Nothing but crickets on the subject of Public Diplomacy

It’s been over a week since Al Kamen “outed” Judith McHale as a candidate for Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. McHale is one of two contenders after the previous slate was dumped for a fresh start, but McHale apparently remains standing after the other woman declined.

HOWEVER, it is very telling that public diplomacy is nearly completely absent from the DC agenda in the two weeks since the now-Secretary of State’s confirmation. The tell isn’t the secrecy around McHale but the absence of any imperative to fill the job. Other major posts have been filled. Perhaps they are in fact looking for another candidate.

We can only hope movement comes soon. I keep hearing assumptions that because President Obama intuitively “gets” personal engagement / grassroots mobilization / public diplomacy, call it what you will, the rest of government will. The truth is, because the President gets it doesn’t mean the Secretary of State will and it certainly doesn’t mean the to-be-named Under Secretary will be selected based on his or her ability to manage, coordinate, or “implement” public diplomacy in an effective way, let alone “get it”.

If global engagement is so important, it’s time to act on getting an Under Secretary in place. LW and JC may be doing a fine job keeping the ship afloat as they run day to day ops, but office relocation and silence on a new boss, promoter, coordinator, and “resource hound” portends a problem.

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5 Replies to “Nothing but crickets on the subject of Public Diplomacy”

  1. Couldn’t help but to note the “3 Ds” pronounced by the new Secretary of State in her welcoming address: Democracy, Defense, and Development. Nothing about the other leg of national power we’re concerned about. Maybe, Matt, you need to find a fourth “D” word for the speechwriters.

  2. Hi Greg,Good point. That came up this past weekend too. Some suggested Dialogue but I like Discourse.
    From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:
    Dialogue
    1: a written composition in which two or more characters are represented as conversing
    2 a: a conversation between two or more persons ; also : a similar exchange between a person and something else (as a computer) b: an exchange of ideas and opinions c: a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution
    My preference is comes by way of a recommendation from Chris Borgen
    , a friend who reviewed my chapter in The Public Diplomacy Handbook a while back:
    DISCOURSE
    1: the capacity of orderly thought or procedure : rationality
    2: verbal interchange of ideas ; especially : conversation
    3 a: formal and orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject b: connected speech or writing c: a linguistic unit (as a conversation or a story) larger than a sentence
    4 obsolete : social familiarity
    5: a mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts (as history or institutions)

  3. ‘Diplomacy’ is presumably too yellow-bellied and liberal for the State dept.?I agree that Obama ‘gets’ the need for public diplomacy and also that the rest of his government don’t. All the good work that has come out of his administration so far on that score has come directly from the top. i.e. his first interview, etc.
    Clinton, on the other hand, has given every indication that she has no idea at all. For all her ‘smart power’ talk, she clearly sees it as ‘selling’ the US line to the world, which is pretty depressing given that it took the last administration nearly two full terms to realise that this doesn’t work.
    Ironic, given how Obama was meant to be the inexperienced one.

  4. Any word since this was posted?Meanwhile, what do you think of Clinton’s town hall meeting today, which seemed to focus quite a bit on public diplomacy from the angle of employing new media/social media/2.0 media etc.? Dipnote was tweeting it this afternoon.
    My personal feeling is that people get very caught up with these new media technologies. If you’re not twittering, you might as well not bother kind of sentiment. These things are important but, particularly when it comes to public diplomacy, not nearly everything given the huge populations worldwide that either have no access to these things or simply don’t use them. Yes we need to be on facebook and twitter and blogs, but not to the exclusion of finding new and fresh ways to invigorate more traditional public diplomacy as well.

  5. Jessica, nothing significant has happened since I posted Crickets. It’s your guess as to why over a month later an under secretary has not been announced.

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