Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Wednesday, November 13th 2013
Some years ago, during a change in Administrations, an older, much wiser FSO explained to me that the transition from one Secretary of State to a new one was much like the opportunity to put “the ship of State” in dry dock and scrape the barnacles off.
He pointed out that, throughout each Secretary’s tenure, the Department accumulates new offices, special envoys, Secretary’s representatives, policy coordinators, advisors, and other extraneous bureaucratic “enhancements” -- much the way a boat picks up barnacles under the waterline. Like barnacles on a boat, those extra "enhancements" slow the ship of State. They cause her to sail in lubberly fashion.
Take a moment to look at the pages of the Official Register of the Civil Service of the United States during the time Dean Acheson was Secretary of State. Notice how many people were employed in managing the nation’s foreign affairs.
Ambassador Larry Pope, in a recent speech at the University of Maine, pointed out that the institution over which Acheson presided saved Europe from communism and implemented the Marshall Plan “with a total of nine officials of the rank of assistant secretary or higher, no deputy Secretary, and one Under Secretary.”
Today we enjoy at least thirty-two Assistant Secretaries, two Deputy Secretaries, and seven Under Secretaries of State. In addition, the telephone book lists at least twenty-two “coordinators, special envoys, and special representatives” under the Secretary of State. Another twelve have similar titles but without the direct line on the organization chart.
Pope asks the question of the day: “Is today’s State Department inconsequential because it is a management consultant’s nightmare, or is it a bureaucratic mess because it is so inconsequential?” Ambassador Pope’s text – one filled with facts, humor and sobering insights –is worth replicating here so you can judge for yourself.
Thursday, November 7th 2013
The PDC – co-sponsoring with the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association, Walter Roberts Endowment, U.S. Department of State Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs – provides the latest news on our November 12th all-day Fall Forum at the Department of State’s Marshall Conference Center.
Our speaker roster is just about complete, and – for me – it was worth the wait.
Friday, November 1st 2013
Coursera and the Department today announced a partnership to use open courseware from America’s leading universities for public diplomacy by creating “learning hubs” under embassy auspices around the globe.
In a move that was previewed for attending Public Diplomacy Council and PDAA members, as well as current State Department officers, by State’s Paul Kruchoski at the “OERs, MOOCs and EdTech, Oh My!” session Tuesday at the AFSA building, public diplomacy officers at embassies will arrange for “facilitators” to provide live, in person interaction in support of U.S. university on-line courses.
The New York Times hailed the initiative as “a new stage in the evolution of ‘massive open online courses”’ in a November 1 article.
Friday, November 1st 2013
Just when it looked like things couldn't get worse in the Edward Snowden case, they did. First came his highly publicized betrayal, then his flight through Hong Kong to political asylum in Russia, and then a steady stream of leaked documents, all clearly calculated to embarrass the U.S. government as much as possible, for as long as possible.
One week the U.S. was accused of spying on European leaders, then the Mexican president, then the German chancellor. Now it's the Pope. Those leaks guarantee international attention. For the domestic audience, leaks or allegations about the NSA spying on Americans dribble out on a regular basis.
Never mind that Russian President Vladimir Putin was reported to have demanded that Snowden stop leaking in exchange for asylum. The leaks continue. And now comes news that Snowden has been given an IT job in Moscow. Is anyone shocked to hear this?
For the intelligence community, the case has been a disaster. We may never know if Snowden provided information to the Russians, or to the Chinese while he was in Hong Kong. But the U.S. intelligence community has to assume that everything he knew, or could have had access to, has been compromised. Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell calls it the most serious compromise of intelligence in U.S. history.
From a public diplomacy perspective, it has been a public relations disaster, with no end in sight. After every new revelation, foreign leaders publicly profess shock and disapproval, and summon U.S. ambassadors for reprimands, while privately, many continue to benefit from the intelligence-sharing relationship they have with the U.S. Most also, of course, continue doing everything they can to spy on us and our leading businesses and technologies.
So what can those on the front lines of public diplomacy do?
Tuesday, October 22nd 2013
As the practice of public diplomacy increasingly moves online, more malevolent practices are doing the same. I'm thinking in particular of the so-called Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a mysterious group that has attracted worldwide attention by hacking into the websites of such high-profile targets as The New York Times, BBC, Twitter, Reuters, and the U.S. Marine Corps, to name just a few.
The computer attacks are ostensibly in defense of the Syrian government, with the goal of influencing public opinion in support of its national interests, which is one of the definitions of public diplomacy. Yet respectable diplomats wouldn’t engage in such activities.
So who would? And, even more important, whose national interests are they promoting?
If you were to ask computer experts where the best hackers are around the world, nobody will mention Syria. Two countries they will mention, however, are Russia and Iran, which both happen to be deeply invested in the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.