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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

What would you do if you had six (or less) months to address the problems of U.S. Public Diplomacy?

Here’s what Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)* says are his goals:

U.S. engagement in the world and the Department of State’s engagement of the American public are indispensable to the conduct of foreign policy. James K. Glassman leads America’s public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism. He oversees the bureaus of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs and International Information Programs, and participates in foreign policy development. The focus of the Under Secretary’s tenure will be in three areas:

1. leading the U.S. government effort in the global ideological engagement,

2. building on the strengths of U.S. educational and cultural exchanges, and

3. bringing fresh and vital technologies to bear on all of our efforts.

“The task ahead is to tell the world the story of a good and compassionate nation and, at the same time, to engage in the most important ideological contest of our time – a contest that we will win.”

Jim laid these out of in his CFR speech a couple of days ago, which I recommend reading but I don’t have time to delve into here and do it justice.  A couple of excerpts:

Here is our desired end state:  a world in which the use of violence to achieve political, religious, or social objectives is no longer considered acceptable.  Efforts to radicalize and recruit new members are no longer successful, and the perpetrators of violent extremism are condemned and isolated.

How do we achieve such a world?  In three ways.  First, by confronting the ideology that justifies and enables the violence.  We try to remove the fake veneer on the reputation of extremists and allow publics to see the shame and hostility of life in terrorism. …

Second, and probably most important, we achieve such a world by offering, often in cooperation with the private sector and using the best technology, a full range of productive alternatives to violent extremism.

The shorthand for this policy is diversion — powerful and lasting diversion, channeling potential recruits from violence with the attractions of entertainment, technology, sports, education and culture, business, in addition to politics and economics. …

The third means to achieve this safer, freer world is to create a broad awareness of the war of ideas throughout the U.S. government, business, academia, and elsewhere, so that those institutions can put in effect their own projects or help us with ours spontaneously, rather than through top-down direction.

We’ve already done some reorganization to help in this overall effort.  You may be hearing these phrases at some point.  We’ve created something we call the Global Strategic Engagement Center, which is an interagency group located at State whose job it is to be a clearinghouse for war of ideas programs, the first clearinghouse of its type, to provide day-to-day direction and make sure that the job is done. [emphasis is mine]

It is refreshing to hear an Under Secretary actually speak knowledgeably about public diplomacy. 

Will the Global Strategic Engagement Center the appropriately bureaucratic name to replace “USIA”?  I saw appropriately because using “information” and “communication” won’t work, neither will "agency".  Seems like a good, middle of the road. 

Now, is it pronounced "G-SEC" or "G-StratEc" or simply "G-Strat"?  Three letter abbreviations are spelled out, four are pronounced (C-N-A-S and P-N-S-R excepted of course). 

* I generally (and flippantly) write the title parenthetical because the “PD and PA” title buys into the fantasy belief of a bifurcated information environment of the U.S. information environment and a separate non-U.S. information environment.  I’m (not) sorry, but there is a global information environment.  There was one GIE sixty years ago and there’s one GIE today.  That’s the first reason.  The second is that only those paying close attention think of Sean McCormack as working for the same person who oversees global information operations for State and ostensibly the USG.  Of course there are those who don’t know who McCormack is…

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