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October 02, 2008

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William

I had a chance to view the event on C-Span and was impressed by the panel and what they had to say. However, whenever the subject of public diplomacy arises, it seems to me that the most important questions can't be answered within the public diplomacy paradigm. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood question was dismissed (maybe a better term would be "deferred?") as a "policy" question. And herein lies the primary criticism of the public diplomacy approach that no one seems to want to directly address. Namely, the public diplomacy approach seems to assume that foreign publics don't "get" the U.S. and that their "anti-American" attitudes are a manifestation of misunderstanding the U.S.--it's policies, intentions, values, etc. But what if that's not the case? What if foreign audiences "get" the U.S., but don't accept it? For example, I don't see how a public diplomacy effort is going to convince most Arabs that the U.S.-Israeli alliance is going to address their concerns. When the U.S. continues to (even if indirectly) fund Israeli expansion into the Occupied Territories and help arm Israel to the teeth while actively seeking to pacify/disarm all existing counterbalancing states, it's going to be hard to convince Arabs that this is to their benefit. In essence, my major criticism of the public diplomacy paradigm is that it seeks to dress up "bad" policies and defers the most important questions to the realm of policy. So instead of focusing on how to dress up bad policies, shouldn't we be aiming to address the policies that create such virulent reactions in the first place?

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