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.
DOHA, Qatar --- News from the Middle East is dominated by conflict, whether the stories come from Syria, Libya, Iraq, or other states in the region. Blood is plentiful; hope is scarce. But beyond the lurid viciousness that dominates daily journalism are long-term challenges to the region’s future that are impervious to solutions that rely on the weaponry of conflict. The resolve and creativity with which Arab leaders and publics address these matters, as well as their local wars, will shape the lives of coming generations.
A perennial question about public diplomacy is, “Does it work?” Congress quite rightly asks that whenever budgets are being scrutinized, and public diplomacy practitioners do their best to provide definitive answers.
This can be difficult because only a late harvest will discover all the fruit of public diplomacy. Student exchange programs, for example, may have greatest effect decades later, when the former students have become government officials.
As an indication of how online media are becoming ever more dominant in our world, consider two newspaper front pages (the ink-on-paper versions) on Wednesday, April 24.
The Secretary, by BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas, is a remarkable book. Not only does it provide an insightful record of life on the road with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but also it treats public diplomacy seriously.
This latter point might not seem so special, but it is remarkable how few people understand what public diplomacy is and why it is an essential element of international relations. Rarely do journalists acknowledge public diplomacy’s existence, much less write about it as thoughtfully as Ghattas does.
President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has never been warm. So while visiting Israel, Obama did not limit himself to the standard rhetorical niceties. He went over the heads of politicians and appealed directly to the Israeli public, especially the young, to make his case for a more flexible approach to negotiating with Palestinians.
Consider this statement: “The great body of citizens are refusing to wait until negotiations are over or policies are acted upon or even determined. They demand to know what is going on and to have an opportunity to express their opinions at all stages of diplomatic proceedings.”
Perhaps the greatest deterrent to extremism is prosperity. If people have a decent place to live, can put food on the table for their families, and see their children healthy and being educated, they are likely to tune out recruitment efforts by terrorists and other proponents of violence.
George Packer, in his piece in The New Yorker evaluating Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, cites Clinton’s many public events around the world and observes that she “knew she would have to be seen listening in order to help regain the world’s respect” for the United States. Packer also notes that Clinton’s approach was not always appreciated, that her town halls and other such sessions “were sometimes derided as soft and marginal to real foreign policy.”
Performance of Congress-Financed Alhurra TV: Do Viewership Numbers and American Taxpayer Money Spent Add Up?
Join the Conversation
Interested in contributing to the CPD Blog? We welcome your posts. Read our guidelines and find out how you can submit blogs and photo essays >.