Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Tripling of Staff—and It Still Wouldn't Be Enough?


The DC-based Public Diplomacy Council has issued "Call for Action on Public Diplomacy," a report calling for a transformation of U.S. public diplomacy efforts (downloadable here. Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but up-front recommendations are to:

1. Establish an agency within the Department of State and the National Security Council process, the U.S. Agency for Public Diplomacy (USAPD), to manage the U.S. government's civilian information and exchanges functions and to coordinate all U.S. government public diplomacy efforts.

2. Increase public diplomacy overseas staffing by 300 percent over five years, through increased recruitment, contracts and recall appointments for necessary skills; expand language and cultural awareness training to ensure public diplomacy officers fluent in the local language at every overseas post; and increase program budgets for public diplomacy, including international broadcasting and exchange programs, four-fold over five years.

3. Provide the long-term resources necessary for global international broadcasting capability, including 24 hour per day English language world wide broadcasting, as well as a range of language service broadcasts, innovative broadcast and internet programs for youth, and interactive radio programming. Integrate international broadcasting more closely with other elements of strategic communication.

4. Establish by Presidential Directive an Interagency Committee on Public Diplomacy at the Cabinet Level to coordinate and direct the national public diplomacy strategy, with a permanent secretariat and associated working groups, co-chaired by the Deputy National Security Advisor for Communication and the Director of the new USAPD agency.

5. Create a public-private partnership "Foundation for the Global Future" to provide permanent off-budget funding for international exchanges conducted by civilian and military federal agencies. Encourage broad private sector participation in funding the Foundation.

Dry, dry, dry, although the call for a tripling of overseas public-diplomacy staff is nice. But wait! Several members of this non-partisan Council, HQ'd on the George Washington University campus, dissent virulently (download from here), saying that the Council's majority recommendations are too tame, too Cold War, too USIA:

We need to conceive of a global communication strategy on the magnitude of our cold war effort with comparable time, societal and resource commitment. But the United States is not engaged in a repeated bi-polar war of ideas with a single bad idea, terrorism, replacing an older bad idea, communism. Disseminating information, countering propaganda and increasing contact with the "other" so they might come to know us and like us might have been a sufficient recipe for public diplomacy in the last century. It is far from adequate or appropriate now.

So, we say "yes" to greater resources and increased staffing called for in the White Paper. But, we say "no" to fragmenting America's conversation with the world at the precise time that an integrated and energized effort is essential. Isolating public diplomacy from foreign policy through structural realignment and creating an endowment firewall between exchanges and political coordination reduces the chance of effective strategic direction. We need a national strategy for engaging international publics on both policy and socio-cultural issues. Values and policy are two sides of the same coin of the realm. …

Sum total of the report and its dissent is a measly 28 pages; I'm gonna get reading. ...

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