Latest Must-Reads in Public Diplomacy: March 2018

The March edition of CPD Faculty Fellow Bruce Gregory's public diplomacy reading list is now available. Known affectionately at CPD as "Bruce's List," this list is a compilation of books, journal articles, papers and blogs on a wide variety of PD topics and features a number of CPD scholars. Highlights from this latest list include:

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power,” Foreign Affairs, January 24, 2018. Nye (Harvard University) warns against overreaction to “sharp power”—a term coined and explained by the National Endowment for Democracy’s Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig in Foreign Affairs and a lengthy Endowment report. Sharp power, they argue, is used by Russia and China to exploit open political and information environments in democracies. They contrast sharp power with soft power (attraction and persuasion) and urge more assertive defensive and offensive responses by democracies. Nye responds by arguing Russian and Chinese “information warfare” is real, but that sharp power is a form of hard power. What’s new is not the deceptive use of information; what’s new is its speed and low cost. Democracies, Nye contends, should not imitate these methods. Overreaction to sharp power undercuts advantages that come from soft power on its own and when coupled with hard power as a force multiplier. In a response to Nye, Walker points to a paradox: Russia and China do poorly in soft power surveys, yet they are “projecting more influence...without relying principally on military might or even on raw economic coercion.” “Sound diagnosis” and “more precise terminology” are pre-requisites to an appropriate response. See Christopher Walker, “The Point of Sharp Power,” Project Syndicate, February 1, 2018.

James Pamment, “Foresight Revisited: Visions of Twenty-First Century Diplomacy,” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, (2018) 14:47-54. In 1999, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tasked a group of young “fast stream” British diplomats, known as “Young Turks,” to challenge conventional thinking and provide a radical bottom up view of how the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should change by 2010. Pamment (Lund University) examines their Foresight Report, an internal 104-page study never publicly released, which he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The controversial report, widely discussed within British diplomatic and political circles, contained 97 findings and recommendations for transformational FCO changes in an era of digital technologies, newly empowered non-state actors, understanding public diplomacy as a term and category of practice in a British context, and the changing roles of foreign ministries. The report also voiced a critique of relations between diplomats and elected officials. Pamment provides an analysis of the report’s key judgments and impact. He concludes it is a significant document in British diplomacy, in global debates on the future of diplomacy, and in our contemporary understanding of digital diplomacy and the centrality of public diplomacy in diplomatic practice.

Philip Seib, As Terrorism Evolves: Media, Religion, and Governance, (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Seib (University of Southern California) turns in this slim volume to what he calls a new and durable “terrorism era” in which evolving terrorist organizations are capable of mounting attacks with global reach and acting as state-like entities that take and hold territory. Five chapters divide into conceptual frameworks: definitions of terrorism and terrorists’ motivations, connections between terrorism and religion, organizational skills of growing sophistication, the role of the media, and responses to terrorism through political, military, and public diplomacy means. Much of the focus is on Islamic State, but attention is paid also to Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, the Haqqani network, Jamaah Islamiya, and other organizations. In a brief section on “the value of public diplomacy,” some provocative ideas warrant discussion and further research. For example: “part of counterterrorism is focused on messaging and countermessaging, with heavy emphasis on social media. Credibility is crucial to such work, and so governments’ fingerprints on online products should be as invisible as possible” (p. 166). What priority should be given to messaging? Where should lines be drawn between attribution, non-attribution, and “attributable” content? Are government’s voices ipso facto less credible than civil society’s voices, an underlying assumption for many in today’s discourse? Seib writes for students and general audiences with the organization and clarity readers have come to expect from this professor of journalism, public diplomacy, and international relations.

Rodrigo Tavares, Paradiplomacy: Cities and States as Global Players, (Oxford University Press, 2016). Tavares (Granite Partners, United Nations University) has written an informed guide to the rise of cities and other sub-state actors in diplomacy and global affairs. His book explores debates on the meaning of paradiplomacy and related terms, a brief history with examples (beginning with Greek city states), and analysis of the varieties of goals, methods, and tools of contemporary sub-state diplomacy actors. Tavares provides a wealth of case studies (Azores, Bavaria, Buenos Aires, California, Catalonia, Flanders, Guangzhou, Massachusetts, Medellin, New South Wales, New York City, Quebec, Tokyo, and more). He concludes with thoughts on further research on sub-state diplomacy in an era when foreign ministries face changing roles and challenges.

The full list is available here.

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