history & theory

Just a few minutes on foot from the bustle of downtown Bucharest, the State Jewish Theater, down a small side street in the Romanian capital, cuts a forlorn figure. Yet the theater is one of the few vestiges of what was once a large Jewish community in Romania, and one of the few professional Yiddish-language theaters left in Europe.

Digital Diplomacy is the new radio. Ever since politicians figured out that they could speak directly to ‘the masses’, we have had the phenomenon of public diplomacy. It became possible, via radio, to speak directly to people without having to go through official government channels. In the early 20th century, the Nazis and the Bolsheviks effectively used the radio to stoke revolutions in neighbouring countries.

January 11, 2017

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” Theodore Roosevelt famously said in 1901, when the United States was emerging as a great power. It was the right sentiment, perhaps, in an age of imperial rivalry but today many Americans doubt the utility of their global military presence, thinking it outdated, unnecessary or even dangerous.

The U.N.’s second secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold defined the job’s role as a diplomat who has the ability and courage to navigate a course independent of the major powers and in defense of the world’s population. [...] Once Ban was installed at the U.N. in 2007, he broke with tradition by naming Americans — two former State Department diplomats — to be his chief political officers during his ten-year tenure. 

Measurement and evaluation is nothing new to public diplomacy. Nicholas Cull holds that America’s public diplomats have always understood the need to move the needle. However, most historical accounts also agree that the topic has gained considerable traction since 9/11. 

January 2, 2017

Presidents can influence sports. Dwight Eisenhower attempted to improve relations with the Soviet Union in the late 1950s with a sports and cultural exchange program. Richard Nixon opened trade with China after a ping pong tournament between the US and China and Nixon’s effort was named “ping pong diplomacy” in the early 1970s.

A new exhibition of works from the Barjeel collection recently opened at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art to considerable international fanfare. No reviews have appeared at time of writing (and this is also not one) [...] In the context of this fraught historical moment, Tehran’s new exhibition is being promoted as a bracing act of cultural diplomacy. 

In the last month of President Barack Obama’s two terms, he is focused on the same foreign country when he began his presidency: Japan. [...] Eight years later, Tuesday, President Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood together at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, to honor the sacrifices of Americans killed during the Japanese attack on U.S. warships 75 years ago. 

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