sábado, 23 de junio de 2012

U.S. Public Diplomacy Requires a Paradigm Shift

The public diplomacy challenges that the United States is currently facing cannot be resolved in one new initiative or more effective use of social media but require a complete paradigm shift in the way the US government views the purpose of foreign relations and its own presence abroad. There is evidence that indicates a general lack of appreciation for the inherent value of engagement and dialogue between nations. For example, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher has said, "Engagment and dialogue is not an end in itself. Engagement and dialogue is a means to achieve U.S. interest..."[1]  When government officials are making statements like this one, any later effort to reach out to a foreign body will inevitably be perceived as somewhat insincere. It is this commitment to furthering our own agenda that may have been responsible for some of our successes in other areas, but ultimately leaves us struggling when it comes to developing relationships. If the United States were able to take a different position on public diplomacy, perhaps some of these problems could be prevented and our approach would not have to be so reactionary. A greater interest in understanding the viewpoints of those we hope to work with might help us to be more effective in developing partnerships. In order to achieve this, it’s imperative that we understand that our policies or thoughts may change and bend with this interaction. It is not enough to assume that our way is correct, and we must simply change the way others see it.

However, there are a few steps that we could take to make our current work more successful. Ideally, a larger percentage of the budget would be devoted to public diplomacy. The amount of funding that is directed towards hard power forces such as the military greatly outweighs that intended for public diplomacy, and that speaks volumes about what the United States values and understands to be strength. As noted above, any public diplomacy solutions should be thought of in a long-term way. A more sustained interest and effort in building and maintaining relationships would make any initiatives more effective.

[1] U.S. Department of State Archive. 7 October 2004. http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2004/36917.htm

2 comentarios:

  1. I agree that U.S. public diplomacy is much overdue for a paradigm shift. Whereas many foreign critics recognize the inherent contradictions of our current engagement practices, most public diplomacy practitioners fail see where we are falling short. However, the main objective for public diplomacy engagement is not necessarily to promote understanding and trust between Americans and foreign publics. Its motive is to help foreign publics come to better understand U.S. policies as a means to minimize negative associations. Engagement is meant to be a strategic foreign policy calculation rather than a free-flowing, open-ended exploration.

    Nevertheless, infusing elements of a “culture of understanding” into U.S. public diplomacy could have tremendous benefits, especially in the realm of opinion polling. Although polling has been a strategic priority since World War II, research budgets remain fairly miniscule relative to other operations. A tremendous amount of information can be learned from social influence analysis, network-mapping, sentiment analysis, and other polling supplements (Gregory 367). This research can not only be used to sharpen judgments, inform choices, and monitor effectiveness in the field, but it can also help policy-makers and public diplomacy practitioners have a deeper comprehension of foreign publics that are vital to their success.

    Unfortunately, building any “long-term” strategy is going to be a difficult task in the current American political system. In an environment of endless election cycles, approaches to public diplomacy are at the mercy of domestic politics and what earns the most political capital or votes. Strategies have varied from advocacy, direct confrontation, hard power, or propaganda to cultural communication, indirect engagement, soft power, or cultural-educational relations (Comor and Bean 204). This “ebbing and flowing” makes institutional reforms very hard to achieve. If reforms do manage to be passed in an election cycle, they are often scaled back in the next, especially if the power switches from one political party to the other.

  2. The argument discussed on the US public diplomacy and engagement is certainly a widely debated issue. I agree that in pursuing public diplomacy and dialogue with other states, the US could and should be more engaged in "cultural understanding". Now more than ever, states are interconnected by their diplomatic, economic, and trade relations. In promoting continual engagement, one would assume that a state would work towards building a stronger and more resolute relationship, by devoting time to understand the cultural values, and norms of other nations. However, in the realm of international relations today, public diplomacy, though highly regarded is not fully utilized. The U.S. is one example of a state, which continues to devote more funding towards maintaining its hard power (i.e. military capabilities), than building up its public diplomacy and deepening its relations with other states.

    It is important to note that public diplomacy is an instrument, which can be used by both the state and civil society. In this regard, individuals, corporations, and NGOs can play an essential role in influencing how the other nations, and foreign citizens view the US. The generated opinions and views that manifest through these relationships are closely aligned with success of the state's public diplomacy. Around the world, there are many states that view the US positively, and states that view the US negatively. The states whom view the US negatively, might be states in which the US is least engaged with, or not engaged with at all. Poor public diplomacy is not the underlying cause. Instead, lack of strong cultural engagement and openness toward learning more about that particular country, as well as, genuinely wanting to develop deeper relations are crucial components.

    Within the last few years, the US has become more engaged in public diplomacy and the promotion of better understanding with other states; and their foreign citizens. In reflecting on its use of cultural diplomacy, and engagement in improving relations with states around the world, particularly in the Middle East, the US is making a small-scale effort. However, starting small is the most recommended choice in my opinion, for building trust. By, increasing its relations and future engagements, I too hope that the US will maintain a perpetual interest in its relationships other states, and not use these relations for strategic interest, or resource gains.