Public Diplomacy – Adrift Without a Rudder?

The Honorable James Glassman delivers Keynote Address at InfowarCon 2009

The Honorable James Glassman delivers Keynote Address at InfowarCon 2009

The Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) on Strategic Communications has been dissolved and the Global Strategic Engagement Center (GSEC) is sitting around waiting for leadership. The problem is the “lack of a broad constituency in Congress for Public Diplomacy.”

So said the Honorable James Glassman, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, in his Keynote Address to the InfowarCon 2009 attendees on Friday, April 24th.

In his speech he remarked:

“The business that many of you have chosen is influence. It is not exposition; it is not explanation. It is information with a purpose. It is using words, images, and non-violent deeds to get people to behave in ways that help America achieve its national security objectives. We define public diplomacy as understanding, engaging, informing, and influencing foreign publics. But it is the fourth gerund that counts – influencing.

As an article in the New York Times last week indicated, the business in which you are engaged and in which I used to be engaged can be contentious in a free society. There is, in some quarters, a squeamishness about using information to influence.

But it is absolutely necessary. It is a noble calling. And it is changing. As a result, much of what we think we know about this endeavor is wrong.”

[Excerpted from Glassman’s prepared speech as posted in Stop Explaining! (29 April 2009) on his blog Economics, Investing, Public Diplomacy, and More]

In April, the position of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy was eliminated, staff members were reassigned and the office was closed, as reported in “White House Closing Controversial Pentagon Office.” This action was initiated by Michele Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. She said that, going forward, the White House and State Department will take the lead in dispensing information abroad, and the Pentagon will play a supporting role. 

Note the future tense, “Will take the lead”?  Is that like “the check is in the mail”?

Should we not establish the new capability before eliminating the old?

Matt Armstrong (@mountainrunner) authors MountainRunner, a blog about public diplomacy and strategic communication in the 21st century. Earlier today he Tweeted a link his new blog post directly related to this topic:

Matt Armstrong (@MountainRunner) Tweets his latest blog post

Matt Armstrong (@MountainRunner) Tweets his latest blog post

The piece he refers to by Nick Cull, LUGAR TO THE RESCUE: SENATE COMMITTEE BACKS ‘SCIENCE ENVOY’ PLAN, states:

“Long an enthusiast for public diplomacy, Lugar led off his campaign to save America’s public diplomacy on 13 February, 2009 with SR 49 which called for attention to public diplomacy and a revival of the old network of American cultural centers. An excellent staff report entitled U.S. Public Diplomacy: Time to Get Back in the Game appeared on the same day. Then on April 21, 2009, Lugar introduced SR 838 “a bill to provide for the establishment of science envoys.” This bill seeks to make better use in public diplomacy of the undisputed leadership of the United States in the fields of science and technology; to expand the existing science component of State Department exchange activities, and specifically to add a new category of cultural ambassador called a ‘Science Envoy’.”

Matt summed up the situation very well in his post, Recommended Reading: Cull on Lugar’s leadership in America’s leaderless Public Diplomacy:

“The bustling going on behind the curtain is not much and it will not make up for the last 100 days of opportunity lost.”

Are these initiatives sufficient to take Public Diplomacy in the right direction?

How can the Department of Defense “nest” information operations and strategic communication within a non-existent broad U.S. Government policy?


About @subbob
Launched an innovative business development and marketing solutions company in July 2011 after a 25 year career in government service. In 2005 our family completed a goal of visiting all of the lower 48 States; up next, adding Alaska and Hawaii to complete the list.

8 Responses to Public Diplomacy – Adrift Without a Rudder?

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