The conversation that appears in the comments of the post was originally an email exchange that began on May 20, 2009. The spark was Craig Hayden’s Public Diplomacy and the Phantom Menace of Theory, which was a response to Pat Kushlis’s Detroit on the Potomac. None of the comments have accurate timestamps as they were manually copied from email and inserted as comments. However, they do appear in correct chronological — and rhetorical — order. All comments appear here with the permission of the respective authors are are posted here to continue the discourse in public. Add your voice. –MCA
Craig Hayden, Thanks for your recent excellent piece on the academic study of PD. It think it contributes much to the debate of theory vs. practice in PD. I hope it will be widely read. Have you considered submitting it to “American Diplomacy,” which is published by ex-FSOs? My main quarrel with much of the “scholarship” re PD, which Pat Kushlis critiques so well, is that it often misses a key element in PD — what PD officers (or whatever you want to call them) concretely do “in the field” and the day-to-day issues that they face. That is why, in the case of PD, I find memoirs, history and media reporting often more enlightening that abstract treatises. We are not, after all, dealing with rocket science here, but with a down-to-earth, all-too-human activity. As you point out, there’s no PD “theory.” Also, I am concerned that people who want to “do PD” as a career might think that “a degree in PD” is sufficient to be an effective PD practitioner (I realize that is not what academic courses on PD “promise”). Of course, nothing wrong with being a PD “scholar,” but based on my FSO experience what is most helpful in preparing to be an effective “public diplomat,” at least for the US government, is learning foreign languages in depth, familiarity with cultures overseas, and people-to-people skills that are not necessarily acquired in the classroom or by research in libraries/on the Internet.
49 thoughts on “Debating the Theory vs Practice of Public Diplomacy”
John: Thanks for drawing Greg’s thoughtful piece to my attention and for your astute observations about the theory and practice of public diplomacy in response. You’ve hit the nail on the head. PD is not rocket science and, as I stated in my post, I see it foremost as a practitioner’s art acquired on the job, not learned in the academy.To be fair, I am as critical of academia’s attempts to over-intellectualize pd as of the military and its theory and practice of strategic communications. For the record, I have a PhD. in political science and an MA in international relations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse. I have far more recently taught international politics, comparative politics and Islam and politics – a course I designed after 9/11 – at the University of New Mexico so have pretty good firsthand exposure to what I wrote.
My major criticism is that neither the academy nor the Pentagon can fill the gap left by the State Department’s derelict treatment of public diplomacy since the merger. I am less than confident that it will change perceptibly under this administration particularly given the entrenched organizational culture in the building and the learning curve needed to bring the Secretary and the nominee for Under Secretary up to speed. I hope I’m wrong.
In sharp contrast, I think USAID and arms control efforts will thrive.
Where the academy can be most helpful is educating the American public about the world and how best the US and they as individuals can operate in it. This country desperately needs a better educated public that understands the importance and cost-effectiveness of relying far more on “soft and smart” power and far less on the military and all that entails.
Successful public diplomacy is an integral part of this and Nye’s “soft power, smart power” concepts should be included in under graduate and grad courses in international politics. They could, for that matter, be taught at the high school level as well.
For understanding what is not happening in the “town-gown” relationship, Bill Kiehl’s new book on internationalization is, in my view, a good place to start and a needed opening based on solid research. I see the same problems he identified in three Pennsylvania communities here in New Mexico. Emile Nakhleh’s A Necessary Engagement is also on my must read list.
What I also object to is the “over intellectualizing” of a profession and of students somehow thinking that a degree in public diplomacy will turn them into successful public
Successful pd employs, I found, a number of intellectual and not-so-intellectual tools that come from a variety of disciplines – mostly from those in the social sciences but not entirely. The jobs I had varied enough that certain tools were relevant for certain ones and not for others. I agree with you, John regarding needed preparation for a successful pd career. I would also toss in management training, speech writing and deliverance, decent Internet skills plus the ability to write clear, organized and succinct English.
See also: Detroit on the Potomac.
Greetings John and Patricia,First, thank you for taking up my remarks about the role of the academy in PD. I think that both John and Patricia’s thoughts about the applied nature of the PD profession and the challenges of engaging the public are important.
Regarding academia and training – I would argue that a degree in public diplomacy, which *should* include courses in management, foreign affairs, media communication, and so on, can be a very valuable experience for the would-be practitioner. And yes, public speaking should be a part of this training. But let’s keep our expectations in perspective. I don’t think people believe that an MBA prepares you to be immediately successful in business, yet people still seem to think the degree has value. The same can be true of a PD degree, which *could* be designed to provide an inter-disciplinary range of knowledge and in certain cases, applied skills, that can help the FSO-to-be, or perhaps even a future communications representative for an NGO.
I also agree that neither academia nor the Defense Department can fill the gap in the wake of what Patricia calls the State department’s “derelict treatment of PD.” But I would add, why should we expect academia to do so? Academia is, at best, institutionally positioned to create knowledge to be used by both practitioners and importantly, decision-makers. The State Department doesn’t have the equivalent of an NDU system, so the loose constellation of PD researchers is about as close as State gets to a supportive body willing to provide
(ideally) useful critiques and theoretical constructs.
Which leads me to my last point. The academic contribution to PD should not be viewed solely to help train new practitioners through degree and certificate programs. It should be a clearinghouse for experience and insight; where practitioners can share and inform researchers to help craft better understanding of how communication, influence, and culture work in the context of PD. Put another way, academic studies should help both the entry-level PD practitioner and those responsible for strategic directions that allocate resources and determine the course of future PD policies.
My perspective may be a bit different than a foreign policy analyst in a political science department striving to assemble prescriptive theories about political action. I’m more interested in how the context of PD provides new insight into the dynamics of international communication. I think there’s more to PD scholarship than just the search for generalizable theories of communicative practice or political calculation. You’re right – PD is not “rocket science” – but it does involve some basic aspects that are germane to the study of communication (interpersonal, mass communication, ethnographic and area studies of communication practices, etc.). And I’m sure other disciplines can have similar contributions.
There’s room for scholarship that extends beyond diplomatic history, yet builds upon the practical knowledge that already exists. Maybe these kinds of academic projects will ultimately help push “public”
thinking about PD in ways that make the term itself more accessible, yet also expand thinking beyond current dilemmas of responsibility and resources. I admit that most of the public discussion about public diplomacy revolves around familiar laments and predictable critiques.
If academics are doing their job – they should be asking new questions and posing new alternatives to the institutional impasses that currently define public debate about U.S. PD.
Thanks again for the opportunity to weigh in on this issue.
Craig, as a longtime public diplomacy practitioner who comes squarely from the John Brown-Pat Kushlis camp on public diplomacy theory vs. practice, I want to commend and congratulate you for your very thoughtful remarks. You have happily avoided a zero-sum view of the subject and provided a framework for a new look at what the academy might contribute.Particularly useful in my opinion are your comments regarding needed interaction between practitioners and academics: each has strengths that
can contribute to the work of the other. In my view, the most useful
contributions of the academy to practitioners are not (as John and Pat so effectively argue) academic papers on public diplomacy per se. The really useful academy contributions to public diplomacy practitioners would instead be reasoned and thoughtful cross-disciplinary approaches to public diplomacy problems faced by field practitioners, written by those in the academy who are steeped in the histories, social sciences, anthropologies, politics, religions, cultures and communication practices of the societies with which public diplomacy practitioners must interact. (Once upon a time, before public diplomacy was thrown under a bus and “integrated” into the State Department, such approaches helped to frame the development of PD country
Although I’ve been at a distance from the issues since (a) I left USIA (or USIA left me…) at the end of 1996, and (b) I left Washington in 1999, I tend to come down on Doug’s side in this discussion. It certainly isn’t a zero-sum game between the field hands and the ivy-covered academics. But a truly good PD practitioner needs to know and be fluent in the culture and language of the country/people he/she is dealing with, and that implies (requires) some level of knowledge that you don’t simply pick up by “doing” it.And seeing Doug’s message also reminded me of a long-ago meeting in the office of Congressman Jim Leach (an old friend) where Doug and I were trying to plead for USIA’s continued existence. “Beware,” said the Honorable Leach, “of moderate Republicans who have to prove their loyalty to the new conservative [Gingrich] leadership.”
At least Jim endorsed Obama…..
This is a fascinating discussion that I would like to expose my PD students to. Having just completed a two year dual degree PD program (MS in Public Relations, MA in IR) they are eager to get into the field (wherever that might be) and engage, hands-on, in the profession. A few observations gleaned from our conversations and my observation of their internships and class discussions:They don’t see a dichotomy between concept and practice – they soaked up communications theory and IR issues, the policy debate, the institutional rivalries, and most of all the professional experience gained on the job in diverse organizations. Their quite willing to always continue to learn, test, evaluate, revise their thinking. In that respect I find them remarkably like earlier generations of USIA and other pros in the field. I always felt one of the privileges of being in PD has been the ongoing lively debate over values, roles, rights and wrongs.
They also don’t see public diplomacy as the preserve of trained State/DoD/AID officials. Their quite interested in quite varied fields and institutions in which communication is vital. They like the “public” in public diplomacy, and are really tuned in to non-state actors taking initiatives and experimenting with new formulae and new technologies.
They are more aware than most Americans of the need to listen to the other person, culture, society and build relationships, more tuned in to common everyday American shibboleths regarding America’s role in the world.
They already have a healthy skepticism about institutions, tho they all want a meaningful connection to an organization at least for a while. They’ll move laterally organizationally to move up a lot more than we did – even FSOs on 2-4 year cycles. They’re much more sophisticated about communication than I recall being at a similar stage.
They are desperate for jobs and the need to start paying the enormous debts most have incurred. This is the major constraint on their being even more experimental.
They have all the energy, curiosity and idealism one would hope for a new generation in the field. Perhaps this will wane with time and various responsibilities.
Mike: It might be useful for you to describe the Syracuse PD MA program. I believe it is quite different from USC’s – but what it entails would be useful to have on the table. This includes purpose and goals, students as well as degree requirements.I still remember the two year MIPA (Master’s in International Public Administration) program that the Maxwell School ran when I was there. If I recall correctly the program included a year internship with a US government agency (or perhaps even a private company) in India or Pakistan. One of its students I knew in it interned as a staff aide in the office of the US Ambassador to India. Others worked at the USAID mission.
Sometimes these internships were available for doctoral dissertation research. A friend of mine did her dissertation research (PhD political science) in Pakistan as a result. A former PCV in Liberia, she became a World Bank professional at a time when few Americans and few women were being hired and the Syracuse Pakistan connection was crucial to her hiring at the Bank.
If I remember correctly, the Syracuse PD program includes an internship but I don’t know for how long and I don’t think it need be overseas. This may be fine for foreigners but since public diplomacy efforts should – in my view – be field driven, US students need to have the overseas experience and with a USG agency. In the case of PD (I disagree with how your students see it – what they’re talking about is largely something else), this means in a public diplomacy section of a US embassy with an experienced PAO, at a Fulbright Commission that has a terrific director or at a Cultural or Information (or BNC) Center – likewise.
Your last paragraph says volumes. The paucity of jobs. I have to ask the question – regardless of university – whether the training being offered in the fledgling pd programs is going to lead to chances of gainful employment. That’s where I think “the rubber meets the road.”
And if they need to take qualifying exams – e.g. for the Foreign Service or an international organization – are they getting the basic skills needed to pass those exams? The only school that I know of that does this systematically is Georgetown.
A PS: I know that Syracuse’s MPA program still ranks #1 nationwide and its graduates traditionally obtain excellent jobs in the private and public sectors. How closely does the PD program resemble it?
One of the advantages of joining this rich discussion among scholars, practitioners, and “hybrids” late is that many excellent points have already been made. I find Craig’s post entirely persuasive on the ”phantom menace of theory” and Mike’s thoughtful profile of his PD students pitch perfect on the next generation. What follows are some additional thoughts drawn from years of teaching first at NDU, then at GW, and recently also at Georgetown and the Naval War College.1. Craig is absolutely right on two fundamental points. First, there is no PD theory but rather eclectic approaches to the academic study of PD. Second, the understanding of PD by teachers and students has been enhanced by the teaching and writings of former practitioners who combine their experience with an academic perspective (e.g., Dick Arndt, Gene Bigler, John Brown, Bob Callahan, Daryl Copeland, Geoff Cowan, Barry Fulton, Jorge Heine, Donna Oglesby, Yale Richmond, Shaun Riordan, Walter Roberts, Bill Rugh, Judy Siegel, Pamela Smith, Tom Tuch, and Dick Virden) and by the writings of scholars who have directed their attention to PD (e.g., in addition to Craig, Jozef Batora, Martha Bayles, Robin Brown, Steve Corman, Nick Cull, Bob Entman, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Eytan Gilboa, Rob Kelly, Brian Hocking, Kristin Lord, Jan Melissen, Joseph Nye, Monroe Price, Paul Sharp, Nancy Snow, Phil Taylor, Geoffrey Wiseman, and Rhonda Zaharna). Whether these efforts are leading to PD as an academic field of study remains far from clear.
2. Courses in PD and related topics work well when they combine the conceptual ideas of scholars and the experiences of practitioners. This can be achieved through assigned readings, guest lectures, field trips, and diplomats in residence. Georgetown has benefited from PD officers in residence for decades. GW is entering its fifth year with a senior State Department PD Fellow (Bob Callahan for three years and Mark Taplin for two). These practitioners teach courses, mentor students, engage with permanent faculty, write articles, organize forums, serve as experts for the research of graduate and undergraduate students, and otherwise connect scholarship and practice. GW has gained a great deal also from its association with the Public Diplomacy Council whose members are available for student interviews, guest lectures, and participation in co-sponsored public events on campus. The world of practice benefits too – not because university graduates have been “trained” in PD, but because their education gives additional meaning to their subsequent experience and formal training in the institutions that employ them.
3. In addition to teaching and writing, practitioners with an academic perspective could contribute in at least two other ways. First, although there are a number of memoirs by PD practitioners, there is a paucity of PD case studies that could serve as teaching tools and that would meet the standards of the Pew and Harvard case study programs. Good case studies are hard to write and there is only modest financial reward. But more case studies would be invaluable. Second, there is a need for short, provocative, thoughtful, and relevant YouTube videos. A 5-7 minute YouTube clip by a former practitioner that makes an essential point in an imaginative way would foster insight and discussion in a lecture or seminar. They are inexpensive to create and easy to use.
4. Mike is quite right in noting that the next generation does not “see public diplomacy as the preserve of trained State/DoD/AID officials.” This is due, as he suggests, to student interest in a variety of fields and institutions where communication matters. In part, however, this is also a consequence of the way PD is evolving in a networked, multi-stakeholder environment where “whole of government” and “whole of society” approaches are driving interesting developments in scholarship and practice. This is not a world where continued laments for the demise of USIA are productive.
5. I don’t know whether there is a subtext in this conversation involving the “colonization of the PD concept by strategic communication experts” and DoD’s support for PD. But in PD there is plenty of work for everybody including DoD. I am not referring to what DoD does in covert Information Operations related to armed conflict. Nor do I mean such activities as those of the Lincoln Group in Iraq, which have been counter-productive. But DoD manages valuable International Military Exchange and Training (IMET) programs. When foreign military officers participate in year-long academic years at U.S. colleges and universities (sitting side-by-side with U.S. military and civilian practitioners that include State’s PD officers), there is a lot of PD going on. When Richard Holbrooke and David Petraeus appear jointly on global media platforms, this too is PD. And three year-long studies by the Defense Science Board (2001, 2004, and 2008) have all been informed by the collaboration of respected senior PD practitioners, military officers and civilians, and scholars at U.S. universities.
6. There is abundant evidence that PD is being practiced and thought about around the world in foreign ministries, foreign embassies, think tanks, universities, websites, and blogs. New social media will change the dynamic even more. I continue to marvel at the useful and frequent web-based contributions of Matt Armstrong, Len Baldyga, John Brown, and Pat Kushlis – and at their energy and commitment. After many years in the wilderness, public diplomacy is indeed part of a global conversation. Many of the former PD practitioners in this email collective will remember knocking on the doors of political leaders and policymakers, knowing that public diplomacy matters and hoping they would listen. We would say, “This stuff is important.” “It’s essential to policy formulation, policy advocacy, interest based political dialogue, and fostering mutual understanding.” Ignore it at your peril. Now the door is open. “Hooray” is the appropriate response — not efforts to privilege practice over scholarship or one area of PD practice over another. Again, there is plenty of work for everybody.
The following have given considerable time to teaching and thinking about public diplomacy: Sean Aday, Bob Callahan, Cynthia Efird, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Barry Fulton, Kristin Lord, Marc Lynch, Bill Morgan, Donna Oglesby, Pamela Smith, Walter Roberts, Mark Taplin, and Dick Virden. I’ve added them to the list of addressees.
Thanks to Craig, John, and Pat for sparking this exchange and regards to all.
Reminds me of what a solid, sympathetic and serious fellow Bruce was “back in the day,” and I assume he still is, although I also rue the day that he conned me into trying to write an annual report for the Presidential Commission on Public Diplomacy in 1998. Worst experience of my life.With all the accomplished academics and practitioners cited, I am utterly unqualified to contribute here, but I feel I should repeat something I mentioned to a few of you earlier. All the PD experience and/or academic preparation will fail without a thorough understanding of the language, culture and idiosyncrasies of the people with whom you are dealing. The best PD practitioner in Paraguay may fail utterly in Kyrgyzstan. Remember Frank Shakespeare’s decision in the late ’60s to deliberately send people to areas of the world with which they were unfamiliar?
When I was WEU area director, I had a couple of people perform below par in a particular post and succeed wonderfully elsewhere. At the time, the management consultants were talking about football “paradigms” (rigid control, scripted plays) vs. basketball (free-form, improvisation). I maintained that as area director, I was much more like a baseball manager — I needed to field the best team, and the best second baseman might not be able to play catcher at all. And once they were on the field, there wasn’t much I could do as manager except make substitutions.
USIA sent me to Belgium in 1987, and insisted I learn French. 57% of the Belgians speak Dutch, not French. So, in addition to my required French, I studied Dutch, at my own expense. I wasn’t very good at it (niet zo goed), but I guarantee you it opened a lot of doors in Flanders just to show the locals that I cared (the French-speaking Belgians didn’t care, nor, it seems, did the USG).
Greetings all, and forgive the intrusion from a PD kibitzer.Your very interesting discussion inspires a quick question on PD practicum/theory.
I’m writing a book on the Greek terrorist group 17N, among other things going back through old Greek media accounts. Many of their attacks were against U.S. targets, and they killed four of us. Each time an attack occurred, the US Mission reflexively “went to the mattresses.” The grieving kin were hidden from the media, no one would speak to the press, mysterious people would do mysterious things. I am particularly struck by a picture in Eleftherotypia of the wife of Sgt Judd coming into the hospital covering her face with her jacket as if she were the perp, rather than the anguished spouse visiting her unjustly wounded husband. When COS Welch was murdered in 1975, Greek newspapers printed (by mistake) a full-page picture of the Canadian commercial attaché, not having a better picture made available to them.
For the Greek victims, however, there were always lurid, emotional pictures of grieving family members throwing themselves on coffins, gut-wrenching emphasis on small children left behind, etc. It worked very effectively to raise the political cost and lower the political benefit to the terrorists. Heather Saunders, wife of the British brigadier killed in 2000, did a brilliant TV performance with her two daughters. This was crucial to passing a tough new antiterrorism law.
Does PD theory address this issue? Does PD practical training include practical tips on how to use our terrorist victims as a powerful tool of outreach? (fortunately after 9/11 the global media did that for us). Or do we teach our aspiring PDs that their duty to Americans’ sense of privacy (or is it a mafia-like instinct not to let them see they’ve hurt us?) outweighs their duty to the national interest?
All best, Brady Kiesling Athens
I cannot resist joining the discussion on PD theory and practice started by Craig Hayden, Pat Kushlis and John Brown. It is high time we have this discussion. As a practitioner (31 years as a USIA field officer) I have tried over the years to bridge the gap to the academy. When I did my PhD in international relations at Columbia way back in 1964, there were no academic studies of public diplomacy and very little was written about it. Now I am teaching graduate course in public diplomacy at Fletcher and there are so many books and articles about it to read that I need help from Bruce Gregory and others to try to keep up. In the past there were some practitioner accounts, starting with Tom Tuch’s classic, but now the academic writers have become prolific on the subject.There is a lot to say about the state of the PD literature but let me focus on just a few issues. First, I agree completely with the concern expressed by Pat Kushlis and John Brown that field experience is being ignored, and that PD skills are best acquired from practitioners and learned on the job. Nick Cull wrote a carefully researched, very detailed study of USIA that was very valuable as far as it went, but it told only one side of the story because it was entirely and exclusively a view from Washington and almost completely ignored the field. Cull is honest enough to admit that shortcoming in his preface, and the book is useful to students of PD history but has limited value to practitioners. Several retired PD officers have written memoirs about field operations and they are useful but they naturally tend to be anecdotal. My own book on PD in the Middle East tried to go beyond memoir by using interviews and oral histories but it too was limited in scope. I was glad to read Craig Hayden’s statement that “The academic contribution to PD should be….a clearinghouse for experience and insight, where practitioners can share and inform researchers to help craft a better understanding of how communication, influence and culture work in the context of PD” – but is that happening? There are a few diplomat-in-residence lecturers at USC, GW and elsewhere, but are they making a difference?
Moreover, the definition of “practitioner” has become confused. In my lexicon a PD practitioner is a PD professional who has had actual experience doing public diplomacy abroad. Often in today’s PD literature, writers are identified as practitioners who have only served in Washington, and usually for a limited period of time. For example the special PD issue of the Annals that cane put last year boasted that it included both academics and practitioners but most of those identified as being in the latter category had never served overseas so their understanding was limited
Third, there is confusion over the role of the private sector. Many of the recent studies of PD by academics and NGOs talk about that what they regard as great talents of the private sector, saying these should not have been ignored but rather mobilized in support of better public diplomacy. Not only do Business for Diplomatic Action and the Defense Science Board make this argument, but academics like Kristin Lord at Brookings and those at the Council on Foreign Relations do too. They basically say that the U.S. Government has failed to do PD properly and the remedy is to add some smart private sector insight and know-how to fix it. Sure, the U.S. Government has made a lot of mistakes, but many of them (like al Hurra) were not made by PD practitioners. And yes, the private sector should be listened to, but the argument that the private sector is the answer is flawed. First, these criticisms ignore the fact that USIA and State have partnered with the private sector very effectively for decades, witness the very successful NCIV partnership for example. Secondly, the tasks that these critics assert can be performed by the private sector are already performed by smart PD professionals at embassies around the world and have been for decades, but the critics don’t seem to know that. The Brookings list of tasks for the private sector, and Craig Hayden’s list of 12 topics that academics could do, are in fact being done now by PAOs working abroad as they have been for a long time, It seems that many people giving advice about how to reform public diplomacy don’t actually know what PD professionals do at our embassies day in and day out, and in fact they don’t seem to know much about how an embassy operates. One common mistake they make, for example, is to assume that because foreigners don’t like our foreign policy, American diplomats are shunned and don’t have sufficient access to do public diplomacy. That is nonsense. Except for a few hard-line extremists, smart U.S. diplomats can have access to almost anyone they want.
Critics ignore the fact that public diplomacy professionals spend several years in a given country, devoting most of their time to cultivating in close personal contacts with key local people, seeking to understand them engage them in ongoing discussions in order to further American national interests. They don’t just parrot Washington guidance but they tailor their dialogues to fit local circumstances, telling the truth but helping to explain America in all its aspects. To prepare for that difficult task, they can derive great benefit from academic study of various kinds, studying several traditional subjects, such as: American history and culture, sociology, social and cultural anthropology, psychology, international relations, at least one foreign language (learning one helps learning others), media studies and public speaking. Then at post, PD professionals should work hard to learn the local language, and study local culture, society and politics with the help of the locally hired nationals, and by interacting daily with local people. On the job, they learn PD skills.
The PD literature that has been published recently is intellectually interesting but frankly most of it does not help practitioners very much. There are some exceptions. The writing of Professor Joseph Nye on soft and smart power can help PAOs understand why it is, for example, that cultural presentations and book translations are useful PD tools – something they know anyway but Nye provides the theoretical rationale. And the recent book by Professor Emile Nakhleh on conducting public diplomacy in the Muslim world provides some excellent practical advice for shaping a PD program for Muslim audiences. But it is no accident that both Nye and Nakhleh have had extended periods of service in the U.S. Government where they have dealt directly with a variety of foreign interlocutors and they have had to face day-to-day practical problems of making policy to deal with foreign audiences. They came up with useful theories out of those practical experiences and a lot of thought about how to solve everyday PD problems. If the academy wants to make a real contribution to the discussion of public diplomacy, it should not only teach the traditional basic disciplines well, but it could also work with practitioners who actually know what works in a PD operational setting.
The roles of PD academics and PD practitioners are distinct, but if they work more closely together, we will be more effective.
I have been following with interest this discussion from Prague and I too could not resist weighing in, but thanks to the slower pace of life here in Central Europe and my own lassitude, Bill Rugh has weighed in first. I agree 100 percent with Bill’s points and I could not have expressed them better. And I am not alone in this view, especially concerning a field perspective. John and Pat have already noted their concerns. My own contributions to case studies (see “The Case for Localized Public Diplomacy” in the Nancy Snow/Phil Taylor edited Handbook of Public Diplomacy) were written precisely to inform those without field experience what it is like to practice PD in the real world. And I look to the academic community to make sense of our practitioners’ rambling and anecdotal accounts, and, in time, to develop a theory to match the deeds. Bill Rugh’s comments on the private sector are right on the money as well. Just as it is a fallacy to believe that every diplomat is a public diplomat, it is just fuzzy-thinking to believe that every international exchange can be labeled public diplomacy. Couldn’t we agree to call US public diplomacy, public diplomacy and the valuable efforts of NGOs and individuals outside government citizen diplomacy? Bill
Bill:Bravo. You have raised two additional points that I agree with completely. First, PD is a specialty that unfortunately the State Department has badly undermined by mistakenly assuming every diplomat should do it. This is an issue I have written an essay about that I would be glad to share with anyone interested. Secondly, the term “public diplomacy” has been stretched out of recognition to cover all types of international communication, leading to semantic confusion because many of us still use it to mean an official activity. “Citizen diplomacy” referring to non-official activity would be better but it doesn’t really cover what the BDA is talking about, or the UN does, and I wish some smart academic would come up with a new term or two that would allow us all to agree on definitions.
I agree with the two Bills but would qualify slightly Dr. Kiehl’s point about PD officers: although assuredly not all FS officers are PD officers, all FS officers can and should practice public diplomacy by giving talks and finding appropriqte candidates for exchange programs, among other things. I’ve insisted on it here with encouraging results. Best to all, Bob
Re Bill Rugh’s worthy comments, I continue to submit that public diplomacy, by definition of the word “diplomacy”, is a government function. (Thus, a term like “Citizen Diplomacy” would, in my view ,be an oxymoron.) By way of clarification, at the University of Missouri- Kansas City I taught two seminars: one was Public Diplomacy, involving the USG’s and other governments’ communication processes with foreign publics; the other was Intercultural Communication which involved non- governmental organizations and actors, including, prominently, the media. (This was before the advent of the Internet.)Some of the 120 oral histories recorded by retired FSOs specializing in public diplomacy (all on line) might provide useful source material in teaching the subject as are the numerous published case studies (including four in my 1990 “Communicating with the World” book).
Bill, Bravo! In view of the many contributions to this subject, the PDC Board might want to reconsider the suggestion to sponsor a conference on the subject “Public Diplomacy as an Academic Specialty.”
Tom:I endorse your comments. Public diplomacy is also for me a government function and I agree that citizen diplomacy doesn’t work for the other activities.
By the same token, I note that on the streets of Washington DC one sees eager people dressed in yellow jackets with the word “ambassador” blazoned on their chests. They approach tourists to ask if they need directions, and hand out maps and directions to the Smithsonian or the White House, etc. These are perfectly nice people doing a useful service. But I wish the DC chamber of commerce had found a different name for them. All right, I know I’m just an old fuddy-duddy about proper Englsh useage.
So I vote for your term “intercultural communication” for non-governmental exchanges. I suppose Nick or someone will complain that it doesn’t fit the UN, and maybe so. But I plan to use your term until someone comes up with a better one.
BTW your original PD book stands the test of time. I put it on the required reading list for my PD classes at Fletcher.
OK Tom & Bill: I’ll be happy to sign on to something other than “citizen diplomacy” as a catch all for whatever is not covered by government public diplomacy. Perhaps no single term can please everyone. Mike S. thinks it really doesn’t matter what we call it and that this is all “inside-baseball” but I continue to believe that words DO matter just as history does matter. Perhaps public diplomacy’s meaning has already been blurred but that is no reason to give up! And Bob is right to expect all FSOs to perform some public diplomacy activities like public speaking, media backgrounders, suggesting candidates for exchange programs etc. but that does not make those officers public diplomats any more than for a CAO to write a reporting cable and be called a political officer. Bill
Monitoring these exchanges from the bucolic woodlands of New Hampshire, and with absolutely no claims to any academic expertise in PD, I did want to offer one small caveat re Bob Callahan’s comment about making all FSOs engage in some form of PD. Bob and I agree on many things (the Chicago Cubs being an important one), and I would concur that all FSOs should be involved in INTERNAL embassy consideration of such things as potential exchange participants, but over the years I’ve encountered a significant number of FSOs (back when USIA and State were separate entities) who I would have locked in the vault rather than expose to a host-country audience……Jack
Re Jack Harrod’s distrust of many FSOs to practice Public Diplomacy, when I was Press Officer in AmConGen Stuttgart in the early 1950s, I was invited to attend the annual meeting of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the leading party in the state. I asked permission of the DCM to accept the invitation, which he gave, but he cautioned me to only write a report and not to say anything at the meeting, although I was fluent in German.
And I recall a State Department desk officer, with whom I arranged a “background” briefing for USIA media folks (VOA, Wireless File etc.), which was quite informative and useful on a critical issue of the day. At the end, the State fellow shook hands, and then said that he assumed everything he had said was “off the record”.After a moment of stunned silence, I explained the difference between “background” and “off the record”. The guy had been told the ground rules but didn’t understand.
I also remember a rare meeting involving a dozen or so of USIA’s senior PAOs and Director Duffey, with the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who went on to a rather stellar career (as a political officer-cum-ambassador). It became very clear partway through this meeting that the Assistant Secretary had no/no idea what USIA did overseas. Nada. His concept of public affairs was domestic press relations, period.
I must take issue with my colleague and good friend Tom Tuch and his claim that “public diplomacy, by definition of the word ‘diplomacy’, is a governmentfunction.” The dictionary on my desk defines “diplomacy” as “The art or practice of conducting international relations, as in negotiating alliances, treaties, and agreements.” But a secondary definition defines it as “Tact and skill in dealing with people.”
That brings to mind the idea of Cooperation with Private Initiative” (CPI), which Assistant Secretary of State (CU) John Richardson promoted in the 1970s, and which involved State (CU) giving small grants to NGOs to assist them in initiating exchanges with foreign NGOs and governments. The idea of CPI, which was opposed by some in USIA, proved most successful in expanding US exchanges with the Soviet Union which prepared the way for the reforms of Gorbachev and Yakovlev. In fact, a prime component of the Nixon/Kissinger détente was to encourage US organizations, NGOs as well as government; to get engaged with the Soviets in cooperative activities. Moreover, a book by Gale Warner and Michael Shuman, Citizen Diplomats: Pathfinders in Soviet-American Relations and How You Can Join Them (1987), related the work of Dr. Bernard Lown, Sharon Tennison, Norman Cousins, Armand Hammer, and others, in conducting cooperative activities with the Soviets that we would today call Public Diplomacy. (George Soros had not yet come on the scene with his funding of many public diplomacy programs in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.)
It makes no difference, really, what we call it; the private sector has been in the past, and will be in the future, a necessary part of US Public Diplomacy efforts around the world.
Greetings again,The discussion on this email thread has been very illuminating, and has given me much to digest. I will eventually post more about my thoughts so far on my blog (intermap.org) – but before I get to that, here are are few short takes:
There seems to be some very strong opinions about policing the definition of public diplomacy. Whether or not “citizen diplomacy” is appropriate, or whether the MA students at Syracuse have a historically accurate definition of the term – I would suggest that this kind of terminological border patrolling is actually counter-productive for generating interesting in public diplomacy.
Granted, such strict definitions would probably make for more distinct historical analysis as well as rigorous social scientific investigation of discrete variables.
An inclusive definition of public diplomacy, however, captures the growing recognition that communication is increasingly central to the practice of statecraft, and also that actors other than governments may be essential to achieving specific nation-state objectives. Public diplomacy, in this expansive view, is about the practice of influence in the most basic sense. Thus it draws in the efforts of the private sector, of NGOs, and visitor programs. Thinking about the “context” of
PD: the effects of media representation, social networking practices, cross-cultural contact, and communication infrastructures (access, production, and consumption) are also equally important. Yes, these subjects can also be lumped into “international communication,” or perhaps be taught under the label “intercultural communication” (both, incidentally, academic fields with their own turf issues). But why?
Put another way, why is an inclusive definition of PD such a big deal?
For example, when BDA engages in what they consider public diplomacy – is that a bad thing? Should we exclude case studies of their efforts on the grounds that it’s not PD, even such case studies might inform the practice of those employed by governments? Which of course begs the question – should course work and degrees in PD be strictly for those interested in government work?
I realize my position is somewhat contentious – but I think the definition debate is ultimately counterproductive. Taking a cue from Matt Armstrong, if we as scholars and practitioners want to encourage widespread attention to the benefits of constructive “engagement” – I don’t think definitional quibbles are the way to go. Rather, we need to find ways in which contemporary communication and foreign policy contexts intersect with the methods and practices that have defined the practice of traditional public diplomacy – in order to chart new paths to insight. Both Nick Cull and I were at a presentation at the recent International Studies Association convention in Feb 2009 – where European scholars Ali Fisher and Jan Melissen both challenged scholars to get past the definition issue and on to good observational analysis.
Which leads to me last point. Rather than focus on whether or not such and such activity is “public diplomacy,” I think it’s pretty clear that one of the biggest issues in the U.S. experience is the gulf of understanding between the field and Washington. William Rugh’s comments speak to this directly: we should have more field” research of day-to-day operations and case study histories of the field perspective. Academics studying public diplomacy from their respective disciplinary perspectives should just not be focused on the beltway recommendation litanies, but should be getting at those “last three feet” where the business of PD gets “done.” Maybe when this kind of work becomes more common – our curricula will be that much more relevant and informative.
Craig I think we can disagree about the utility of agreeing about what we are talking about, i.e. a definition. That is kind of basic it seems to me. I wouldn’t think it it “terminological border patrolling” to suggest that we may define what we mean when we use a term. That “defining” has nothing to do with the inherent utility, worth or value of activities undertaken by various entities, governmental, NGO or international. To assume that one defines public diplomacy as government sponsored efforts and thus one rules out looking at case studies of the efforts by BDA or other non-USG actors is a false syllogism. Any study of influence and persuasion has to include the entire spectrum of these efforts, government and non-government alike–but we don’t have to have an “inclusive definition” of public diplomacy that so blurs the distinctions that any definition is meaningless.I recognize that it might suit your academic purpose to have as broad a field of study has possible under the rubric “public diplomacy” but I’ll stick with my more narrow definition and ultimately I doubt if either definition will be crucial in increasing public interest in or support for greater attention to public diplomacy, under either definition. There are greater factors at play here than what we consider to be the better definition of the term.
We do agree however that the more important point raised in the discussion so far is the need to pay more attention to what happens in the field where “the rubber meets the road.” This is an area that public diplomacy practitioners well understand and perhaps do not do a good enough job of communicating to others interested in public diplomacy (whatever that means!). As Lisbeth B. Schorr wrote: “Even the best practitioners often can’t give usable descriptions of what they do. Many successful [organizational and societal] interventions reflect the secret the fox confided to Saint Exupery’s Little Prince: “What is essential is invisible to the eye. The practitioners know more than they can say.” Bill
Jack. The same goes for some USIA officers….who I, in turn, would have gladly locked in a vault rather than expose to a host-country audience…..and I found the FSOs I served with in Poland, Italy and India to be exceptionally qualified to conduct “public diplomacy” if called upon to do so. In New Delhi I subsidized the travel of Pol and Econ officers in order to give the embassy greater outreach and to address audiences notnormally on the PD officers’ circuit.
I share Bob Callahan’s view that all FSOs at an embassy should be aware of the public diplomacy dimension
of their jobs since they are often interacting with foreign publics in their duties and their words and actions can have either positive or negative PD impact. Tom Pickering believes all incoming FSOs for whatever cone should be given public diplomacy training and I share his view.
Lenusz –I agree on the training part, and on your assessment of some USIA officers (lord knows, I’ve worked with some of them). I think the percentage of State (in the old days) officers who couldn’t/shouldn’t face public exposure was higher, though.
It does get to the point that PD requires certain skills, and they can be inbred or trained or, in some cases, never learned. So I’d opt for required training in PD for all incoming FSOs, but then a careful screening process to make sure we can separate those officers who can effectively work with publics and those who may be best at intensive analyses of local conditions, but in a confined space…
Bill:Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. As usual, I agree with many – but not all – of them.
In the spirit of constructive debate, I would like to take issue with your characterization of my position on engaging the private sector. There are undoubtedly people who do believe what you’ve written here, i.e. that “the U.S. Government has failed to do PD properly and the remedy is to add some smart private sector insight and know-how to fix it.” However, that is not how I would characterize my views.
My position is this: public diplomacy has become an enormously complex undertaking. Public diplomacy professionals have unique insights and skills – as do business people, academics, area studies experts, communications experts, NGO leaders, diaspora communities, documentarians, foreign NGO representatives, and others. Thus, the question becomes how best to tap these many varieties of expertise in service of the national interest. I proposed my own solution; while I think it is a promising concept and developed it after extensive research and interviews with hundreds of practitioners and scholars (yourself included), I do not believe it is the holy grail of public diplomacy. However, I do think our nation is best served by an approach that recognizes and draws on the vast potential that exists in our society, both inside and outside the foreign service. I will wholeheartedly stand behind any proposal that accomplishes that objective.
Moreover, the Voices of America report states clearly that engaging the private sector more effectively is only one part of what should be a comprehensive effort to strengthen U.S. public diplomacy. It states unequivocally that, “Investing in the creation of the USA-World Trust, while worthy, should only be undertaken if it does not draw already limited resources away from civilian international affairs agencies or other public diplomacy efforts.” The report then spends many pages calling for more resources, more training and education, and more influence for public diplomacy professionals in the US Department of State and our government more broadly.
Finally, just because PAOs already do lots of good things around the world doesn’t mean our nation shouldn’t try to multiply that good work (or that scholars are ignorant of their efforts). There is only so much that even the most creative, most talented PAOs can do – and that would still be true even if their numbers were tripled. Calling for assistance from private actors is not a real or implied criticism of PAOs. Rather, it is a recognition that the world is a big, rapidly changing, and complex place; that PAOs cannot be everywhere at once; and that there are indeed some audiences who will view a non-USG representative as a more appealing partner, just as there are audiences who would rather work with an American diplomat that anyone else in the world.
I welcome this debate and hope that we can all help to bring it into broader discussions of foreign policy and national security.
With best wishes,
There are so many threads to this conversation that I choose to ignore all the loose ends and instead start some new lines. One is to acknowledge the primacy of policy; what our leaders say and do matters more than public diplomacy programs, however well conceived and well crafted they may be. Think of President Obama announcing that the United States will not practice torture, for example. Or that we will close Guantanamo. Or his decision to give a major address to Muslims, in an Islamic capital. For that matter, consider the public diplomacy impact of Obama’s very election.It would be easy to cite lots of negative examples as well. What’s clear, though, is that just as diplomacy is no longer a priestly craft practiced only by Foreign Ministries, neither do public diplomacy professionals have a field to themselves — nor should they.
Jack Harrod makes a great point about the importance of area, country and language studies. It doesn’t apply only to public diplomacy officers, however. The most effective officers I observed were those who worked at trying to understand the people and the culture, political and otherwise, of the countries where they were assigned, regardless of whether they hung their hats in USIS, the political section or the foreign agricultural attaché’s office.
One last thought is to note the distinction between short-term and long-term pd efforts. The first can and should be linked to specific goals in country or region x, and programs tailored accordingly. Fulbright and other exchange programs are different, aiming instead at developing a reservoir of knowledge and understanding we can draw from for the campaigns of the future.
Dick –Regards from up in the woods. I would only question whether there are any short term PD goals. I think PD is by definition longer term. The short-term stuff is something else (there is no P-tactics).
As a one-time “senior consultant” to the then-Public Diplomacy Foundation, I think all of Donna’s citations are spot on. But they were one aspect of the bigger picture. PD isn’t academic, or field practitioned. It’s the whole thing, and we seem to be denying one or the other aspect of this.We can preach in the college classrooms or try to convince folks out there on the physical and geographical margins, but what counts is empathy, cultural and linguistic knowledge, and persuasiveness. You can’t teach some of this stuff in a classroom. Former Peace Corps volunteers come to mind as recruits.
Craig: You raise some fascinating questions – questions which do indeed need thought.Here’s where I come down.
First, I am one of those who subscribes to the position that the term public diplomacy first and foremost relates to the civilian government’s work. Stress: civilian. Stress: government.
Actually, I thought I was more critical of the military and strategic communications than I was of the private sector in my post “Detroit on the Potomac” that stimulated this discussion. It’s interesting that no one representing the military has weighed in.
I think another term (or terms) need to be devised for the spider-web of private sector relationships with the government in terms of the public diplomacy sphere. They are indeed complex and multidimensional.
I’ve seen, for one example, what’s happened in New Mexico over the past decade with the employment of the broad definition: too many questionably-competent self-appointed IV program volunteers have come to believe they are “citizen” Ambassadors or diplomats. This is just wrong especially when they forget the “citizen” part of the equation.
Meanwhile, UNM has lost university-to-university programs and Albuquerque a very effective Russian-US high school exchange because – well – in the first case State stopped the former after Mary Ashley retired and somewhere along the line State or perhaps USIA stopped miniscule funding to the American Association of High School Principals (may have the exact organizational name wrong) and a local high school was unable to carry on without the token funding it provided.
The problem is finding the term and definition or perhaps terms and definitions for what the private sector does and how these activities relate to the USG. Perhaps you as an academic or someone from the journalistic side of the house can best describe the characteristics of this nexus between government and private sector. There may need to be a couple of definitions: contractors and everything else.
Second, the students I’ve encountered have had far fewer problems understanding the differences between what the government does and what the private sector does than what I read here. Some are looking for jobs with State and that includes public diplomacy; others are military and others just want to know what their government is up to and get a better understanding of America’s relationship to the world. Yet as Tom Tuch says: his students were most interested in what he actually did. That’s what I found too.
This, on the one hand, tells me that perhaps the fuzzing of the definition of pd is irrelevant. Yet, I also think labels and definitions remain important because Americans need to understand the government’s unique role, how their taxpayer dollars are spent and, as importantly, how the private sector fits in to the equation.
That’s also the bottom line for a lot of students: the more definitions are diffused, the less meaningful and understandable they are and the more problems students have in comprehending what their government does and doesn’t do.
Third: Are, and should, students be the target audience? Shouldn’t the primary audience be those in the administration and Congress who can make a difference? Shouldn’t the most pressing question be how best to reach them and make the most compelling case?
While the public diplomacy house is disintegrating, we’re most worried about students and arguing academic definitions? Come on.
I also thought academia was about nuance and understanding shades of gray – not about black and white differences in a Manichean world. That’s certainly what I taught – and what others in the political science department here taught and teach as well.
Fourth, I agree: there clearly need to be far better communications between the academic community and those few of us who were (and are) public diplomacy practitioners. Our numbers were tiny in the best of times. It’s painfully obvious that non-practitioners studying the field need to understand far better than they do now how we operate(d) effectively abroad, how this is too often no longer the case thanks to the huge gap left by State’s gross mismanagement preceded by starvation funding during USIA’s last years and that neither academia nor the military have been able to fill the chasm.
As far as academia is concerned, I fail to see why no MA programs in public diplomacy are headed by former public diplomacy practitioners like happens with journalism and law schools. Instead, what I see is that those few PD practitioners involved are largely relegated to low paying adjunct positions or are on short-term loan from State. Yet another example of how “town and gown” remain unhealthily divorced from each other.
I would certainly like to see systematic training programs for students who aspire to become public diplomacy specialists. I don’t see them now – except perhaps Georgetown and the Georgetown program is designed to help students pass the FSO exam. What I see in New Mexico is a diplomat in residence sent by State HR to recruit minorities. In the past it was Hispanics. This past year it has been Native Americans. The problem is far too few can pass because their written English skills are not good enough. From what I’ve seen in response to written assignments I’ve given, this weakness is not just among the minorities.
Finally (enough already), I think specific public diplomacy job-related preparation differs from classes that teach about public diplomacy – whether specific courses (regardless of broad or narrow definition) or modules in more general international politics, journalism (or related courses). Both are crucial and the former should build upon, or follow on, the latter. Pat Kushlis
I don’t want to get into the useless debate on whether PD should be governmental or NGO, but I believe it will be useful to show how a mix of the two were so successful in our winning the Cold War. [And here an aside for those who say that neither we nor the Soviets won. Rather, it was a victory for the Soviet people. After communism collapsed and the Cold War ended, I looked up in Moscow my old counterpart, Viktor P. Sakovich, with whom I had a very good working relationship in Washington when I was Director of CU’s Office of Soviet and EE Exchanges, and Viktor, now deceased, was the Soviet Embassy cultural attaché. Over lunch, in discussing the changes that had occurred, Viktor said simply “You won.”]We may have won but it was not without the cooperation and deep involvement of the US private sector in our PD program in the Soviet Union. Our big academic exchange program was dependent on the cooperation of US universities which waived tuition for Soviet students. And in the first year of our exchanges, when the 17 Soviet graduate students completed their two semesters of study at US universities, thanks to a small $15,000 State Department grant, they spent the summer working on American farms. What better way to demonstrate the advantages of US agriculture to Russians with a deep heritage in agriculture.
Our performing arts exchanges could not have been successful without the participation of Sol Hurok and other US impresarios. Ditto for our technological, agricultural, and public health exchanges. As for USIA’s exhibitions, they were dependent on US manufacturers and others providing the items on display. More than 20 million Soviets visited the 23 USIA exhibitions over the 30-years of the US-USSR Cultural Agreements, and for most of them their conversations with the Russian-speaking American guides was their first and only opportunity to speak with an American.
But perhaps the greatest contribution to our PD effort with the Soviets was the work done by members of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) who volunteered their time in arranging activities and visits for the Soviet IVs in more than 90 communities across the United States, including stays and visits in American homes. They were truly, and still are today, “Citizen Diplomats.” In this connection, I am reminded that NASA, when it was hosting Soviet cosmonauts in Houston in preparation for the first joint US-USSR space flight, put the Soviet cosmonauts up in the homes of the American astronauts who would soon be their partners in space. What better way to see how their American counterparts lived and worked.
So let’s not forget the private sector. We can’t do PD without them.
Dear Friends: As a silent partner in the many blogs on PD, I enjoy keeping up with the several threads of the debates. With my e-mail full of all of your learned comments, I have succumbed to the temptation to weigh in, at least this once.I hope that I am doing my part as an active duty public diplomacy practitioner, now at the US Army War College but shortly to take the senior PD slot at Georgetown. After my stint as Ambassador to Angola, I chose to take the DCIA job here, in part because of all the military services, the Army has been the main DOD actor in the arena of Strategic Communication writ large, excluding PA which is more widely shared. Over the last two years, every one of the poor Colonel-students has endured my lecture on State’s public diplomacy and it primacy in WOG international communications strategies. In addition, I host monthly get-togethers for all of the practitioners and those others interested in the range of military specializations that impinge on strategic communication. (Sorry for the circumlocutions, but listing all the titles involved would be even more tedious.)
Not surprisingly, when my group talks about what works, the necessary cycle of: research, input to policy-formation, creating strategies and tactics (I am convinced that PD must include both), implementation, review of outcomes leading to adjustments in policy, we agree. Also not surprisingly, the debate becomes more heated when we discuss grey or black information activities.
One of the major problems I see is one that better communication theory could contribute to solving. Both military and diplomatic policy makers have, of course, refused to take into account likely public reaction to proposed and implemented policies by positing a super public diplomacy “pixie dust” that when sprinkled liberally can bend the hearts and minds to whatever course of action is desired. This misconception of public diplomacy effects is due in part to a lack of a consensus on what at its best public diplomacy or any informational effort can achieve.
There are several good communication theoretic sources discussing the extent to which outsiders can change committed believers’ minds. We practitioners have, perhaps, been too eager to sell our wares, offering a kind of snake oil as payment to get to the policy-makers’ table. Wouldn’t it be helpful if academic theorists were heard when they describe the limitations of messaging. Wouldn’t it also be useful for us in the field to talk modestly about the centrality to our PD task of identifying areas in which our interests overlap the interests of those with whom we need to act in concert.
I will now subside back into my daily duties, with greetings to all old friends.
Dear Kristin,Thank you for your note. I apologize if I mischaracterized your view.
Perhaps also my comments were not entirely clear. I do know that private activities abroad are very extensive and they do affect foreign perceptions of us. Some have nothing to do with the U.S. Government – TV programs, Hollywood films, Rotary scholarships, U.S. corporate activities overseas, etc. – but they help shape the world’s view of America and thus influence the context for U.S Government’s public diplomacy. Other private activities abroad are undertaken in deliberate partnership with the U.S. Government. One example that I mentioned was NCIV’s longstanding support for visitors to the U.S. Another is the State Department’s program that sends experts abroad to lecture (and doesn’t tell them what to say). So the private efforts abroad can be independent, or they can have U.S. Government involvement, and in the latter case they are part of our official public diplomacy.
Now,I agree in theory that it would be nice to increase such private activities if they serve U.S. national interests. But the point I was trying to make is that proposals that we should draw on the “vast potential that exists in our society”, tend not to go beyond those nice generalities, and fail to provide concrete examples of what that actually means. It is not enough to list assets that the private sector supposedly has available to contribute to PD, without explaining specifically how the private sector would add value that is not already being provided by current USG practitioners. Sure, some big American corporations for example have foreign employees working for them abroad who have knowledge of local attitudes about the corporation’s products, but why are they better at PD than the local-hire employees we have at every U.S. embassy whose full time job it is to advise the U.S. Government on all of the issues of relevance to American national interests? The PAO’s job is to explain not only U.S. policy but all relevant aspects of U.S. society, not sell a product. The same question can be asked about American NGOs working abroad. They typically focus on specific activities and are not concerned about the full spectrum of U.S. interests. Nor are U.S. corporations and NGOs present in every country where we have interests.
There may well be untapped opportunities for the private sector to contribute to PD but I have yet to see them described with any specificity. Someone should spell out exactly what more the private sector could do. I wish the BDA would do that. Or perhaps some academics could do so. Last April 13 the Washington Post published Joe Nye’s strong criticism of international relations scholars for not writing policy-relevant analyses. He said, “too often scholars teach theory and methods that are relevant to other academics but not to the majority of the students sitting in the classroom in front of them.” One way some academics could be helpful to students and to PD practitioners would be to look into exactly what more the private sector could do for PD, with actionable specifics, taking us past the nice sounding generalities.
Best regards, Bill
Yale, there is no difference in our views on the definition of public diplomacy. You write that your dictionary defines diplomacy as “the art or practice of conducting international relations as in negotiating alliances and treaties and agreements” — exactly what only governments do. Thus public diplomacy is a government’s process of communicating with foreign publics to bring about understanding for its nation’s current policies and national goals, for its institutions and culture, for its ideals and ideas by way of cultural and information activities.One reason why I, perhaps obsessively, harp on defining public diplomacy is that the Reagan administration in 1983 deliberately misused the term for the purpose of propagandizing the American public in support of its policies in Central America.
And, of course, public diplomacy includes the participation and support of the private sector–NGOs, academic institutions, cultural entities that you cited. As a matter of experience, our government could not conduct public diplomacy without the participation of the many institutions (IREX, NCIV etc.) that it has engaged to carry out the programs and projects that promote and support our public diplomacy objectives.
One small correction. Private entities also negotiate agreements with other countries. In the Soviet days, IREX, Sol Hurok, and many academic and cultural institutions had written agreements with the Soviet government. And similar agreements exist today with Russia and many other countries.
Both IREX and NCIV received substantial funding from the USG and so are/were instruments of government PD.
IREX was originally funded by the Ford Foundation, and its USG funding came later, in the mid 1970s. NCIV also originally had no USG funding, and was proud that it was self-funded.
Yale. One does not always have to be a “knowing” instrument of government propaganda or PD efforts as evidenced in the years of operation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom and similar CIA-funded fronts. To get funding one does sometimes have to deal with the devil.In 1981 I took Allen and Dan Matuszewski over to the CIA co-chaired COMEX meeting to convince the committee overseeing exchanges with SU/EE that IREX should continue getting USG funding….and also later in 1992, I got Joe Duffey to continue USIA’s IREX annual grant. Given the negative connotation, perhaps “instrument” is not the appropriate word but without the USG funding, both IREX and NCIV would find it impossible to conduct their current programs. I do not deny that NGOs played an important role in the earlier exchanges with SU/EE. Cheers. Len
Gentle Knights on the Castle Wall,While you “old fuddy-duddies” are busy manning the barricades of the profession to protect it from irrelevant academic intrusion, pseudo-practitioner pollution and saving the English language from corruption you might want to take ten and revisit the history and mission of the Public Diplomacy Council on which you sit.
The Public Diplomacy Council is a nonprofit organization committed to the importance of the academic study, professional practice, and responsible advocacy of public diplomacy. Its members believe that understanding, informing, and influencing foreign publics and dialogue between Americans and United States’ institutions and their counterparts abroad are vital to the national interest and core elements of 21st century American diplomacy.
The Public Diplomacy Council was founded in 1988 as the Public Diplomacy Foundation. Dedicated to fostering greater public recognition of public diplomacy in the conduct of foreign affairs, the Foundation evolved to serve also as a resource and advocate for the teaching, training, and development of public diplomacy as an academic discipline.
However significant your own personal contributions to the academic study are, surely, the PDC, and the foundation before it, didn’t mean retired Foreign Service [Information] Officers only need apply to write about, teach and create this new academic discipline.
Furthermore, if Bill Rugh’s lexicon is to be adopted — “a PD practitioner is a PD professional who has had actual experience doing public diplomacy abroad” — perhaps the PDC might need to adopt a certification system precluding civil servants, political appointees, or our colleagues from exchange organizations from being so audacious as to put on the precious purple mantle of “practitioner” when speaking about a practice I always thought we conducted together for the benefit of the nation we all served.
Good grief guys, there aren’t enough of us who care about public diplomacy to embark on a purge of the faithful. The altar was turned to face the congregation years ago, the lay deacons are passing out communion wafers, and the congregation — some wearing combat boots and some having avatars — is singing in the vernacular.
Bruce and friends,Thanks for including me in the e-mail chain. Odd that this important conversation is taking place in a channel format [e-mail] that my students think is only used by their grandparents. Perhaps we are proof that is true 🙂
I had seen Craig’s excellent post thanks to Jim Glassman’s shout-out on his blog and went from there to Pat’s original post on her blog. Sequential and parallel blogging — in most cases without on-blog comments to enrich the discussion — is not as user friendly as Web 2.0 allows. Why is it that the “real” conversation still takes place in essentially closed channels? Behind closed doors? How much more useful this would be if Mike could direct his students to this discussion archived on-line as he wishes.
With respect to the ur-debate between Pat and Craig, I incline toward Craig’s line of argument. In a time when Joe Nye bemoans the growing gap between international relations scholarship and policy, it seems odd to me not to welcome increasing academic attention to what is first and foremost a practice: public diplomacy. The APSIA schools have always combined scholars and practitioners on their faculty and tried to bridge the gap between theory and practice in preparing students to be professionals doing international affairs rather than academicians studying it. Surely there is relevant knowledge in disciplines and departments outside those confines that can inform the practice of public diplomacy; can help policy-makers better know the strengths and limitations of public diplomacy as a means (instrument) to achieve policy ends (objectives); and illuminate the context within which the use of the instrument makes sense given the cost and consequences of the use of other instruments of statecraft available.
It is all to the good that Craig and other young scholars in communications are focused on PD. It is wonderful that Robert Entman working in political communications has begun to address PD from his theoretical perspective. It is terrific that the American Political Science Association has a star studded task force working on the question of "U.S. Standing in World Affairs." The report due this summer will offer real insight into whether and how "standing" matters to the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy. The implications of this study for argumentation about the essentiality of public diplomacy as an instrument of statecraft are obvious. We may learn, for example, that we practitioners have a perceptual bias in favor of thinking that standing matters because it makes the case of public diplomacy; when, in fact, it might not actually matter very much. Hard power may matter more. If you want a preview of the task force in action check out this fascinating panel discussion at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.
Given the rapidly changing international environment, I think practitioners need analytical help more than ever. So much is in flux that historical analogy may be less useful than in the past and the skill set needed by this generation of PD practitioners is more varied, complex and rapidly changing. Still, a set of PD case studies, as called for by Bruce would surely help instill and practice the kind of critical thinking PD requires both in students who aspire to the career and officers who no longer — as Pat points out — can learn on the job because of the paucity of junior positions in a shrunken Sate Department PD corps. Alexander George made the argument for long ago and he is still right in my opinion.
I also agree with Bruce that the defense driven strategic communication scholarship is a valuable source of PD relevant knowledge. I have learned a great deal from the work Steve Corman and colleagues have produced in response to the blunders made by government practitioners fighting the “war of ideas” against violent extremism. 9/11 was a strong provocation for some scholars to reach out and make their knowledge relevant to the policy problem faced by the nation. Props to them. The work is much more broadly applicable to PD than simply countering a single source terrorist threat. The students in my “Media and Foreign Policy” course loved the jargon-free clarity of the essays in “Weapons of Mass Persuasion,” and could apply it to their own study of the Israeli and Palestinian strategic communications efforts in the Gaza conflict earlier this year.
PD needs more, not less attention from scholars. None of us will be shy about pointing out when specific academic assertions do not reflect our hard learned ground truth. We should also be open to the possibility that having some distance from the PD game itself, might give scholars the opportunity for insight that we would find valuable.
When I was director of the Office of Soviet and EE Exchanges at State during the détente years of the 1970s, I would often receive a visit from the representative of an NGO or university who wanted a grant of $1,000 for a trip to Moscow to negotiate a new exchange program with the Soviet Union. Often it was from a state university which was prohibited from using its state funds for foreign travel. If I liked the proposal and the exchanges that would result, I approved the grant, although our admin people complained that it took as much work to write a grant for $1,000 as for $100,000. However, for only $1,000 I would get a new exchange program with the Soviet Union at minimal cost to the USG.
Thanks to Donna, a neighbor here on Cape Cod, I have been able to follow your discussions. A few comments: I agree that everyone in a Mission is not necessarily the best individual to put in front of audiences. However, many in different career tracks are and should always be utilized. Think about those junior officers who need the training and exposure to the importance of PD work? In Nigeria, for example, I would take JO’s on trips, put them in front of student audiences, introduce them to local officials and then have them write something up for the Political Section when they came back. I realize that the average age of JOs is older now but the world is a very young place and we must get as many of our young people out there in all capacities to mix it up with their counterparts around the world.I remember once years ago at a PAO Meeting in Paris and a junior officer complained that his colleagues in the Embassy just didn’t understand what USIS was all about and he claimed to be a communications practitioner! He obviously missed an important audience. Maybe less so now, but certainly most of us know that in the past we had to deal with an internal audience as well as an external one (I won’t even mention sometimes a Washington one?) and how important it was to get everyone on board in a Mission for all our activities.
I always believed that our presence in a country, whether military, ngo, private sector, educational or whatever, was a visible demonstration of our interest in that country and in building relationships at all sorts of levels. If there were ways that these activities/relationships could be enhanced by PD, all the better. Ambassadorial speeches (written probably by all of you) always emphasize this larger relationship. How many USAID funded NGO activities do we promote on our websites or Ambassador speeches to Chambers of Commerce or the Ambassador opening a new US business, or visits of privately funded academic groups to a local university? All these activities promote mutual understanding, enlarge our audiences, and open doors to further discussions on other topics. The issue of private sector or public sector just doesn’t come up. They can also result in things more tangible. Years ago I had Kodak pick up the travel funds for a Fulbrighter and not too long ago an American business supplied computers to a township school where a Fulbright Secondary School teacher was assigned.
How many briefings have we all done for private exchanges coming through our countries? How many briefings on what an Embassy does have we done for secondary school teachers, academic groups, etc? Did we utilize these contacts to build up a constituency in the US? Did we ask these groups to write to their Congressmen about their experience with us? Did we write to Congressmen about a great IV visit to their District? Don’t think so! We can talk about academe, practice, case studies, etc. but we have failed to enlist our skills in building up the one constituency that we need the most to fund our activities.
I have been out of HR for a few years, but when I was involved in outreach recruitment and the DIR program, it seemed that those most successful in getting through the written and oral entry process were those having attended law school. It would be interesting to see statistics if this is actually the case. I would also like to see some statistics on retention rates. Much has been said about the younger generation’s penchant to move around, career-wise. When I left HR in 2004, we were not seeing this among recent classes.
Finally: A plug for our intern program. The ten week experience gives wonderful exposure to someone who might be interested in making the Foreign Service a career both in Washington and in the field.
I have been out of touch but intend to get Joe Nye’s and Emile’s books immediately and get reading! Thanks. Jim
PS: No, Bob and I are not, rpt not, related!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wow! This goes into the archives as a fine, sustained conversation of what used to be by a distinguished group of retired FSOs, and a few others.As an active duty PD professional, I still think the finest preparation for what we do (or try to do) is teaching — at any level. Not an MA or PhD, let alone one in PD. Give me someone, anyone who has managed a classroom and learned what real communication at the human level is all about. Knowing how to reach the heart as much as the mind is the essential skill, perhap even talent. All else is secondary, even “new media” as the very word “medium” indicates — means to an end.
As a recent college graduate looking to work as a FSO on the PD track, I found this whole conversation incredibly enlightening and encouraging. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008 with a BA in Classical Studies (aka ancient history) and a minor in Italian, but have found the whole process of preparing myself for a career in PD incredibly frustrating. I studied the classics partly because I liked ancient Rome, but more importantly, it seemed to me one of the few majors in history or cultural studies that looked at the whole picture of a society. When taking other classes that seemed to more logically fit into my FSO career path, I found them gravely lacking discussion of contemporary cultural trends. There were times, like today as I looked into graduate programs, that I’ve doubted whether this is the right field for me. After reading this thread, I am again encouraged that PD is where I hope to work.In the past I have worked service-industry jobs and with programs like the YMCA and United Way I have been encouraged that ‘relationship-building’ is always listed as my strongest skill. I speak Italian, Spanish, and am hoping to be proficient in Russian next year. I want to work in PD, but am finding that entering the field is very difficult. It may be years before I’m hired as an FSO, and I want to make myself more attractive as a candidate as I apply each year. I am encouraged that so many PD officers have trumpeted the merits of the person over the education. International Relations did not interest me in college, and it is heartening to know that this is not a requirement for success in the field.
As someone who is intensely interested culture and not necessarily policy, I have found the idea of graduate school incredibly daunting. In today’s climate, it is extremely difficult for a recent graduate to enter their chosen career path, and more and more jobs require at least a master’s degree if not many years of work experience. What sort of educational programs would be beneficial for those wishing to enter the field? I agree that academia is not the only component in PD, but for those of us looking to get our foot in the door, the degree can weigh more than our skills. When it is difficult to find work that fits into future career goals, school can be a tool towards gaining the experience necessary for the field.
Rachel,I’ll preface my comments by saying every person’s path into PD is different, and I don’t know that there is necessarily a “best” way to go about it, academic or otherwise. But perhaps my personal experience will be useful.
I passed the Foreign Service Exam in early 2001, and entered the pipeline right around 9/11, but was disheartened by the “process” and length of time the FSO application / selection process took. I very urgently wanted to become a part of the global conversation, so instead of waiting to see if I would be selected for a class, I accepted a job working on the Fulbright Program at the Institute of International Education.
I then spent nearly four years on the other side at the British Council’s US operation, where I led programs that targeted not only American audiences, but also those across the globe. (The British Council is particularly good at offering local staff key roles in strategic planning, as well as the opportunity to spend time all over the world, engaging with both colleagues and the publics of other nations.) For the past couple of years, I’ve been a senior member of the public diplomacy team at the European Commission Delegation in Washington.
Long story short, there are many ways to enter and gain experience in the field of public diplomacy, so don’t despair. In terms of preparation, I’ve found my academic and practical experience equally valuable. I studied international relations and journalism as an undergrad, and hold a master’s in international relations, which provided a valuable theoretical grounding. Having a solid understanding of the culture and language in which you are working is also extraordinarily valuable, and there is certainly an academic component to that. However, it’s hard for academic experience to substitute for time actually doing public diplomacy work.
Rachel,I agree with Stacy that there is no one way to do PD. I do feel, however, that you really ought to gain some hard practical PD experience before going to graduate school. I think the point Pat made at the outset is that there is a big gap between the theory of public diplomacy as taught in school and how it is in the real world.
I came to PD late and only in recent years. I was a Russia/Soviet and East European specialist in school. In recent years I have worked as a contractor on the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) as a contractor. That is low paying and unsalaried work. However, you do deal with visiting distinguished foreigners on a regular basis while visiting parts of America that you never would see otherwise. This is critical experience for PD. There is nothing like seeing America through the eyes of foreigners to learn how people really see us (both good and bad).
My work on the IVLP led me to work with foreign journalists on State Department programs to create documentaries on topics involving U.S. life. Unfortunately, that work is hard to come by as those programs are being cut.
I’ve done all this without an MA. The most valuable experiences I’ve had for my PD work — when I was 14 I traveled all over the U.S. on a study program plus I worked after college for a number of years on domestic political campaigns. My classes related to U.S. history, politics, and society were also invaluable. This brings me to a larger point — PD is first and foremost about explaining American society to the world. I’ve met a lot of young people who work in international relations who spend a lot of time traveling overseas and learning other cultures and languages (all very important), but they have very little knowledge or experience with the U.S. I’ve seen people working with visiting foreigners who know the visitor’s country, have been there, speak their language, and know its politics. When the visitor asks them something about the U.S. they are stumped and can’t answer.
All cities in the U.S. have Councils for International Visitors (CIV’s as they are called) that work with the IVLP and other international exchange programs to create local programs for international visitors. There is bound to be one where you are or where you grew-up. They always need extra hands although they rarely have money to pay. I would strongly recommend you check the National Councils’ website at nciv.org and find the one nearest you. See if you can volunteer or intern for them for a while. Then you will have some hard practical experience to build on. You may even be able to build a career without an MA, but I’d keep my options open on that. I’ve met former interns for CIVs who have gone on to all kinds of international relations work as a result.
Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! “This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. Keep it up!”
I apologize for not having checked this site for a long time, but I did now, and was struck especially by the comments at the end by “Rachel” and “Stacy Hope” (great surname).I used to question the rationale of the Foreign Service personnel folks (I still recoil at the “human resources” designation, which sounds to me like meat through a grinder) who take people with obvious qualifications and don’t take advantage of them. I recall a USIA junior officer for whom I was supposed to be a mentor, who came into the agency with fluent Spanish and was sent to Bangladesh. I know there are valid reasons why this might make sense, but…
And I admire Ms. Hope for her British Council service. When I retired from USIA (not too long before USIA went the way of the Titanic), I got a heartfelt hand-written note of appreciation from the head of the British Council (in London, not the US), whom I had met several times. It was touching, because such gestures from non-American sources are particularly noticeable when your own side seems not to notice all that much.
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