rest of the world's countries have to say, and general show the world that we care.

At the end of the remarks is where she really gets into her perception of soft power and the use of public diplomacy by the US.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Indira, I think that every one of those events had a much broader audience. Obviously, the Tokyo town hall was on Tokyo television. The program this morning is one of the most popular programs in Indonesia. And so everything that I do, which does connect with people who are receptive has ripple effects. And Andrea said something about public diplomacy. We haven't done a very good job. And we have such a great story to tell about who we are as Americans and what we believe in and our desire to help other people be empowered.

Some of you walked through that neighborhood with me, I mean the United States aid programs, paid for by American taxpayers, are hooking people up to clean water, for example. And it's the kind of incremental change that if properly explained and highlighted, can give meaning to what America is to people who may have no opinion or a slightly negative opinion. We are in a struggle over ideas. And one of the points that the civil society people were making to me last night is that Indonesia is going to turn into a real battleground for the future of democracy and Islam and women's rights. And we need to be there. We need to be supporting the forces within Indonesia who care deeply about all of those values.

And I think our failure to engage on that level going back years, partly because we didn't realize it was going on right underneath our noses, and then when we did, we didn't exactly connect with the right messages for people in a way that they accepted. So we've got a lot of work to do. I mean, I have no illusions about how high a hill we have to climb here to inspire confidence and respect in people's minds again.

But I have found that in not only my personal encounters, but in every public research survey I've ever read that anybody's ever done, that people still really want to like America and they want to know what we're doing and what we stand for.

And take Indonesia; because of the war in Iraq and some other things, the attitude of people in Indonesia toward the United States was very negative. And then the tsunami hit, and we helped. You know, the United States showed up. The Navy showed up with supplies. President Bush sent my husband and his father, and they were visibly there, and then Bill went back time and again. And all of a sudden, people said, "Oh, well, they don't need to do this, but here they are, they're helping." And favorability toward the United States went up.

I mean, in Africa, in some of the sub-Saharan countries, where the favorability toward the United States has remained high, it's because of President Bush's PEPFAR program, that "the United States is here to actually do something good for us." So this to me is what diplomacy is about, because it doesn't just operate, as I said, government-to-government; it operates people-to-people. And when every single person that I met with said to me they wanted more student exchanges so that Indonesian students could study in the United States, or the President would say, "I studied in the United States, "or the Secretary General of ASEAN said, "I was an AFS student," – you know, for a lot of people those were transformative events. And we kind of cut back on that and we made it very difficult for people to get visas after 9/11, and so instead of coming to the United States, ambitious students went elsewhere.

So we have to rethink this and try to get back on the track of reaching out and being inclusive and giving more people a chance to see who we are.

How do you think of Clinton's explanations of soft power, public diplomacy, and how the US utilized them in the past and should utilize them in the future?

Can't Get Enough of these Lists!

We all might be a bit exhausted of lists given Pratkanis's love of the structure in last week's reading, but this one is worth some consideration. Just because he knew I needed something to post on, John Brown outlined the "Ten Reasons Why We Don't Need an Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs," in the Huffington Post this afternoon. Several of his points are almost too cynically obvious to mention (i.e. 1. Nobody with a normal jaw can pronounce this title, a mouthful of a name that is a bureaucratic offense to the English language.), and some are a bit too paranoid (point 10), but point 9 on the merits of exchange programs is surprisingly relevant. To what extent is the legitimacy of an exchange program compromised when it is government sponsored? Although I tend to believe that a scholar on a Fulbright would not be perceived as hampering public diplomacy initiatives (and here I would love for Andrew or any other classmates who have participated in government exchanges to comment), is it valid to be concerned about our exchane program credibility?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Directed and Non-Directed Cultural Exchange

A big topic this week has been whether different cultures share the frame of reference needed to make soft power or PD effective. In addition to that more existential question, Andrew's post below about the logistics and security involved in making cultural exchanges effective raises a good point.

I found a couple of articles regarding cultural exchanges, both of which popped up when I googled "orientalism" after our discussion about culture on Tuesday. The first is by an Indian filmmaker, K. Hariharan, who hated "Slumdog Millionaire" (I haven't seen it, by the way). He complains that the movie has done so well in the West because it appeals to our preconceptions about third-world squalor and presents this ridiculously optimistic fairytale story that doesn't resonate much with Indians, let alone Indians in the slums. He also says that this projection goes both ways:

"This reflects in the way Indian audiences choose to watch only those films from Hollywood which show crashing cars and sizzling pyrotechnics when the reality of the average American city is far from it. . . The real ‘American’ films by Woody Allen and the Coen brothers would make no sense to Indian viewers while the typical Bollywood melodrama would make no sense to the west."

We've talked a little about PD via "market-forces," which is one way to look at the international film industry. Films get shown overseas if they sell, and Hariharan suggests, rather in line with Janice Mattern's take on the lack of shared frames of reference, that this is not an effective way to influence people or build real ties, as what sells often reinforces stereotypes.

I also found an article about a British Council art exhibit touring the Middle East, from the UAE's The National. The exhibit, called "Lure of the East," consists of the exact kind of colonial travel painting that inspired Edward Said's original Orientalism. The exhibit, when it opened in the UK at the Tate Gallery, prompted critical and popular reaction full of post-colonial discomfort and liberal guilt (largely based off of Said's ideas about how stuff like this justified colonialism), and yet:

"The Tate has taken Britain’s uneasy conscience on tour, first to Turkey and now, as of today, to the Sharjah [UAE] Art Museum. In the process, the pat polarity of East and West has been complicated in interesting ways – not least by emphasising the point that art-buyers in the Muslim world seem to like some of the stuff."

Up to a thousand people a day went to see the exhibit in Istanbul, and the curators in Sharjah were eager to acquire the exhibit. The British Council is also staging a public debate about the artwork at the museum in Sharjah in a couple of weeks. That I think is particularly interesting in terms of PD, you'd think the colonial era, cultural domination and all that would be something British PD would avoid at all costs. But at first glance at least, it seems like a very interesting way to bring up some of the important questions in the countries' long-term relationship in a fairly non-threatening atmosphere (it also, as per Andrew's post, makes the artwork accessable, unlike the American strategy of letting Hollywood handle it).

I think the difference between these two versions of cultural exchange (granted one is planned and one is spontaneous) is especially interesting in light of the debate about cultural frames of reference. The Hollywood/Bollywood interaction assumes similarity but reinforces stereotypes, while the British Council effort sends over something deliberately meant to spark debate about subjectivity, bias, domination, and all of that stuff. By acknowledging the difference and making it something interesting to look at and talk about, the British Council takes some of the political sting out of the issue, which may be a valuable PD objective in and of itself.