American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

April 1998

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Triangle Institute for Security Studies

For faster downloading, Part I of this conference report is divided into the following linked sections:

·  Background & Introduction:
  Prof. Richard Kohn

·  Roundtable I: Presentation
  by Prof. Ole Holsti

·  Panelists:  Profs.
  David Cheshier and
  Erik Doxtader

·  Questions from the Floor

·  About TISS

Part II of the report will appear in the Summer 1998 issue of American Diplomacy

You may send comments or questions by e-mail in care of the Editor,
American Diplomacy

(click here).

TISS Conference Report:

Bridging Gaps in the Study of
Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy

Editor's Note:

We have the pleasure to present below the first of three segments that will appear in this journal, extracts from the taped proceedings of a one-day conference held at Chapel Hill, NC, on January 10, 1998, sponsored by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. Forty-six area and visiting scholars and foreign affairs professionals attended.

The names of moderators, presenters, and panelists may be found at the beginning of each of the four roundtable presentations and discussions. The transcript of the proceedings has been edited for consistency and clarity, but we have retained all significant details of the arguments made by the participants.

There has been much discussion in recent years about a so-called "CNN effect." What kind of impact does press coverage have on American foreign policy? Has, for example, press coverage of humanitarian disasters pushed the United States into military intervention? The way in which public opinion, the press, and the foreign policy establishment interact with one another is an issue which has for some time aroused interest among social scientists.

Further, there has been growing debate in the humanities about the nature of some of the assumptions which underlie our discussion of public opinion. What, for example, do we mean when we refer to "the public"? Do opinion polls themselves influence public opinion? How should the public role be conceptualized? How do arguments made in the public sphere influence — or get influenced by — arguments made in the technical sphere? Are there normative notions of good argument?

This conference did not expect to answer all of these questions. It did, however, bring together persons from intellectual communities that examine foreign policy and the public in distinctly, sometimes radically, different ways. A dialogue between scholars and practitioners who operate on very different assumptions revealed new approaches to tough issues and in so doing, likely made future cross- and inter-disciplinary work more feasible and productive.

~ Ed.



Richard H. Kohn*
Univ. of N. C. at Chapel Hill

I'm Dick Kohn, the executive secretary of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. I want to welcome you all to our conference this year on the subject of public opinion and foreign policy.

The Triangle Institute is a consortium of faculty, not only sponsored by the three research universities in the North Carolina Research Triangle area, but also including other research and teaching universities and colleges in the Triangle and in North Carolina. Our membership, as you know, extends to seven or eight hundred people on our mailing list all up and down the east coast.

TISS is really a consortium in the best sense of that word. We are an umbrella organization. We sponsor programs and we sponsor people. We try to advance education, research, and public understanding of national and international security, broadly defined, widely practiced, and hopefully effectively understood.

Along those lines, some announcements of TISS projects that you may or may not know of, one being the wonderful internet journal edited by Henry Mattox, American Diplomacy, which was founded and is run by our very vigorous retired Foreign Service officer community. Volume III, Number 1, the latest issue, is in fact out.

The second item I would bring to your attention is a large research project that's going to be undertaken under TISS auspices by myself, but really even more by Peter Feaver [Duke University], on the gap between the military and American society. This is a two-year project underwritten by a major foundation in which we will study the nature of the relationship and the gap between the military and society in the United States, where it might be heading, and what its implications are for military effectiveness and for the American government.

Let me now turn to today's proceedings and to bid a special welcome to our panelists and participants, who have come from near and from far to probe the issue of public opinion and American foreign policy. We have three presentation panels on and then a wrap-up panel.

The occasion for this conference is Ole Holsti's recent book. It came out in 1996 from the University of Michigan Press and is in a sense the culmination of much work that Ole has been doing on the subject this last twenty-plus years. I might note also that one of our presenters, Warren Strobel [The Washington Times] has a book out on the subject: Warren's book is Late Breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media's Influence on Peace Operations, which was published in 1997 by the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Last, I want to review the way in which we're handling today's program. Our presenters will have varying times to present their work and they will then be questioned by the panelists. We are charging the moderators, Tom Hynes, Carol Winkler, Cori Dauber, and myself to hold to the various time limits on each presenter and questioner. There will be, in each hour and a half session, at least thirty minutes at the end to engage all of us in what is meant to be a conversation between and among different disciplines with different perspectives. I think it will be a very interesting and enjoyable day for us all.

* Edited transcript text not cleared by speaker.

Continue reading TISS Conference Report: Holsti Presentation

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