The author, a former Foreign Service officer, finds considerable fault with the subject report, one designed to improve the nation's vital cultural and informational programs. He lists four recommendations that he sees as necessary to begin to accomplish that aim. Ed.
It has been nearly one year since Changing Minds, Winning Peace,1 a report by the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world, reviewed the state of Americas standing in the world and proposed how to fix its failing public diplomacy. (Public diplomacy is defined by the State Department on its homepage as "engaging, informing, and influencing key international audiences.") The eighty-page report, capping a flurry of pundit-pondering on why Americas message wasnt winning over overseas audiences, particularly in Muslim countries, was praised by national dailies: The Los Angeles Times called its recommendations "sound," The Washington Post found them "sensible." Other media also sang its praises: The St. Petersburg Times (Florida) noted that the report "outlines ways America can regain at least some of the respect it has lost in recent years." Curently, as Congressional hearings examine public diplomacy, the Djerejian report is cited as an authoritative document .2
Changing Minds, however, has a number of serious drawbacks, some of which have been pointed out by its rare critics.3 With world public opinion still hostile toward the United States, it may be worthwhile to look at Changing Minds again, with a more critical eye, if only to explore other ways to reform the State Departments public diplomacy, which currently only has an Acting Assistant Secretary to direct it.4
The Department: Not at Fault?
But the simple question inevitably comes to mind: Isnt a system made up of people, and arent people responsible for what happens in, and to, the system? If public diplomacy isnt working, surely one of the reasons is that some of "the men and women" at the Department arent doing their jobs and need to be told so. At the very least, they should be held to greater responsibility for what is going wrong with public diplomacy, especially at the higher levels of the State Department hierarchy. After all, State personnel, generally independent-minded and dedicated civil servants, are not just automatons subservient to the "system," but professionals responsible for how policies are made and implemented. They should be judged, in all respect to them, accordingly.
Dont Know Much about History
But listing dates does not adequately provide the kind of historical insight that makes the comprehension of a complex activity that has evolved over timepublic diplomacypossible. The report should have mentioned, for example, that problems public diplomacy faces today existed from its very existence since World War I: the tendency, for example, of "traditional" diplomats to dismiss it as useless in supporting the main task of diplomacy, negotiations. The accurate measurement of public diplomacys effectiveness has been an issue since the beginning of the last century. For example, George Creel, the head of Americas first "public diplomacy" agency, the Committee on Public Information (1917-1919), wrote his How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe (1920) in order to justify to a skeptical Congress and public what his organization had actually done to make the world safe for democracy.
My point is not to suggest that the Djerejian report should have been an academic exercise, but to fault it for not recognizing that public diplo-macys current problems have a long history that should be underscored in any attempt to make recommendations on how to solve these problems so that they not be repeated in the future.
The Master and the Butler?
The report further states that:
Elsewhere, Djerejian and his colleagues talk about the "policy necessity" of public diplomacy supporting "governments hostile to freedom and prosperity." These passages suggest that, when the chips are down, public diplomacy is just a faithful servant that follows instructions, a butler whos too shy or discreet to even inquire about having a say in what the master tells him to do.
But there are declarations interspersed in the report that suggest public diplomacy should be an important, integral part of the policy decision making process, not just an appendage to it, not just a propaganda tool to "sell" policy, even when it leaves much to be desired.
So the report has statements to please those who insist, like Edward Mur-row, head of USIA during the Kennedy administration, that public diplo-macy should be not only at the crash landing, but at the take off .(He should know, since he first found out about the invasion of the Bay of Pigs indirectly from an aide who had learned about it from a New York Times correspondent .)5
But in its Executive Summary and Specific Recommendations, the report makes no clear mention of the need for public diplomacy to shape, not just propagandize, policy. In these brief, crucial parts of the lengthy Djerejian oeuvre (remember, its eighty pages long!), nothing specific is said about the crucial conundrum of public diplomacyits relationship to policy. Sure, in the Executive Summary, theres a phrase about the fact that "public diplomacy requires a new strategic direction This commitment must be led by the political will of the President and Congress." But does this verbiage really touch on the key problem, the proper relationship of public diplomacy to a policy that many consider misdirected, especially in the Middle East?6 No, it does not.
But what does the report actually propose? Basically the expansion or modification (amelioration is too strong a word) of existing programs, many of them mentioned in previous reports on public diplomacys failures. Were presented with a laundry list of slightly repackaged old stuff used in the Cold War, not a bold, thought-provoking effort to find new ways of conducting public diplomacy in the twenty-first century.
The report, for example, advocates that "major increases in resources should be devoted to helping Arabs and Muslims gain access to American higher education." This of course is a laudable idea, but its certainly been tried before. The report itself demonstrates that when it states that "80 percent of the members of the Saudi cabinet have an American masters or doctoral degree" (not exactly an argument in favor of educational exchanges, given the repressive nature of the Saudi regime.)
Nothing indicates a failure of the imagination more than the urge to create new bureaucratic structures, elaborate abstract constructions with which Djerejian & Co. are infatuated. Some of their proposed "new" organizational proposals:
Are these new bureaucratic entities really needed? Wouldnt they complicate further the public diplomacy process, already mired in the State Departments many layers of area and functional bureaus? And, to improve public diplomacy, wouldnt it make more sense, instead of creating new bureaucracies in Washington, to empower diplomats practicing public diplomacy in the fieldby giving them greater authority to frame bilateral issues, decide on programs, and prioritize budgets? They are, after all, the people on the spot, and they are best placed to know what best works and doesnt.
The drafters of the Djerejian report believe American "values" or what it calls the American "message" are ingrained in everyone, even if as (the report suggests) they dont quite yet realize it. Thus, it insists on making the world more aware that it is, at bottom, basically "American"so that it can be made to suit U.S. national interests. Just make "them" realize that they are like "us" and everything will be all right, just like St. Paul when the scales before his eyes vanished.
This is a simplistic, missionary-like view of our complicated world. Even in todays Americanized, increasingly globalized environment, native, original cultures persistand indeed flourish. Some do so as a reaction to efforts to suppress (or to use more neutral words, involuntarily change) them through economic, cultural, or political "universalization" by what many perceive as an hegemonic and culturally imperialistic power, the United States. Samuel Huntington may have it all wrong in his clash of civilizations thesis (how can the variety of Muslim cultures be reduced to one civilization?), but he is right to point out that culture in the twenty-first century has assumed great importance in how nations and non-state entities define themselvesthis in reaction to what they see as outsiders demands that they "get with the program" of "shared values."
There are public diplomacy programscultural in nature7that the State Department should support, but the Djerejian report ignores them. When it proposes, for example, the launching of The American Knowledge Library, a "significant new initiative," it suggests a "massive translation of thousands of the best books in numerous fields ranging from American history and government to general sociology, economics, and the hard sciences." But what about literary works? Not a word is to be found about them. Why doesnt the report propose the translation of American literature, exhibits of American art, concerts of serious American musicall unique vehicles to present the United States abroad and stimulate a dialogue between different cultures? The answer is clear: because culture, which is about differences between people, just doesnt exist in Djerejians universal-values world.
How many inches?
The models the report advocates as the best tools for testing the effective-ness of public diplomacy programs areget thisthose that have been used by Centers for Disease Control "to gauge the effects of media-and community-based programs to reduce tobacco use." So public diplomacy, it seems, is essentially similar to efforts to prevent people from smoking. That view is patently absurd, because public diplomacy involves affecting persons in much more complex ways than persuading them not to light up. Indeed, if there were a full-proof method of precisely measuring the effects of public diplomacy programs, that would indicate that these programs were, in fact, ineffective, for it would mean that they had been reduced to inducing Pavlovian biological reactions in people that can all too easily be quantified.
A mind cannot be measured in the same way that surveys determine how many butts nicotine addicts are putting out in ashtrays. Why not honestly admit, then, that minds are (thank God!) difficult, if not impossible, entities to quantify, and work from that modest assumption when planning public diplomacy programs?
Moreover, a culture of measurement, which the report so ardently advo-cates, is at odds with the generous, essentially unquantifiable spirit of the best of public diplomacy. Take the American Centers with open access li-braries that were so visible during the Cold War, located in the heart of major cities. Their "patrons" (as librarians call them) didnt feel that their minds were being "changed" then "measured" to suit narrow U.S. foreign policy interests. They sensed, as human beings, that the Centers were an ex-ample of American generosity, opening its hearts and minds to them. These patrons saw Centers as providing them the delight and intellectual excitement of discovery, without their being expected to "change their minds" or being quizzed about what wass in their heads "on a strictly analytical basis" (a phrase used by the Djerejian report on how public diplomacy programs should be measured).
Less Time for Exchanges?
1. Changing Minds, Winning Peace: A New Strategic Direction for U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab & Muslin World. Report of the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, Edward P. Djerejian, Chairman. October 1, 20003. Submitted to the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives <http://www.state.gov/documents/ organization/24882.pdf>.
Recent reports on public diplomacy are listed on pp. 5-6 of Changing Minds. Established by the U.S. Congress to "recommend new approaches, initiatives and program models to improve public diplomacy results," the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim Worldwhose 13 members, when it was created last year, included former diplomats, academics, a media representatives, lawyers, and a pollsterbegan working on the report in early July 2003.
2. Editorial, "Making the Case to the World," The Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2003 [the editorial remarks, however, that the reports recommendations were "unsurprising"]; editorial, "Talking to the World," The Washington Post, October 6, 2004; Susan Taylor Martin, "Voice Doesnt Get to Muslims," St. Petersburg Times, January 25, 2004; Robin Wright, "U.S. Struggles to Win Hearts, Minds in the Muslim World Diplomacy Efforts Lack Funds, Follow-Through, The Washington Post, August 20, 2004, which cites the Djerejian report.
3. See, for example, Robert Satloff, The Djerejian Report on Public Diplomacy: First Impressions, Washington Institute for Near East Policy Watch Number 788, October 1, 2003 <http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/watch/index.htm>, which notes that the reports main flaws are "its silence on radical Islam as the core hearts and minds challenge to U.S. interest in the region under review; its implicit emphasis on poll-driven initiatives; its lack of prioritization in offering new initiatives; and a disconcerting tendency toward special pleading." Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the broad-casting Board of Governors (which oversees all non-military U.S. government international broadcasting) laments in an article in The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2004, that "the Djerejian report disparages U.S. international broadcastings successful efforts to win and keep a large radio audience in the Arab world. At the same time, it proposes the creation of a cabinet-level tsar-like official in the White House who would direct everything in the public diplomacy world, including all those elements of international broadcasting that tell our audiences what American is and what we stand for. The Djerejian reports di-rection is clear: an end to the independence of U.S. international broadcasting. This assures an end to the credibility we have built up since World War IIa credibility that is measured by our audiences belief that we tell the truth."
4. Margaret Tutwiler abruptly announced her resignationeffective June 30, 2004from her post as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, shortly before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. Close to the Secretary of State James Baker, Ms. Tutwiler replaced Charlotte Beers, the former chairwoman of two top advertising agencies, J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather. Today, the person in charge of public diplomacy at the Department is "Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs" Patricia de Stacy Harrison who, according to her biography on States homepage, is "an entrepreneur, author and political leader" with "over 20 years of experience in communication strategy, coalition, and constituency building. She is the author of A Seat At The Table and America's New Women Entrepreneurs."
5. See Nicholas J. Cull, "The Man Who Invented Truth: The Tenure of Edward R. Murrow as Director of the United States Information Agency during the Kennedy Years," Cold War History (October, 2003), 23-48.
6. One of the members of the Advisory Group, James Zogby, has written extensively about the fact that the U.S.s problem in the Middle East is not its values, but its policies. See his recent "Don't Blame Arab Media," Al-Jazeera, August 17. http:// www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20 editorials/2004%20opinions/August/17%20 o/Don't%20Blame%20Arab%20Media%20 By%20James%20J.%20Zogby.htm
7. For a distinction between public diplomacy "educational" and "cultural" programs, see John Brown, "The Purposes and Cross-Purposes of American Public Diplomacy," American Diplomacy (August 15, 2002)
<http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/ 2002_07-09/brown_pubdipl/brown_pubdipl.html>. For a discussion of the role of culture and the question of universal values in American public diplomacy, see Fank Ninkovich, U.S. Information Policy and Cultural Diplomacy (New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1966).
8. That the outcome of the Cold War, in which the U.S. prevailed, would have been far different than it was without cultural and educational exchanges is well brought out in Yale Richmond, Cultural Exchange & The Cold War: Raising the Iron Curtain (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State Univer-sity Press, 2003).