Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Tuesday, May 6th 2014
ENGAGING WITH PEOPLE THROUGH PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
Remarks of Donald M. Bishop
President, Public Diplomacy Council
Santa Fe World Affairs Forum
St. John’s College, April 29, 2014
It's an honor for me to speak at this gathering of Americans in the great Southwest, Americans who are committed to our nation’s playing an active role for a better and more peaceful world. As I will say later, that future is strengthened by more regional and local programs and participation. You are already part of it, and I already have learned a great deal during our conversations yesterday and today.
Diplomacy – we see it on the news every day. President Obama’s diplomacy in Asia. Secretary Kerry’s many efforts for peace in the Middle East. American Ambassadors and Foreign Service Officers who meet foreign officials to negotiate trade agreements; build security partnerships; end women and child trafficking; eliminate child labor; cooperate against terrorism; suppress the drug trade; establish health and safety standards for food exports; keep the seas and the internet open; increase American exports; open new flight routes and cooperate on aviation safety; gain stronger protection for American patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets; find common ground on United Nations resolutions; and address scores of other issues.
The diplomacy can be bilateral, multilateral, or within alliances or international organizations. Whatever the level, however, diplomacy is conducted between governments, and confidentiality during the many talks and tussles is necessary.
When Thomas Jefferson added the words “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” in the Declaration of Independence, he anticipated that foreign relations would have another dimension -- what we now call Public Diplomacy.
It began when ships and stagecoaches carried letters and dispatches, moved into the newspaper and telegraph age, gained speed with movies and newsreels, and its insights shaped America’s war information during World War II. It became a formal part of America’s diplomacy when television carried news, images, and opinions around the world. From 1953 to 1999, the old U.S. Information Agency carried on the work, but now it has been integrated into the State Department, which has a Public Diplomacy “cone.” It has now entered the age of 24/7 news, the internet, and the social media.
Public Diplomacy is the planned direct presentation of U.S. policies, government, and society to foreign publics – through the media, through programs, and through direct contact and conversation. It bridges honest advocacy and the explanation of American policy, concerns, government, and society – for in many cases one can’t understand American policy without understanding its political, economic, social, or moral context. Two modern revolutions – the democratic revolution and the communications revolution – make it an even more necessary complement to traditional diplomacy. It’s not confidential. Rather it’s open and aboveboard.
Monday, May 5th 2014
Hans "Tom" Tuch, a prominent trendsetter in post-World War II U.S. public diplomacy, offers his personal recollections of how official broadcasting used to work as a prime factor in American diplomacy. You'll find other authoritative voices on the subject at this link, starting with former VOA Director David Jackson's post.
VOA: A Personal Observation, by Hans N. Tuch
When it comes to the Voice of America, I am a true believer. I became a believer while service in Moscow as Press and Cultural Attache in the late 1950s. I learned to appreciate what VOA was doing for the lives of thinking Soviet citizens, hungering for information from the free world. I was responsible for monitoring VOA: its Russian language broadcasts were thoroughly jammed while VOA English could be heard most of the time. People told me what they did to overcome jamming. Without being prompted, Soviet citizens, recognizing me as an American, told me how much VOA meant to them in their daily lives. Not only well-known dissidents like Andrei Sakharov or Lev Kopolev, but many Russians I met on trains, in the theater or in far-off Central Asian cities volunteered what VOA did for their morale and their life. And, of course, Willis Conover's universally loved VOA music programs were a constant morale booster. It was a true revelation for me to realize how important VOA broadcasts were in the lives of many Soviet citizens. I was in constant contact with VOA which was so important in assisting me in my public diplomacy responsibilities at the embassy. (This was, of course, also true for Radio Liberty at that time.)
Saturday, April 26th 2014
Russian troops are threatening the sovereignty of a bordering country while its anxious neighbors look West for support... Chinese bellicosity is prompting similar concerns from its neighbors... Iran’s nuclear ambitions are raising fears of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East….
At a time when our government needs all the tools of national influence and diplomacy that we have to let people around the world know what's at stake, and where the U.S. government stands in these crises, our best public diplomacy tool – U.S. international broadcasting and online media – is wrestling with its own challenges.
In recent weeks, there has been a growing debate about the proper roles of the Voice of America (VOA) and its fellow government-supported broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio & TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks of Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV. Columnist Anne Applebaum wrote in The Washington Post that it’s time to “rethink the funding and governance” of the broadcasters, while former Reagan Administration Soviet affairs advisor John Lenczowksi charged in The Wall Street Journal that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the broadcasters, “has greatly diminished America's capacity to fight the Putin propaganda machine.” Lenczowski was even more critical at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion last week, where he called the BBG “dysfunctional” and in need of “an entire overhaul.”
While all this has been going on, BBGWatch.com, a public blog site which frequently airs grievances from current and former employees, has been launching daily broadsides against senior managers at VOA and the International Broadcasting Bureau, an internal supporting agency.
Monday, April 21st 2014
The U.S. and European intelligence community has been bubbling for weeks with reports of "evidence" that the supposedly pro-Russian protesters and demonstrators in Eastern Ukraine cities are in fact Russian special forces soldiers.
The April 21 New York Times makes it abundantly clear with photographic comparisons that the mysteriously well-armed, professional gumen known as "green men" who have been seizing government buildings and setting up barricades in Eastern Ukraine are in fact identifiable Russian military and intelligence forces.
Friday, April 18th 2014
In a previous commentary, I said it is important for the Foreign Service and for the Public Diplomacy cone to formally capture the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan (in particular) and expeditionary diplomacy (in general), even as the extraordinary demands that characterized the last decade ease.
First, it is wishful thinking to imagine that after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Public Diplomacy will "return to normal." The international environment is volatile, and Public Diplomacy is sure to receive unexpected taskings and face extraordinary challenges in the “post-war” environment. It’s not hard to imagine circumstances that would again require a “surge.”
Second, during the two wars the Foreign Service developed close relationships with the armed forces. We should consolidate and build upon those relationships rather than allow them to dissipate. Two of the major elements of national power are “diplomatic” and “military.” Because the Foreign Service and the armed forces will continue to be associated across the full continuum from conflict prevention to hostilities, the United States will need more, not less, alignment of these two elements of national power. We thus need to capture the “case studies” of civ-mil cooperation – positive and negative -- over the last decade.
Third, short tours in specific places affected all of our visions, and it’s natural to generalize that what was right and what was wrong at “my post” represented the whole. “Lessons learned” can help all of us see the bigger pictures.
Fourth, what self-respecting profession shakes off more than a decade of war with no self-examination of the experience?