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October 02, 2008


Amy H

Sorry I couldn't make it on Tuesday, but thanks for excellent and handy write-up! Amy


Thank you very much for the write-up, Dr. Lynch. I hope to make time to watch the whole thing. Quick thoughts:

1) It is unclear to me how closing Guantanamo will have anything other than a transitory effect on public opinion.

2) Isn't promoting "mutual" understanding limited here? There are lines that the USG can't cross, is that not so?

3) Funds are limited. If PD is to be "broadly" viewed new tools need to be developed to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of different channels of communication, both from USG and non-USG sources. Is a matchbook or a movie the more effective way to reach someone who could nab Osama Bin Laden?

3) Has no one advocated re-establishing USIA?

4)"a radical fringe ideology which is already broadly rejected by most Muslims hardly demands" - I reject the characterization that "most Muslims" "reject" Al Qaida's ideology is one that matters much; only a small sanctuary is necessary for terrorists to establish a base for their plots. IMO, most Muslims try to be indifferent, rather than actively oppose radicals, but will cooperate with them under compulsion.

What would be desirable is, indeed, a Muslim orientation that actively opposes the likes of Al Qaida and the Taliban. In much of the Muslim world, U.S. assistance is needed to give Muslims the strength to make that happen, along with Western concepts to justify it.

Guardian Reading Liberal

You chose this exclusively neolib/neocon panel? So what's the logic here: following their ideas got the US into this mess so they're sure to know how to get out of it?

And I like the way Amr Hady is introduced as from 'Brookings Qatar' but Kristin Lord as merely from 'Brookings' - is referring to her as working directly for the Saban Center so toxic it can't be mentioned in the write-up? If so that’s the only positive I can see in this whole exercise.

Anyone with even the most limited understanding of the Middle East knows the importance of Washington's policy on Israel/Palestine to perceptions of the US. Yet there's no indication this panel of Middle East experts recognised this - at least from the write up. I know I don't need to state this (except for members of the panel) but according to the most recent Zogby poll its US policies on Iraq and Israel/Palestine which are the two most important reasons for negative opinions of the US in the Arab world.

War of ideas? More like abject surrender.


Thank you for posting this roundup. We hope that the next administration can take concrete steps to begin to repair the damage done to America's reputation and its standing in the world. The United States needs to reconnect with the world at large, build and repair relationships, and find intelligent solutions for the conflicts in which we find ourselves--solutions based on a deep understanding of the historic and cultural underpinnings of the mess we're in, not just some knee-jerk reaction to the presence of 'the other'.


Mnor quibble. Position of under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs was not created in response to events of 9/11. It is an artifact of consolidation 1999 consolidation of USIA into the Department of State.



You are a good notetaker, but you overhype your little academic get together, held in a stuffy, overcrowded room.

What Ms. Lord said could have been taken from the State Department homepage, with a few minor modifications here and there. Mr. Arm, who couldn't stop modifying his statements with the verbal tic "sort of," had only one memorable thing to say -- that those who use violence to produce social change should not be assisted/approved of by the US government (yes, that makes the Bush administration not eligible). Mr. Doran's remarks were essentially a defense of black propaganda -- or at least a high-brow form of black propaganda. As for you, be praised: you said that there have been enough conferences/reports on PD. If only you had followed your own advice we would have been spared another mind-numbing, useless meeting on "the war of ideas" that fails to deal head-on with the key issue: the disastrous policies of the USG.


Thanks for the summary! I have studied the approach of American public diplomacy intensively and I do not see anything new here. Most recommendations have already been made by the former USIA people e.g. and others right after 9/11. Of course no public diplomacy - as good as it may be - can ever distract from the overall policy approach that the USA takes on the ME. But still, I think it is absurd that the USA does not have a net of cultural institutes across the ME with a strong head office independent from the State Department (yeah, like the USIA). I found it remarkable that Germany took its idea for the Goethe Institute from the former 'American Houses' we had in Germany after WWII. Now, Germany has a strategic cultural diplomacy policy towards the ME that aims at the involvement of local partners to encourage open and critical thinking and provide information about all facets of Germany. Same is done by the British, French, Dutch, Spanish... The Americans lag behind with their small 'American Corners' here and there.
All this is known, but unfortunately nothing is done. And tactics win over strategics.
Greetings from a regular German reader! Hanna


Interesting summary. In defense of the panelists, they were discussing a subject that might be addressed effectively by a hypothetical American administration, but which cannot be addressed by an administration already crippled as far as new initiatives are concerned and nearing its end. Talking about the problem, and writing reports about it, are about all they can do.

I continue to be concerned about the possibility that policy in this area of American foreign relations will be made primarily with a view toward changing perceptions of America in only one region of the world. Quite apart from anything else, realization of this possibility will mean that any public diplomacy will end up being judged on its results in a very short term, no longer than the duration of one Presidential administration. It is not realistic to expect anything other than very ambiguous results of policy initiatives in this area.

Rudy Stoler

Thanks for the write-up! I'll read and watch it ASAP. I hope to see more of this in the future!


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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