Greg Barnhisel, Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy,(Columbia University Press, 2015).
Barnhisel (Duquesne University) contributes to the historical literature on US cultural diplomacy with this inquiry into the way diplomats, the CIA, artists, and writers during the 1950s “offered American modernism in painting, literature, architecture, and music as evidence of the high cultural achievement of the United States.” His book frames their efforts as a strategic response to Soviet criticism of US bourgeois decadence and European perceptions of American culture as middlebrow and materialistic. Chapters focus on public-private partnerships that advanced modernist painting, Encounter
magazine, Perspectives USA,
American modernism in Voice of America broadcasting, and the cultural diplomacy roles of William Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, and others in the modernist tradition.
James L. Bullock, “Keeping Embassy Security in Perspective,” The Foreign Service Journal, May 2015.
Bullock (George Washington University) reflects on today’s over-emphasis on minimizing diplomatic risk, “creeping militarization” in US diplomacy, and the use of the attacks on the US facility in Benghazi, Libya for partisan political purposes. His article draws on lessons learned during his three-decade Foreign Service career.
Daryl Copeland and Colin Robertson, “Rebuilding Canada’s International Capacity: Diplomatic Reform in the Age of Globalization,” Canadian Government Executive, 21:4, April 15, 2015.
Former diplomats Copeland and Robertson (Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute) reflect on ways in which globalization, networks, and technologies are changing diplomatic practice. “Public diplomacy has in important respects become the new diplomacy.” Fixing a conservative, risk averse Canadian Foreign Service, they argue, requires new ideas, new skills, new tools, talent from all levels of government and private sectors, and political leadership.
Michael Dodman, “Effective Diplomacy After Benghazi,” The Foreign Service Journal, May 2015.
Dodman (US Consul General Karachi, Pakistan, 2012-2014, and winner of the Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy) discusses approaches to diplomatic outreach in a high threat environment. His advice: “mitigate risk with the right resources,” “set clear and consistent procedures,” “build resilience and common purpose,” “form a seamless partnership with the RSO,” “coordinate closely with Washington,” and “success is possible.”
Don H. Doyle, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War,(Basic Books, 2015).
Doyle (University of South Carolina) provides a welcome addition to the growing literature on the public dimensions of Civil War diplomacy. “America’s Civil War,” he writes, “witnessed what were arguably the first deliberate, sustained, state-sponsored programs aimed at influencing the public mind abroad.” Although the US did not establish government public diplomacy agencies until the 20th
century, Doyle provides a comprehensive account of how diplomats for the North and South understood the need to influence public opinion and the key roles played by journalists, intellectuals, reformers, and other opinion leaders in shaping public sentiment in Europe and Latin America. His book examines in detail how the Union and the Confederacy hired special agents, journalists, and political operators to, in the words of one, “give a right direction to public sentiment” and correct “erroneous” reports that favored the other side. Other recent books, notably Amanda Foreman’s A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War,
have contributed to an understanding of these actors and issues. Doyle’s contribution is to go beyond the policies, diplomatic negotiations, and military battles. His focus is entirely on contested ideas and values and efforts to shape global public opinion.
Bree Hocking, The Great Reimagining: Public Art, Urban Space, and the Symbolic Landscapes of a “New” Northern Ireland, (Berghahn Books, 2015).
Hocking, (anthropologist, journalist, and Georgetown graduate) provides a well-written and deeply researched ethnographic interpretation of Northern Ireland’s post-conflict visual transformation. Based on extensive fieldwork in Belfast and Derry, her book examines efforts to use new civic images to create public spaces that are attractive to residents, tourists, and investors in a society where deep divisions remain following the Good Friday
Agreement of 1998. Hocking draws on interviews with politicians, community leaders, cultural workers, and citizens to show the possibilities and limits of using public art in the politics of societies undergoing radical change. (Courtesy of Mary Gawronski)
Philip N. Howard, Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set us Free or Lock Us Up,(Yale University Press, 2015).
Howard (University of Washington) argues the invisible and increasingly pervasive networks of wireless censors embedded in everyday objects are becoming “the most powerful political tool we have ever created.” His provocative book maintains the Internet of Things will fundamentally change norms and public-private power relations in global governance and international relations. Howard looks broadly at negative and positive consequences for the management of conflict and competition – the perils of technologies designed for censorship and surveillance, and the promise for democracy promotion and civic engagement. More narrowly, he sees the end of an era of close collaboration between the State Department and Silicon Valley grounded in a shared belief “that technology diffusion and democratic values reinforce each other and spread together.” The US has “lost control of this digital project in important ways.” It is no longer the primary source of innovation and leading builder of information infrastructure. “The internet no longer just ‘speaks English.’”
“H.R. 2323, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2015,” Committee on Foreign Affairs, US House of Representatives, May 21, 2015.
The Committee’s bill “to improve the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasters,” co-sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), was unanimously approved by the Committee on May 21, 2015. Includes the full text
of H.R. 2323 as introduced and a section-by-section summary.
News and blog comments: “House Passes Bill to Reform US-Funded Broadcasts,”
Associated Press, May 21, 2015; Charles Hoskinson, “House Plans Counteroffensive in Global Information War,” The Washington Examiner,
May 21, 2015; David S. Jackson, “How to Save the Voice of America,”
CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, May 18, 2015; Donald Bishop, “How to Challenge Propaganda and Disinformation,” The Hill
, May 15, 2015; “Council Writes to Congress: Don’t Divide U.S. Broadcasters, Leverage Their Synergies,”
April 21, 2015, Public Diplomacy Council; Al Kamen,“VOA Chief Threatens to ‘Kill’ Other U.S. Broadcast Stations if . . .” The Washington Post,
June 4, 2015.
Joe B. Johnson, “A Strategic Approach to Public Diplomacy,” The Foreign Service Journal,May 2015.
Johnson (Public Diplomacy Council) welcomes the “compelling” recommendations in the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s 2014 report on Data-Driven Public Diplomacy,
but he argues the “commission’s viewpoint is Washington-centric.” His article focuses on ways to (1) generate deeper field buy-in to annual Public Diplomacy Implementation Plans that connect the work of embassy public affairs sections to US mission objectives and priorities, (2) make effective use of web-based data systems, and (3) reward strategic thinking and iterative evaluation.
Richard Kessler, Rapporteur, Reforming American Public Diplomacy: A Report of the 2014 Annual Aspen Institute Dialogue on Diplomacy and Technology, The Aspen Institute, 2015.
This 19-page report tries to answer three questions: Why is the US “seemingly ineffective in winning the hearts and minds of key audiences?” How can the US better employ social and mobile media? What should the “public diplomacy apparatus” of the US look like going forward? Kessler summarizes the views of 24 participants, most with experience as senior-level political appointees in the Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), as private sector technology and consulting entrepreneurs, and as members and staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. The report recommends enactment of pending legislation to restructure US international broadcasting, “financial and technical support for American designed open communications platforms,” public-private partnerships to ensure privacy of communications in denied areas, reform of “the US Department of State R Bureau,” a centralized research and evaluation section and an operations center for counter-messaging in the State Department, and increased funding for State Department and BBG programs. Former BBG Chairman Marc Nathanson funded the report.
Mark Lagon and Sarah Grebowski, “Power to the People: Taking Diplomacy to the Streets,”The National Interest, February 26, 2015.
Lagon (Freedom House) and Grebowski (Georgetown University) adopt the phrase “societal diplomacy” to frame the idea that the US government must “carve out space for civil society worldwide,” especially in countries with illiberal governments, and further US interests and legitimacy as a global leader by betting on relationships with democratic activists and community leaders who are likely to win power. The authors call for US diplomats to shed post 9/11 “fortress diplomacy,” provide more “gritty, candid reporting” on civil society, build civil society interaction into benchmarks for career advancement, and make societal diplomacy a cornerstone of US practice including in countries where circumstances are not propitious. As examples they discuss China and Saudi Arabia. For a critique of this argument, see Robin Brown,“(Not) The Freedom House Guide to Policy Advocacy,”
Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence Blog, March 2, 2015.
Greg Miller and Scott Higham, “In a Propaganda War Against ISIS, the US Tried to Play by the Enemy’s Rules,” The Washington Post, May 8, 2015.
In this wide-ranging analysis, part of an occasional series about the rise of the Islamic State, Post
reporters Miller and Higham profile contested strategies, social media initiatives, and views of key players in the evolution of the Department of State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. Drawing on multiple sources, including the Center’s former director Alberto Fernandez, their article focuses on the State Department’s video “Run, do not walk to ISIS Land,” its “Think Again, Turn Away” Campaign, and Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel’s “curate more, and create less” approach. Contains useful links and graphics.
Amy Mitchell, “State of the News Media 2015,” Pew Research Center, April 29, 2015.
annual survey of American journalism Pew finds a “mobile majority.” In 2015, “39 of the top 50 digital news websites have more traffic to their sites and associated applications coming from mobile devices than from desktop computers.”
Taylor Owen, Disruptive Power: The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age, (Oxford University Press, 2015).
In this book on the rise of digitally empowered actors and corresponding decline in the ability of states to govern, Owen (University of British Columbia) combines reflective insights, provocative assertions, and important questions. Two especially useful chapters, “Diplomacy Unbound” and “The Violence of Algorithms,” assess the State Department’s digital diplomacy initiatives and ways in which exponential changes in computer power are blurring boundaries in armed conflict and lines that separate foreign and domestic. His conclusion: state-based institutions increasingly face a gap between their capabilities and objectives and a choice between seeking absolute control and giving up power. Recommended by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clay Shirky, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., and Michael Ignatieff. (Courtesy of Donna Oglesby)
Karen M. Paget, Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism, (Yale University Press, 2015).
Paget’s 562-page book is based on extensive archival research, FOIA requests, numerous interviews, and her own experiences as a student. She tells in rich new detail the story of the CIA’s covert use of the National Student Association and other groups from 1947 to 1967, when Michael Wood exposed the program in Ramparts Magazine
. Paget weaves personalities, organizations, and historical events into an informed and valuable narrative. In a lengthy review essay, Louis Menand (Harvard University andNew Yorker
critic at large) summarizes her account and provides his own insightful analysis of this episode in America’s government funded cultural relations during the Cold War. See his “A Friend of the Devil: Inside a Famous Cold War Deception,” The New Yorker,
March 23, 2015, 85-90.
James Pamment, “Digital Diplomacy as Transmedia Engagement: Aligning Theories of Participatory Culture with International Advocacy Campaigns,” New Media and Society, March 23, 2015, 1-17.
Pamment (University of Texas, Austin) uses concepts of “transmedia storytelling” and “transmedia engagement” to examine “ways in which contemporary diplomatic advocacy campaigns cope with fundamental problems such as media repertoires, co-created content, collective intelligence, digital convergence and stakeholder management.” Transmedia storytelling seeks to explain how added content makes distinctive and valuable contributions to stories as knowledge expands on multiple media platforms. Pamment applies this concept to goal oriented diplomatic campaigns. He uses transmedia engagement – concepts of collaboration and co-created content that interpret the collective intelligence of fan communities – to assess the role of stakeholder and epistemic communities in diplomatic initiatives. His article uses the British diplomatic campaign to end sexual violence in conflict between 2012-2014 as a case study.
Christopher Paul, Jessica Yeats, Colin P. Clarke, Miriam Matthews, and Lauren Skrabala,Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade: Handbook for Practitioners, RAND Corporation, April 2015.
In this 129-page report, sponsored by the US Department of Defense (DoD), we learn that DoD spends more than $250 million annually to “communicate effectively and credibly with a broad range of foreign audiences.” The RAND project team evaluates and makes recommendations relating to the planning, implementation, and assessment of these activities, which it categorizes as information operations (IO) and information related capabilities (IRC). Together they are described as “efforts to inform, influence, and persuade (IIP).” The handbook contains best practices drawn from defense, marketing, public relations, public diplomacy, and academic research. “Strategic communication,” no longer a military term of art, does not appear in the text. Intended for practitioners and stakeholders, the detailed report is easy to navigate and can be downloaded in pdf and e-book formats. Print versions can be ordered from RAND. A separate desk reference
and annotated reading list
are also available.
Anthony C. E. Quainton, “Diplomatic Security Triage in a Dangerous World,” The Foreign Service Journal, May 2015.
Quainton (American University) asks two questions: How can security professionals do their jobs in a dangerous world when there is so much second-guessing of their work? Does modern security make diplomacy too difficult, if not impossible? His triage solution calls for “balancing risks and threats against the requirements of programmatic and diplomatic activity in dangerous foreign environments.” His informed assessment draws on a diplomatic career that included ambassadorial assignments, Director General of the Foreign Service, and Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.
Josh Stearns, “Tools for Verifying and Assessing the Validity of Social Media and User-generated Content,” Journalist’s Resource, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, Harvard University, April 2, 2015.
Stearns (Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation) profiles a variety of tools to help journalists assess “the validity of social-media and user generated content.” His annotated list of research studies and tools contains links and briefly explains the purposes of each. Useful also for diplomats, broadcasters, teachers, and students.
Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror, (William Collins, 2015).
Stern (Harvard University) and Berger (Brookings Institution) stand out in the emerging literature on the Islamic State for their expertise on its origins and evolution, and their emphasis on its innovative uses of social media. Their work has the virtues and drawbacks of speed in the context of a recent and rapidly changing story. Chapter titles include: “From Vanguard to Smart Mob,” “The Foreign Fighters,” “The Message,” “Jihad Goes Social,” “The Electronic Brigades,” “The AQ-ISIS War,” and “ISIS’s Psychological Warfare.” The authors also provide a timeline, a glossary of terms, and an appendix that explores the early history and core components of Islam and the development of jihadi Salafism in the 20th
century. For a review of their “smart, granular analysis,” see Rosa Brooks, “It’s had some military success, but the Islamic State is no existential threat,” The Washington Post,
April 16, 2015.
US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Public Diplomacy at Risk: Protecting Open Access for American Centers, May 5, 2015.
In this 16-page “white paper,” the Commission and its Executive Director Katherine Brown take a needed fresh look at issues in the cost/risk/benefit tradeoffs between security and public access in US diplomacy. The Commission is concerned about the pending and accelerated pace of shuttering of 21 American Centers due to legal and regulatory requirements of the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act. The detailed findings and recommendations build on a 1985 Commission report, Terrorism and Security: The Challenge for Public Diplomacy,
written in response to the Inman standards for setbacks and hardened embassy construction following the Beirut bombings in 1983.
US Department of Defense, DoD Cyber Strategy, April 17, 2015.
The purpose of this 33-page cyber strategy “is to guide the development of DoD’s cyber forces and strengthen our cyber defense and cyber deterrence posture.” The strategy places greater emphasis than in the past on offensive capabilities and partnership with commercial, civil, and government actors. Strategic goals include: building forces and capabilities to conduct cyberspace operations, cyber defense for DoD networks and the US homeland, building viable cyber options to control conflict escalation and shape conflict environments, and maintaining robust alliances and partnerships. See also Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s Drell Lecture: “Rewriting the Pentagon: Charting a New Path on Innovation and Cybersecurity,”
Stanford University, April 23, 2015.
US Department of State, 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR),Washington, DC, April 28, 2015.
Building on its inaugural 2010 QDDR, State’s 2015 QDDR examines the work of the Department and US Agency for International Development in the context of challenges, strategic priorities, and internal reforms. Challenges are framed in four cross-cutting areas: (1) increasing partnerships and engaging beyond the nation-state; (2) improving governance in corrupt and poorly governed countries; (3) managing and mitigating physical risk; and (4) enhancing use of data, diagnostics, and technology. Strategic priorities include: (1) “preventing and mitigating conflict and violent extremism;” (2) “promoting open, resilient, and democratic societies;” (3) “advancing inclusive economic growth,” and (4) “mitigating and adapting to climate change.” Needed internal reforms include: (1) harnessing knowledge, data, and technology in a “data-driven, evidence based approach” to diplomacy and development; (2) promoting innovation; (3) managing and mitigating physical risk; (4) advancing strategic planning and performance management; (5) engaging Americans as partners in foreign affairs; and (6) investing in a more agile, skilled, and diverse workforce. Throughout the QDDR, “public diplomacy” is treated as an integral element of diplomacy, not as a separately named or discussed category of diplomatic practice.
Vivian Walker, Benghazi: Managing the Message, CPD Perspectives, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, April 2015.
In this excellent case study, written especially for students at military and civilian universities, Walker (National Defense University and a retired US Foreign Service Officer) focuses on two broad issues: (1) the US government’s public responses to “Innocence of Muslims,” the anti-Islam video that led to widespread anti-American protests, and attacks on US installations in Benghazi, Libya in 2012; and (2) challenges to the effective practice of public diplomacy due to globalization and rapid innovations in information technologies. Her informed and well-written case is divided into functional and chronological segments, each with questions for classroom discussion. An appendix containing a checklist on “managing short-term advocacy outreach efforts” and extensive endnotes add to the value of this teachable case.
S. Enders Wimbush and Eizabeth M. Portale, Reassessing U.S. International Broadcasting,March 2015.
In the words of Wimbush (former director of Radio Liberty) and Portale (former vice president of RFE/RL), “Shuttering or radically overhauling today’s U.S. international broadcasting in favor of a more modern and attuned communications paradigm stands as this report’s preeminent insight.” The authors call for comprehensive changes in US broadcasting that strengthen its capacity to tell “America’s story” in “a war of ideas” and its relocation in structures closely linked to US foreign policy objectives and planning processes. The 56-page report was released at a forum sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington DC think tank, and is posted on its website. Responding to the report in a Voice of America interview,
the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Interim CEO Andre Mendes said “we see a disconnect between the external perceptions of the BBG and the actual measures and demonstrable impact of our networks.” For Robin Brown’s comment on the report, see“The War Over the Reform of US International Broadcasting,”
Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence Blog, June 3, 2015.
Recent Blogs and Other Items of Interest
Robin Brown, “Why It’s Worth Reading the Austrian International Cultural Policy Concept,”
May 27, 2015; “Ask Max Weber: What’s Wrong with British Foreign Policy,”
May 20, 2015; “Five Quick Thoughts on the Diplomacy and Development Review [QDDR 2015],”
May 13, 2015; “Public Diplomacy and the Question of Governance,”
April 16, 2015; “Locating Public Diplomacy in International Relations,”
April 14, 2015; and “Morocco’s New Public Diplomacy Network: West African Sufi Brotherhoods,”
March 23, 2015; Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence Blog.
Emily Metzgar, “The JET Program and the US-Japan Relationship,”
April 14, 2015, The Diplomat; “No Joke: This is How PD Works,”
April 9, 2015, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy; “Fixing America’s Voice To Enhance Foreign Policy,”
April 2, 2015, The Conversation.
Gem from the past
Kristin M. Lord, The Perils and Promise of Global Transparency: Why the Information Revolution May Not Lead to Security, Democracy, or Peace, (State University of New York Press, 2006).
It’s been nearly a decade since Lord (IREX) published her account of the double-edged nature of global transparency and the increased availability of information. Since then, powerful technologies and sweeping changes in how people think, organize, and connect have altered diplomacy’s context. Her study remains relevant, however, for its enduring insights into negative and positive consequences of increased transparency – the potential for conflict and harmony, for hatred and tolerance, for destructive and constructive effects of pervasive information and knowledge. Lord uses reasoned argument, empirical evidence, and case studies to support and challenge optimistic assumptions about the implications of transparency. Her chapter on "Transparency and Intergroup Violence" -- the benefits and the dark side of cross-cultural communication – remains especially useful to teachers of cultural diplomacy and managers of people-to-people exchanges.