International Communication

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Learning our lessons?

Kristen Lord and Mark Lynch's report for the Center for New American Security details the issues hampering Barack Obama on foreign policy. Specifically, they mention what a great speaker he is, but that his actions have not delivered up to his talk. Their research mirrors what Joseph Nye states in his article on Soft Power, that public diplomacy only goes so far and that policy has to match public diplomacy, otherwise it loses credibility. This is a major issue for the US, and Obama, especially as we draw closer to elections.

One of the most important countries where the US is losing credibility today is in Pakistan. The US spends millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, while trying to win over the skeptical Pakistani public. However, when US drones kill twelve Pakistani soldiers (as we recently did) we can see that policy is not mirroring diplomacy efforts. The US has now been forced to close one of its drone bases in Pakistan as it trieds to appease the current government and avoid more international outrage.

This is just a recent example of the consequences that can happen when public diplomacy efforts don’t match policy; however it is an ongoing problem. The US cannot afford to maintain its short term memory of the importance of public diplomacy and that it is a compliment for policy. The fact that there are still debates about the importance of public diplomacy after the Cold War, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is disheartening. Do we really need someone to tell us over and over again that diplomacy has tangible, worthy outcomes? 

1 comment:

  1. You bring up a very pertinent topic, especially during election time! I would agree with you that public diplomacy and instituting actual policy to support these diplomatic efforts has been fair at best. It would seem the United States is all bark and no bite. I like your example of Pakistan, but I would like to propose another example of friction between these two aspects of government.

    Hillary Clinton and the State Department have been huge proponents of Internet freedom, as we have learned from the speeches she has given on the topic. They have called it one of their top goals for diplomacy. However, as we've seen Internet freedom isn't always so free even in the United States. Especially with the introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act, that cracks down a bit too heavily on infringers of copyright, we see that the government has been a bit hypocritical about calling out other nations for authoritarian tactics, while we're on the way to instituting our own!