Latest Must Reads in Public Diplomacy: January 2021

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:

Nicholas J. Cull and Michael K. Hawes, eds., Canada’s Public Diplomacy, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). For decades, Canada’s diplomacy scholars and practitioners have done excellent, innovative work. This collection of essays, compiled by Nick Cull (University of Southern California) and Michael K. Hawes (Queens University, Canada) is no exception. Many authors of these chapters will need no introduction to longtime readers of this list. Previews of each are accessible through the title link. See also “The Latest Book on Canada’s Public Diplomacy,” November 17, 2020, USC Center on Public Diplomacy. The book is affordably priced in paperback on Amazon at USD $29.99.

Nicholas Burns, Marc Grossman, and Marcie Ries, “A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century,”Harvard Kennedy School, November 2020. The authors are retired Foreign Service Officers who served with distinction in the political officer career track and as ambassadors. Their report is an ambitious call to reimagine American diplomacy and reinvent the Foreign Service. It is not a plan to reform the State Department, its Civil Service component, or whole of government diplomacy. Some recommendations have a vintage hue: restore State’s lead role in foreign policy, reaffirm ambassadors as the president’s personal representatives, strengthen budget support for the Foreign Service. Other recommendations focus on organization and process:

(1) Enact a new Foreign Service Act, preserving what is good in existing law;

(2) Transform the Foreign Service culture through promotion and assignment incentives;

(3) Achieve diversity through relentless top down direction, structural changes in recruitment and promotions, and a diplomacy ROTC-type program;

(4) Expand career long education and training through legislation and a 15% personnel increase to create a “training float;

(5) End the internal “caste” system by eliminating separate career tracks (aka “cones”);

(6) Create a defined mid-career entry program for critical skills;

(7) Seek legislation and funding for a Diplomatic Reserve Corps;

(8) Increase numbers of career diplomats in ambassadorial and senior Department positions to achieve symmetry with the military, CIA, and NSA; and

(9) Rename the Foreign Service as the “United States Diplomatic Service.”

Ilan Manor and Guy J. Golan, “The Irrelevance of Soft Power,” ResearchGate, E-International Relations, October 19, 2020. Manor (University of Oxford) and Golan (Texas Christian University) argue the debatable and seemingly inconsistent propositions that soft power is irrelevant (their title) and secondary (in their article). The 21st century, they contend, will consist of growing competition among three giants – the US, China, and India. Nations will create short-term alliances that will be malleable and “rest on shared interests, not shared values.” Power will function differently. Soft power (attraction) and hard power (threats and coercion), as conceptualized by Joseph Nye, will give way to power understood as bargaining among the giants and issue specific strategic alliances. Foreign publics will care about states “primarily when they share interests.” The authors have written extensively and well in the past on public diplomacy and digital technologies in diplomatic practice, and their geopolitical forecasts in this paper are worth consideration going forward. However, their claim that “Soft Power will no longer be relevant” and their suggestion that Nye’s soft power concept is time bound are problematic. To be sure, Nye’s work has focused primarily on the uses of power in the modern era. But his writings are filled will references to the relevance and varieties of hard and soft power (and tradeoffs between them) in the interaction of groups throughout history. To borrow from Mark Twain, reports of soft power’s “irrelevance” are greatly exaggerated.

Alina Polyakova and Daniel Fried, “Democratic Offense Against Disinformation,” Center for European Analysis (CEPA) and Atlantic Council, December 2, 2020. In this paper, the third in a series, Polyakova (CEPA President and CEO) and Fried (Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow) turn from arguments based on defense and resilience to offense. By this they do not mean spreading disinformation. Their strategy calls for building up cyber tools to identify and disrupt, sanctions, and asymmetric support for free media (journalists, activists, and independent investigators). By asymmetric, they do not mean directly countering disinformation. Rather they support tools and methods that emphasize “the inherent attraction, over the long run, of truth,” the greatest strength of free societies dealing with authoritarian adversaries. See also “The Lawfare Podcast: Can Democracies Play Offense on Disinformation,” (56 minutes), December 3, 2020. (Courtesy of Len Baldyga)

Natalia Grincheva, Museum Diplomacy in the Digital Age, (Routledge, 2020). Grincheva (National Research University “Higher School of Economics,” Moscow) is among a growing number of scholars who are expanding the meaning of cultural diplomacy to include, in her words, “exchanges and interactions among people, organizations and communities that take place beyond the direct control or involvement of national governments.” She finds evidence in the way social media give cultural communities opportunities (1) to challenge museum authority in cultural knowledge creation, (2) to “voice opinions and renegotiate cultural identities,” and (3) to “establish new pathways for international cultural relations, exchange and, potentially, diplomacy.” Her well researched book supports these ideas with three case studies of online museum projects: The Australian Museum’s Virtual Museum of the Pacific in Sydney, the UK’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” a project undertaken by the British Museum in collaboration with the BBC, and the YouTube Play global contest of creative videos developed by Google and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Grincheva provides a description and critique of these projects as well as assessments of their political narratives. She argues they create channels of museum diplomacy through (1) their projection of national cultures and values in the global media environment, and (2) their value as meeting spaces for cross cultural exchange, learning, dialogue, and exposure of political and cultural differences. This is a provocative study that deserves attention and debate. As with other inquiries into diplomacy‘s meaning in society beyond governance, it raises an important research question: where does diplomacy stop, and where do other categories of cross-cultural connections begin?

The full list, including works by USC M.P.D. Co-Director Robert Banks, former Governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors Matt Armstrong, and President and CEO of IREX Kristen Lord is available here.



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