Dec 10, 2009

A somewhat belated reflection on Erdoğan's talk

Some thoughts on the "emerging" power's rhetoric...

The agenda of Erdoğan’s visit to Washington this week was clear way in advance. It was not going to be about the relations with Armenia, or Israel, for that matter, despite the wishful thinking of some. Rather, it was going to focus on the current agenda-toppers: Afghanistan and Iran. Of course, we can never know what exactly went on during the private two-hour-long discussion that Obama had with him; but from what the “unnamed officials” are telling the media, the disagreements are still there: Erdoğan refuses to commit more combat troops to Afghanistan, he is still willing to talk with Iran, and he still dislikes – very much – whatever happened in Gaza last winter. Despite all that, he made sure to demonstrate his devotion to the U.S. by talking at the Trans-Atlantic Leaders’ Forum at Johns Hopkins University, after the official part of the day, giving himself another pat in the back, calling for more understanding of his government, and praising the Americans for their support... (continue reading)

Dec 4, 2009

Going wrong in Afghanistan? Show, don't just tell...

The latest story to hit the top headlines around the world: “Obama to send in 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.” Well, it certainly has many implications, but I’ll focus more on the strategic communication aspect, especially in light of our recent class material.

(Photo courtesy of Defenselink)

Public diplomacy and strategic communication are increasingly criticized for not being responsive to the recent trends of globalization: they have grown increasingly ineffective, they are not engaging enough, and in many instances, they are even counter-productive, if not detrimental, only fuelling the extremist discourse. Many various solutions have been suggested to address the problem, and from all these, I think Daryl Copeland’s approach sounds as the most comprehensive one. He suggests having guerilla diplomats – agile, acute, and autonomous – as “network-builders” and “knowledge-workers” to be able to maneuver better in the increasingly “bazaar-like” horizontal power-dynamics and to manage the challenges of globalization more effectively. What I like most in his argument, however, is the emphasis on the fact that underdevelopment is the major cause for insecurity, and the need to have guerilla diplomats actively contributing to sustainable development so as to successfully address the problem in societies with chronic instability and lack of governance.
   Development as an instrument for stability has been among the key American strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq (CERP just one of them), with increasing resource commitments, which are sure to rise with the tentative date of withdrawal now set.  In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Wilder and Gordon say their research has shown, however, that “there was very little evidence of aid projects winning hearts and minds or promoting stability,” and that the Afghans themselves explained the increase in insurgency by increased disenfranchisement with their own government, seen as largely “corrupt and unjust.” The Afghans were also very critical of all the foreign development aid, which was perceived as fuelling massive corruption and undermining the “positive impacts it may otherwise had.” The more interesting fact is that the U.S. is itself actually paying millions of dollars to ensure security – or at least, not to create insecurity – to Afghan officials, tribal leaders, security forces… and insurgents, including the Taliban.
There goes credibility - the much-acclaimed element so vital to strategic communication - down the drain... Should we blame the money-driven mindset that somehow missed the target in a fundamentally different society?
In the same article, Wilder and Gordon say that the only development-related case that the Afghans perceived as successful was the National Solidarity Program, where the local communities played a greater role in planning, designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the projects.  A tribal leader quoted in the end of the article states: “Money can't win hearts and minds. If you give an Afghan a great meal but insult him he will never come again. But if you treat him with respect but only give him a piece of bread he will be your friend forever.” 
Therefore, Copeland is only right. Development – but, real and sustainable development, that can ensure the existence of proper institutions and governance (unlike the small-scale short-term projects envisioned by CERP, for example) – coupled with increasing trust from the local people, can prove to be the key to achieving stability in Afghanistan. To build trust, NATO needs to listen and involve the Afghan people themselves - NOT only the Afghan officials – to gauge the effect of its programs, formulate more appropriate strategies, and SHOW (and not just TELL) that it really cares about the Afghan future. If anything, they would only benefit from the Pragmatic Complexity Model, and the recognition that sustainable long-term stability (or, especially, democracy) cannot be imposed, but rather, has to be cultivated and nurtured together with the Afghans themselves. After all, a stable Afghanistan will only contribute to a stable world and thus, national security.

Dec 3, 2009

E-E Campaigns

I'm all for Dutta's "subaltern critique" of entertainment-education campaigns. To the extent that he exposes the hegemony-reinforcing tactics of E-E campaigns and the need for subaltern voices in the policy-making phases of these campaigns, I support him. However, I take issue with his criticism of population control as the E-E campaign topic of choice to the exclusion of those fundamental needs articulated most by the subaltern voices. Dutta himself notes that this lack of resources and extreme poverty are due to structural issues within the country, rather than issues of individual agency. While I agree that sending kids to bed with a full stomach is a more urgent goal than preventing the birth of more kids, I disagree with Dutta's implication that access to food and water should take the place of population control in E-E campaigns if only for the simple question of how can E-E campaigns resolve structural resource issues? As Singhal and Rogers define them, E-E campaigns by definition, aimed at the masses, are designed to bring about behavioral and social change. For instance, Dutta notes that "As members of marginalized sectors of the world, participants discuss problems of joblessness, corruption, and exploitation that are intrinsically connected with being poor," presumably to argue that such topics should be the focus of E-E campaigns before population control. Yet which of these topics can be affected by the masses (educated through entertainment), non-elites with little to no power to influence the E-E campaigns directed at them, let alone structural or institutional changes, by changing their behavior on an individual level?

I am not so much arguing in defense of population control being the primary focus of E-E campaigns, as supporting the idea that this message and its designed outcomes fit the medium better than the ones Dutta puts forth. There is perhaps an argument to be made that less resources overall should be directed at E-E campaigns, and more to addressing structural inequities. But Dutta's article, while contributing to Melkote's notion of greater grassroots participation in policymaking, takes population control to task yet fails to provide a compelling argument for an alternative topic that is more pressing AND suits the medium of E-E campaigns.

Dec 2, 2009

The Greatest Hits and Misses of Obama's Afghanistan Address

I know this doesn't necessarily have much to do with the reading, but since this is an International Communication course and we just covered Afghanistan in our group presentation I thought it would be interesting to see what people thought of Obama's Afghanistan speech. If this address wasn't international communication put into real world practice I don't know what was.

Below is what I wrote on my Blog:


Speaking at The United States Military Academy at West Point, U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama finally addressed the American people to provide a clear explanation for the United States' efforts in Afghanistan. Obama also made it a point to remind the American people exactly why the United States is still in Afghanistan 8 years after the 9/11 attacks.

Obama's referencing of the post 9/11 international milieu was an important element in trying to remind the American people precisely why Afghanistan should matter to them. Quite simply, as Obama re-iterated, Afghanistan matters to the American people because of two words - "national security."

However, in his efforts to harken back to 9/11 Obama did not do enough to distance the Afghan people from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. After all, not a single one of those hijackers was Afghan. In fact, the people of Afghanistan had no idea the Taliban were harboring Osama Bin Laden nor did they know what the foreigners were plotting in their nation.

This is a very important to distinction for, the more the American people can identify with the people of Afghanistan, as people and not terrorists, the more likely they will be to accept a U.S. presence in Afghanistan. After all, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were largely foreign forces operating within Afghanistan without the consent, approval, or even knowledge of the Afghan people.

Al Qaeda's base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban  a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

The vote in the Senate was 98 to 0. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5  the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda's terrorist network, and to protect our common security.

Obama's reference to the deferment of attention from Afghanistan to Iraq was also a very important point. It is also a point that many Americans may not have understood or remembered. As Obama stated, the United States was making great strides in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan until the start of the Iraq War. Also, with the statements about Iraq's impact on Afghanistan and the shifting of American attention after the Soviet Occupation, Obama was able to illustrate to the American people the impacts of abandoning Afghanistan in the past. For better or worse, Obama did not quite hammer that point in directly, but the allusions to such statements can be of great service in garnering support from the American people for an on-going American presence in Afghanistan.

It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention  and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world…while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.

Unfortunately, there were also elements of pandering in Obama's statements. Most notable was Obama's pandering to Pakistan and Pakistani interests. Obama referred to America's commitment to Pakistan, Taliban attacks on Pakistani soil, and Pakistan as a partner in the war on terror without putting any real pressure on Pakistan to thwart terrorism within their nation. This unfortunately is a terrible stance to take, because Pakistan's interests and Afghanistan's interests are not the same (at least not within the governments), Pakistan has yet to take a firm stance against terrorism, and because Pakistan is ultimately the real hotbed of terrorism in the world. For the United States to ally itself too closely with Pakistan is quite dangerous, and considering Pakistan's sordid past as the "godfather" of the Taliban not in the best interest of Afghanistan. If Obama is not careful in managing the relationship between the United States and their "ally" Pakistan, this partnership could be the equivalent of giving Saddam weapons to fight the Iranians with. This alliance between the United States and Pakistan becomes all the more dangerous when one takes into account the claims that the Pakistani government is making deals with anti-NATO/U.S. militants in Waziristan.

It is true that the United States must assure Pakistan of its own safety, but it seems as if Obama is placing far too much trust in a nation that has not only been accused of lacking initiative and diligence on the war on terror, but whose leadership has been highly critical of the United States despite receiving aid and arms from the U.S.

If anything, the United States should be placing as much pressure on Zardari as they are on Karzai.

Also, the diction of Obama's reassurance to Pakistan was quite problematic in that Obama referred to Taliban attacks in Pakistan but made no such distinction of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

As this address was to the American people, Obama had to reassure them that the United States would not be in Afghanistan for an extended period of time. However, his 18 month timeline is extremely problematic for a nation that has been ravaged by 30 years of war, occupation, warlordism, narcotics trade, terrorism, and insurgency. Unlike Iraq, the 30 years of war have left Afghanistan almost entirely devoid of even the most basic infrastructure and to say that the United States troops will put out in 18 months puts the United States and Afghanistan in a precarious situation.

Though the United States does not plan to engage in state building, leaving Afghanistan without restoring both order and basic services could prove highly dangerous for both nations. As Dr. Ashraf Ghani pointed out on CNN, stability in Afghanistan without a properly function nation that can provide basic goods and services is nearly impossible.

After all, if Afghanistan does not have the basic infrastructure and services that Iraq currently has within the 18 month window, whose to say the Taliban will not bide their time and then attack Afghanistan ideologically and violently once again? It would not be difficult for the Taliban to engage in a propaganda campaign accusing the United States of abandoning Afghanistan again without restoring order and civil society to the nation.

The Afghans who have reluctantly turned to the Taliban in the past 8 years have done so because of an on-going propaganda campaign by the Taliban alluding to the lack of development coupled with mounting civilian deaths in Afghanistan over the past years. Whose to say that in 18 months time if Afghanistan is not substantially more secure and developed, the Taliban could not engage in a similar propaganda campaign?

After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So no  I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.

It is extremely important for Obama to put increasing pressure upon the Afghan government, but again, what of the Pakistani government? Obama himself admits in the speech that Pakistan is receiving aid and resources from the United States but never quite puts any real pressure upon the Zardari government to take a proactive effort in the war on terror. What are the consequences of Pakistani inaction in the war on terror? Again, Obama himself admits that Pakistan is a vital piece of the puzzle in thwarting global terror, but he never places any real consequences on the Pakistani government for inaction.

But it will be clear to the Afghan government  and, more importantly, to the Afghan people  that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

The statement to the Afghan people was well-worded and crucial, however, that brief statement cannot take the place of Obama addressing the Afghan people separately in their own media. The people of Afghanistan, who are reluctantly turning to the Taliban for security after 8 years of mounting civilian deaths and stagnation, must be assured of the United States' commitment to their nation. With this address, Obama has officially begun the campaign to re-win the hearts and minds of the American people but what of the Afghan people?

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They have been confronted with occupation  by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand  America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect  to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

Disproving the Vietnam comparisons once and for all proves a clear blow to Obama's detractors and critics of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, especially given the basic, yet highly important fact that separates Afghanistan from Vietnam.

And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now  and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance  would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

In all Obama delivered a solid speech that laid out what he hoped to achieve in Afghanistan with a fairly clear plan (though some points could have used greater elaboration), a much needed step for winning back support among the people of the United States. As to how Obama's detractors and the critics of the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan were impacted by the speech we will have to wait and see, but this address is a solid step in the right direction nonetheless.

There was of course one crucial point that went glaringly uncovered in Obama's speech - airstrikes. Obama made no mention of the mounting civilian deaths in Afghanistan from the air strikes. Though he did mention Taliban attacks on Pakistani soil, Obama did not address the air strikes that have driven many distraught Afghans back into the arms of the Taliban out of despair and aggravation. Obama will have a hard time winning back the support of those Afghans, as well as the confidence of Afghans in general, until he can state how the 30,000 extra ground troops will reduce the civilian deaths from air strikes. In fact, Obama makes no mention of the civilian deaths throughout his entire speech.

Of course, this speech was meant to win the support of the American people so mentions of such egregious mistakes by the United States may not have helped regain American support for a U.S. presence in Afghanistan. However, air strikes are still an extremely important point - a point that many Americans may not be entirely clueless to.

In the end, though Obama's address lived up to his reputation for oratory and rhetoric, he must continue to work hard to regain the support of both the American and Afghan people. This was a good initial step, but it should not be the only statement on the issue of Afghanistan, especially to the people of Afghanistan.

Dec 1, 2009

The Idea of Control

There is an apparent continuum in our readings this 'week'. From Singhal to Corman & Tretheway to Fisher to Dutta, in which you return to where you began: the idea of population control.
Singhal takes the agenda for granted, focusing on how research on education-entertainment and its effects should be more diverse. He talks about various resistances as an issue to be addressed, a stumbling block.
Corman & Tretheway begin to shake up that dynamic, discussing how communication is simply not one-way. They go into a more complex model that takes into account how meaning is co-created, rather than fosted upon the receiver.
However, it is Fisher in his discussion about the Cathedral and Bazaar that pushes into the gray areas, the real world - that beyond meaning, the framing is not sending a message. The frame is a discussion, a dialogue, wherein both sides are the senders and receivers. This de-privileges the original sender and put them on equal ground with those they wish to communicate to.
Ah, but that brings us to Dutta, whose point is that you do not communicate to, but with others. He applies this practically to the issue of population control. The Western media is acting paternalistic, trying to change other societies for the better - but convinced of their viewpoint, they have set the agenda and only engage publics in order to co-opt them into supporting their projects. They have not stopped to listen to local populations, to stop and consider their concerns and resistances as legitimate, rather than 'backward tradition' that impedes development (invariably a positive concept.) Dutta is look to apply Fisher's negotiation concept to a projects of a national nature, that have been pre-determined as necessary and the essence of civilization by the Western world.
Honestly, when I first read Singhal's piece, I was a little taken-aback by the clear motives of education but it took Dutta to make me realize how deeply this population policy is controversial. There are so many implicit assumptions - it seems so common-sense, but it's not and we have failed to realize this.
This whole controversy, that the West has failed to realize even is a controversy for the most part, is symptomatic of the West's still-prevailing sometimes-invisible superiority complex.
"But we just want to make life better for them!"
Admirable motives, I still think, but if we fail to listen as well as talk, we will fail to realize 'better' is so very complex.

Nov 30, 2009

Subaltern Education Entertainment

One of our readings for this week was Mohan Jyoti Dutta’s “Theoretical Approaches to Entertainment Education Campaigns: a Subaltern Critique.” The reading used a subaltern studies perspective to analyze entertainment education campaigns, particularly in the realm of health care. Dutta begins by stating that E-E campaigns are the most used health care communication campaigns aimed at the Third World, and that E-E is a currently a hot topic in international communication scholarship, but lack a critical and interrogative approach.

Dutta argues that E-E campaigns are implemented under the guise of altruism, but really are created with the core countries’ values and ideologies in mind. Dutta extensively uses USAID as an example, citing the national security mission statement in several of USAID’s documents. I can see how this example supports Dutta’s claim that most E-E campaigns are implemented with the core countries’ best interests in mind. The USAID example surprised me since I guess I just always assumed that USAID was trying to do some good in other parts of the world. Then again, it’s not like the USAID documents that Dutta cited were hidden. USAID doesn’t seem like it is attempting to cover up any of its motives.

Dutta extensively discussed population control as a major area of a core country’s way of “fixing” a problem in a periphery area. While the examples Dutta discussed were, of course, extreme (like forcing black schoolgirls in South Africa to receive a contraceptive injection or performing a sterilization without the woman’s consent), I think Dutta made population control out to be more evil than I think it actually is. I think that everyone, whether in a core or periphery area, should have the right to use contraceptives and the availability of family planning education, as long as they give their consent.

When I first started reading about E-E campaigns, the idea made me a little nervous. Since the message (or “education”) is embedded with the entertainment, consumers are not really aware that they are consuming a strategic message complete with the ideologies and values of the sender’s culture. But then again, every message is like that. And while I completely agree that E-E campaigns should be looked at more critically, I also feel that we should not stop promoting health care education in periphery areas; we should find ways to do it more responsibly.

Nov 27, 2009

An Open-Source Approach to Afghanistan

In "Music for the Jilted Generation: Open-Source Public Diplomacy," Ali Fisher speaks a great deal about new approaches to public diplomacy which are more inclusive of a collective group and take into account how much each culture can learn from one another.

As Fisher points out, the critics of the traditional idea of public diplomacy as a "cathedral" run by a very insular, hierarchical group of elites who formulate their own ideas of success, speak a great deal about interaction openness among different cultures. The critics of the Cathedral emphasize the importance of cultures listening to one another, what can be learned as a result of said listening, and the value of interaction with other groups in general.

To Fisher, public diplomacy goes far beyond the traditional notions of warfare and hearts and minds. In fact, Fisher's most important statement outright refutes all of those traditional notions. "Public diplomacy is not necessarily merely about persuading people to adopt your goals. It is about achieving your goals through helping others achieve theirs," says Fisher.

This statement reminded me a lot of what many, many Afghans have been saying about the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan. Whereas Secretary of State Clinton recently said that the United States' sole goal in Afghanistan is to disband and disempower Al Qaeda in the nation, former Afghan Presidential candidate, Dr. Ashraf Ghani went on CNN to state outright that, that goal cannot be achieved without creating a safe, stable Afghanistan.

“In the process that threat cannot be eliminated unless Afghanistan is made stable. And it cannot be made stable unless a process of state-building is made in earnest“

To Dr. Ghani, current Afghan Ambassador Jawad, and many others, the United States cannot reach its goal in Afghanistan without first giving the Afghans the safety, security, stability, jobs, education, and basic infrastructure they have been waiting 30 years for.

In fact, when I appeared on the AU Observer web show a couple of weeks ago, the other panelist (a PHD student in International Relations at AU) agreed with me that the primary goal of the Americans should be to ensure the Afghans a functioning nation that meets their basic needs:

If the United States were to act properly in Afghanistan in giving the Afghans the basic things they want, it would prove Fisher's statement that "it is action that has an impact on the international environment" true.

Fisher also talks about the importance of information in open-source diplomacy, " it is important to consider information alongside other pillars of power, but also to consider a shift in the development of public diplomacy initiatives," says Fisher of open-source diplomacy. Fisher later compares this idea to Linux challenging Microsoft and the Wikipedia challenging traditional encyclopedias like the Britannica.

Of course, this idea notion of an inclusive and collective public diplomacy only works where access to information is readily available. Though even the United States' foreign policy can be seen as a giant cathedral, the people of the United States (for the most part) enjoy great access to unlimited streams of information. But what of the people in Iran, China, and North Korea where there is both censorship and government spying of information flows? What of Afghanistan where there is true pluralism in terms of media (over a dozen public and private owned TV stations, hundreds of radio stations, and dozens of newspapers operating fairly autonomously with little government interference). but the literacy rate is only 28%?

Also, as many people have noted, including Senator John Kerry, the United States has not done an adequate job in communicating its mission to the both Afghans and Americans - despite the various media outlets in both nations.

Nov 17, 2009

Chuck Hagel on U.S. Foreign Policy

When I worked at the Center for American Progress I used to do even highlight reels, and Senator Hagel's statements were the best I heard:

Creating Credibility

"Plenty of information leads to scarcity of attention... Editors and cue-givers become more in demand, and this is a source of power for those who can tell us where to focus our attention." - Glassman

This is the paradoxical nature of personalizing news flow. People search on the Internet, flip through a plethora of TV channels, self-selecting where, when and how they receive news. Yet exactly because there are so many sources, there is an even greater need for trusted mediators to make sense of the chaos. (Which raises the interesting question of whether the journalism profession will change to fill this void as news and information becomes ever more easy to obtain.)

But how do people know what to trust? The wars of perception are based on opposing forces of credibility - if no one trusts a dissenting voice, it has little power. Therefore media politics, the idea of selling character rather than substance (or the fact these two are inextricably linked), creating and destroying credibility, becomes a key part of general political behavior.

Nye builds on this by pointing out that the forms of public diplomacy cannot produce soft power if the message behind it is not appealing. He also adds the fact cultural attractiveness must be matched by admirable, proveable political values as well as legitimate foreign policies.

But this really hints at a deeper issue. One of the objectives of public diplomacy is to convince others that all of our interests coincide. Or: "This soft power —getting others to want the outcomes that you want— co-opts people rather than coerces them."

The real problem is that these outcomes are varied and sometime can contradict. For instance, Al Jazeera promoted internal critical review of Middle Eastern regimes and cultural practices, a laudable Western value, but in turning this view on the West, it became a threat to the U.S.'s (in particular) foreign policy objectives. We want to encourage our values abroad, but we want to own the enaction of them.

Glassman acknowledges that governments are rigid in this way, but simply states that it is impossible to do so in today's day and age. To maintain such rigidity, runs the risk of being ignored and losing credibility as a relevant voice.

He instead envisages an engagement of foreign publics that would operate by conversation versus dictation, supporting consideration of our values and culture while facilitating interaction.

But then what about Al Jazeera? It has taken certain cultural values or forms from us and used them to their own ends. How engaged should/can we get involved with them without compromising our foreign policy objectives? Will we go as far as to allow foreign publics to shape our foreign policy?

Nye writes that the impact of soft power lies in co-opting people. But that is still a framework of using people, drawing them into your understanding. Glassman's pointing to a negotiated framework - where people are not so much co-opted as cooperating in construction of understanding.

But does this change the foundation of soft power?

Identity crisis and the shortcomings of “Ice Age” Diplomacy

No, I’m not referring to global climate change here. I’m talking about the cartoon, Ice Age 3, which, according to Amb. Glassman who spoke at SIS on Nov. 5, can do a far better job in getting the foreigners to like America than many other traditional PD techniques (the cartoon is said to have got into the top five record-breakers in terms of worldwide market revenues). I cannot really see how Sid or Scrat are promoting the American image and values abroad… especially to the more conservative of the audiences. And still, it’s better than Britney Spears. That’s for sure.

Image courtesy of All Movie Photo.
In a recent article, R. Reilly, former director of VOA, says the shortcomings of the American PD can primarily be attributed to “lack of clarity about what the West stands for” and the over-reliance on advertising . The first major issue Reilly identifies is the loss of American credibility due to its embrace of pop culture and promotion of “tolerance based upon moral relativism.” He also takes an issue with the fact that the current main objective of the US – the promotion of democracy – requires “the primacy of reason over passion,” while advertising, which is extensively employed to achieve that end, does not appeal to reason or rational calculation, but rather to desire and “emotional impulse.” The result? Lack of clarity and inevitable confusion.
This all in light of the new media environment, the rise of non-state actors, and the boom (at least in the developed world) of the so-called iDiplomacy. Last year, Glassman talked of Public Diplomacy 2.0, network building, and its potential for engaging foreign publics in a conversation: an innovative and effective way of conducting PD and achieving national security interests. But that’s according to the Ambassador. Not only do I agree with Hayden on that it is questionable whether an “open source PD” can ultimately translate into improved public opinion abroad, but I also think that it can further undermine the American message
Both, Nye and Hanson point out that the lack of attention and of credibility are major issues currently impairing the American PD effort. By flooding the foreign publics with PD 2.0 attempts and iDiplomats, the US runs the risk of not only losing the attention of its target audience, but also making further damage to its cause through the haphazard “free market” noise that will only undercut the message AND its credibility. Nye cautions against leaving the PD endeavor completely to the free market, stating that is can project an image of the US that is “too facile.” I could only add that coupled with “open source PD” it might completely confuse the foreign audiences about what the US really stands for and what are its true objectives.
But well, the US itself is unsure as to what its message is. There are national security interests, and there is certainly a need to persuade foreign publics. But when there is no proper argumentation and overt “relativism,” the US is seen as attempting to make others “believe without knowledge” – essentially the definition of “moralist” propaganda (see J. Brown’s discussion on the subject); and well, when recognized as such, propaganda undermines credibility by default.
Reilly says that in order for PD to function, “there must be a recovery of purpose and this purpose must be related to justice.” I think the message would also benefit from abandoning relativism and what can be seen as “double standards.” Certainly, all these cannot be incorporated into the purpose without a proper understanding of the audience and their view of matters. While when it comes to defining a purpose, there should be a core power that can clearly formulate the message and deliver it through multiple channels.  PD 2.0 and iDiplomacy MIGHT be able to do a good job in delivering the message and providing feedback about its perception. However, to have an effect the process should be well organized, otherwise the result is havoc.  To quote Reilly again, “in order to fight a war of ideas, one has to have an idea.”
American PD seems to have entangled itself in the ambiguity and the unmanageable plurality that it, itself, has created. There has to be the realization that no matter the channels and the ways of projection, the American image is still largely perceived by many (particularly in the Middle East, where there are many counter-messages that DO work) as fuzzy and devoid of real substance, at best, while immoral and nihilistic, at worst. This is especially so when there is a multitude of contradictory sources conveying multiple vague underlying promises of freedom, peace, and gradual prosperity that, for some reason, keep failing to materialize.

Image courtesy of Rising Powers.
Whose responsibility it is, then, if not the government’s (that is, just by the way, entrusted with leading the nation and promoting its interests) to make sure that the process of message formulation and delivery is properly administered? Certainly, there has to be input from all the levels of the society, especially from those who manage to think outside the box; however, at the end of the day, the government is still the one that has to deliver on the promises and live up to the cultivated expectations. For all these reasons, without an effective government oversight, there is the risk of further ambiguity and loss of American credibility.
I couldn’t agree more with Nye on that “developing a long-term relationship is not always profitable in the short term.” Leaving PD entirely to the “market” – be it the private sector or the self-branded citizen diplomats – will not only “lead to underinvestment” in what is currently considered a primary concern for American national security, but can also hamper all future attempts to regain what was lost.