Center for Strategic Communication

by Bruce Gregory*

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.

Jozef Batora and Monika Mokre, eds., Culture and External Relations: Europe and Beyond, (Ashgate, 2011). The essays compiled by Batora (Comenius University, Brataslava) and Mokre (Austrian Academy of Sciences) examine conceptual issues, historical case studies, and trends in the uses of culture in external relations.  The authors assess ways in which political entities use culture to generate goodwill and frame international agendas, culture’s role in creating boundaries, and its role in building connections across boundaries.  Includes:
— Jozef Batora and Monika Mokre, “Introduction: What Role for Culture in External Relations?”
Part I, Universalism Versus Particularism
— Erik Ringmar, “Free Trade by Force: Civilization Against Culture in the Great China Debate of 1857”
— Iver B. Neumann, “Our Culture and All the Others: Intercultural and International Relations”
— Srdjan Vucetic, “The Logics of Culture in the Anglosphere”
Part II, Boundary Building Versus Boundary Transcendence
— Monika Mokre, “Culture and Collective identifications”
— Jozef Batora, “Exclusion and Transversalism: Culture in the EU’s External Relations”
— Bahar Rumelili and Didem Cakmakli, “‘Culture’ in EU-Turkey Relations”
Part III, Policy Aspects
— Manfred J. Holler and Barbara Klose-Ullmann, “Abstract Expressionism as a Weapon of the Cold War”
— Milena Dragicevic Sesic, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Cultural Policies of and Towards Serbia”
— Emil Brix, “European Coordination of External Cultural Policies”
— Monika Mokre and Jozef Batora, “Conclusions”

Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Board Meeting, Transcript, Washington, DC, June 3, 2011. In its “first ever public meeting,” BBG Chair Walter Isaacson and US international broadcasting’s bipartisan board “outlined initiatives to reform U.S. international broadcasting, provided an update on the BBG’s strategic review, announced the Burke Award winners to recognize courage, integrity and originality of BBG journalists, and took questions from the public on U.S. international broadcasting.”  Additional information and related documents are available at the BBG’s website.  A subsequent BBG board meeting was held on July 14, 2011.

Rosa Brooks, “Ten Years On: The Evolution of Strategic Communication and Information Operations since 9/11,” Statement Before the Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, US House of Representatives, July 12, 2011. Brooks (Georgetown University) draws on her past two years as senior advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in these reflections on drawbacks in the term strategic communication, lessons from the past decade, and thoughts about the future.  Among many useful observations, Brooks calls for:  (1) clear distinctions between strategic communication and related terms; (2) appropriate assumptions about accountability, metrics, methods, and timeframes; (3) the compelling need to understand human terrain (the languages, narratives, memories, and hopes of others); (4) learning from the “major mistake” of validating Osama bin Laden’s “special” status and fixation on terrorism; (5) a willingness to take risks and recognition that mistakes will happen; and (6) recognition that “obsession with who does what” in government-wide communication is a waste of time.

Caitlin Bryne and Rebecca Hall, Australia’s International Education as Public Diplomacy: Soft Power Potential, Clingendael Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, No. 121, July 2011. Bryne (Bond University) and Hall (International Education Resources Group) discuss trends and opportunities in international education as an instrument of public diplomacy.  They argue that Australia has not realized its full potential and call for more active public diplomacy leadership, enhanced evaluation, and increased dialogue within Australia’s public diplomacy community and civil society.

Damian Carrington, “Artists Condemn British Council’s Decision to Axe Climate Programme,” The Guardian, July 14, 2011. In an open letter on July 14, a group of well-known British authors and artists “with affectionate connections to the British Council” have written to express “mystification and deep concern” that funding and staffing have been radically cut for work on climate change, one of the Council’s three top priorities. The move was criticized by the UK’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Brown in a letter to British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson.  In his letter, leaked to The Guardian, Brown reportedly admonished Davidson “for his apparent ‘termination’ of one of the council’s ‘success stories.'”  In a letter to The Guardian on July 16, Davidson stated the Council’s work on climate change would continue.  He noted, however, that “we are not a climate change organization” and that the Council would focus on its “core programmes in the arts, English, education and society around the world.”  (Courtesy of Robin Brown’s (Leeds University) Public Diplomacy: Networks and Influence blog.)   

Daniel Costa, Guestworker Diplomacy, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper No. 317, July 11, 2011. In this report critical of the State Department’s exchange visitor program, EPI’s Immigration Policy Analyst Costa finds that the J visa program “gives U.S. employers significant financial incentives to hire foreign workers over U.S. workers, while providing them no labor protections.”  He faults the State Department, which oversees the J visa program, for collecting “very little data” on visa holders and for relying on employers and sponsoring organizations to regulate themselves.  His report looks at the history of the J visa program, including its large Summer Work Travel program, and at the “severe exploitation of J visa holders” consequent to the outsourcing of State’s oversight responsibilities.

For the State Department’s views on “New Regulations for J-1 Visa, Summer Work Travel,” see “Question Taken at the June 20, 2011 Daily Press Briefing,” Office of the Spokesperson, Department of State, June 21, 2011 and Holbrook Mohr and Mitch Weiss, “Student Visa Program: New Rules, Same Problems,” ABC News, Associated Press, June 20, 2011.

Nicholas Cull and Ali Fisher, eds., The Playbook: Case Studies of Engagement. InThe Playbook, a project commissioned by the British Council, Cull (University of Southern California) and Fisher (Mappa Mundi Consulting) host a coordination point for international practitioners to share experiences on methods of engagement and the practice of public diplomacy.  Examples from among dozens of cases in its growing collection include:  China’s Panda Diplomacy, Framing Climate Change at the G-8 Summit, Forgotten Voices Listening Project UK, Creative Cities Project East Asia, Japan’s International MANGA Award, The Franklin Book Program, and the New York Philharmonic’s Trip to North Korea.  Users are invited to register, comment, and contribute cases.

Shawn Dorman, ed., Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work, 3rd edition, Foreign Service Books, 2011. Dorman (Associate Editor, Foreign Service Journal) has compiled an entirely new edition of essays on the lives and work of US foreign service officers and other foreign affairs professionals.  Its broad spectrum of nearly 100 short chapters by practitioners include profiles of the work of ambassadors (Marie Yovanovitch, Armenia), political officers (Dereck Hogan, Russia), public affairs officers (Christopher Teal, Mexico), and entry level officers (Carolyn Dubrovsky, Nepal); “day in the life of” accounts of a cultural affairs officer (Anne Benjaminson, Tajikistan), a public affairs officer (Michael McClellan, Iraq), and an environment, science, technology, and health officer (Jason McInerney, Honduras); chapters on embassies, employees, and families; chapters on a variety of field activities; and chapters with guidance for those interested in joining the foreign service and foreign affairs agencies.

Daniel W. Drezner, “Does Obama Have a Grand Strategy?” Why We Need Doctrines in Uncertain Times,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2011, 57-68. Drezner (Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy) asserts that grand strategies matter far less than national economic and military power and the actions taken by states.  He contends that grand strategies are important, however, as “cognitive beacons” or signals to others in times of “radical uncertainty” — i.e., during wars, revolutions, depression, or power transition.  Grand strategies for Drezner are communication strategies far more than planning and decision-making guides.  Drezner argues that although the Obama administration was wrong early on to assume that improved standing in the world would give the US greater policy leverage, it was right to pivot to a more assertive grand strategy of “counterpunching.”   Yet the administration has failed to clearly explain its grand strategy to Americans and to the rest of the world, which for Drezner defeats the whole purpose of having one.

For a critique of Drezner’s argument, a defense of the Obama administration’s worldview, and an argument that the search for grand strategies is misguided in “today’s multipolar, multilayered world,” see Fareed Zakaria, “Stop Searchng for an Obama Doctrine,” The Washington Post, July 6, 2011.  For Drezner’s reply, see “The Virtues of Grand Strategies” on his Foreign Policy blog, July 7, 2011.  See also, David Ignatius, “Obama’s Communications Gap,” The Washington Post, July 15, 2011.

Alexandra Dunn, “Unplugging a Nation: State Media Strategy During Egypt’s January 25 Uprising,” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol.35:2, Summer 2011,15-24. Dunn (Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies) assesses the Egyptian government’s shifts from a strategy of content suppression to a “shutdown strategy” that sought to close entire media platforms and tools — and then to a strategy of “commandeering the country’s mobile phone networks to conduct a countrywide SMS message campaign directed at quelling protests.”  She concludes that Egypt’s strategies “alienated the business community, disproportionately impacted apolitical citizens, and inadvertently increased international focus on the crisis.”

“International Broadcasting,” PD Magazine, Issue 6, Summer 2011. Now in its third year, the online publication edited by graduate students at the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Diplomacy continues to provide useful articles by scholars and practitioners on issues in public diplomacy.  Articles in the sixth issue focus on international broadcasting in a transformational media environment and include:
— Simon Mainwaring, “Social Media and Business: Creating New Pathways in Diplomacy”
— Alan Heil, “VOA and BBC at a Crossroads”
— Shawn Powers, “R.I.P., Broadcasting”
— Philip Seib, “Al Jazeera English in Focus”
— Oliver Zollner, “International Broadcasting in the Social Network Era”
— Interviews with former members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors James Glassman and Ted Kaufman and current members Michael Meehan and S. Enders Wimbush
— Philip Wang, “Transformation of Radio Taiwan International”
— Alex Oliver and Annmaree O’Keefe, “Struggling to be Heard: Australia’s International Broadcasters Fight for a Voice in the Region”
— Kim Andrew Elliott, “In International Broadcasting, Even the Static Must be Credible”

Kristin M. Lord and Travis Sharp, eds., America’s Cyber Future: Security and Prosperity in the Information Age, Volumes 1 and 2, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), June 2011. In this detailed examination of cyber security issues, CNAS editors Lord and Sharp have organized the work of some 200 analysts in a project co-chaired by Robert E. Kahn (Corporation for National Research Initiatives), Mike McConnell (Booz Allen Hamilton), Joseph Nye (Harvard University), and Peter Schwartz (Global Business Network).  Volume 1 discusses findings and recommendations relating to interests, trends, risk assessments, policies, strategies, and government-private sector partnerships.  Volume 2 contains thirteen chapters by subject matter experts.  Includes chapters by Joseph Nye on “Power and National Security in Cyberspace,” Martha Finnemore (George Washington University) on “Cultivating International Cyber Norms,” and Richard Fontaine (CNAS) and Will Rogers (CNAS) on “Internet Freedom and Its Discontents.”

Marc Lynch, Upheaval: U.S. Policy Toward Iran in a Changing Middle East, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), June 2011. In this CNAS report, Lynch (George Washington University) argues that the US policy of “strategic patience” toward Iran, which until recently has had some success, can no longer be sustained.  In today’s environment, a viable Iran policy means “aligning the United States with the emerging empowered Arab publics and preserving key regional alliances, while denying Iran the ability to exploit the changing environment.”  Lynch’s recommendations include engaging with publics in the Arab world and Iran, a significantly increased focus on human rights in Iran, accommodating legitimate demands of Bahrain’s Shi’a population, continuation of lower level diplomacy and confidence building measures rather than a new public negotiating initiative, and a strategic communication campaign that highlights Iran’s failures.  He notes this does not mean calling for regime change or supporting subversion in Iran and that it is essential to disaggregate the challenge posed by Iran from local political problems.

Johannes Matyassy and Seraina Flury, Challenges for Switzerland’s Public Diplomacy: Referendum on Banning Minarets, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, Paper 4, June 2011. Matyassy (Switzerland’s Ambassador to Argentina) and Flury (Switzerland’s Department of Foreign Affairs) examine Switzerland’s communication strategy in dealing with the anti-minaret initiative.  Their paper examines the strategy’s strengths and limitations and provides practical “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for other countries.  They argue the strategy was successful in shifting a concentrated international focus on Switzerland to a focus on Europe as a whole in which the Swiss case was seen as part of a larger set of issues involving migration and integration.

James Pamment, The Limits of the New Public Diplomacy, PhD thesis, 2011. In his thesis, available by pdf download, Pamment (Stockholm University) compares ways in which British, Swedish, and American diplomats plan and evaluate media campaigns. He argues that “old” and “new” public diplomacy models are not distinct categories in which the latter has replaced the former.  Using comparative empirical data, Pamment explores the extent to which the new public diplomacy is truly new, practical constraints that foreign ministries face in adapting to the new diplomacy, and the value of the “new public diplomacy” as an explanatory concept.

Christopher Paul, “Getting Better at Strategic Communication,” Statement Before the Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, US House of Representatives, July 12, 2011. In his statement, Paul (RAND Corporation) builds on his recent book, Strategic Communication: Origins, Concepts, and Current Debates (2011), and his earlier publications in the field.  His testimony examines tensions and conceptual issues in what scholars and practitioners mean by strategic communication as well as his own views on its “unassailable core.” He summarizes common themes in a decade of reports on strategic communication and public diplomacy discussed in his study Whither Strategic Communication? A Survey of Current Proposals and Recommendations (2009).  Paul concludes with comments on finding the right balance between civilian and military capacity, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s SAGE effort to create a business plan for a civil society entity that will strengthen public-private partnership, and his seven recommendations for improving strategic communication.

Pew Research Center, China Seen Overtaking U.S. as Global Superpower, Global Attitudes Project, July 13, 2011. Pew’s survey finds that in most regions of the world attitudes toward the United States continue to be more favorable than during the George W. Bush administration, but in 15 of 22 nations majority opinion holds that China has or will replace the US as the world’s leading economic power.  This view is particularly prevalent in Western Europe.  The survey also finds that global opinion is consistently negative regarding China’s capacity to match the US in military power.  Key findings are summarized in the report’s overview.

Lawrence Pintak, “Breathing Room: Toward a New Arab Media,” Columbia Journalism Review, May/June, 2011, 23-28. In CJR’s cover story, Pintak (Washington State University) looks at how journalists in the Arab world are “warily testing boundaries, adjusting to new realities, and daring to dream of the possibilities.”  He sees potential for independent, nationally focused television channels to challenge regionally focused channels, the possible the rise of an “Egypt effect” from more open Egyptian media, a redefinition of the role of Arab journalists, and more citizen journalism on the part of young Arabs skeptical of traditional media organizations.

Giles Scott-Smith, “The Heineken Factor? Using Exchanges to Extend the Reach of U.S. Soft Power,”, June 23, 2011. Scott-Smith (Leiden University and author of Networks of Empire, 2008) looks at the “continuing use-value of exchanges for favorably altering the opinions of international visitors coming to the United States.”  His article focuses on the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program and the use of exchanges in three case studies:  (1) overcoming diplomatic tensions with Iran, 2006-2009; (2) overcoming prejudices through the 1983 “Pluralism in U.S. Society” regional project; and (3) efforts to connect with second and third generation immigrants through the Muslim Incentive Program in Western Europe, 2003-2010.  Scott-Smith’s article and previous scholarship on exchanges is useful for its examination of the strengths, limitations, risks, lessons, and situational relevance of exchanges in public diplomacy.   Among his conclusions:  “Be wary of running exchange programs with an obvious connection to foreign policy goals.”

Mary Beth Sheridan, “Low-key U.S. Diplomat Transforms Syria Policy,” The Washington Post, July 12, 2011. Post reporter Sheridan profiles US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s trip to Hama, his greeting from cheering protestors, his Facebook page comments on Syria’s anti-demonstration policies. and his career-long interest in public outreach.

Geoffrey Wiseman, “Theorizing Diplomacy and Diplomats on Their Own Terms,” Review of Paul Sharp’s Diplomatic Theory of International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2009) in International Studies Review (2011), 13, 348-350. Wiseman (University of Southern California) provides a brief summary, probing questions, and generous praise for Sharp’s (University of Minnesota, Duluth) wide ranging study of diplomatic theory.  Wiseman commends the book to “international relations theorists and their graduate students” and to “reflective diplomats interested in theorizing themselves.”

Sharp’s Diplomatic Theory of International Relations was annotated in “Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #50,” March 2, 2010.

Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010). Wu (Columbia University and the New America Foundation) uses his sweeping history of modern telecommunications to raise central questions about the future of the Internet.  His well-written narrative focuses on the progression of the telegraph, the telephone, film, radio, and television from “somebody’s hobby to somebody’s industry” — from a freely accessible medium to control by large corporations and cartels in a process he calls “the Cycle.”  Wu’s book raises critical questions.  “Is the Internet really different?”  Is the “net neutrality” of the Internet, with its indifference to content, destined to replace single medium industries?   “Which is mightier:  the radicalism of the Internet or the inevitability of the Cycle?”

Gem from the Past

Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture, (Anchor Books paperback edition, 1981, originally published in 1976). The scholarship of American anthropologist Edward T. Hall (1914-2009) and his insights into intercultural relations and nonverbal communication have long been useful for diplomats, foreign aid professionals, Peace Corps volunteers, and other practitioners.   Beyond Culture — which sits on the shelf with The Silent Language The Hidden Dimension, and other works — examines culturally influenced “unconscious” attitudes that shape thoughts, emotions, communication, and actions.  In Beyond Culture, Hall developed his views on high context cultures (where many things are left unsaid and are explained by the cultural context) and low context cultures (where words and verbalization are more important to communication).   Hall taught at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute from 1950-1955.

*Brice Gregory is an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University and Georgetown University, and publishes this list periodically via mailing list.  We reprint it here as a service to our readers.  Bruce can be reached by email via bgregory at gwu dot edu