Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

Required reading for today: Heritage’s latest titled Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century by Tony Blankley, Helle C. Dale and Oliver Horn. (also required: President-elect Obama, we need a new kind of public diplomacy by Heritage’s Kim Holmes.)

Margaret Thatcher once said that America is the only nation in the world "built upon an idea." This idea–liberty–has transcended geography and ethnicity to shape American identity and to inspire political discourse, both domestic and foreign, since the nation’s founding nearly two and a half centuries ago. Indeed, John Adams wrote that the American Revolution occurred first "in the hearts and minds of the people." Ideas lie at the very core of this country.

It is therefore both frustrating and ironic that the United States should have such difficulty conveying ideas today. Seven years into the war on terrorism, it has become apparent that final victory must be won not only on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the hearts and minds of people.

Margaret Thatcher also said that the media is the oxygen of the terrorist. The same is true of the counterterrorist and the counterinsurgent. Being able to communicate ideas and counter misinformation and distortion has always been essential to peace, stability, and national security in general. Understanding that everything we say and everything we do is linked and shapes perceptions is, fortunately, becoming vogue.

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