Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Wednesday, February 19th 2014
The most underreported crisis in the world may finally be getting the attention it deserves.
Ukraine has had a rough path since independence, especially when measured against the hopes that were raised there after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the last two decades, the country has been plagued by corruption and economic hardship as competing factions have struggled for control. Now the ideological division between those who see the best prospects for Ukraine’s future in the West, and those who prefer the view toward Moscow, has erupted into violence. Anti-government rallies that began as largely peaceful demonstrations several months ago, after President Viktor Yanukovych chose an economic bailout offer from Russia over an economic integration pact from the European Union, were attacked yesterday by police, turning Kiev’s Independence Square into a blazing battleground.
What would hearten Ukraine’s pro-democracy demonstrators the most right now would be a message of support for their fight for freedom and the rule of law, from the countries that they would like Ukraine to emulate. Instead, what they have heard so far have been balanced calls by the United States and Europe for calm, and a condemnation by the U.S. National Security Council of the “street violence and excessive use of force on either side.” (One U.S. official who has spoken out publicly for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence has been Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. Russian intelligence is believed to have struck back by secretly taping and leaking some private and undiplomatic remarks she made to a colleague criticizing the EU.)
Obviously Ukraine’s future should be determined by Ukrainians. But since many people around the world see the U.S. as the leading advocate of freedom and democracy, we need to show support for those who want to share our values, and that support must be clear and firm not only in our private but also in our public diplomacy.
Wednesday, February 19th 2014
During the Vietnam War, Barry Zorthian (1920-2010) was the Director of the U.S. Information Service in Saigon, and he was the prime mover in establishing the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO). JUSPAO brought together the media operations of the State Department, the U.S. Information Service, USAID, the CIA, and the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. He was “Czar of Media Relations” and press advisor for U.S. ambassadors Lodge, Taylor, and Bunker in Saigon. Matt Armstrong called him “a legendary member of the old guard of Public Diplomacy.”
Studying the history of Public Diplomacy recalls the past, but it also speaks to the present and future. Here’s an excerpt from Zorthian’s 1988 oral history interview with the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, under the subhead “USIA Has Never Addressed Problem of How It Would Handle Another Counter-Insurgency Program If It Ever Arose.”
Read the excerpt, and then substitute “Iraq” or “Afghanistan” for “Vietnam.” The phrase that haunts me is “it's no good to tell me there ain't going to be a next time, because there sure as hell may be.”
ZORTHIAN: Still today, 20 years after I left, the U.S. government has not worked out standard operating procedures for low-intensity wars and how it would handle them.
Thursday, February 13th 2014
In the future, more flexibility, risk-taking and reform will be required of public diplomacy practitioners and policy makers, our panel concluded.
This was the last of three plenary sessions of the PDC's Fall Forum held November 12, 2013, at the George C. Marshall Conference Center of the U.S. Department of State. It was our "look to the future," with the mandate to imagine what lies in store for public diplomacy.
Tuesday, February 4th 2014
When I entered the Foreign Service in 1979, my class of 16 new Public Diplomacy officers was taught to cultivate "the Foreign Service manner," the habits of diplomacy -- listening, accurate reporting, careful speaking, and a certain care in asking questions without an edge. So much of Public Diplomacy is about "telling," it's good to have reminders about conversations and "listening."
Monday, February 3rd 2014
On January 27 American icon and folksinger-songwriter Pete Seeger died at age 94. For so many years he embodied the quest for social justice that transcends generations and nations. The songs he wrote were some of our best exports.