Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites #81

Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome.

Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Professor
George Washington University
Georgetown University

Michael Barr and Valentina Feklyunia, eds., “The Soft Power of Hard States,” Politics, Special Issue, Vol. 35, Nos. 3-4, November 2015.  Barr and Feklyunia (Newcastle University) have compiled a strong collection of articles that examine the soft power of authoritarian states, focusing principally on China, Russia, and Iran.  Their goal is to provide a “needed corrective to soft power studies by de-Westernizing the concept” through studies of how “non-democratic regimes promote and manage their image.”  Full online access to the articles is available through August 31, 2016.

Christian Bueger and Frank Gadinger, “The Play of International Practice,” International Studies Quarterly, (2015), 59, 449-460.  Bueger (Cardiff University) and Gadinger (University of Duisburg-Essen) summarize current thinking on the “practice turn” in international relations – its core theoretical arguments and challenges for future research.  Theories that situate knowledge in “how groups perform their practical activities” rather than “mental frames” or “discourse,” they argue, offer useful alternatives to such traditional approaches as rational calculation of interests, mainstream constructivism, and the evaluation of norms.  The everyday practices of diplomats and other international actors become the primary objects of research.  Their pragmatism and emphasis on taking contingency and change into account hold considerable promise for diplomacy scholars looking for new ways to connect study and practice.

Department of State & USAID Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism, May 2016.  This 12-page report describes elements in a State Department / USAID strategy to “counter efforts by violent extremists to radicalize, recruit, and mobilize followers” and “address specific factors that facilitate violent extremist recruitment and radicalization.”  The statement defines countering violent extremism (CVE), delineates strategic end states, summarizes five strategic goals, discusses a variety of ways and means to achieve these goals, identifies criteria for setting priorities, and briefly points to intent to measure “results and effects.”  It concludes with a short description of structural changes and creation of a “working group of core State, USAID, and interagency stakeholders” to “oversee and coordinate implementation” of the strategy.

Larry Diamond, “Democracy in Decline: How Washington Can Reverse the Decline,” Foreign Affairs, July/August, 2016, 151-159.  Diamond (Stanford University) laments the US loss of interest in promoting democracy and argues the 2016 national interest case for making commitment to democracy abroad, anticorruption, Internet freedom, digital rights, and remedies for political failings at home pillars of US foreign policy.  He notes Congressional increases in funding for the nonprofit National Endowment for Democracy (supported by Republican lawmakers since the Reagan Administration) from $115 million in 2009 to $170 million in 2016.  During the same period, US government support for democracy, human rights and governance, mainly through USAID, has fallen by nearly $400 million.

In the same issue of Foreign Affairs, John J. Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen M. Walt (Harvard University) argue against the “democracy delusion” as problematic “large scale social engineering in foreign societies that Americans understand poorly.”  If Americans want to spread democracy, they should set a good example by doing more to improve political “conditions at home and less to manipulate politics abroad.”  See “The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior U.S. Grand Strategy,” 70-83.

Gregory Evans Dowd, Groundless: Rumors, Legends, and Hoaxes on the Early American Frontier, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015).  The growing literature on American colonial history continues to provide insights into the study and practice of modern diplomacy.  Dowd (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) provides a well written, deeply researched account of ways in which plausible rumors shaped perceptions and influenced diplomacy, warfare, trade, and cross-cultural connections in colonial and early US national history.  His book examines a variety of unverified rumors and legends: dreams of gold, responsibility for small pox pandemics, exploitations of slaves, intentions to enslave indigenous Americans, British conspiracies to scalp Americans, and routine attribution of imminent frontier violence to manipulation by European rivals.  Dowd devotes a chapter to Benjamin Franklin’s use of deception as a legitimate instrument of diplomacy both during the Revolutionary war and in the Treaty of Paris negotiations that followed.  Dowd’s thinking is also valuable for his conceptual arguments on the meaning of rumor and social consciousness, motivated lies as truth claims, improvised news, and manipulation of information to advance political agendas and achieve personal gain.  An important sub-theme is the link Dowd draws to contemporary US statecraft.

Tom Fletcher, Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age, (William Collins, 2016).  Former British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher has written an indispensable guide to diplomacy in the digital age in short, clearly written chapters filled with insights, wit, and telling examples.  He honors the past with a brief survey of diplomacy’s historical transformations and then devotes his attention to how “The role of diplomats is being transformed faster than at any point in human history.”  Fletcher is a passionate digital media pioneer, but he is no casual technology enthusiast.  Perhaps because he combines experiences as a diplomat in the field, an advisory role to three Prime Ministers, and the perspective of a scholar-practitioner, he brings unusual analytical depth to understanding diplomacy’s legitimate ongoing connections to power, governance, and non-state actors.  He challenges traditional diplomacy even as he defends the continuing importance of expertise, secret negotiations, and public interests.  It is no accident that he is also the author of the UK foreign ministry’s recent Future FCO report.  Fletcher’s book is a true “must read” for entry-level diplomats and every experienced diplomat before beginning his or her next assignment.

For comments on Fletcher’s views see “Review Roundtable: Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age by Tom Fletcher,” London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), July 18, 2016.  Includes an introduction by LSE’s Nick Kitchen and comments by Alexis Wichowski (Columbia University), Lina Khatib (Chatham House), Iver Neumann (LSE), Alaa Murabit (physician and UN Sustainable Development Goals Global advocate), and John Robert Kelley (American University). (LSE link, courtesy of Donna Oglesby)

Biancamaria Fontana, Germaine de Staël: A Political Portrait, (Princeton University Press, 2016).  In this biography, Fontana (University of Lausanne) provides new insights on the importance of public opinion in the thinking of Germaine de Staël (1766-1817), novelist, literary critic, and political activist during the French Revolution. De Staël’s views on public opinion as “a visceral, collective emotion that linked a people to its leaders” are profiled in historian Robert Darnton’s excellent review, “Mme de Staël and the Mystery of the Public Will,” in The New York Review of Books, June 23, 2016.

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977-1980, Volume XXX, Public Diplomacy, June 8, 2016.  Edited superbly by State Department historian Kristin L. Ahlberg, this volume documents the public diplomacy of the Jimmy Carter administration from 1977-1980.  Its 215 documents focus on the merger of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the US Information Agency, the establishment of the International Communication Agency in 1978, organizational and conceptual challenges created by the merger, and the variety of public diplomacy initiatives taken in support of the Carter administration’s foreign policy.  The volume’s online accessibility and editorial notes make this a remarkably useful resource for scholars and practitioners.

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1917-1972, Public Diplomacy, World War I, Office of the Historian, US Department of State.  Edited by State Department historian Aaron W. Marrs, the compilation focuses on the creation and overseas work of the Committee on Public Information (CPI), also known as the “Creel Committee, from 1917-1919.  The online volume includes 44 documents, 8 helpful editorial notes on the CPI’s activities and personalities, and a collection of multimedia items showing CPI reading rooms, pamphlets, and other examples of its overseas work.  Researchers will find this an accessible and authoritative source of information on the CPI’s practitioners, the global scope of its activities, and its relations with the Department of State and the Military Intelligence Branch of the War Department.

Glenn J. Guimond, “Examining State’s Foreign Service Officer Hiring Today,” The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2016.  Guimond, a State Department public diplomacy officer on assignment with the Board of Examiners (BEX), discusses the variety of written and oral tests, and other administrative requirements, in the entry process to becoming a Foreign Service officer.  The BEX evaluates candidates for five Foreign Service generalist career tracks and 16 career tracks for specialists and limited non-career candidates.  See also “State Department Opportunities for Students,” The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2016,

Ellen Huijgh, The Public Diplomacy of Emerging Powers, Part 2: The Case of Indonesia, CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.  Huijgh (Netherlands Institute of International Relations and University of Antwerp) continues her work on the public diplomacy of emerging powers with this informed and timely case study of Indonesia’s public diplomacy during the administration of President Joko Widodo.  Her paper begins with a brief survey of broad trends in diplomacy studies grounded in an integrative approach, national diplomatic systems, and her own work on blending diplomacy’s international and domestic dimensions.  She discusses characteristics and recent developments in what she calls Indonesia’s “niche narrative public diplomacy” (co-existence of Islam, democracy, and modern society) and concludes with concern that it “faces stagnation and isolation today.”  Her earlier study in USC’s series is Ellen Huijgh and Jordan Warlick, The Public Diplomacy of Emerging Powers, Part 1: The Case of Turkey, CPD Perspectives, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, January 2016.

“Lateral Entry into the Senior Foreign Service,” Section 206, S. 2937, Department of State Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2017, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced May 17, 2016.  Although the Senate Committee remains committed to the practice of “grooming generalists for careers in the Foreign Service,” it also supports authorization of a pilot program to “permit mid-career entry into the Foreign Service for qualified individuals who are willing to bring their outstanding talents and experiences to the work of the Foreign Service.”  The goal is to leverage skills and creative imagination in civil society that diplomats need and do not have in abundance.  For a brief analysis, see Domani Spero, “New @StateDept Authorization Bill Includes 3-Year Pilot Program for Lateral Entry Into the Foreign Service,” Diplopundit, April 28, 2016.

For a predictable negative response from the American Foreign Service Association and other retired diplomats, see Domani Spero, “12 Former AFSA Presidents Express ‘Deep Concern’ over proposed FS Lateral Entry program,” Diplopundit, June 27, 2016 and James Bruno, “Back Door Diplomats: Screw Merit,” Diplo Denizen, July 14, 2016.

For a discussion of comparable issues relating to US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s interest in opening the door to lateral entry for talented civilians, particularly those with digital technology skills, in the military’s senior officer ranks, see Andrew Tilghman, “The Pentagon’s Controversial Plan to Hire Military Leaders Off the Street,” Military Times, June 19, 2016.

Marc Lynch, The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East, (Public Affairs, 2016).  Lynch (George Washington University), a deeply knowledgeable scholar of Middle East politics and media, and of US policies in the region, provides a fundamental rethinking of assumptions and ideas that shaped his views on the broad Arab uprising of the past five years.  Drawing on his own research, local Arab voices, and analysis he credits to others, he offers numerous conclusions on the increase in violence and repression.  It is too soon to conclude the uprisings have failed.  Their causes have grown worse and the frustrations of empowered youth are greater.  There will be no return to stable and friendly authoritarian regimes.  Another wave of mass protests is “almost certainly coming.”  Partisan American policy disputes exaggerate US influence and role in the uprising.  And the nuclear agreement with Iran is “a historic opportunity to establish new foundations for regional order.”  Diplomacy scholars will find especially useful his insights on public opinion and the impact of a radically transformed information environment on Middle East politics and society.

Stephen G. McFarland, “A Roadmap for New Hires: 30 Rules to Survive and Thrive,” The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2016.  McFarland (retired US diplomat and former Ambassador to Guatemala) offers his thinking on the desirable attributes of Foreign Service practitioners and advice on how to hone and master these attributes.  His 30 rules cover such issues as geography and language expertise, embassy operations, “corridor reputation” and personal skills, security awareness, crisis preparation, leadership, resilience, health, and passion for the vocation.  His roadmap is useful for those aspiring to a career in diplomacy as well as new hires.

Adam Nossiter, “‘That Ignoramus’: 2 French Scholars of Radical Islam Turn Bitter Rivals,” The New York Times, July 13, 2016.  NYT correspondent Nossiter profiles the intensely personal dispute between two leading French academics, Olivier Roy (European University Institute, Florence) and Gilles Kepel (Sciences Po, Paris), on the origins, development, and future of violent jihadism.  Once friends, Roy and Kepel now differ on France’s relations with Islam and the motives of terrorists who carried out recent attacks in Paris.  For Roy, they are “mostly marginalized young men and petty criminals” in a relatively well integrated Muslim population who use Islam as a cover for lethal violence.  The problem is the “Islamicization of radicalism.”  For Kepel, the violent jihadism is consequent to the evolution of “Islamist radicalicaliztion that took shape over decades because of a failure of integration.”

Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews, The Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’ Propaganda Model, RAND, 2016.  Drawing on experimental research in psychology, RAND social scientists Paul and Matthews analyze characteristics of Russia’s “propaganda model”: effective use of multiple media channels and messages, rapid, continuous and repetitive communication, and lack of commitment to consistency and objective reality.  Although they suggest some effort to counter with facts and truth is worthwhile, the authors are not optimistic about traditional countermeasures such as refutations and fact checking.  Their suggested responses include seeking to create first impressions by forewarning and priming audiences with correct information, highlighting Russia’s methods of manipulation “rather than fighting the specific manipulations,” countering the effects of Russia’s propaganda rather than the propaganda, focusing on Russia’s audiences rather than Russia as the source, and using a range of information warfare capabilities.

Simon Rofe and Heather L. Dichter, “Sport and Diplomacy: A Global Diplomacy Framework,”Diplomacy and Statecraft, 2016, VOL. 27, No. 2, 212–230,published online May 16, 2016.  Rofe (University of London) and Dichter (Western Michigan University) have two goals in this thoughtful article.  First, they examine a variety of approaches to conceptual boundaries in sport and diplomacy, discourse between the two, and terminology in each domain.  Second, they develop a framework, grounded in an understanding of “global diplomacy,” for exploring “concepts of communication, representation, and negotiation.”  Their article raises useful questions and ideas for continuing research, and provides an extensive review of recent literature and work by other scholars.

Mary Thompson-Jones, To the Secretary: Leaked Embassy Cables and America’s Foreign Policy Disconnect, (W. W. Norton and Company, 2016).  Thompson-Jones (Northeastern University) draws on State Department cables released by Wikileaks and her experiences as a career US diplomat to examine “the practice and conduct of American diplomacy through the eyes of those posted overseas.”  Chapters explore negative and positive consequences of the leaks, anti-Americanism and challenges to US public diplomacy, diplomacy during and after crisis events, diplomacy with “frenemies,” diplomacy in war zone Iraq, and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Gregory M. Tomlin, Murrow’s Cold War: Public Diplomacy for the Kennedy Administration, (Potomac Books, 2016).  Tomlin (a career US Army officer and former history professor at the US Military Academy) has written a carefully researched and much needed history of Edward R. Murrow’s years as director of the US Information Agency (USIA) during the administration of John F. Kennedy.  His book draws extensively on USIA’s archival records, Murrow’s personal papers, oral histories, secondary sources, and interviews, including importantly with his son Charles Casey Murrow and former Voice of America Deputy Director Alan Heil.  Tomlin provides insights and new information about Murrow’s views on public diplomacy, his leadership, and his relationships with Congress, the National Security Council, President Kennedy and other senior officials.  Chapters focus on USIA’s role during a presidency that included the Alliance for Progress, tensions over the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, tense race relations in the United States, the nuclear test ban treaty, and involvement in Southeast Asia.  USIA in the Kennedy administration was rethinking its mission, functions and structure a decade after its founding.  Its officers were developing a sense of their work as a profession.  Tomlin sheds light on a pivotal era in the institutionalization of US public diplomacy practice.

Twiplomacy Study 2016, Burson-Marsteller, May 31, 2016.  The global communications firm Burson-Marstellar surveyed 793 Twitter accounts of heads of government and state and foreign ministers in 173 countries.  Its largely quantitative study analyses their Twitter profiles, tweet history, uses of video and text, and inter-connections.  Included are Burson-Marsteller’s ten tips for building engagement on social media, views on social media platforms other than Twitter, and assessments of the relative strengths of digital diplomacy actors.


Recent Blogs and Other Items of Interest

Matt Armstrong, “There’s a New #1,” July 1, 2016, MountainRunner.us Blog.

Corneliu Bjola, “Practicing Digital Diaspora Diplomacy,” June 3, 2016, USC, Center on Public Diplomacy, CPD Blog.

Robin Brown, “The CNN Effect circa 1910,” July 14, 2016; “The Chilcot Report and the Problem of Strategy,” July 6, 2016; “Brexit: Three Thoughts,” July 4, 2016, Public Diplomacy, Network and Influence Blog.

Helene Cooper, “U.S. Drops Snark in Favor of Emotions to Undercut Extremists,” July 28, 2016, The New York Times.

Daryl Copeland, “Opinion: Science Diplomacy for the Age of Globalization,” June 6, 2016, IIASA, Options Magazine.

Simon Denyer, “China’s Lesson to the World: Censoring the Internet Works,” May 23, 2016, The Washington Post.

Alan Heil, “Revival of ‘The Last Three Feet’ in Media Training Abroad,” June 11, 2016, Public Diplomacy Council Blog.

David Ignatius, “The Islamic State Feeds Off Western Islamophobia,” June 2, 2016, The Washington Post.

David S. Jackson, “The VOA is Not a Wire Service,” July 13, 2016; “International Broadcasting: The Nuclear Option,” June 1, 2016, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

John Kerry, “Remarks on People-to-People Exchange Plenary Session,” June 7, 2016, National Museum, Beijing.

Nicholas Kralev, “The State Department Has a Diversity Problem,” May 22, 2016, Foreign Policy Blog.

Ilan Manor, “Turkey Launches Belated #DigitalDiplomacy Blitz,” July 28, 2016; “Selfie Diplomacy: An Analysis of MFA Profile Pictures on Twitter,” July 7, 2015, USC, Center on Public Diplomacy, CPD Blog.

Jan Melissen, “Diplomacy in the Digital Age: More Than Twiplomacy,” May 31, 2016, Clingendael.

Portland Communications, “The Soft Power 30: A Ranking of Global Soft Power” 2016.

Burcu Gultekin Punsmann and Senem Cevik, “Pathways to a Common Future: Youth Perspectives on Turkey-Israel,” 2015, APM Ankara Politikalar Merkezi.

Dan Robinson, “The Great Clean-up Act at the BBG,” June 7, 2016, USC, Center on Public Diplomacy, CPD Blog.

Shaun Riordan, “Diaspora Diplomacy: A Double Edged Sword,” June 6, 2016, BideDao Blog.

Kathy Schalow, “Celebrating One Year of Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Implementation,” May 5, 2016, US State Department, Dipnote Blog.

Philip Seib, “An Important CVE Step From the State Department,” May 26, 2016, The Huffington Post.

Tara Sonenshine, “DNC Hack Shows Its Time to Rein in the Russians,” July 25, 2016, The Hill.


Gem From The Past  

James Robert Mock and Cedric Larson, Words That Won the War: The Story of the Committee on Public Information, 1917-1919, (Princeton University Press, 1939).  Next year marks the centenary of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) headed by George Creel and the beginning of institutionalized public diplomacy in the United States.  With a few notable exceptions, most studies make only brief references to the CPI – and to Creel’s zeal, methods and disputes with colleagues and Congress – before moving quickly to more recent history.  Publication of the Department of State’s Foreign Relations of the United States, 1917-1972, Public Diplomacy, World War I, annotated above, draws attention to the need for deeper inquiry.  A reductionism that equates CPI with Creel misses a rich tapestry of people, methods, and ideas in Washington and especially in CPI’s field offices and US missions abroad.  The origins of most professional practice issues in America’s institutionalized public diplomacy can be found in Mock and Larson’s informed and analytically perceptive mid-20th century account and in the Department of State’s online documentation.


An archive of Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites (2002-present) is maintained at George Washington University’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication.  Current issues are also posted by the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy, the Public Diplomacy Council, and MountainRunner.us.