Public Diplomacy 2.0

At the New America Foundation today, Under Secretary Jim Glassman spoke about Public Diplomacy 2.0. In the spirit of choices in the modern information environment, you may check out video or audio that includes Q&A from NAF here, or see Darren Krape’s post here for a summary of the speech, or read the speech itself here.

Darren has a great summary, so I won’t retread what he’s written, but I will add a few brief comments below.

First, Jim said something I’ve been meaning to post here that is rarely reported on: the reality behind the cutback on VOA in Russia. In my conversations with the Broadcasting Board of Governors and others, it has been clear that the Russian government has been using bogus building citations to license fee increases to pressure Russian radio stations, the affiliates the U.S. has been using to transmit inside Russia, to drop American information products.

Second, the point about the Defense Department having more musicians than State has Foreign Service Officers was made by the audience. While numbers of FSO’s and public diplomacy officers (which includes Foreign Service Nationals, as Jim pointed out), is important, too little reported or mentioned is the strength and robustness of INR, the State Department intelligence and research element. This must be beefed up. Kristin Lord’s report emphasized the need for better research and measurements. But it’s not just about watching the needle move or listening for a computer click, but understanding how messages should be delivered, what is resonating, and, more importantly, why adversarial messages stick. INR can do that. BBG does that. Both need to be beefed up and are generally ignored.

Third, Jim mentioned the $700 million Saudi Arabia spends sending annually sending students to America on a kind of Saudi Fulbright. Compare this to a) State’s entire PD budget of $900 million and b) State’s expenditure on the global Fulbright program at $200 million. It is important to realize the priority other countries place on exchange and soft power.

Fourth, Jim quoted me.

But let me be clear again: Public Diplomacy 2.0 is a new approach, not a new technology. The technology is an enabler, not an end in itself. Here are the guiding precepts of this approach:

Indirection usually works best. Matt Armstrong, in his MountainRunner blog,recently defined public diplomacy as “the direct or indirect engagement of foreign publics to support national security objectives.” I like that.

Fifth, the not-so-subtle subtext of the talk was building a domestic constituency. As some have commented (at least offline), the Under Secretary did paint a somewhat rosy picture of public diplomacy, and while we all know (or think we know) what’s wrong with America’s PD, few talk about what’s right. In his remarks, Jim correctly said the organization is now ready to receive more money. In order to get more money, however, Congress needs to know things have changed. One of the least talked about elements of the public diplomacy game is building a domestic constituency, especially in Congress, when Americans are denied the knowledge of what is being done overseas, and even at times why it is being done. Cue the discussion about the Smith-Mundt Act now…

That’s it for now.

See also:

2 Replies to “Public Diplomacy 2.0”

  1. Matt, thanks for the link.One thing that was nice to hear were all the blogger references Glassman used in his presentation, not just yours but also Abu Aardvark and a few others. Listening to his presentations you really get the impression he’s paying close attention and also adjusting what he says based on what he hears (practicing what he preaches). He certainly seems to be placing more emphasis now on the underlying environment that enabled the FARC Facebook example. Perhaps he was influenced by Corman’s COMOPS post “Can Facebook Defeat Terrorism?”.

  2. I raised the issue of funding for TV projects because I felt it was important to point-out that the co-production projects that Glassman was talking about is a little known program that has existed for some time. I thought it was important to mention that the State Department could have done many more projects over the years of the sort that he was talking about for very little money, but budget cuts have made it impossible. Russia was raised by another questioner and the fact is that there have been co-productions on the drawing board and there still are some aimed at Russian audiences, but they often do not get funded. The average co-op only costs $25,000-35,000. I also proposed producing programs to be shown over America.gov, but I was told that there was no funding available. I appreciate the value of “Public Diplomacy 2.0”, but many of the “old” tried and true approaches are still valuable and do not require much in the way of resources.

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