The public scolding took place right after the long Labor Day weekend, perhaps not to spoil anyone's vacation. Setting atop the office desks of those who manage the U.S. government's Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) when they returned to work was a terse report on their failings. It was not that their charges, America’s Arabic-language Radio Sawa and TV Alhurra, were putting out inferior broadcasts. Rather, the folks in charge of those broadcasts were not running things like good bureaucrats. What exactly does that mean?
Is it any wonder that U.S. public diplomacy is on life support?
While perhaps the truest measure of our effectiveness around the globe and an essential tool for U.S. national interests long-term, public diplomacy is in deep trouble -- undervalued at home and under siege abroad. From Katrina to Iraq, our communication wounds are deep -- hostage to policies that are viewed as bankrupt in both their rhetoric and application.
Today's turbulent world is one in which Canada's traditional role as a middle power or broker of interests is needed more than ever. 50 years ago Canada led the world in diplomacy, with the exclamation point coming with (eventual) Prime Minister Lester Pearson's key role in the Suez Crisis. Pearson served as an honest broker and set the standard for generations of Canadian diplomats to follow. Significant reductions in Canada's presence in this area constitute a setback to the country's traditional role within NATO and the world in general.
Let's face it, America. We're having more than just a bad day.
No, this isn't malaise, but a serious condition brought on by prolonged exposure to really bad news.
Like everything else, it seems to date from Sept. 11, 2001, when we faced the unthinkable on our own shores. We've been reeling ever since, seeking answers and leadership and policies that work. But it's been a bitter harvest.
Author Alvin Snyder provides an insightful look at the world of diplomacy by providing sound advice from some of the field’s most celebrated figures.
Numerous columns have been written as a "Memorandum to Karen Hughes," with advice to the undersecretary of state on how to improve America’s public diplomacy efforts. But what if the president himself telephoned, to ask advice on the same issue? What would one say? (Remember, it’s the president, so no showboating).
It was just over a year ago that Karen Hughes, then nominee for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before her swift appointment as the nation's chief public diplomat. Striking all the right chords along the way, Hughes affirmed that "the mission of public diplomacy is to engage, inform, and help others (read 'foreign populations') understand our policies, actions and values.
Some Worldcasting readers are said to take issue with our most recent piece contending that the Fox News Channel is a key player in U.S. public diplomacy. A great misperception is that FNC is solely a domestic U.S. cable news service, with minimal foreign distribution. But Fox News Channel is not only international in scope, it is in fact broadcast in 88 countries worldwide.
The U.S. foreign policy machine has been churning out a lot of bad ideas lately. To what do we owe this increased supply of bad ideas? Is it mainly the fault of the current foreign policy team? The permanent foreign policy apparatchiks? Where do all these bad ideas come from?
The short answer is, "all of the above." Bad ideas are not just the fault of the Bush officials that control the White House, State Department and Defense, although to them goes the lion share of responsibility for providing and enacting really bad ideas about foreign policy.