Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest. Suggestions for future updates are welcome.
William J. Burns, “A Make-or-Break Test for American Diplomacy,” April 6, 2020; “The Damage at the State Department Is Worse Than You Can Imagine, But It’s Also More Reparable,” March 12, 2020, The Atlantic. Retired US diplomat and former Deputy Secretary of State Burns makes two key claims in these articles. In April, he argued the post-pandemic world will “turbocharge trendlines” that were already complicating America’s role in the world and pose the greatest test for US statecraft since the end of the Cold War. He examines potential traps in looking ahead and warns that America cannot expect to “reboot a normal that has long been corrupted.” In March, Burns took aim at a “sluggish, passive-aggressive, risk averse” State Department, which faces deeply rooted challenges in addition to the demolition brought about by “the venality and vindictiveness” of Donald Trump. The State Department in a post-Trump presidency will need to rebuild quickly and differently. Burns’ strategy is centered on what State can do for itself apart from the White House and Congress (“reshaping antediluvian approaches to leadership, management, recruitment, and performance”), pushing accountability downward in Washington and outward to ambassadors, rediscovering “the honor and purpose of career professionals” exemplified in the Trump impeachment hearings, rebalancing national security policies and budgets, and reversing the post 9/11 militarization of foreign policy
“James Carville on Why Foundation CEOs Need to Fund a ‘Wartime Communications’ Force,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 26, 2020. Carville (political consultant, Louisiana State University) calls on risk-takers and “our most talented communications minds” in the foundation community – a “Dream Team made up of top leaders from Hollywood, technology, advertising, public relations, polling, and behavioral psychology” – to stand up a wartime strategy to convey messages about what to do and what not to do in the COVID-19 pandemic. Carville’s model is the World War I era Committee on Public Information led by George Creel. Although the Creel Committee was “guilty of excesses,” (on this he is informed by LSU journalism professor John Maxwell Hamilton), it was also highly successful in promoting war bonds, food conservation, and military enlistment. It’s a time for action, Carville writes energetically, in his appeal to ten of America’s largest foundations across the political spectrum. (Courtesy of Donna Oglesby)
Andrea J. Dew, Marc A. Genest, and S. C. M. Paine, eds., From Quills to Tweets: How America Communicates About War and Revolution, (Georgetown University Press, 2020). The editors (all associated with the US Naval War College) have compiled a welcome collection of case studies on how information, political narratives, media, and communication technologies have shaped the way Americans have communicated in wartime. Essays by 17 contributors divide into five chronological sections arranged to reflect episodes of armed conflict, changes in technologies, and political context. Many are by scholars ranging from Marc Genest’s chapter on newspapers and Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution to Steven Casey’s (London School of Economics) chapter on the Korean War to Andrea Dew’s chapter on communication in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two are by former public diplomacy practitioners. Martin Manning’s chapter looks at the role of the press and the telegraph in the Civil War, and Judith Baroody examines communication strategies in the Persian Gulf War. Without taking away from the wealth of useful analysis and historical evidence the authors provide from US history, the collection would have been strengthened by at least one chapter on relevant ways in which Europeans and Native Americans communicated in wartime during the century and a half that preceded the American Revolution.
Kingsley Edney, Stanley Rosen, and Ying Zhu, eds., Soft Power With Chinese Characteristics: China’s Campaign for Hearts and Minds, (Routledge, 2020). In this timely volume, Edney (University of Leeds), Rosen (University of Southern California), and Zhu (City University of New York) compile essays by scholars who examine how China has attempted to use soft power strategies since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Part 1 contains chapters on the soft power debate in China, the ironies of soft power projection in the age of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, and China’s use of diasporic media, cultural diplomacy, Sino-Hollywood negotiation, branding, and Confucius Institutes. Chapters in Part 2 include regional case studies of China’s soft power strategies in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Japan and South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. A closing chapter looks at how East Asians view a rising China. The volume includes a foreword by Joseph Nye who contends that “China now represents the most important test case for the practice of soft power.” He shares the authors’ view on the need for a reappraisal of the soft power framework adopted in China’s official doctrine more than a decade ago. See also Martha Bayles, “Hard Truths About China’s ‘Soft Power,’” The American Interest, March 30, 2020.
Mark Hannah, “Stop Declaring War on a Virus,” War on the Rocks, April 17, 2020. Hannah (Eurasia Group Foundation) examines the negative implications of using war rhetoric to frame the US government’s response to the pandemic coronavirus. Borrowing from British philosopher John Austin’s thinking on speech acts as “performative utterance,” Hannah argues declaring war on a virus goes beyond descriptive or interpretive framing to bring about three new realities: “a self-injuring pivot from international cooperation toward belligerent nationalism; short-term economic interventions that are not necessarily likely to transform into lasting reforms; and an inflation of the concept of war which potentially undermines the rule of law.” In so doing, it distorts the nature of the threat, makes political abuse of power more likely, enables the firing of government health officials insufficiently supportive of presidential wishes and priorities, and squanders international goodwill. Hannah also makes use of Rosa Brook’s thinking on “Fighting Words” and arguments on “the many ways in which the distinction between wartime and peacetime is nontrivial” in her book, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything.
Daniel Immerwahr, How To Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, (Picador, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2019). Immerwahr (Northwestern University) takes the reader on an absorbing and illuminating ride through the history of American expansion – from 13 colonies on the Atlantic seaboard to a colonial empire in the American west and beyond, to today’s “pointillist empire” of territories, tiny islands, and some 800 military bases worldwide. It is a work of serious scholarship that also seeks to entertain. Immerwahr tells three stories. The subordination and displacement of Native Americans. Colonization beyond the continent in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And the replacement of colonization with globalization. His intent is not to weigh forms of oppression or use empire as a pejorative. Rather, he seeks to show how territorial expansion matters, positively and negatively, in understanding United States’ history as the history of an empire. It is a narrative of hard power projection combined with a gold mine of anecdotes and personalities that give life to hidden influences of soft power through language, inventions, science, education, music, sports, popular culture, and the arts.
Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, The Light That Failed: Why the West is Losing the Fight for Democracy, (Pegasus Books, 2020). Krastev (Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna) and Holmes (New York University) – two scholars who embraced the “illusion’ that the end of the Cold War signaled “an Age of Liberalism and Democracy” – explore a question attributed to Barack Obama: “What if we were wrong?” They look first at the appeal of the illusion. Then they examine the cascade of illiberalism, populist xenophobia, insurgent movements on right and left, and “resentment at democracies canonical status” in Europe, Russia, and the United States. Their aim is not a comprehensive account of the anti-liberal revolt. It is to examine one under-appreciated aspect: widespread grievance over “the way (imposed) no-alternative Soviet Communism, after 1989, was replaced by (invited) no-alternative Western liberalism.” Their thought-provoking book is an assessment of this grievance and a strong critique of the way democracy was promoted as “inescapable orthodoxy.” It examines the perception held by many after the economic crisis of 2008 that western elites did not know what they were doing – and growing resentment against the “palpably sincere reform-by-imitation” approach (“copycat Westernization”) of post-Cold War democratization.
Jan Melissen, “Diplomacy’s First Challenge: Communicating Assistance to Nationals Abroad,” Policy Forum Article, Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, February 2020. Melissen (Leiden University) examines the growing importance of consular diplomacy in the eyes of citizens and parliamentarians and the need for foreign ministries to develop a better understanding of increasingly intertwined “consular” and “diplomatic” spheres. They must break, he argues, from a tradition that compartmentalizes consular work and views it as “second rate.” His thinking is grounded in assumptions that there is “enormous scope for improvement” in government-society relations and that foreign ministries face greater challenges in communicating with their citizens abroad than in delivering services to them. Middle power countries “with a decidedly global outlook,” he contends, understand and articulate this view especially well. The article develops three claims. First, governments too often mistakenly treat consular work as marketing to product-oriented end-users than providing services to citizens. Second, foreign ministries struggling with digital technologies must adopt a coordinated multi-channel communications approach. Third, they must show greater appreciation for how domestic and foreign dimensions of consular diplomacy are linked to so-called “big issues” in foreign and security policies.
Martha C. Nussbaum, The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble But Flawed Ideal, (Harvard University Press, 2019). Diplomats occupy a central place in the cosmopolitan tradition. That said, scholars wrestle with an abundance of self / other questions. Is diplomacy necessarily group and governance-based or present anytime someone claims to represent or mediate any aspect of society? What are the ethical duties of diplomats to the national interest and universal human rights? Under what conditions is public diplomacy best served by monologue or dialogue? In her meditation on the relative claims of nations and the world, Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago) helps us understand normative and practical issues in diplomacy. Chapters on Cicero, Hugo Grotius, and Adam Smith illuminate historical approaches to self / other tensions. Subsequent chapters address questions about pluralism and globalism born of today’s deep interconnectedness (supply chains, disease, climate, migration, knowledge, disinformation). Nussbaum’s closely argued “Capabilities Approach” forbids a “me-first tub-thumping nationalism.” She defends an international politics that is truly cosmopolitan and grounded in moral duties to others and the worth and dignity of all. But she also recognizes the practical and normative importance of the nation. Normatively, she argues, the nation “is the largest unit that is an effective vehicle of human autonomy, and accountability to people’s voices.” Practically, nations have great power as places where “both duties of justice and duties of material aid are made real.” Her book prompts serious reflection on “how we ought to think about the relative claims of the nation and the world.”
Charles Peterson, “Serfs of Academe,” The New York Review of Books, March 12, 2020. Peterson, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate in American Studies heading for a post-doc at Cornell, examines professional, economic, and public policy consequences of the explosion of adjuncts in America’s colleges and universities. His review essay of 11 books summarizes data showing the extraordinary rise in contingent faculty, a corresponding decline in tenured faculty, the rise in numbers and salaries of university administrators, the policy plans of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and challenges in organizing instructors in higher education. Books reviewed include: Joe Berry, Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education, (2005); Herb Childress, The Adjunct Underclass: How America’s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission (2019); Kim Tolley, ed., Professors in the Gig Economy: Unionizing Adjunct Faculty in America (2018); and Suzanne Mettler, Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream (2014).
Sarah Repucci, “A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy: Freedom in the World 2020,” Freedom House. Last year was the 14th consecutive year of decline in political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House analyst Repucci states in the organization’s latest annual report on trends in global freedom. Leading indicators are India’s turn to Hindu nationalism, China’s violations of basic freedoms of Uighurs and Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, and an “unsteady beacon of freedom in the United States.” Her detailed report discusses countries where leaders are using extreme policies in assaults on minorities and pluralism. Notable instances include Israel, Spain, Austria, and Hungary. The Trump administration’s inconsistent commitment to democracy and human rights is reflected in its critique of adversaries (Venezuela, Iran) and the pass given to leaders in other countries (Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia). Her report includes recommendations for supporting emerging democracies. See also Jen Patja Howell, “The Lawfare Podcast: Freedom House on ‘Freedom in the World.’”, March 24, 2020.
Thomas Rid, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). Thomas Rid (Johns Hopkins University) defines active measures as the methodical output of intelligence services that contains an element of disinformation and is intended to weaken an adversary. His book discusses case studies of active measures divided into four historical waves: (1) the Soviet Union’s “Operation Trust” led by the Cheka’s Felix Dzerzhinsky in the 1920s and 30s; (2) Soviet and East German disinformation and the CIA’s “political warfare” in the early Cold War; (3) expansion and refinement of Soviet active measures in the late 1970s and 80s; and (4) digital age disinformation beginning in the 2010s. Rid makes three main arguments. First, at scale disinformation campaigns are attacks against political systems that rely on custodians of factual authority. Second, moral and operational equivalence between East and West in using covert active measures occurred only in the decade after World War II. Third, digital technologies have fundamentally changed disinformation. Rid devotes most of his attention to Russian disinformation campaigns, especially its digital operations. He gives far less attention to the CIA’s “cultural freedom” and “political warfare” activities. USIA’s Senior Policy Officer on Soviet Active Measures Herb Romerstein makes a cameo appearance. Rid warns that weakened democracies are less resistant to active measures and more likely to deploy them. “It is impossible,” he argues, “to excel at disinformation and democracy at the same time.” See also David Ignatius, “The Russians Manipulated Our Elections. We Helped,” April 24, 2020, The Washington Post. And Rid’s Lawfare podcasts, Part 1 and Part 2.
Elizabeth Shackelford, The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age, (Public Affairs, 2020). Shackleford, a former career Foreign Service Officer, gives her account of the US failure to speak out against widespread violence and government atrocities in South Sudan. Her book combines a critique of President Trump’s foreign policy, her story of US Embassy Juba’s efforts to evacuate US citizens and conduct operations in a country in crisis, and an assessment of the State Department’s internal dissent channel. She used the dissent channel to protest Washington’s “failure to take a stand for the values of human rights and justice, when doing so could make a difference.” Her bleak conclusion, as quoted in Robbie Gramer’s FP review, is the dissent channel “means something, perhaps. It’s a message of sorts. One could generously describe it as a type of departmental suggestion box, though it would be more accurate to picture it as a shredder.”
Gregory M. Tomlin, “The Joint Force Needs a Global Engagement Cycle,” Joint Forces Quarterly, 97, 2nd Quarter, 2020. Tomlin (Commander, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, formerly with Joint Staff J2, and author of Murrow’s Cold War) makes two central arguments. First, he proposes adding the concept of non-lethal engagement, using information-related capabilities, to the Defense Department’s current definition of “engagement” in joint doctrine, which focuses on combat operations. His expanded definition “would clarify how military information operations could influence individuals and audiences not associated with an adversary.” Second, he calls for a new six-phase Global Engagement Cycle (GEC) that would connect a commander’s nonlethal engagement guidance and intent with the use of information-related capabilities and functions to achieve short and long-term objectives in the information domain. Tomlin supports his conceptual ideas with a range of examples and recommendations relevant to the activities of combatant and functional commands, countering cyber-attacks and weaponized uses of social media by adversaries, and implications for planning and operations.
Geoffrey Wiseman, “Diplomacy,” in Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Bertrand Badie, and Leonardo A. Morlino, eds., The Sage Handbook of Political Science, Vol. 3, Chapter 71, 1193-1213, (Sage, 2020). In this deeply informed chapter, Wiseman (Australian National University) makes five inter-related claims. First, diplomacy’s ideas and practices have a multi-millennial history. Second, this history is “characterized by perpetual and productive tension between continuity and change,” and an under-estimated capacity for adaptation. Third, traditional state-based diplomacy is growing in importance. Fourth, diplomacy, now more “complex” in theory and practice, exhibits bilateral, multilateral, polylateral, and omnilateral dimensions. Fifth, “Diplomatic Studies” is now a “rich and expanding” sub-field in international relations and the broader global discipline of political science. Wiseman’s essay is valuable for its clarity, global perspective, insights on theory and practice, and the quality and scope of its literature review. Scholars and practitioners will find plenty to ponder. For teachers and students, it is a concise and comprehensive overview of key historical and current issues in the study and practice of diplomacy.
Recent Blogs and Other Items of Interest
Nick Ashton-Hart, “Online Meetings Are Transforming International Relations,” April 13, 2020, Council on Foreign Relations.
Ilan Berman, “Trump Puts U.S. Public Diplomacy on Notice,” April 17, 2020, The National Interest.
Corneliu Bjola and Ilan Manor, “Digital Diplomacy in the Time of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” March 31, 2020, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
Geoff Brumfiel, “As the War on Terror Winds Down, the Pentagon Cuts Social Science,” March 17, 2020, NPR.
“Nicholas Burns: Why Does Good Diplomacy Matter?” March 23, 2020, Podcast Transcript, Harvard Magazine.
Zselyke Csaky, “Dropping the Democratic Façade,” Nations in Transit 2020, Freedom House.
“China v. America: Expelling Journalists Is No Way To Fight A Pandemic,” March 21, 2020, The Economist.
Chris Coons, “America’s Diplomats Deserve Our Respect,” March 16, 2020, The Hill.
Melissa Cooper, “‘Till Death Do Us Part’ – Relationships for Women in the Foreign Service,” March 10, 2020, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.
Timothy Egan, “The World Is Taking Pity On Us, Will American Prestige Ever Recover?” May 8, 2020, The New York Times
Erin Gallagher, “William F. Buckley and Argentina’s Dirty War: Burson-Marsteller’s Plan for Improving the Public Image of the Argentine Junta,” May 4, 2020, Columbia Journalism Review.
Robbie Gramer, “Pompeo Emerges as Point Man In War of Words With China,” May 1, 2020; “Pompeo Criticized for Failure to Communicate on Coronavirus,” March 17, 2020, Foreign Policy.
Paul Haenle and Lucas Tcheyan, “U.S.-China Cooperation on Coronavirus Hampered By Propaganda War,”March 24, 2020, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Lucie Levine, “Was Modern Art Really a CIA Psy-op?” April 1, 2020, JSTOR Daily.
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Covid–19’s Painful Lesson About Strategy and Power,” March 26, 2020, War on the Rocks.
Emily Rauhala, “Expelling U.S. Journalists During Coronavirus Crisis, China Doubles Down on Media War,” March 18, 2020, The Washington Post.
Melissa Reynolds, “Communication Failures In a Pandemic Can Be Catastrophic,” March 18, 2020, The Washington Post.
Josh Rogin, “State Department Cables Warned of Safety Issues at Wuhan Lab Studying Bat Coronaviruses,” April 14, 2020; “The U.S.-China Propaganda War Is On Hold, But Not For Long,” April 2, 2020, The Washington Post.
Jennifer Schuessler, “Will a Pandemic Shatter the Perception of American Exceptionalism,” April 25, 2020, The New York Times.
Efe Sevin, Kadir Jun Ayhan, Diana Ingenhoff, “Measuring Country Images: Four Lessons from South Korea,” March 23, 2020, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
Juan Siliezar, “Reporting on the World Between Two World Wars,” April 13, 2020, The Harvard Gazette.
Nancy Snow, “Japan’s Government Has Failed Coronoavirus Communications Test,” February 21, 2020, Nikkei Asian Review.
J.Brooks Spector, “Covid-19: Diplomats in Limbo as US State Department Dithers,”March 22, 2020, Daily Maverick.
Jian (Jay) Wang, “Public Diplomacy in the Age of Pandemics,” March 18, 2020, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
Jian (Jay) Wang and Sohaela Amiri, “5 Takeaways on U.S. City Diplomacy During the COVID-19 Crisis,” April 14, 2020, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
Trump / Voice of America / USAGM
- Paul Farhi, “White House Attacks Voice of America, Claiming it Promoted Chinese Propaganda,”April 10, 2020, The Washington Post.
- Elizabeth Williamson, “White House Mounts Heated Attack on a U.S. Government Media Voice,”April 10, 2020, The New York Times.
- Steve Herman, “Trump Threatens to Force Congress to Adjourn Over Stalled Nominees [includes VOA’s response to Trump criticism],”April 15, 2020, VOANews.
- Matt Armstrong, “Managing the Problem: VOA, Smith-Mundt, and Oversight,”April 15, 2020; “Understanding the White House’s Attack on VOA,” April 14, 2020, MountainRunner.us.
- Steve Herman, “Trump Threatens to Force Congress to Adjourn Over Stalled Nominees [includes VOA’s response to Trump criticism],”April 15, 2020, VOANews.
- Alan Heil, “White House Criticism of VOA, Unprecedented in Its 78 Year History,”April 16, 2020, Public Diplomacy Council.
- Colbert I. King, “Trump’s Attack on the VOA Reeks of McCarthyism,”April 18, 2020, The Washington Post.
- Helle Dale, “Trump’s Attack on VOA Over COVID-19 Shows Need For New Agency Chief,”April 18, 2020, The Heritage Foundation.
- John Fund, “Why Has the Voice of America Become a Voice of Confusion?”April 19, 2020, National Review.
- Brian Schwartz, “Sen. Bob Menendez Accuses Trump Media Agency Nominee Michael Pack of Possible Self-Dealing, Illegal Activity,”April 20, 2020, CNBC.
- Geoffrey Cowan and James K. Glassman, “Trump’s War on Voice of America Is All About Him, As Usual,”April 22, 2020, Los Angeles Times.
- Ben Schreckinger, “What’s Behind Trump’s Fresh Push To Wrest Control of Voice of America,”April 22, 2020, Politico.
- Thomas Kent, “Congress Needs to Clarify Mission and Oversight of Voice of America,”April 28, 2020, The Hill.
- Paul Farhi, “Pence Staff Threatens Action Against Reporter Who Tweeted About Visit to Clinic Without Surgical Mask,”April 30, 2020, The Washington Post.
- Brian Schwartz, “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Plans To Meet Next Week On Embattled Trump Nominee Pack,”May 7, 2020
- Patsy Widakuswara, “Trump’s VOA Criticism Shows US-Funded News Doesn’t Mean US-Approved,”May 7, 2020, VOANews.com.
- Catie Edmondson and Edward Wong, “With Push From Trump, Senate Moves to Install Contentious Filmmaker at U.S. Media Agency,”May 8, 2020, New York Times.
Gem From The Past
Alan L. Heil, Jr., Voice of America: A History, (Columbia University Press, 2003). Tensions between political leaders and US international broadcasters were present at the creation. In 1943, a year after the Voice of America went on the air, The New York Times’ Arthur Krock wrote a column arguing that a VOA broadcast had undermined allied negotiations with Italy’s King Victor Emanuel and threatened the lives of American soldiers. Following a public rebuke of the broadcast by an outraged President Franklin Roosevelt and a showdown at the White House, senior VOA broadcasters in New York, James Warburg, Joseph Barnes, and Edd Johnson, lost their jobs in a major shakeup of the Office of War Information’s Overseas Branch that also included replacement of its director, playwright Robert Sherwood. Accounts of these and many subsequent episodes at the crossroads of journalism and foreign policy can be found in Alan Heil’s now classic history. Heil, who had a significant role in achieving VOA’s Charter legislation, wrote a narrative filled with personalities and informed interpretations of salient issues in US international broadcasting. At a time when broadcasters are facing Trump administration attacks, one more chapter in a long saga, it remains an excellent and timely read.
An archive of Diplomacy's Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites (2002-present) is maintained at George Washington University's Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. Current issues are also posted by the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy, the Public Diplomacy Council, and MountainRunner.us.