Finally we may actually begin moving beyond bureaucratic structures based on quaint beliefs of US and non-US vectors and audiences. At the Online WSJ, Cam Simpson writes about some of these important changes. From Obama Revamps National Security Posts:
President Barack Obama is merging the domestic and foreign sides of the White House national-security team, effectively eliminating a division created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. …
The president said Tuesday that the change reflects "the fundamental truth that the challenges of the 21st century are increasingly unconventional and transnational, and therefore demand a response that effectively integrates all aspects of American power." …
Retired Marine Gen. James Jones, who heads the NSC, said foreign and domestic distinctions are often moot. He also suggested the prior system might have blinded officials to imminent danger. …
Among the other shifts at the NSC, a new entity, dubbed the Global Engagement Directive, will aim to coordinate public diplomacy, foreign assistance and international communications at a single White House desk.
While everything in Simpson’s article is potentially significant, I’m going to start with the less significant: the use of "Global Engagement". Personally, I like the phrase Global Engagement as a comprehensive umbrella term for public diplomacy, public affairs, foreign aid, etc. rather than stretching public diplomacy or public affairs. This move may reflect acknowledging the reality – as the President’s did in his recent torture speech – that the words and deeds that aren’t in foreign lands (including here at home) has an affect in foreign lands.
I’m still not enamored with the apparent centralization of coordination with the National Security Council, I’ll wait to pass judgment until more flesh appears on the bones. Alvin Snyder suggests the White House isn’t and won’t place a priority on the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (itself a sign of outdated notion that there is a world in which US / non-US and "Inform but not Influence because Influence is Bad" can work).
But the White House is a learning organization and they are just beginning. More important is the intersection of the strategic thinking of President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Under Secretary McHale, and Assistant Secretary Crowley.
This shift is about more than the trajectory of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. This is about the future relevance of the State Department and about a civilian counterbalance to the Defense Department. This is about transforming the Department of State into also being the Department of Non-State. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both repeatedly called for empowering State. Congress, and the US Government and most importantly the American public must have an empowered State Department.
See the White House press release on the reorganization here.
- Senator Edward Zorinsky and Banning Domestic Dissemination by USIA in 1985
- Mark Safranski’s post on Gen. Jim Jones and the NSC
- Comparing the Areas of Responsibility of State and Defense (Updated)
- In-sourcing Stabilization and Reconstruction
- Persuasive politics: Revisit the Smith-Mundt Act
- U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy: no one in PD conducts PD overseas
- It is time to create a center for public diplomacy discourse and research
- American Public Diplomacy Wears Combat Boots
- Report on the Smith-Mundt Symposium