This is the first in a series from Carrie Walters, Pickering Fellow at the U.S. State Department and Master's Candidate in Public Diplomacy at USC's Annenberg School for Communication.
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.
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.
U.S. public diplomacy programs aim to cultivate connections between foreign publics and the United States, which in theory fosters greater understanding of the United States, its motivations, and ultimate policy objectives. It should make sense of U.S. politics and reveal a more "objective" picture of the stewards of U.S. policy, who act at the behest of the American people. And it’s not an exact science. Strongly entrenched negative views about the U.S. in the Middle East (and elsewhere) continue to push the State Department towards new ideas for how this can be accomplished.