Thursday, May 04, 2006

Public Diplomacy Key in Battle Against Terror

"The values we promote are universal," Hughes said, "meant for people everywhere and we seek to promote them with other nations and peoples in a spirit of partnership and respect."
- the words of Karen Hughes, the U.S. under secretary of state for public diplomacy.

I also believe that Public Diplomacy is vital. But during World War II, one union leader demanded of President Roosevelt, "How do you ever think we can win this war unless railroad porters get a wage increase?" My point isn't to diss public diplomacy or Karen Hughes, but to point out that PD isn't the end-all and be-all either. I think of PD as more analogous to logistical support, but for ideology, not armed battle. Policymakers must direct resources appropriately to accomplish the desired ends. If that means more for PD, I'm all for it! Just don't ignore other fields of battle the way PD was ignored for years.

And because PD is changing and expanding, it will certainly need more funding. It isn't your Cold War Radio Free Europe any more. Hughes describes transformational public diplomacy as "fundamentally changing the way we do business" in six specific areas:

1) Increased funding for effective exchange programs
2) Improved government communications and State interaction with local media
3) Public Diplomacy officers now help shape policy
4) Public-private partnerships are being created.
5) State's new use of the Internet to help accomplish its purposes
6) Finally, at the religious level, "U.S. ambassadors have been asked to use ecumenical gatherings in the countries where they are assigned to deliver the message that all of the world's great religions teach the sanctity of innocent human life."

These strike me as big changes. It has been decades since the U.S. has been willing to boldly assert its values in such a manner. Did the old USIA have any more input to actual policy-making processes than a pencil influencing the contents of an essay?

This is the sort of ideological offensive that can help win the GWOT, not just blindly and reactively filling reporters' every request for titillating information. That only feeds the beast; we want to slay it instead.

No comments: