Read Nick Cull’s post on the strategic pause that is today’s American public diplomacy, Lugar To The Rescue: Senate Committee Backs ‘Science Envoy’ Plan:
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously lamented "How much of human life is lost in waiting" and observers of U.S. public diplomacy these last few months could be forgiven for saying the same thing. While other areas of government have something to show for the first one-hundred days of the Obama administration, formal public diplomacy initiatives have been hard to find. The president himself has led the way admirably with his interview on Al Arabiya, a Nowruz message to Iran and public rejection of landmark Bush excesses, but the Department of State has been slow to follow up. This stands in stark contrast to the crescendo of web 2.0 activity that marked the final months of James Glassman’s tenure as Under Secretary. Indeed, a range of initiatives planned, approved and funded during the Glassman period have been held in limbo pending the arrival of the new Under Secretary, Judith McHale. Bureaucrats are always timid during transitions. This being so, it is especially heartening to see the leadership coming from the Senate in the form of initiatives from the ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar.
The emphasis is mine and not required for those who know that public diplomacy is more than having America’s leadership speak in public. Senator Dick Lugar, Republican, is serious about moving America’s public diplomacy forward. In fact, I would hazard to think the good Senator from Indiana would be happy to see any movement, even sideways, at this point. I think it will be safe to say that the Senator’s most critical comments at Judith McHale’s confirmation will be "why has it taken this long?!" followed by "tell me how you will be hitting the ground with your wheels already spinning".
The bustling going on behind the curtain is not much and it will not make up for the last 100 days of opportunity lost. Moreover, America’s public diplomacy is not ok just because we have a charismatic President and Secretary who understand personal diplomacy.
One of the initiatives I’m most interested to see followed up is how Jim Glassman’s initiative to take the leadership reigns of the interagency process will be picked up. Also, with the abolishment of Defense Support for Public Diplomacy, how will the State Public Diplomacy plug-into Defense (and vice versa, which was helpful for funding projects beyond State’s meager budget).
Updating a chart:
|Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy||Sworn In||Resigned||Days in Office||Days Position Vacant||Total Days||Percent Vacant|
|Karen P. Hughes||7/29/2005||12/14/2007||868|
|James K. Glassman||6/5/2008||1/16/2009||225|
|Since USIA-State Merger||2309||1084||3393||32%|
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- Q and A with pre-confirmation Secretary State Hillary Clinton (Updated)