The CPD Blog is intended to stimulate dialog among scholars and practitioners from around the world in the public diplomacy sphere. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect CPD's views. For blogger guidelines, click here.

Last March I wrote an essay for the Center's "Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review" identifying what I believe to be a key problem with our nation's public diplomacy -- a lack of emphasis on informing people overseas about our nation's history. One thing that makes this an attractive approach is that it can be done for the most part with infrastructure that we already have in place. We don't need to reinvent the wheel.

This commentary was originally published by EurasiaNet on May 23, 2007

Canadians are growing increasingly jittery about their country’s military participation in Afghanistan. A majority of Canadians now wonder if the political cost of maintaining troops in Afghanistan is too high. They should realize that the cost of not being there would be even higher.

The 6-month anniversary for Al Jazeera's English satellite TV channel comes up mid-month, and the many challenges that beset the organization appear to have bubbled to the surface in the months since the channel debuted November 16.

In my previous contribution to this site I offered a brief and wide-ranging survey of contemporary Chinese public diplomacy which I described as "work in progress." China's relations with such odious regimes as Zimbabwe, together with its continued intimidation of democratic Taiwan, mean that positive developments, such as its increasingly affable and sensitive attitude towards Japan and its role in defusing nuclear crises in the Korean peninsula, are obscured.

This is the first of what I intend as a series of occasional postings about public diplomacy and soft power in and towards Asia, focusing principally on the People's Republic of China. This site is understandably concerned with western approaches to, and practices of, public diplomacy, especially as they relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the challenges of international terrorism. My aim is to draw attention to non-western perspectives that acknowledge, but are not dominated by, events in the Middle East.

The many justifications for U.S. public diplomacy policy range from the concrete to the abstract. In forums such as this Web site, public diplomacy is described as both a specialized instrument for foreign policy promotion, as well as a symbol of the lofty ideals of promoting international dialogue and cultural understanding. Yet the instrumental aspect of public diplomacy typically boils down to the amplification of United States ethos.

From their offices in Washington and its suburbs, U.S. government officials charged with explaining the American way to publics abroad were put to the test last week by the Virginia Tech shootings.

When I give my course, "Propaganda and US Foreign Policy" (1) -- a historical overview of the subject -- I like to invite the class for a modest buffet dinner chez moi. The last time this get-together took place, it included a screening of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), a film -- considered by some a propaganda classic -- that celebrates the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. As the students ate their dessert, I turned on the DVD, and the Nazi director's troubling yet spectacular black-and-white images appeared.

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