Skip to content
Aside

America – The…

by

America – The Public Diplomacy of Freeing the National Wealth to only the Few in the Land of the Free.

 

 

America, a country that considered itself as the richest on earth, where dreams are realised, but also a country home to close to Fifty million peoples without healthcare and living in poverty. While Wall Street keeps piling up their profits year in, year out, and can even afford to fail, and be rescued in the blink of an eye, Main Street only rely on/or wish for divine or family intervention.

 

 

Capitalism is only embraced if one wears a suit and tie, works for the corporate world or be part of the decision-making process.

 

 

Despite the richest 1 per cent owning 37 per cent ($20 trillion) of wealth, the public diplomacy flag bearers (U.S. government, the right wing media, and the corporate industry) have still manage to speak the language they speak best (America the Land of the Free – but free for who, America the country where hard work pays – to legitimise gross inequalities, America where the individual is responsible for his/her own destiny – as they bid to divide the haves-not, make them feel responsible for their lack of healthcare cover and dependence on food stamps).

 

 

The U.S. tax system now raises less from millionaires and corporations than it did 50 years ago. Thus, the state of affairs in America.

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

 

Institute for Policy Studies. (2011). We’re Not Broke, Just Twisted: Extreme Wealth Inequality in America. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpbRXXntGM8. Last accessed 4th May 2012.

Advertisements
Aside

A critical revi…

by

A critical review of the report of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy

 

US Department of State, September 2005

 

CULTURAL DIPLOMACY: THE LINCHPIN OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY

 

(http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/54374.pdf)

 

 

 

This report commissioned by Congress in March 2004, and published by the U.S. State Department in 2005, was charged with advising the Secretary of State on programs and policies to advance the use of cultural diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. The report paid particular emphasis on enhancing the very best of American culture, strengthening the profile of its creative and artistic personnels abroad. Developing strategies for increasing public-private sector partnerships to sponsor cultural exchange programs that promote the national interest of the United States, was also a key emphasis to the report.

 

 

 

The report very explicitly, and without prejudice, outlines the contribution of cultural diplomacy in America’s past political endeavours, address the misconceptions, as well as shared light on how its usage can play an integral role in solving or tackling America’s current and future problems and challenges.

 

 

 

Bearing in mind, the under-representation of, or the peripheral role of cultural diplomacy in the foreign policy decision-making process of the United States in recent times, this report, chaired by prominent scholars and personnels in the field of diplomacy, signalled a fundamental shift, one that aimed to fully utilize the essence and tools of cultural diplomacy.

 

 

 

Contrary to the current inhospitable attitudes towards cultural diplomacy within the American political system, cultural diplomacy has historically (as demonstrated during the Cold War period), being an inherent feature in America’s foreign policy. Indeed, the values, ideals and practices of the forefathers have played a great role in shaping as well as being a major feature in U.S. foreign policy. However, its application in recent times, has, at best, being largely confined to pursuing short-term political goals and practices that undermine or compromise the true practices of cultural diplomacy (cultural exchange and understanding).

 

 

 

Taking into consideration, the current nature of the international environment, the current state of affairs, the dynamics and scope of current security threats (Terrorism, and a likelihood of Nuclear Proliferation by rogue states, for example), and future challenges, this report, which some may argue as well over due, has, nonetheless, in setting out to place cultural diplomacy at the heart of America’s foreign policy, made a compelling case for not only the need for genuine effective use of diplomacy, but also, highlights the consequences that may arise from failing to incorporate or utilize it as a foreign policy tool.

 

 

 

In sum, although part of the recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy emphasize the need to expand international cultural exchange, but the need for a heavy concentration of resources and an emphasis on partnership with the private sector who may be motivated by creativity and artistic value thus, risked it being commercialized.

 

 

 

Furthermore, the report places far too much emphasis on the promotion of, and the implementation of strategies largely aimed at boosting the national interests of the United States. It concentrated less on advancing the understanding of the cultures of the international community – the basic principle of, and arguably, the most viable way of conducting cultural diplomacy. Thus, making the prospect of a feasible and sustainable cultural diplomacy initiative highly unlikely.

 

 

 

 

References

 

Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy. (2005). CULTURAL DIPLOMACY: THE LINCHPIN OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY. Available: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/54374.pdf. Last accessed 5th May 2012.

 

 

Critical Review of “Report on Foreign Cultural Policy 2005/2006” by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany

Originally available in German as „Bericht zur Auswärtigen Kulturpolitik 2005/2006“ by Auswärtiges Amt

The report under review was published by the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) in mid-2006 in order to review the developments, projects and events undertaken by the FFO and its partners with regard to foreign cultural relations in the past two years.[1] In its three parts, the report (1) presents the aims and foundations of German cultural diplomacy, (2) reviews the different fields of activity giving many diverse real-world examples and (3) introduces partner organizations the FFO works with and supports, such as the Goethe Institute.

Considering the vagueness sometimes attached to the label of cultural diplomacy, due to its conceptual weakness associated with the lack of clear boundaries between ‘normal’ cultural activities and cultural activities with a clear diplomatic aim, the report tries to tackle this issue by making the label conditional on the activities’ contribution to a threefold set of aims: the creation of reliable partners and networks abroad, the improvement of Germany’s competitiveness by attracting professionals or researchers from abroad and the projection of a timely image of Germany as a nation with a multifaceted and internationally renowned cultural scene, ready to tackle its past in a credible way.[2]

Further, for a nation lacking a word for this very activity, Germany seems to have taken on board some of the lessons of the ‘new public diplomacy’,[3] by emphasizing the importance of listening and exchange, believing that an open cultural dialogue will be able to address the conflict potential arising from the clash of different cultural values.[4] Making direct reference to the negative impact of the Mohammed cartoons, the report examines the new effort to engage with the Islamic world, praising the approach to counter misunderstandings through concrete joint efforts in the cultural realm. A theatre project in Iran in which German and Iranian actors collaborated to put on a critical play in Teheran, followed by a world tour, is exemplary of the attempt to address problems by creatively engaging with them together.[5]

Images from the joint German-Iranian Theatre Play

Moreover, the concept of a cultural “Year of Germany” as a prime way of creating a positive German image is introduced, designed to offer a comprehensive impression of German culture, economy, research and education. Two recent initiatives in Japan and Poland saw the organization of over 1000 events in each country, including the promotion of German goods and lifestyle by young volunteers, concerts by German bands and joint artistic competitions,[6] and have thus exhibited a strong focus on personal interactions. Germany thus seems to have taken on board a second lesson: government voices do not necessarily carry the same legitimacy as personal interactions with citizens.

Images from the 'Year of Germany' in Japan and Poland

Images from the ‘Year of Germany’ in Japan and Poland

The report further establishes the efforts to promote the German language[7], through the support of German schools and action kits to improve existing German classes, as exemplified by the Transatlantic-Outreach-Program targeting the US and Canada;[8] highlights the important contribution of the German Broadcasting service Deutsche Welle;[9] and notes the need to rely more and more on local non-state actors and established partner organisations in order toreact more flexibly to demand on the ground.[10]

Given this very broad and insightful review of activities undertaken, it is somewhat disappointing that the report does not make any reference to a theoretical underpinning of its activities and shows no awareness of the existing discourse on public diplomacy. Further, it establishes no connection between the advancement of the stated aims of cultural diplomacy and the outcomes of the various activities. While every activity is attributed to a specific aim, there is no critical, measurable evaluation of their impact. In order to prove the efficacy of different approaches and to allocate funds to those that work best, it would be necessary, for example, to observe a change in the pattern of immigration of the desired bright individuals into Germany after a promotional display, or to conduct an opinion poll amongst Japanese and Polish citizens before and after the ‘Year of Germany.’ Lastly, the report allocates but some ten lines to the use of modern media, after having spent pages discussing print and audio.[11] With the link to its own cultural diplomacy homepage being outdated, this shows a regrettable negligence with regard to modern tools of communication which can be a major asset for states trying to promote a modern image aboard.

To come to a conclusion, this report is a valuable source of information for anyone interested in the practice of German cultural diplomacy and it provides a detailed overview of existing projects and motivations. However, it is lacking in analytical rigour and neglects the importance of modern communication efforts. While the former can be excused by the nature of the report, which is indeed not a critical evaluation, but a government document designed to inform rather than to analyse, the latter issue needs to be addressed, especially in the light of Germany’s desire to project a modern and timely image.

For an interesting short video about Germany’s take on P2P diplomacy (with English subtitles):

110530_StM_Pieper_AKBP.html?nn=476558


[1] p.4 – all references are to pages within the report, unless otherwise specified.

In German, there is no word for either public diplomacy or cultural diplomacy. Yet, in a recent publication in English, the FFO establishes that if it refers to cultural relations or foreign cultural policy in German, it does so in the sense of cultural diplomacy:

http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/cae/servlet/contentblob/602724/publicationFile/161969/AKBP-Konzeption-2011.pdf

[2] p.5 and p.6

[3] Cull, Nicholas J., ‘Public Diplomacy: Seven Lessons for its Future from its Past’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6.1 (2010) 11–17

[4] p.7

[5] p.26

[6] p.6

[7] p.22

[8] p.3

[9] p.29

[10] p.9

[11] p.3

Critical Review of ‘Secure borders and open doors: preserving our welcome to the world in an age of terrorism’, Report of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee, January 2008

  This report has been produced by the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee to the US Department of Homeland Security whose mission is to protect America’s security, economic livelihood, ideals, image, and strategic relationships with the world.  The term Secure Borders and Open Doors suggests the goal of interviewing, processing, analysing and welcoming international visitors as well as finding those who wish to use the US’s ‘openness’ against them.  The report describes the challenges that the attacks on 9/11 created to such industries and institutions that relied on the international mobility and interaction of Americans with citizens from around the world.  There has been a struggle to increase security on the physical and virtual borders whilst at the same time maintain the freedom and openness of which the US is known for.  As the visa process has changed and become known around the world overseas travel declined 17% in 2000-2006 with two million less visitors from the UK, Japan, Germany and France.  The Secure Borders and Open Doors vision, or the Rice-Chertoff Initiative (RCI), has reflected a renewed effort to enhance the attractiveness of the US to international tourists, students, and businesspeople whilst preventing adversaries from entering.

  There is emphasis on the direct interactions between Americans and residents of other countries to Public Diplomacy, rather than the portrayal of the US through film, TV, music and sports; it is noted that this travel experience often escapes the notice of reporters and political experts.  In terms of international students the report draws attention to the fact that there was an increase of 3% in enrolment 2006-2007 yet it has still lost students when other major competitors such as UK, France and Australia have experienced growth.

  The report also relates Public Diplomacy to a new public-private partnership which includes representatives of the travel industry and business community to change perceptions about the US visa and entry process and promote US as a top visiting destination.  The report advises that improvements be made to the educationusa.state.gov website to become a better tool for American Public Diplomacy and that the role of Public Diplomacy be an independent effort to engage all sectors of American society in improving world opinion.

  The report draws attention to the metrics and critical success factors which have not been utilized.  This is due to many reasons including the fact that some of the metrics that should be used for rational management and deployment of resources are considered politically sensitive, particularly those dealing with countries considered unfriendly to the US.  Yet the typical responding traveller noted that the courtesy with which they were dealt through immigration was slightly better than ‘average’, not ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.  Finally it is noted the those travellers who may feel most strongly about unfair  treatment may be the ones who contribute most to negative views and attitudes of the USA.

  The critical link that the Department of Homeland Security is making between immigration and Public Diplomacy should be commended.  The report notes its success on the way it not only deters and detects adversaries to the US but also that by treating visitors with dignity and respect US security will be reinforced, and crucially that human interaction is required as

‘…each visitor to the United States represents such an opportunity.’

  However, this report largely overstates the importance of the attacks of 9/11 to the individual visitor and most importantly it assumes that a citizen of a foreign nation is ignorant to the ‘American ideals’ of democratic freedom, private enterprise, human rights, intellectual pursuits and technological achievement and is accepting of persuasion.  This comes to light when the US is described as

“…an international beacon of freedom and economic opportunities…offering unique and attractive opportunities for international businesspeople, students, researchers, and tourists, America has long been a premier destination for people from all over the world.”

And reiterated in the comment

“A world that admires America is more likely to welcome and value American goods and services.”

  The report recommends that the Federal government and the private sector work together to establish a national-level strategic communications campaign to promote the US as the premier visitor destination in the world as well as articulating and implementing a policy for attracting international students.  Although this international outreach cannot be understated there should be caution when tying this outreach so close to the US government, as after all that is where the international mistrust lies.

  It is interesting that this reports also notes that

“Every international traveller entering the United States is a potential friend of the United States.”

Of particular importance is the stress that after visiting the US foreign citizens have improved their perceptions of the country, American people and even the policies compared to what they believed before.

  What should take greater prominence in this report is ensuring the international knowledge and cross-cultural skills of Americans.  This is mentioned when the report recommends that by increasing the number of Americans that study abroad to 1 million a year the skills and relationships gained would become a major asset to Public Diplomacy in the future.

  Finally the reports suggests large scale surveys around the world to understand the public attitude towards the US in order to determine the influence of visa and entry processes, even though it is admitted that this would not be an easy task it must be argued that this is almost too outrageous and overambitious.

http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/hsac_SBODACreport508-compliant_version2.pdf

Review of report!

Section II: Critical Review of a Recent Report

‘Cultural Diplomacy-The Linchpin of Public Diplomacy’

A Report by the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy (US department of State, 2005).

 

The report comes at a time when America’s diplomactic relations and its moral standing was under criticism after the unfolding of its war on terrror. The invasion of Iraq and the shocking incidents of U.S heavyhandeness in the case of Abu Gharib incidents showed the ‘erosion of trust and credibility’ and seemingly failure of U.S. initiatives to win the minds and heart of muslim community (Report of the advisory committee on cultural diplomacy 2005, p.7).  Noting, the lack of traditional public support for art and cultural diplomacy during peace time, it suggest creation of enduring structures for the practice of effective cultural diplomacy seeing its role in enhancing security of the contry (ibid. 1). The report sees culture as ‘point of access and interest, opening doors when certain doors are closed for political reasons’ (ibid. 15).  Evidently, the report notes the need for long term commitment for cultural diplomacy initiatives highlighting the importance of the role culture can play in U.S public diplomacy.

Further, the report highlights many role of cultural diplomacy notably fostering the growth of civil society, providing neutral platform for people-to-people contact, counterbalancing misunderstanding, hatred and terrorism, and providing positive agenda for cooperation in spite of policy difference among others. Similarly, its recommendations are many, calling for increase funding for public diplomacy, fund for translation projects, and most importantly to expand international cultural exchange programs with the Islamic world [ibid. pp.17- 18].

 

Evidently, many of its findings and recommendations stress the importance of cultural aspect in public diplomacy for strengthening America’s image and subsequent result in securing U.S. interest abroad. However, in instance it appears rhetorical without showing practical ways of evaluating such initiatives.   For instance, use of culture to counterbalancing misunderstanding, hatred and terrorism effectively hide the overall failure of the government policies. It is seen necessary that public diplomacy must be used as a preventive rather than counter-balancing strategy. The use of cultural guise behind hidden national agenda might end up undermining the very role culture out to play in building confidence and mutual understanding among different communities. Insofar, considering the nature of political environment and the current rift between supposedly western culture and Islamic world, for instance, the call for growth of civil society [part of the democratization agenda], ends up embedding culture in national agenda which might prove counter- productive.

However, from a differing perspective, the report highlights important discrepancies in U.S. public diplomacy and many of its recommendations if followed with the rights intentions along with proper evaluation mechanism might strengthen the need for cultural sensitiveness in its dealings with the Muslim world. As such one could argue that the report makes a compelling case for highlighting the importance of culture in America’s public diplomacy initiatives to win the minds and heart of the Muslim world. Nevertheless, it is seen important to have effective mechanism to monitor and evaluate progress in the said field. However, for cultural diplomacy to be successful the report rightly highlights the need for long-term commitment and one could add that such initiatives must not be guided by temporary political agenda of the government. [550]

Reference.

Report of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy (2005), ‘Cultural Diplomacy: The Linchpin of Public Diplomacy’, U.S Department of State September 2005.pp.1-28. Available from < http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/54374.pdf> [25th April 2012]

‘Re-branding’ propaganda :)

Having focused on the new developments and novel concepts associated with the new public diplomacy in my earlier blogs, it feels like coming full circle by addressing one of the oldest and still most contentious issues associated with public diplomacy: Is it simply a euphemism for propaganda, designed to invoke more positive associates by changing a name but keeping the same practice?

The term ‘propaganda’ can be traced back to 1622 and is linked to the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith established by Pope Gregory XV. Much like now, the aim of this initiative was to “convince large numbers of people about the veracity of a given set of ideas.” Yet, the term propaganda is now bound to leave a particularly bitter aftertaste for it has become increasingly associated with the attempts to demonise enemies and spread politically calculated lies of the German Nazi regime or First World War and Cold War propaganda campaigns.[1]

Is public diplomacy thus simply a clever euphemism for the very same activity, trying to shake off the negative images associated with it by changing but the label? Seeing that Gullion, who coined the term public diplomacy, implies as much,[2] and that both concepts are inherently difficult to define there is a certain logic in arguing that they are indeed the same. Both are intended to influence public opinion, neither is altruistic, designed to serve a certain country’s interest, and both can achieve credibility, as Brown argues.

Yet, he goes on to establish, that, in their most extreme varieties, they differ significantly in terms of the methods they employ. While propaganda “at its worst” will force its messages on an audience, will engage in demonization of the other and glorification of the self and will not shy away from distorting the truth to the extent of lying, public diplomacy “at its best” will attempt to explain foreign policy objectives in a factual and honest way and will encourage mutual understanding by listening.

Kruckeberg and Vujnovic also particularly highlight two-way communication as being part of the ideal form of public diplomacy[3] which makes it fundamentally different from propaganda, which, in all it varieties, from white to black propaganda, is focused solely on transmitting a predetermined message to an audience.

Accordingly, we can concede that originally, public diplomacy may indeed just have been a new way of dressing a concept which is “as old as people, politics and religion.” Their ultimate aim, too, may be the same. Yet, as the concept of public diplomacy has evolved from its 1965 roots and learned some of the lessons discussed in previous posts and outlined with unparalleled precision by Cull,[4] it moved closer to its “best”, according to Brown, and further away from its communalities with propaganda.

Yet, in the light of the controversy surrounding a clip by the Chinese state TV channel supposedly showing footage of a Chinese fighter jet which was then revealed to be taken directly from the movie ‘Top Gun’, some countries still seem inclined to sometimes slide back into old habits of propaganda and half-truths and it is difficult to draw the line between where bad public diplomacy might end and propaganda might begin. It can therefore be expected that this controversial question will continue to cause debate.


[1] Lilleker, Darren G., Key Concepts in Political Communication (London: Sage Publications, 2006), p.163

[2] Berridge, G.R. (2010) Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 4th ed., Palgrave, Basingstoke

[3] Kruckeberg, Dean and Vujnovic, Marina, ‘Public Relations, Not Propaganda, for US Public Diplomacy in a Post-9/11 World: Challenges and Opportunities”, Journal of Communication Management, 9.4 (2005), 296-304, p.302

[4] Cull, Nicholas J., ‘Public Diplomacy: Seven Lessons For its Future from its Past’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6.1 (2010), 11-17

Lessons from the Cold War US Public Diplomacy?

 

It is evident that the post- ‘9/11’ revival of interest in US public diplomacy includes a wide ranging notions, most of which are critical. The unprecedented drop in U.S. standing in world public opinion due to its infamous ‘war on terror’ suggests fundamental flaws in US public diplomacy efforts and a clear sign that they were ineffective.

It is argued that the much has to be learnt from experiences of the cold War-era standing of public diplomacy. The spread of liberal democracy behind the Berlin Walls were seen to be aided by mass communication channels like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe and that cultural exchanges with influential members of Soviet society helped create the foundation that undermined the communist regime.  Insofar, America’s informational campaigns were seen instrumental in hastening the fall of the Soviet Union.  Lord and Dale (2007), maintains that with the end of cold war, U.S communication machinery is seen to be underpowered and not engaged effectively with the global ideological environment (Lord and Dale 2007, p. 1).  They argue that to restore America’s voce, government leaders should draw on the nation’s Cold War legacy to build the foundation in promotion dialogue with foreign audience, nurture institutional relations and share ideas – all seen as important aspect of national security. Acknowledging the importance of idea, they call for America’s leaders to draw on lessons from cold war strategies to rebuild the nation’s public diplomacy capabilities (ibid. pp.6-7).

 

However there is much scepticism in ascertaining the degree to which the Cold War’s campaign of information, influence and engagement could be viewed as success. Reflecting upon the dynamic of the new geopolitical environment there are many forward-thinking propositions which follow different schools of thoughts.

Firstly, it is accepted that the advance in international communication technologies heralded by the new ‘information age’ saw changes in ways people obtain and share information. Secondly, it can be noted that increasingly culture as oppose to ideology is seen as a basis for transmitting messages among foreign populations (Kelly 2007, pp 74-76).

Furthermore, it is maintained that as cultural difference rather than nationalism is a contemporary account of miscommunication between peoples, as such the logic of targeting public diplomacy to a sovereign state with distinct polity and hierarchy of leadership is turned obsolete. Therefore even with communication engagement, without a base of cultural knowledge from which initiatives can be developed, fitting a information content to adhere to tastes and habits is seen more complex compared to the cold war era ( ibid. 77).

Nevertheless it is argued that problems facing public diplomacy will require long-term solutions. There are calls for more focus on ‘exchange of ideas’ between the U.S public diplomacy apparatus and especially the Muslim world. It is maintained that Cold War histories that deal with certain aspects of public diplomacy can contribute from experience of programs and activities which are on way to be forgotten now. Through a meticulous record of such success and failures, it is argued U.S government can emulate the achievements and avoid past mistakes (Critchlow 2006, p. 89).

 

 

Bibliography:

Critchlow, J. (2006), ‘Public Diplomacy during the Cold War: The Records and Its Implcation’, ‘Journal of Cold War Studies’, (1)6, pp. 75-89. Available from <http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/152039704772741597?prevSearch=allfield%253A%2528%255Ball%253A%2Bcritchlow%2Bpublic%2Bdiplomacy%2Bduring%2Bthe%2Bcold%2Bwar%255D%2529&searchHistoryKey=> [17th March 2012]

 

Kelley, John R. (2007), ‘US Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Success Story?’, ‘The Hague Journal of Diplomacy’ (1) 2, pp.53-79.

Lord, C. And Dale, Helle C. (2007), ‘Public Diplomacy and the Cold War: Lesson Learned’, ‘Backgrounder’ No.2070, September 2007, The Heritage Foundation, Massachusetts Avenue. Available from <http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/09/public-diplomacy-and-the-cold-war-lessons-learned> [20th March 2012]

 

Shaw,  (2012), Nightmare on Nevsky Prospekt: The Blue Bird as a Curious Instance of U.S.-Soviet Film Collaboration during the Cold War’, ‘Journal of Cold War Studies’, (1)14, pp. 3-33.

Zaharna, R. S (2010), ‘Battles to Bridges: US Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy After 9/11’, Palgrave, Macmillan.