STRATEGIC REVIEW OF AMERICAN PUBLIC DIPLOMACY

In March the National Security Council promulgated a National Strategy for Strategic Communication. On March 10, 2010, Undersecretary Judith McHale testified in the U.S. Senate on the State Department roadmap in this matter (“U.S. Public Diplomacy: Strengthening U.S. Engagement with the World”).

There seems to be an agreement that major institutional changes are on their way. One option could be greater coordination through the National Security Council (NSC) and an interagency process.

Since the end of the Cold War great challenges have emerged for the United States in the field of strategic communication and public diplomacy:

Extremists are showing increasing expertise in the field of media strategy used to recruit new followers. The extremists in question are of course Islamist extremists.

China’s global influence is growing with a large number of propaganda programs.

The Russian media presence is increasing.

Iran’s cultural centers seek to influence key audiences.

McHales testimony offered only modest changes to the State Department program which is certainly insufficient. What is needed is among other things a staff within the International Information Programs (IIP) to conduct audience research among foreign publics. Since 2009 it is increasingly clear that the State Department cannot offer much of an inspiring public diplomacy.

It does not much believe in the technique of soft power to influence abroad. When it comes to NSC there seems to be insufficient staffing. The present policy for the U.S. president to apologize for American history most of the time is not very inspiring. Instead the U.S. administration should reinforce a narrative that portrays the United States as a unique, global leader and a decisive source of stability which can spread democratic and free-market values across the globe.

As often is the case Congress has to step in using its oversight powers.

One must hope for hearings in the future on public diplomacy strategy and the great challenges facing the United States:
radical Islamism, Chinese expansionism, Russian revanchism, and disinformation from countries such as Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

Congress should also fund pilot projects that illustrates the effectiveness of foreign audience research. This might be one road to travel to create a revitalized and multifaceted public diplomacy doctrine to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

There are other options, however, if the federal government is failing to do its part. That would be for instance the creation of a Freedom Academy for Public Diplomacy, a privately funded academy for research and education in the field. Such a freedom academy on Soviet political and psychological warfare existed in the United States during the Cold War after a congressional effort to create a federally funded academy failed.

For additional information on the subject see Helle C. Dale’s Heritage Foundation Web Memo No. 2840 of March 22, 2010 (“Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications Review: Key Issues for Con

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