Regardless of who wins the election today, America’s public diplomacy must remain a primary consideration in the course of foreign policy.
Here are 5 priorities in PD for the next administration:
Relationships with our allies around the world must continue to be fortified. American efforts in combatting terrorism, challenging our enemies, and solving our mutual problems are best bolstered through cooperative relationships with other nations. The world is too interconnected for America to tackle problems on its own. Engaging our allies and working together provides our best chances for geopolitical success and breaking those regimes which wish to do harm.
For more than a decade, America’s public diplomacy apparatus witnessed a great deal of difficulty in maintaining strong and consistent leadership. Prior to Tara Sonenshine’s appointment this year, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs position remained unfilled 30 percent of the time since its establishment in 1999. The next administration must support the importance of this position by continuing its current leadership or minimizing its vacancy. America’s message to the world is vital—strong, consistent leadership is vital to supporting that message.
Words must be backed up with action in order to create trust relationships with foreign populations. The next administration must choose its words and commitments wisely, ensuring that promises made to often-skeptical foreign populations are kept, assuming they are achievable promises in the first place. Words that are not backed up by action and tangible accomplishments damage American credibility in a fashion that has long lasting ramifications. Successes in this field tend to be far outweighed by perceived failures or inconsistencies—minimizing those negatives is crucial. The United States must set an example to be followed, and keeping to our words and commitments is crucial.
The concerns, aspirations, and desires of foreign publics cannot be ignored, especially when developing foreign policy solutions that either affect them or otherwise require their cooperation for success. The United States must make greater efforts to truly understand the societies and cultures of foreign countries in order to help develop solutions that best achieve America’s strategic goals. Listening gives America credibility as a nation that is not solely self-interested. Ignoring foreign opinion renders these populations less cooperative, and makes America appear to be a less credible communicator.
Public diplomacy is not a cure all, and cannot be expected to make up for shortcomings in policy. Policy makers must always consider the basic strategic goal they are trying to accomplish before developing plans to achieve that goal. In order to create successful public diplomacy campaigns, practitioners and policy makers must understand both how it can help, as well as its inherent limits. This will educating policy makers about PD, and developing metrics to better comprehend how it can be effectively used.