Melissa Conley Tyler, Rhea Matthews, and Emma Brockhurst, Think Tank Diplomacy, Brill Research Perspectives in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, Volume 2.3 (2017).
One of the most interesting conversations in diplomacy today turns on new ideas about diplomatic activities and spaces within and beyond states, and whether some civil society actors are independent diplomacy actors. Pioneers include: Geoffrey Wiseman (“polylateral diplomacy”
), Brian Hocking (“catalytic diplomacy”
), Hocking, Jan Melissen, Sean Riordan, and Paul Sharp (“integrative diplomacy”
), Andrew Cooper (“diplomatic afterlives”
), Jorge Heine (“network diplomacy”
), and John Robert Kelley (“new diplomacy”
). Conley Tyler, Matthews, and Brockhurst (Australia National University) advance these ideas with this carefully argued exploration of think tank diplomacy. Their central claim is “that think tanks do have a role in diplomacy, not only in supporting diplomatic activity but playing roles in diplomacy in their own right.” They engage in at least four diplomatic functions – negotiations, communication, information gathering, and promoting friendly relations and minimizing frictions – when acting in circumstances “reasonably described as diplomatic” and where governments and other stakeholders regard them as legitimate. Their study begins with a conceptual framework and a working definition of think tanks. They continue with a discussion of modern diplomacy, evolving roles of non-state actors in diplomacy and international relations, and a matrix enhanced analysis, citing numerous examples of direct and indirect diplomatic roles of think tanks. Theoretical ideas are grounded in a firm grasp of the literature and eight in-depth multi-regional case studies: Korea National Diplomatic Academy
, Chinese Association for International Understanding
, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Clingendael)
, International Crisis Group
, Brazil’s Fundacao Getulio Vargas
, the UK’s International Institute for Strategic Studies
, the South African Institute of International Affairs
, and the Australian Institute of International Affairs
. The cases illustrate how think tanks perform diplomatic functions; assess strengths, limitations, and challenges; and foreshadow further research. A cutting edge book in diplomacy studies that gives true meaning to the term “must read.”
“Cultural Value: Cultural Relations in Societies in Transition: A Literature Review,” Cultural Value Project, British Council and Goethe-Institut, January 2018.
The stated purpose of the cultural value project of the British Council and Goethe-Institut is “to build a better understanding of the impact and value of cultural relations” – the conditions, places, and contexts where they can work (and not work), their relative strengths, and different kinds of value. This report, written in collaboration with academic partners, contains a review of recent academic literature in English and German on cultural relations concepts and practice. The authors find “fluidity in definition” and “conceptual confusion” in what is “primarily a practitioners’ term. This “confusion can enable useful flexibility,” they argue, but it also means cultural relations organizations need to communicate their goals “openly and clearly” if “mutuality – a key aspiration is to be achieved.”
Angus Deaton, “The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem,” The New York Times, January 25, 2018.
Pew Research surveys, soft power rankings, nation branding indices, and other metrics portray a decline in US soft power based on perceptions of US leadership, policies, and various cultural and social indicators. Princeton University economist Angus Deaton uses United Nations and World Bank studies to suggest some of the reasons. A recent UN report finds “today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights. As a result, contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound.” For many Americans life expectancy is falling and mortality rates from drugs, alcohol, and suicide are rising. World Bank poverty line data show that of the 769 million people worldwide who live on less than $1.90 a day, 3.2.million live in the United States (3.3 million live in other high-income countries, mostly Italy, Japan, and Spain). Deaton argues the World Bank, although it adjusts for price differences, ignores differences in needs. Some necessities in rich, cold, urban, and individualistic countries, such as the cost of housing, are not required in many poor countries. Needs based analysis puts the poverty line in India at $1.90 a day and $4.00 a day in the United States, which means 5.3 million Americans are in dire poverty by global standards. Deaton points to ethical, political, and practical choices in tradeoffs between foreign assistance and the social contract at home. See “Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.”
Jonathan Israel, The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848, (Princeton University Press, 2017).
This is a huge book – a sweeping, deeply researched, well-written, masterfully indexed 755 pages. Princeton University historian Jonathan Israel transforms the American Revolution from the standard narrative of an isolated drama in the formation of a nation state into an event with “immense social, cultural, and ideological impact” on democratic modernity in Europe and the Americas. To use today’s vocabulary, it’s about soft power, democratization, public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, propaganda, and human rights. It’s about gaps between liberty and egalitarian ideals and compromises with slavery, dispossession of native populations, and varieties of idealism’s accommodation with the old order. Nuggets abound in this global context. Benjamin Franklin as accomplished court and public diplomat. Iroquois chief Joseph Brandt’s ceremonial diplomacy in Boston and London. Thomas Jefferson’s diplomacy in France. And how the radical ideas of Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, James Monroe and others influenced democratic movements and new forms of governance in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Greece, Canada, Haiti, Brazil and Spanish America. Israel concludes with a meditation on populism and the radical Enlightenment’s demise beginning in the 1850s. Whether your lens is general satisfaction with America’s vision of democracy and civil rights, or rejection of an exceptionalism convinced that America’s cause is the universal cause of all, Israel’s book has much to offer.
Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael D. Rich, Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life, RAND, January 2018 (the 301-page report’s pdf version can be downloaded or read online.)
RAND’s Kavanagh and Rich identify “Truth Decay” as related trends in two decades of growing disregard for facts, data, and analysis in political and civil discourse: (1) increasing disagreement about facts and facts-based analysis, (2) a blurring line between opinions and facts, (3) a rise in the volume and influence of opinion and personal experience over fact, and (4) declining trust in respected sources of factual information. Their report compares differences in three historical eras, the 1890s, 1920s, and 1960s, with what is occurring in the 2000s and 2010s. They assess four causes of “Truth Decay.” First, characteristics of cognitive processing that influence how people think and behave – mental shortcuts, personal experiences, and preferences for information that confirms pre-existing beliefs. These cognitive biases, straight from Walter Lippmann’s century old Public Opinion,
are not new, but their impact is heightened by “Truth Decay’s” other causes. A second cause includes the rise of social media, transformation of media markets, and intentional actions of agents disseminating misleading and biased information. A third cause derives from complex competing demands on an education system that limits its capacity for civic education, media literacy, and critical thinking. A fourth cause turns on political, socio-demographic, and economic polarization. RAND’s report provides a deep dive into these causes and their consequences, and recommends priority areas for further research. See also George Will, “When the Whole Country Becomes a Campus Safe Space,” The Washington Post,
January 24, 2018. (Courtesy of Tom Miller)
Roger J. Kreuz and Richard M. Roberts, Getting Through: The Pleasures and Perils of Cross-Cultural Communication, (MIT Press, 2017).
Kreuz (University of Memphis) and Roberts (US Foreign Service) combine scholarship (psychology, sociology, linguistics) and diplomatic practice in this study of language, cognition, and culture in cross-cultural communication. Key concepts include the importance of emotions, distinctions between cognitive and emotional empathy, understanding how language is used, varieties of cultural classification frameworks, and speech act theory. Their central argument seeks to explain cross-cultural communication through “pragmatics” – understanding “how language is used and not just what words mean.” Kreuz and Roberts are adept at illuminating complex ideas with an abundance of examples, cartoons, popular culture, and personal experiences in diplomacy.
Barbora Maronkova, From Crawling to Walking: Progress in Evaluating the Effectiveness of Public Diplomacy: Lessons from NATO, Paper 1, February 2018, CPD Perspectives, USC Center for Public Diplomacy.
Maronkova (NATO, Public Diplomacy Division) explores the development of evaluation and measurement in NATO’s public diplomacy – experiments with models and methods and lessons learned – since the launch of a reform process in 2012. Her study contains a chapter on concepts and practical approaches to public diplomacy evaluation with references to the work of scholars in the field and recent reports on evaluation from the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Particular attention is paid to NATO’s OASIS model (a campaign approach to setting objectives, analyzing audiences, and identifying strategies that “allow for focused impact and impact measurement”). Maronkova concludes with a case study, “NATO Warsaw Summit 2016: Measuring Impact of Its Public Diplomacy.”
“The Meaning of Cities,” The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture, Summer 2017.
As cities take on new importance in diplomacy and governance, essays in this edition of THR offer provocative overviews for diplomacy scholars and forward leaning practitioners. Joshua J. Yates (University of Virginia) in “Saving the Soul of the Smart City” discusses dangers in a highly technocratic urbanism devoted to optimization of convenience, comfort, profit, or pleasure. In “The New Urban Agenda,” Noah J. Toly (Wheaton College) argues cities are an optimal scale and site for global governance – “the most proficient actor in addressing global challenges, and the true school of civic virtue.” Marc J. Dunkelman (Brown University) explores challenges to neighborliness from gentrification, ethnic diversity, and digital immersion in “Next-Door Strangers: The Crisis of Urban Anonymity.” Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein (Louisiana State University) look at gaps between metropolitan areas and rural regions and small towns in “Cosmopolitanism vs. Provincialism: How the Politics of Place Hurts America.”
Jan Melissen, “Fake News and What (Not) To Do About It,” Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Clingendael), February 2018.
Melissen (Clingendael, University of Antwerp) begins this brief paper with an overview, citing examples, of multiple problems: technologies that change the nature, scale, and speed of disinformation; fabricated stories that look real; fake news as a form of 21st
century propaganda; destabilizing effects on societies and a potential threat to international stability. His “what to do” menu includes greater critical awareness of context, consuming news that does not affirm one’s beliefs, transmitting content with journalism norms in mind, legal solutions, taming excessive corporate power, and fact checking. There is no “quick fix” he concludes. Understanding problems comes first. Civil society involvement, greater resilience of individuals, and systematic meta-literacy in education systems are “probably” the best antidotes.
Iver B. Neumann, “A Prehistorical Evolutionary View of Diplomacy,” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, (2018) 14:4-10.
In this original and thought-provoking essay, Neumann (University of Oslo) gives new meaning to high altitude perspective. His purpose is to frame diplomacy in the context of evolutionary tipping points understood as culminations of long-term trends. He begins with the advent of big game hunting as a precursor to human cooperation. He then identifies five tipping points: “classificatory kinship as a template for regular cooperation; regular and ritualized contacts between culturally similar small-scale
polities; regular and ritualized contacts between culturally different large-scale
polities; permanent bilateral diplomacy and permanent multilateral diplomacy.” In his conclusion, Neumann speculates that “hybridized diplomacy” is an emerging tipping point in which state and non-state actors are becoming more alike, and non-state actors are taking on diplomatic roles.
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power,” Foreign Affairs, January 24, 2018.
Nye (Harvard University) warns against overreaction to “sharp power” – a term coined and explained by the National Endowment for Democracy’s Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig in Foreign Affairs
and a lengthy Endowment report.
Sharp power, they argue, is used by Russia and China to exploit open political and information environments in democracies. They contrast sharp power with soft power (attraction and persuasion) and urge more assertive defensive and offensive responses by democracies. Nye responds by arguing Russian and Chinese “information warfare” is real, but that sharp power is a form of hard power. What’s new is not the deceptive use of information; what’s new is its speed and low cost. Democracies, Nye contends, should not imitate these methods. Overreaction to sharp power undercuts advantages that come from soft power on its own and when coupled with hard power as a force multiplier. In a response to Nye, Walker points to a paradox: Russia and China do poorly in soft power surveys, yet they are “projecting more influence . . . without relying principally on military might or even on raw economic coercion.” “Sound diagnosis” and “more precise terminology” are pre-requisites to an appropriate response. See Christopher Walker, “The Point of Sharp Power,” Project Syndicate,
February 1, 2018.
James Pamment, “Foresight Revisited: Visions of Twenty-First Century Diplomacy,” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, (2018) 14:47-54.
In 1999, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tasked a group of young “fast stream” British diplomats, known as “Young Turks,” to challenge conventional thinking and provide a radical bottom up view of how the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should change by 2010. Pamment (Lund University) examines their Foresight Report,
an internal 104-page study never publicly released, which he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The controversial report, widely discussed within British diplomatic and political circles, contained 97 findings and recommendations for transformational FCO changes in an era of digital technologies, newly empowered non-state actors, understanding public diplomacy as a term and category of practice in a British context, and the changing roles of foreign ministries. The report also voiced a critique of relations between diplomats and elected officials. Pamment provides an analysis of the report’s key judgments and impact. He concludes it is a significant document in British diplomacy, in global debates on the future of diplomacy, and in our contemporary understanding of digital diplomacy and the centrality of public diplomacy in diplomatic practice.
[From Pamment’s analysis, the Foresight Report
appears similar in purpose and some content to the nearly contemporaneous Reinventing Diplomacy in the Information Age,
Report of the CSIS Advisory Panel on Diplomacy in the Information Age, (Project Director, Barry Fulton; Project Cochairs Richard Burt and Olin Robison), Center for Strategic and International Studies, December, 1998. In the latter study, a 63-member panel of American diplomats, scholars, journalists, business executives, and NGO representatives recommended moving “public diplomacy from the sidelines to the core of diplomacy” and sweeping changes “in every aspect of the nation’s diplomatic establishment.”]
Giles Scott-Smith, “Special Issue: The Evolution of Diplomacy,” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, (2018) 14, 1-3.
In his introduction to articles in this issue of PB&PD, Scott-Smith (Leiden University) briefly surveys perspectives of diplomacy scholars and practitioners on how diplomacy is changing and should evolve in the context of radical trends in today’s global environment. He summarizes each article’s point of view and argues that collectively they “provide a useful discussion on the question of evolution as a relevant concept for the study of (public) diplomacy.” Articles by Iver Neumann and James Pamment are cited elsewhere in this list. Other articles include Geoffrey Allen Pigman (University of Pretoria), “The Populist Wave and Global Trade Diplomacy Besieged: A European Approach to WTO Reform;”
Christina La Cour (European University Institute), “The Evolution of the ‘Public’ in Diplomacy;”
Hak Yin and Seanon Wong (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), “The Evolution of Chinese Public Diplomacy and the Rise of Think Tanks;”
Katarzyna Jezierska (University West Trollhättan, Sweden), “Taming Feminism? The Place of Gender Equality in the ‘Progressive Sweden’ Brand;”
and Noé Cornago (University of the Basque Country), “Beyond the Media Event: Modes of Existence of the Diplomatic Incident.”
Philip Seib, As Terrorism Evolves: Media, Religion, and Governance, (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Seib (University of Southern California) turns in this slim volume to what he calls a new and durable “terrorism era” in which evolving terrorist organizations are capable of mounting attacks with global reach and acting as state-like entities that take and hold territory. Five chapters divide into conceptual frameworks: definitions of terrorism and terrorists’ motivations, connections between terrorism and religion, organizational skills of growing sophistication, the role of the media, and responses to terrorism through political, military, and public diplomacy means. Much of the focus is on Islamic State, but attention is paid also to Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, the Haqqani network, Jamaah Islamiya, and other organizations. In a brief section on “the value of public diplomacy,” some provocative ideas warrant discussion and further research. For example: “part of counterterrorism is focused on messaging and countermessaging, with heavy emphasis on social media. Credibility is crucial to such work, and so governments’ fingerprints on online products should be as invisible as possible” (p. 166). What priority should be given to messaging? Where should lines be drawn between attribution, non-attribution, and “attributable” content? Are government’s voices ipso facto
less credible than civil society’s voices, an underlying assumption for many in today’s discourse? Seib writes for students and general audiences with the organization and clarity readers have come to expect from this professor of journalism, public diplomacy, and international relations.
Scott Shane, “America Meddles in Elections, Too,” The New York Times, February 18, 2018.
National security correspondent Shane compiles examples from decades of US efforts, covert and overt, to interfere in foreign elections – Italy, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Serbia, Russia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere – since the early Cold War. Quotes from former CIA officers, National Endowment for Democracy activists, and Defense and State Department officials provide kick-starters for many a seminar and think tank discussion. Russia’s methods in the 2016 US election “were the digital version of methods used both by the United States and Russia for decades” (Dov H. Levin). Blatant US efforts to prevent Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s re-election in 2009: “our clumsy and failed putsch” (Robert Gates). America’s democracy promotion and Russia’s democracy disruption are not morally equivalent. “It’s comparing someone who delivers lifesaving medicine to someone who brings deadly poison” (Kenneth Wollack). It’s “like saying cops and bad guys are the same because they both have guns – motivation matters.” Heavy-handed intervention is “not what democracy means” (Thomas Carothers).
Janet Steele, Mediating Islam: Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia, (University of Washington Press, 2018).
Steele (Director, Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University) brings the strengths of an accomplished journalism and media scholar and twenty years of field research in Southeast Asia to a book that explores important questions. (1) Is there an Islamic form of journalism, and if so how does it relate to democratic reform? (2) How do Muslim journalists think about their work in the context of Islam, and what do they mean by truth, balance, verification, and independence from power? (3) What are the varieties of practical approaches in their work? Her book seeks answers to these and other questions in case studies of journalism practices in five diverse publications in Indonesia and Malaysia: Sabili
(“scripturalist Islam”), Republika
(“Islam as market niche”), Harakah
(“political Islam”), Malaysiakini
(Islam in a secular context), and Tempo
(“cosmopolitan Islam in practice”). Among many conclusions, Steele argues that Muslim journalists in Southeast Asia and their Western counterparts agree on basic principles of journalism, “but the ways in which they explain these principles to themselves are different.” Not least among many contributions in this important study is the way the author, a self-described Western, secular, female scholar, has engaged in sustained, productive cross-cultural dialogue with journalists in majority Muslim countries, many of whom are not liberal or secular.
Rodrigo Tavares, Paradiplomacy: Cities and States as Global Players (Oxford University Press, 2016).
Tavares (Granite Partners, United Nations University) has written an informed guide to the rise of cities and other sub-state actors in diplomacy and global affairs. His book explores debates on the meaning of paradiplomacy and related terms, a brief history with examples (beginning with Greek city states), and analysis of the varieties of goals, methods, and tools of contemporary sub-state diplomacy actors. Tavares provides a wealth of case studies (Azores, Bavaria, Buenos Aires, California, Catalonia, Flanders, Guangzhou, Massachusetts, Medellin, New South Wales, New York City, Quebec, Tokyo, and more). He concludes with thoughts on further research on sub-state diplomacy in an era when foreign ministries face changing roles and challenges.
Keren Yarhi-Milo, “After Credibility: Foreign Policy in the Trump Era,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2018, 68-77.
Yarhi-Milo (Princeton University) begins with a survey of credibility (signaling reputation as it affects threats and promises; general reputation for whether an actor is trustworthy, sincere, and cooperative), the relevance of contexts, and the skepticism of some that reputations matter. After a nod to effects of President Obama’s “redline” on Syria’s chemical weapons, her article turns to a discussion of President Trump’s inconsistencies, lies, bizarre outbursts, exaggerated threats, and lack of concern for reputational consequences; discussion of whether some strategic “rational irrationality” exists; and whether Trump should be taken literally. Yarhi-Milo concludes with observations on the adverse impact of damaged reputation on diplomacy, US security guarantees, emboldened adversaries, and the presidency as the ultimate voice in US foreign policy. Foreign actors, she argues, will pay more attention to whether and how other US institutions and American civil society respond with bipartisan and univocal signaling.
Recent Blogs and Other Items of Interest
Gem From The Past
Walter Lippmann, Liberty and the News, (Harcourt, Brace, and Howe, 1920, republished by Princeton University Press with a foreward by Ronald Steel in 2007).
Shortly before he wrote Public Opinion
nearly a century ago,
now a classic in media, journalism, and public diplomacy courses, Lippmann published a small less remembered volume on the role of the press in a democracy. His core argument in Liberty and the News
is that the press threatens democracy and abdicates its basic responsibility to report facts and seek truth whenever journalism is “confused with the work of preachers, revivalists, prophets, and agitators.” The goal, Lippmann wrote, without illusion it could be fully achieved, is “disinterested reporting” in which journalists “serve no cause, no matter how good.”
In an era of “fake news” and merged news and entertainment, Lippmann’s views are getting a fresh look. See Roy Peter Clark, “Walter Lippmann on Liberty and the News: A Century-Old Mirror For Our Troubled Times,”
Poynter Institute, March 1, 2018. (Courtesy of Donna Oglesby) Clark’s assessments of Lippmann’s book point to rich insights with contemporary relevance: “Public confusion from the helter-skelter flow of news.” “Escape from the responsibility of misinformation.” “The problem of fixing truth when the new is complex and subtle.” “How the habits of news gatherers can limit access to truth.” “Propaganda and its consequences defined.” “Danger of the demagogue.” “Birth of the echo chamber.” “Why words matter to journalism and democracy.” “What it means to fight for truth.”