George Kennan’s Draft on Information Policy on Relations with Russia

Source: Truman Library, Acheson Papers, Box 27, Correspondence Under Secretary 1945-1947

It is a pity that our press plays up our diplomatic relations like a ball game, stressing victories and defeats. Good diplomacy results in satisfaction for both sides as far as possible; if one side really feels defeated, they try to make up for it later, and thus relations deteriorate. In general the daily press and commentators dramatize short-term conflicts at the expense of long-term prospects for achieving a stable balance.

— Draft on Information Policy on Relations with Russia by George Kennan, July 22, 1946.

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Wilson + (State + SecState) = CPI

Secretary of State Robert Lansing, 1915-1920 (Source: Library of Congress)

U.S. public diplomacy has a surprising history, as a series of conversations noted earlier. In conversations about the foreign activities of the Committee for Public Information, often left out was WHY the CPI was asked by the President to go abroad. Much ink (real and virtual) has been spilled on the causes for domestic action, such as the Four Minute Men. Much less so on the Foreign Section. The devil, as is the saying, is in the details. Here, the details include a deeply entrenched cultural resistance, a Secretary willfully working against his boss, highly filtered information flows and the managers of those filters. Continue reading “Wilson + (State + SecState) = CPI”

The basic right upon which freedom rests

Department of State organizational chart after the ‘basic reorganization’ of 1944. (Source: Department of State Bulletin, December 17, 1944 Supplement, p794-795.)

There is much talk today about Internet Freedom and the Freedom of Expression. While worthy and laudable, they are myopic, misleading, and inadvertently shift supporting conversations away from the core requirements. Internet Freedom encourages ignorance of actual information flows to, from, and within audiences. Freedom of Expression is more about one-way outbound communication than it is about inputs. Both divert attention from the fundamental rights to hear and to speak. At the beginning of the Cold War, we were not focused on sound bites but instead the basic concepts toward clear purposes. Continue reading “The basic right upon which freedom rests”

FDR on working with the State Department

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Dealing with the State Department is like watching an elephant become pregnant. Everything’s done on a very high level, there’s a lot of commotion, and it takes twenty-two months for anything to happen.

Source: Cary Reich, The life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: worlds to conquer, 1908-1958, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday). 182.

Public Diplomacy as an Instrument of Counterterrorism: A Progress Report

In this recent speech, the founding Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications traces the origins of the organization, its main initial activities, and the challenges it faced.  Among his recommendations is development of specialized communications teams with skill levels equaling SEAL teams to counter terrorist propaganda and reduce the flow of new recruits to terror.
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A Foreign Ministry for a World Power

There are certain challenges to having an effective global policy. We may often look toward the environment and other actors, usually adversaries, but what about organisational structures and culture?

Two years ago, I wrote about the need to reorganize the State Department to meet modern requirements. There were two basic principles in my argument. First, the department needed to match its geographical breakdown with the Defense Department’s. Second, the geographic bureau chiefs at State should be elevated to be more equal with their Defense counterparts, the Combatant Commanders, and they have similar diplomatic powers as Ambassadors considering the changed role of Ambassadors today. 

Recently, I came across a relevant journal article, “The Reorganization of the Department of State.” Published in The American Political Science Review (Vol 38, No 2, in April 1944), it was written by Walter H. C. Laves and Francis O. Wilcox. Both were on leave from the Bureau of the Budget, the predecessor to today’s Office of Management and Budget, and both were diplomats, and arguably public diplomats. Laves worked in the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a Presidential office intended to counter German influence in the Western Hemisphere, later serving as the Deputy Director at UNESCO (1947-1950), and then a professor of political science. Wilcox joined the State Department in 1942 and was later the first chief of staff to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (1947-1951). He returned to State to become the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1955-1961).

While the entire “The Reorganization of the Department of State” is worth reading, if you do not have access or the time, the opening paragraphs give a great overview.

For many years there has been widespread discussion of the need for reorganizing the Department of State. Students, publicists, members of Congress, and members of the Department itself have repeatedly pointed out that the Department has not been geared up to performing the functions required of the foreign office of a great twentieth-century world power.

The chief criticisms of the Department have been four: (1) that there was lacking a basic pattern of sound administrative organization, (2) that the type of personnel found both at home and abroad was inadequate for the job required in foreign affairs today, (3) that the Department was too far removed from the public and from Congress, and (4) that it was not prepared to provide leadership for, and maintain the necessary relations with, other federal agencies.

This was written in 1944 after what would be the first of two Departmental Orders that year to reorganize the State Department. The first order was dated January 15 and the second December 20. It is worth reminding that this reorganization was done by the department and did not require Congressional pressure, at least direct pressure, or legislation. Conventional wisdom holds that changed oversight by authorizers and appropriators, decades of legislative directions to create this or fund that, that similar autonomy is not available today.

After the second order, Laves and Wilcox followed up with another journal article in April 1945: “The State Department Continues Its Reorganization.” An excerpt of this is below, though the entire article is worth reading. 

At the outset, it should be repeated that it would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of these reorganizations for the conduct of our foreign affairs. For in spite of the importance of international organization to world order, we should never forget that the smooth functioning of the international machinery we set up and the success of the peace we establish will depend in large measure upon how effectively the various states organize their national governments to carry on the complicated relations of the international community. …
Continuing attention will need to be given the complex problem of inter-agency relations resulting from the fact that domestic and international affairs are now so completely interdependent that the resources of all agencies of the government must be mobilized for the conduct of our foreign relations. This problem is clearly recognized in the functions given the Joint Secretariat, as well as in other specific arrangements for liaison relations under the latest reorganization.

It is fascinating, and sometimes distressing, that 50-60 year old reports and articles are highly relevant today. The arc of U.S. public diplomacy might be more aptly described as a spiral: always in motion and nearly making a full circle as it goes up or down and covering an always changing surface area.

Thank you, Mom

If you have not seen the Proctor & Gamble marketing campaign entitled “Thank you, Mom“, you really should. An Olympic Partner for London 2012, the campaign will run for these last 100 days before the start of the summer games.  It is the largest campaign in P&G’s 174-year history.
The campaign launched with the digital release of the short film “Best Job,” a moving celebration of mom’s raising great kids and Olympians, according to a press release. The video was shot on four continents with local actors and athletes from each location — London, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles and Beijing — and will be found online, across social media, TV, and print.*

How might the State Department produce similar vignettes that could translate policy initiatives including women’s issues, empowering young people, and other democracy and civil society issues?

The Bureau of International Information Programs has both the technical capacity, including a HD studio and post production suite, and the creative capacity. Madison Avenue agencies (both literal and figurative) would be willing to help, as private discussions have raised and previous efforts demonstrate. This partnership would not be unusual as there is established, if perhaps forgotten, precedent that extends at least to 1951, before the USIA was established, in the form of both formal and informal advisory relationships.

Such cross-cultural outreach like this P&G campaign that supports and praises moms would likely enjoy the support of senior leadership in DC and the field. It would likely have traction with Ambassador moms and Ambassador wives. The vignettes would have a ready audience to the growing number of Facebook friends of the various State Department sites, many of which need content.

What do you think?

*Does this make the ad “old media” or “new media”? Try “now media”…

“Policy is about people”

This week, Tara Sonenshine was formally sworn-in as the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs by Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton’s introductory remarks were personal, insightful, and deeply supportive of public diplomacy and of Tara. While the Secretary’s comments are not available online, she began by emphasizing the importance of public diplomacy when she said the Constitution begins “with We the People, not We the Government.”
Tara’s theme was the same: policy is about people. It may seem obvious to some, but it has yet to be internalized by all, whether in the Department or across the other agencies.

The job of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs will not be easy, for the simple reality that the office must find itself and establish its relevancy to the Department and the interagency. Tara’s tenure will likely make or break an office that has never found its role or footing, suffered severe and frequent gaps in leadership, radical changes in objectives and tactics, uncertainty on what “public diplomacy” is, and a lack of a true strategy. Done right and not only does she greatly empower the Department and the U.S., but she will set the parameters for the selection of those who follow her.

Tara’s remarks at her swearing-in ceremony are below.

Thank you, Madame Secretary. It is an honor to be here with you, today, and I am grateful for the confidence that you and President Obama have placed in me.

Let me also echo your appreciation for Ann Stock, and for Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, for stepping forward so readily and effectively as Acting Under Secretaries. And thank you to all my predecessors in this job for laying a strong foundation upon which I can build. I am fortunate to be joining a strong team with Ann, Mike Hammer, Dana Smith, Dawn McCall, Nick Giacobbe, and the entire R family.

My mind today is on family. I thank my siblings—Nancy, Marshall, Michael, and their families. Our parents would be proud of all of us and I wish they could see this day.

My deepest thanks are reserved for the three men who make my world go round—my husband, Gary Friend, and my sons, Jordan, and Yale. You bring music into my life – literally and figuratively. Together (with Rocky, of course,) our home is a place of joy. That is something to celebrate.

There are friends here today who are like family—who go back with me 20 years, some 25 years, and yes a few –and you know who you are–go back to high school—I won’t say how many years ago that was. My friends have been pillars of support during these challenging months as I awaited word on confirmation. Understandably, people kept asking –are you confirmed yet? Have you started? Thanks to Gary we instituted a “Don’t Ask We’ll Tell You” policy.

As I look around the room, I see so many people who have mentored me and inspired me. Regardless of your various religions, you are all my rabbis in addition to the real ones who are here today. But in particular, I single out:

  • David Burke—my first boss at ABC News …. He had faith in a 22-year-old kid fresh out of college.

That first year, he let me watch the evening news with him each night to explain the business to me. That’s mentoring.

  • Ted Koppel …. you were a tough boss and you set a high bar. But you also let me stretch and fly sending me overseas to places like Beijing, Soweto, Tehran, and Chiliabynsk. During the apartheid years, no television program could get South African leader Pik Botha and Desmond Tutu on the same show…you sent me over to negotiate it and we did. And you let me camp out in Lusaka begging for the first interview with Nelson Mandela. Thank you for teaching me excellence in journalism.
  • Tony Lake and Sandy Berger – my bosses at the White House …. You helped me make the leap from covering the news to being covered by the news. You showed me that my newsgathering skills – asking the tough questions and settling only for direct answers – would serve me well in government.
  • Richard Solomon, president of the United States Institute of Peace. You helped me evolve from someone who could produce content to someone who could lead staff.

And you helped me not only work to build the USIP facility from the ground up – but to also build an architecture of conflict management around the world.

  • And Madeleine Albright, who couldn’t be here today, but has been an example for women in foreign policy, reminding us that there is, to quote Sec. Albright, “a cold place in—you know where—for women who don’t help other women.”

What connects all these stories today are relationships. Secretary Clinton understands the importance of connecting to people. She has made people-to-people diplomacy central to our foreign policy. And I am reminded of something Ashley Garrigus my Special Assistant told me recently, after she came back from an official trip to Algeria, the Middle East, and Qatar.

Ashley’s in her twenties, and when she met young people, they didn’t pepper her with tough questions about foreign policy. What they wanted to know was–What do you Americans do on weekends? Do you have a pet? Where did you get those cool shoes? Which college campuses in the U.S. are the most fun?

Policy is about people. Without a deeper understanding of foreign publics, our policies are just flying blind. We can’t depend only on conversations with political leaders. We have to connect with people, and let them know we are listening, we care, and we are working to support them.

We have to be texting, blogging, tweeting, and connecting face-to-face–to empower young people, women and girls, and minorities, engaging to change the minds of extremists who spread misinformation and hatred online, reaching out to make sure our narrative is as robust as the character of our nation. If we enlist public diplomacy effectively, we can enlist the problem solvers and leaders of tomorrow.

I want to close by thanking the people of the public diplomacy field—those engaged in extending America’s narrative overseas. Some are in embassies, missions, consulates, bases. Others work in the education and exchange field.

Wherever you are—virtually, or physically, you are contributing to national security and you have this country’s support and encouragement.

Madame Secretary, once again, thank you, for giving me this opportunity – and thank you, everyone, for being here today.

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Under Secretaries

By Brian Carlson
The following originally appeared at the Public Diplomacy Council and is republished here with permission.  

Tara Sonenshine was confirmed Thursday night by the Senate, and she will probably take office officially early this week.  (She can be sworn in privately by some current official and begin work, even as a more formal ceremony is planned for a few weeks hence.)

It is a new beginning down at Foggy Bottom.  Tara becomes only the seventh Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs since the job was created upon the merger of USIA into the Department in 1999.

It is a propitious time to consider what habits lead to  success at the State Department, as well as what experience teaches about being the nation’s Olympic spear-catcher when they think we’re being out-communicated by some guy in a cave.  Here are a few suggestions for how to succeed at this job, all gathered from my time working directly with five of the six previous Under Secretaries.  (I had no contact with Margaret Tutwiler.)

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