March 14, 2008
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., Helle C. Dale, Colleen Graffy, Michael Doran, Joseph Duffey and Tony Blankley
EDWIN J. FEULNER: I welcome you to this very
important discussion on public diplomacy. First, a little bit of
In the first Reagan Administration, I was invited by the
President to serve as a Member, and then as the Chairman, of the
U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. I had the honor
of being a Member and the Chair on that panel for almost 10 years,
under both Reagan Administrations, the Bush Administration,
and well into the Clinton Administration. I had the opportunity to
see public diplomacy up close and to see the incredible importance
it had in terms of conveying America's message internationally
and in terms of going beyond the customary notion of U.S. State
Department talking to a foreign ministry or government talking
to government. In effect, it was a people-to-people kind of
The Nature of Public Diplomacy
Public diplomacy for me is more than one more area of study; it is
a central part, not only of our foreign and defense policy
infrastructure, but something that I've been very, very much
involved in. I also commend our colleagues at our sister
institutions, my own alma mater, the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, which is going to be holding a seminar
on a similar subject within the next few days with the new head of
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from Prague, and others. Public
diplomacy, in fact, has come back center stage even as experts
admit that we have some real challenges in terms of getting caught
up again, if you will, in terms of public diplomacy.
Shortly after the American Revolution, John Adams was asked how
many supported the war and how many were opposed. Adams said about
one-third of the population had supported it, one-third had opposed
it, and about one-third was waiting to see who won. In many ways
that's the situation America faces today in the court of world
opinion. There are still those around the world who wish to work
with us, there are those who attempt to do us harm, and there are
those who are simply waiting to see which side will prevail. Today,
as has been the case throughout our history, America has a peaceful
message, yet we are doing some harm to the nation and to our
credibility by not effectively advocating for ourselves.
This manifests itself in many ways, but especially concerning the
War on Terrorism. As that distinguished group of Americans
said in the 9/11 Commission Report, "If the United States does
not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the
extremists will gladly do the job for us." Unfortunately, that
reality is part of why the opinion of America and our intentions
remains abysmal in most Muslim countries. A recent lack of
effective public diplomacy abroad continues to affect world opinion
in a negative fashion-even among many of our allies.
According to the Pew Center, only 9 percent of the Turkish people
and just 15 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the
United States. Thirty percent of Germans have a positive view of
America, down from 42 percent as recently as two years ago. Our
favorable ratings continue to drop even in our allies, Great
Britain and Canada.
Studies like this have repeatedly found that U.S. government
agencies and departments are hampered in their efforts to
improve public diplomacy by a combination of poor leadership,
inadequate coordination, and insufficient resources.
Complicating the problem is the fact that we have to become
more targeted, more deliberate and coordinated than ever before
when reaching out to foreign audiences.
In short, the U.S. must develop a strategy that reflects our
current position in the world that utilizes dynamic new ways
to deliver information to individuals and to articulate the
ways we want to be perceived. What should that strategy look like?
What are our priorities? Do we need new tools to get the job done?
Have we learned from our public diplomacy successes and failures
during the Cold War? Answering these questions, while immensely
challenging, is critical to America's future. It is, however,
a challenge I'm sure our panelists today will not shy away
It's now my very great pleasure to introduce our colleague, Helle
Dale, who will moderate this discussion. She is the Deputy
Director of our Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for
International Studies and the Director of our Douglas and Sarah
Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.
Edwin J. Feulner,
Ph.D., is President of The Heritage Foundation.
HELLE C. DALE: Washington has come to
realize that there is a problem with our public diplomacy
efforts. As Dr. Feulner mentioned in his introduction, public
diplomacy is an issue that The Heritage Foundation has been engaged
in for several years. Speaking as a former journalist, it is also
an issue that I care a great deal about, covering the way the world
looks at the United States.
If there's one thing that the many, many studies on public
diplomacy have taught us-going back to the studies done since
September 11, 2001-it is that U.S. government agencies have been
hampered in their efforts by lack of coordination and by lack of a
vision and leadership from the highest levels. It's unfortunate
that we have spent so much of our efforts on the high power/soft
power debate while neglecting the impact that soft power,
communication, and strategic thinking have on how to
communicate and influence audiences abroad.
As part of the campaign on Leadership for America, which
The Heritage Foundation has undertaken over the next five to 10
years, public diplomacy is a really important part of our foreign
policy agenda, reinvigorating American foreign policy and its
public diplomacy functions. I am very privileged to be part of
that effort, and the meeting we're having today with a set of
excellent speakers is a kickoff event for a yearlong effort that
will look at how to assemble a public diplomacy strategy, looking
forward to the next administration.
Obviously, we have to give credit where credit is due. I would
say to some of our speakers here today that the efforts for the
last two years of the Bush Administration at least have intensified
greatly, and we have seen improvements in the public diplomacy
arena. I'm delighted to be able to welcome one of the key people on
Ambassador Karen Hughes' team, which has been very instrumental in
formulating something closer to the kind of strategy we need,
creating more interagency interaction, and rapid reaction teams to
deal with news reports all over the world that are detrimental to
the reputation of the United States.
Colleen Graffy assumed her duties as Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
of the State Department in September 2005. In this capacity, she
oversees public diplomacy and public affairs programs for the
Bureau and coordinates efforts with the Under Secretary for Public
She has been very well prepared for dealing with matters
European. Before her current position, she was Academic
Director and Associate Professor of Law at the London Law Program
for Pepperdine University. She is originally from Santa Barbara,
where she earned her Bachelor of Arts at Pepperdine and her Master
of Arts from Boston University. She also spent a year in Heidelberg
at the university, so she clearly has a deep understanding of
Europe. She resided in London for 20 years, where she was on the
front line of communicating U.S. positions on international
issues to a very tough audience. But we know that our audience
today will be a little friendlier, and we are looking forward to
COLLEEN GRAFFY: During a visit to Russia last
year, I was asked to speak at our America Center in Moscow. There
was a large crowd and I was a bit uncertain how I would be
received. I launched into my background-growing up in Santa
Barbara, California, my education, and so on. It soon became
apparent during my remarks that I was receiving an exceedingly warm
reception; everything I said seemed to be interesting and
delightful, and I left quite pleased with my success.
The next day I was interviewed by a reporter from Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, and after a lengthy interview he hesitated
and said, "Please, I must ask you one more question on behalf of
our listeners. We understand you are from Santa Barbara. Is
everything really as wonderful as it is in the soap
I have the feeling that just being from Santa Barbara
doesn't carry quite the same cachet here as it does in Russia and
Eastern Europe where the soap opera is still in reruns. However, it
is a good reminder of the power of television and of the
challenges we face in strategic communications today.
Many view the strategic communications of the Cold War as the
solution to our public diplomacy challenges today. Unfortunately,
many of the solutions that were valid then fall short now. Of
course, there are similarities between the two struggles. Then, as
now, we fought an implacable enemy opposed to our entire liberal
value system. Then, as now, we talk about existential struggles
between enemies with opposite belief systems. But there are
During the Cold War we fought an enemy that used power to
exercise totalitarian control. Communism contained its people
behind an iron curtain and controlled information within it. The
populations in the Soviet Union and other Communist nations
were either kept in the dark about what was happening outside or
had imperfect information.
All we needed to do was get facts through the censors' wall. Our
truths, in the words of the Founding Fathers, were "self-evident."
Censorship was a tool in the battle of ideas then; breaking through
it defined success.
It is hard to believe that less than 20 years ago half of Europe
and about half of mankind lived behind such censors' walls. Today,
only small isolated pockets like Cuba and North Korea
In the new battle of ideas, there is, to be sure, censorship to
be circumvented. Iran is an example that comes to mind, but Radio
Farda and Voice of America TV (which reaches 1 in 5 Iranians each
week) circumvent the censorship-also via the Internet-with great
But in most of the rest of the world, what we are doing is
fighting for space in people's ears and, more importantly, their
minds. We are competing against not just al-Jazeera, but the
Internet, iPods, Nintendo, Wii, Xbox, Playstation, film,
videos and, of course, soap operas.
And we're fighting al-Qaeda, which uses all forms of media to
get its message out. As the President's nominee to replace
Karen Hughes, Jim Glassman, said in his testimony, al-Qaeda
"disseminates its messages through mass media and the Internet, and
our job is not merely to explain and advocate American values and
policies but to counter the disturbingly persuasive ideology
of the enemy."
Public Diplomacy: The Co-Pilot
Today, we are actually not doing so badly. But the title of this
event, "Reinvigorating America's Public Diplomacy," is a
good reminder that most people don't know what we have already done
to invigorate public diplomacy. In addition to doing public
diplomacy, we also need to communicatewhat we are doing on
public diplomacy. We need to do more public diplomacy on our public
Do people know about the media hubs in Brussels, Dubai, and
London? Do they know about the TV studio that is now completed and
about the first broadcast that took place last week? Do they know
about the 30 percent increase in U.S. government officials on
television? Or the emphasis on "getting visual"? Or the increasing
number, as Edward R. Murrow described them, of "take offs" in which
public diplomacy is not only on the plane, but in the co-pilot seat
along with policy?
For those who are aware, I am delighted. For those who are not,
I am grateful to Ed Feulner, Helle Dale, and The Heritage
Foundation for inviting me to join this distinguished panel and
share what we have been doing on the public diplomacy front in the
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
A top priority of the Bush Administration's second term has
been to elevate the role of public diplomacy and to fuse it with
policy. The first step was to appoint a high-level communicator as
Under Secretary-Karen Hughes-and create dual-hatted Deputy
Assistant Secretaries in each geographic bureau who would report to
both their Assistant Secretary on the policy side and the Under
Secretary on the public diplomacy side. The importance of public
diplomacy was underscored by having a full-time, front office
Deputy Assistant Secretary to oversee public diplomacy
throughout the entire Bureau working side by side with the policy
As a law professor who had been living in London for over
15 years teaching international law at Pepperdine University, I had
done a significant amount of media and understood the necessity and
challenges inherent in communicating complex issues in the new
media environment. I was therefore delighted to be parachuted
back into America for the fused policy and public diplomacy
position-and ecstatic not to have to grade any law exams.
Further integration took place when we embedded our Public
Diplomacy Desk Officers into each of their geographic regions.
Rather than sitting together in the public diplomacy office being
on the receiving end of their region's distribution list and
appearing for their staff meetings, they are now a part of the
policy team doing public diplomacy right there from the
For example, our Balkans Public Diplomacy Desk Officer plays an
indispensable role on Kosovo. She is working side by side with the
office director and the Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for
that policy portfolio. She is able to respond on guidance
taskings for the daily State Department briefings and to
recommend media strategies because she has the minute-by-minute
knowledge of what is happening on the policy side.
Likewise our Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for Poland and the
Czech Republic was able to pick up the missile defense issues and
develop interagency communications strategies, including
creating an intranet Web site by which to keep everyone
Strategic communications that use public diplomacy to
promote our policies cannot take place when the two are estranged.
It is hard to do when you are in a separate office, on a different
floor; when you are in a separate office in a different building I
would say it is well-nigh impossible. We can't be there on the
take-off if we are at different airports.
Communicating Who We Are
It is for this reason that I am alarmed when I hear calls for the
revival of the United States Information Agency (USIA), which
was not only in a separate location from the State Department but
it had a separate e-mail and computer system! Rather than merging
policy and public diplomacy, the reporting line created confusion
between the Ambassador at post and the officer's USIA superior in
Washington. The Center for Strategic Communications Commission
on Smart Power's report recommends an "autonomous organization,"
which would be a "quasi-independent entity…responsible
for the full range of government public diplomacy initiatives,
including those formerly conducted by USIA." This too would pull
public diplomacy away from the power base of U.S. foreign
policy and diminish its influence.
Although the merger pains of USIA and State are still apparent,
it is healing and we are headed in the right direction. These
well-intentioned recommendations pull us in exactly the wrong
Public diplomacy is the art of communicating a country's
policies, values, and culture to other peoples. It is an
attempt to explain why we have decided on certain measures
and, beyond that, to explain who we are.
There are two sides to this public diplomacy coin: One is
short-term, the immediate, 24/7 media side where we engage through
TV, Internet, and radio. The other is long-term
relationship-building where we engage through cultural diplomacy,
sports diplomacy, student exchanges, and Muslim
We have invigoratedourpublic diplomacy by fusing policy and
public diplomacy and creating new tools by which to effectively
operate in these two short-term/long-term frameworks. Our new tools
In case you want to see more of this, we now have on our Web
site with the user-friendly http:// europe.state.gov, our
own little button-"Newsletter Public Diplomacy in Europe," which
will link you to our public diplomacy monthly. We don't know how
long it will take, but we hope someday for the end of
HELLE DALE: Our next speaker will be Dr.
Michael Doran. He was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Defense for support to public diplomacy in April 2007. He is
responsible for advising the Department's senior leadership on
policy to support public diplomacy and strategic communication and
for advocating key themes and messages to promote U.S. national
Prior to joining the Department of Defense (DOD), Dr. Doran
served as Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs
at the National Security Council. His portfolio covered all of the
countries in the region except for Iraq. Before that
appointment, he was Professor of the Department of Near
Eastern Studies at Princeton University, and from 2002 to 2004 he
served as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations in New York.
Following September 11, Michael Doran conducted extensive
research on terrorist uses of the Internet. This research informed
an influential article he authored on Osama bin Laden titled
"Somebody Else's Civil War," which was published in
Foreign Affairs magazine in 2002. It also informed an
article on Saudi Arabia titled "The Saudi Paradox" the year
after. He has written in numerous other publications on the
depth of the Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East. Originally
from Indiana, Dr. Doran received a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford
in 1987 and a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1997.
Then we will hear from Dr. Joseph Duffey. He joined what was
then Sylvan Learning Systems as Senior Vice President in 1999, and
he helped shape the company's plans to build a worldwide network of
universities. It is now known as Laureate, and he is responsible
for education and academic quality for the network.
He was Director of the U.S. Information Agency, a position he
was appointed to by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Before that, he
was President of American University here in Washington, and
previous to that he was Chancellor to the University of
Massachusetts in Amherst. He has been Assistant Secretary of State
for Educational and Cultural Affairs and Chairman of the National
Endowment for the Humanities under Presidents Jimmy Carter and
Ronald Reagan. He also served on the faculty at Yale University, as
a Fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, and
as a delegate to the General Conferences of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also known
Our last speaker today, Tony Blankley, is currently working
with The Heritage Foundation on reinvigorating public diplomacy and
strategic communications. He is an Executive Vice President
with Edelman Public Relations here in Washington and a Visiting
Senior Fellow in National Security Communications with The
You know him well from the media, where he is found in many,
many different forums. He hosts his own program, Left, Right
and Center; he is the author of a best-selling book on the
struggle with Islam called The West's Last Chance: Will We Win
the Clash of Civilizations? He appears on CNN, CNBC, and of
course, with The McLaughlin Group. Tony Blankley was the
Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Times for the
past five years, and he is a Contributing Editor and monthly
columnist for George magazine. He still writes a weekly
column for The Washington Times. Before that, he had a
long, distinguished career on the Hill. Many of you will remember
Tony as Press Secretary to Newt Gingrich for seven very interesting
and stormy years in the 1990s.
Now I will turn over the program to Michael Doran to tell us
where the efforts of the Defense Department are leading
MICHAEL DORAN: Let me just start by saying a
few words about my office. I think that instead of laying out a
plan for the future of public diplomacy, I'll sort of discuss with
you my experiences over the last eight months in this realm; the
difficulties I see, the challenges before us, and some directions
that I think we need to move in. Then I'll let you guys put
together the big plan about how to solve these problems.
The office that I had was established over a year ago, and I
came onboard about eight or nine months ago. It represents a
growing awareness in the Department of Defense that we have a
public diplomacy role to play; it represents an awareness that you
can't conceive of military operations in isolation from other
forms of national power, and, as Colleen said, that you have to
take into consideration the public diplomacy aspects of any
operation at the takeoff, from the beginning. It isn't something
that you can do afterward. I think that that realization has
been around in the Department of Defense forever. I think there was
an increasing awareness of it at the time of Bosnia and the Clinton
Administration, and it's only increased with the Iraq War.
The difficulty in the Department of Defense is that you can get
everyone to get it, but how do you change the institutions and the
procedures so that the realization that people have is translated
into organization and policy? That's an extremely difficult
thing to do.
One of the things that I've said to my staff is that we are a
small policy office, we're a startup, we can't possibly own
anything. We can't own public diplomacy, we can't own
strategic communication. What we can do is be kind of a
transmission belt; a transmission belt within the Department
of Defense and a transmission belt between the Department of
Defense and other departments. We can create communities of
interest, set agendas, and put our voice into the policy
That's the mission we have. The mission is to make public
diplomacy and strategic communication part of DOD processes
from the takeoff. We also have primary responsibility in the
Department for combating ideological support for terrorism, so the
ideological struggle against al-Qaeda is pretty much at the center
of what we do. From there, and with an emphasis on this ideological
struggle against al-Qaeda, let me just say a few words about the
challenges before us.
If you look at the successes that we've had in Iraq over the
last eight to ten months with the surge, one thing I think becomes
glaringly obvious: that the success there wasn't really a success
of arms; it was a success of enlightened understanding of the
challenge in Iraq. And it was General David Petraeus's
understanding that this is a counter-insurgency operation and that
the first goal is to provide security to the population. This is a
people-centric war, a perception-centric war, and it was a contest
with al-Qaeda over the population. It was in part an information
contest, but first and foremost it began with security-providing
security and then allowing those people within Iraqi
society to step forward to fight al-Qaeda themselves. That's
where our greatest success has been, in empowering others to
The Four Pillars
I think that there's a lesson to be learned there about the nature
of the conflict we're in and the tools that we need in order to
fight it. It seems to me that if you break down the contest with
al-Qaeda into areas of operation, or pillars of operation, there
are four major pillars. One is to improve our brand, and that is, I
think, the primary goal. Organizationally, that's the
responsibility of the State Department's public diplomacy.
That is, we need to counter al-Qaeda's claims that we are at war
with Islam, and we need to project the best side of the United
States to a global audience.
The second thing we need to do is to attack al-Qaeda's brand. We
need to make the world public aware of the intimidation of
al-Qaeda, the intolerance, and also I think we should attack
their brand by sowing fissures within the organization itself.
That's a job that runs across the spectrum of the United States
government, from the CIA all the way over through Department of
Defense all the way over to the State Department.
The next two I think are the most problematic. We need to
empower moderates. So we have the attack pillar, the burnish
American image pillar, and then the empowerment of third parties
The fourth pillar is the informational pillar. We need to know;
we need to have information about what is going on out there in the
world that informs our policies and our statements and that gets
back to the center. Those last two are the most problematic
because it isn't about getting our message out in this "empowering
third parties" pillar, it's about helping others to get their
message out. Ultimately, if this is a contest-as I think General
Petraeus has shown us-between Arabs, between Muslims for the future
of their society, it's the empowering part that's the most
important. And sometimes our direct hand doesn't need to be
I'm not talking about covert or clandestine, but we don't need
to be out in front. Let me give you an example. Suppose you're an
Iraqi movie producer and you want to do a documentary on the
rejection of the tribes of al-Qaeda by the tribes of al-Anbar. Or
even better, suppose you are a European moviemaker and you
want to do that and you want to present it to a European audience.
Who do you go to in the U.S. government to get a grant to do that?
This is not covert, this is not clandestine. You're quite willing
to say in an overtly attributable manner that you took money
from this or that department. Who do you go to and whose
responsibility is it to see that that kind of thing happens?
Suppose that we sitting in Washington notice something like the
tribes of al-Anbar rejecting the tribes of al-Qaeda and we say,
"You know what? That rejection is an important message that needs
to be gotten out to Europeans. It needs to be gotten out to people
in Afghanistan and elsewhere."
As a Defense Department activity, we can't say that we're going
to empower these people to put out this message to the Europeans. I
think there's more likelihood that's going to be a Department
of State activity, but State isn't resourced properly to do that.
Also, State is not organized to look at what's going on in Iraq and
say, "We need to put this out in Europe."
Maybe resurrecting USIA is not a particularly good idea. But
there does need to be some agency that is resourced and has the
authority to engage in this kind of informational struggle, taking
very much in mind what Colleen said about making sure that it is
part of the takeoff-that it is deeply embedded with policy
thinking at the highest levels.
One of the biggest tasks that you could take on here at Heritage
is meeting the challenge that Colleen put to you about how to
make sure that this information strategy is embedded in policy
thinking-an information strategy that takes into account the
distributed nature of the media in the world today, the need to
empower third parties, and the need to put out information through
a variety of different channels other than just formal public
diplomacy mechanisms. I don't have the answer to that, but I do
feel daily the difficulty.
The 26-Minute Problem
Let me add one more aspect to the difficulty. That is the
decentralized nature of our system. We have tried to be more
responsive to the demands of the information environment. What do I
mean by the demands of the information environment? We carry out an
operation in Afghanistan, and within 26 minutes-we've timed it-the
Taliban comes out with its version of what took place in the
operation, which immediately finds its way on the tickers in the
BBC at the bottom of the screen. That then leads to questions about
what happened in this operation, and we don't know the answer
to this. This requires us to get the actual answers to the people
who are truthful, complete answers to the people who are speaking
to the press.
This can take an investigation of weeks, and by that time we're
not even really talking about news cycle anymore, because in 26
minutes it's already out there. You can't correct three weeks or
two weeks later something that has already come out in 26 minutes.
So in trying to deal with this, what we have tended to do is push
authorities down as much as possible-to decentralize, to give
people on the ground the tools and the authorities that they need
in order to meet the needs that they are experiencing on the
ground. That's been effective within certain limits. The State
Department (I think) is also working in these lines, building the
media hubs, encouraging officials to get out and to speak, and
making speaking in the media part of one's job performance
All of that is very good, but there is still in government
the natural tendency to want to control things from the center, and
for good reason. If somebody messages something wrong out in the
field, it isn't the guy in the field who's called over to Congress
to testify about it. It's the people up at the top-messaging very
quickly ties to policy-and can very quickly become a problem for
somebody back at the center. It's almost impossible to solve that
Then, as we have pushed things out to the field, we don't have
back here-and this is my main point-any kind of strategic center
that is aware of what's going on in the field and is resourced to
deal with it. So if I notice back here in my office that there are
tribes in al-Anbar rejecting al-Qaeda and I think it would be good
to get that message out in Europe, I don't have any way to do it.
Again, what we do in my office is build coalitions, be a
transmission belt. So I can start bringing people together and
say, "Hey, we should really do this," but that is highly cumbersome
and not always particularly effective.
The Nature of Media
There needs to be, I think, some deep thinking about the nature of
the media environment, the need for some kind of centralized
control, but also the need for decentralization.
With regard to the centralization, the answer that you always
hear is an office in the NSC, and when people talk about how things
work correctly, they look at the Eisenhower Administration or the
Reagan Administration. They say, "Yeah, there was an empowered
person at the NSC that did this." I'm not sure that this is the
right answer, and as you think through this, I would just be aware
of the kind of antibodies in our system to that.
Number one, the NSC is by design non-operational. So this
is one of those areas in the Department of Defense and the
Office of the Secretary of Defense-Policy in which the policy
office is non-operational and the NSC is non-operational. If you
resource it and you put somebody in power- somebody at the NSC-you
are making them operational. Even if somebody thinks for a
minute that this is a good idea and they set it up, there are very
quickly going to be antibodies that are going to work against
The strongest antibody is going to be the fact that a mistake is
going to run like an electric jolt from the field up to the
President and tarnish the President, whoever he or she is. So
there's going to be a tendency in the system, again, to push
it out to the agencies who are usually resourced to do this.
It's that kind of thinking, I believe, that is leading the
Secretary of Defense to say that we need an agency that is
resourced and has the authorities for this kind of thing. If there
is such an agency that's built, I think that in today's media
environment there's got to be a strong public-private partnership
component to it. A lot of the kind of messaging that we're talking
about is best done, if not directly by the United States, by third
parties that have more latitude than we do, but yet are connected
to the U.S. government. Again, the challenge there is to make sure
that these third partiers are working within the strategic
framework of the government.
Those are the challenges. There's a book that came out after
Vietnam called Bureaucracy Does Its Thing. I was
discussing with one of my colleagues the difficulties that we face
in this realm, and he put that on my desk. It makes chilling
reading because you see that there were many people during the
Vietnam War who got it, who understood what it was that we were
doing wrong. But the institutions were not set up to meet the
challenges of the day, and the bureaucracies continued to do what
they were tasked and resourced to do.
In this realm, it seems to me that we're facing a similar
circumstance. It's very easy to look at the people who are doing
this job and say, "They just don't get it." I think they do get it;
the challenge is really one of organization and process, and it is
extremely, extremely difficult to meet.
Simply another agency or another report is not going to do it.
We have to think in a new way.
JOSEPH DUFFEY: I simply wanted to look at this
a little bit in terms of history. I'm reading now The Mighty
Wurlitzer by Hugh Wilford. He chronicles the covert
operations of the CIA very carefully over the course of a
half-century. I actually discovered that I was working for the
CIA on more occasions than I thought. When I was 30 years old,
as a scholar who had read the early manuscripts of Karl Marx-the
1844 manuscripts that were not published during his lifetime and
really dealt with the question of consciousness in society-I became
interested and established some very brief relationships. Life was
difficult for them, some of the dissidents in Eastern Europe,
particularly Lesa Kolikowski in Poland and Lukacs in Hungary.
Public Diplomacy Experience
When I was 30 years old I had two children, not much income, and
was teaching at a theological seminary. I wanted to go to Eastern
Europe for the summer. There was a program at the Christian
Conference at Charles University. Strangely, just by
mentioning it to a local newspaper editor, I received one week
later a $700 grant from an obscure foundation in New York.
Later, when I was at Yale University on the faculty,
Kingman Brewster called me in, closed the door, and told me that he
and McGeorge Bundy had decided that I should go to Paris to try to
reinvent the Congress for Cultural Freedom-an effort that never
quite worked out for a lot of different reasons. So I had
experience during that particular period with public diplomacy as
I had worked for the Jimmy Carter campaign and opposed one
position he was taking rather strongly, which was to create a
national Department of Education. He'd made a promise, and he
took his promises seriously. When he called me in for a job
just shortly after the inauguration, he said, "This will not be a
permanent appointment; I want only you to know that right now, but
I have committed myself to moving the Bureau of Education and
Cultural Affairs at the State Department into USIA."
The reason was that in the summer of 1976, the Israelis had
attacked a boat in the Mediterranean with some Lebanese leaders on
it, and it had been reported by the Voice of America. Immediately
they were called in by the State Department and by Mr. [Henry]
Kissinger. Then Frank Stanton (then of CBS), who created the
Stanton Commission, said "Let's get them out of the State
Department where they are totally free to be independent
I began, with the help and understanding of my colleagues at the
State Department. I believe, by the way, that Karen Hughes is on
her way to a functioning unit of men and women whose
assignments come on the basis of building an understanding of
cultural areas, which is not what happens in the regular
assignments of the Foreign Service Office. I believe that Karen has
absolutely done the right thing. What she has done is allow us to
watch her learn, and, in a modesty that I very much admire, she
will admit that she has gone through the process of listening and
I was there for awhile but we had to leave. I started
writing memos, however, every week to the White House saying, "What
USIA does is not public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is this effort
at a two-way conversation. That's not the culture of USIA." I never
saw those memos or knew that they had that much impact. A new book
about to be published by a historian in Britain states that they
made Jimmy Carter actually try to change USIA by creating something
called the International Communications Agency (ICA). It
didn't last long. ICA didn't quite work. Mr. Reagan, maybe for the
right reasons, abolished it immediately.
Post-Cold War Diplomacy
Bill Clinton becomes President. I go to USIA with the feeling that
the Cold War is over, and that is posing a real crisis for the
United States. The issue we have with public diplomacy and our
presentation to the world is not an issue that comes out of 9/11,
although it is an issue that was very evident then.
Nations are at their most volatile, and maybe most dangerous,
when they are humiliated, and we were humiliated by Vietnam and the
Iranian hostage crisis. What were we celebrating? That's what I
sensed when I got there in 1991. At my swearing in, I had a
dialogue with men and women to talk about stopping, listening,
and then talking about how we want to present ourselves to the
rest of the world.
But the atmosphere I encountered was one of euphoria. The Cold
War since may have ended, in fact, with coexistence. What we were
celebrating was the collapse of the Russian economy. I'm not sure
that had a lot to do with public diplomacy; I think it had to do
with President Reagan's very wise policies, with his defense and
armaments policies, but it was an era of great celebration and
triumphalism. That was really what led to the abolition of
The idea of moving the USIA to the State Department was
former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's idea. The central
reason was money, because she was under enormous pressure because
the budgets had not been increased. I remember State Department
colleagues, who I love and admire-but who sometimes I think are
working in a dysfunctional institution that we need to work
on-saying to me, "Why are you cutting, not increasing, our
budget? We won the Cold War; don't you know that?" And I think
Madeleine Albright did it out of a sense that American media and
American culture had triumphed in the world.
So when I went to USIA I tried to get my colleagues to stop
and learn more about America. I was and still am a regular reader
of The Washington Times, and some of my colleagues may
remember that I used to take it into the staff meetings. Nobody
else ever read it. One reason I took it was because of that second
page on culture, which I thought was so important in describing the
growth of home schooling and of all the other things
happening, and I don't think my colleagues with whom I worked, for
understandable reasons, really understood what was happening in
I tried to get us to understand that the world did not really
admire us, they envied us, and that is a different kind of impulse.
So I switched as much as I could from polling to focus groups to
try to get us to understand that the image was not quite what it
was. I took a lot of cues from Prince Charles, who in the early
1990s talked about the gulf between Islam and the West. That is
still very much there; it's the fodder for this problem we're
confronting. I got in great trouble with a The Wall Street
Journal editorial for saying we should listen for awhile. The
Cold War was over, but I loved the fact that Karen Hughes went
on listening tours.
Let me just say that as we leave here today, there is another
meeting across town on the publication of a new book, which is
the largest polling of Muslims around the world that is being
conducted. Actually, it's gone on for six years; they're
talking about 50,000 interviews, and not just in the United States.
This is the summary: Large majorities of Muslims around the world
would guarantee free speech (if it were up to them) and write a new
constitution, and they say religious leaders should have no direct
role in drafting that constitution.
Muslims around the world say that what they least admire about
the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional
values, and some answer that Americans themselves often give that
same answer to the question. When asked about their dreams for the
future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not
conflict and violence. Muslims say the most important thing
Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is
to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect
I think that points more to the challenge we have-aside from
this serious military problem of terrorism, which has now a Muslim
base but has had other bases in the past. I think it's a greater
awareness of this that is the key to what we are struggling with in
a new era. I will say again, although I think we're now more ready
to do it; rethinking how we want to present ourselves to the rest
of the world, explaining America.
Madeleine Albright made this decision. She made it on the basis of
money but also she thought it was all over culturally. I can
remember how angry she was when I was taken to task by the Motion
Picture Association for saying that I thought one of the great
sources of disinformation about America was Hollywood. It's
our best and our worst representation.
Tony Blankley: When I wrote my little book back
in 2005, I predicted that a prominent Western public figure would
call for Sharia law to be respected. A number of reviews harshly
criticized me for being ridiculous. If we were being effective
in communicating our thoughts to the world, even an Archbishop of
Canterbury might not be so obtuse as to think that Sharia law is
what was called for in Britain. I can say that because I'm a former
Englishman and a former Anglican, so I'm not being rude to people
outside my little tribe- although Archbishops of Canterbury have a
long history of being daft, I concede.
A couple of metrics: Hamas and other similarly minded
organizations produce and distribute cartoons with cute little
mice and bunny rabbits that teach young Arab men and women, boys
and girls, to kill Jews, Christians, and Americans who are out to
wipe out Islam. That's one metric.
Another metric: We currently have an insufficient number of
young American men and women 18 years and older volunteering to
join the Armed Services. Every year we have to lower the mental,
moral, and physical standards, we have to pay more in recruitment
fees, more in retention fees, to try to maintain a relatively
puny-sized military today. That's another metric.
Metric three: The European public opinion will not support NATO
keeping their troops in Afghanistan to win the struggle in the
heart of the land from whence came the attacks of 9/11. This is the
world we live in.
I don't have the benefit of having been either a bureaucrat or a
scholar. I've just been a political operative. Before that I was a
prosecuting attorney in Los Angeles for eight years. In both those
lines of work, we have a wonderful metric to see whether we've
persuaded people. When you're a prosecutor, if the criminal goes
free, you've failed to persuade. In politics, on the first Tuesday
after the first Monday, if your candidate loses, you failed to
I would rather see our world communication efforts being run by
people like James Carville and Karl Rove and whoever is the brain
behind Barack Obama's current campaign than the current method by
which we try to communicate. I'm struck by the fact that our world
today, our political culture today, and political correctness
generally, don't even permit us to describe a possible system that
might succeed in protecting us by communicating effectively-not
only around the world, which is part of what public diplomacy is
about, but back home.
We had methods like this during World War II. As you know,
President Roosevelt and his people ran very effective filmmaking
units that in fact did persuade and rally Americans to the cause.
There was a wonderful film made of Wake Island that was shown to
Roosevelt and his wife in the White House, which was meant just for
the troops. It was so moving that afterwards Roosevelt said, "This
should be seen in every theater in America," and it was. Now, I
don't know whether that was considered undemocratic during
FDR's America, but I would live by the standards of democracy that
FDR was able to bring to bear when we were fighting a great world
I don't have the answers at all, but we've got to be honest
enough with ourselves to recognize the kind of danger we're facing
and figure out how we marshal resources, rather than feel so
constrained by current mentalities that all we can do, in the best
of intentions, is shift one little category of our bureaucracy
from point A to point B on the chart. That's not going to solve the
We can't even talk about the problem. I look forward to the
day where we have persuaded the public enough that we have
troops, young men and women, rallying to come to help. Because I
don't believe American young people are less patriotic than their
fathers or grandfathers-I believe that they have not heard the
case, they don't understand the danger, and as a result, we have
failed to communicate to our own people.
Public diplomacy is a big piece, a big central part of any way
in which America communicates. But my little piece of it partially
coincides and partially goes into another zone. The last several
years I was wondering, "Where is it that we are designing and
implementing our world communication strategy? Where is the war
room for America in the war that we've had inflicted upon us by
I don't think there is an effective war room the way there is an
effective war room in a well-run presidential campaign. And there
needs to be, and it needs to have the resources to be able to act.
I agree completely that you need both a strategic capacity and a
decentralized action. That's what a good presidential
campaign is about. You've got a strategic plan, but you've got
plenty of assets out there moving to the sound of the debate.
You don't have to get approval back at headquarters if you're
running a good presidential campaign. If you're running a bad
presidential campaign, you do need to get approval.
Communications and Strategy
The combination of a strategic concept and of strategic resources
driving a communications effort with radical decentralization of
the operation at a tactical level is the kind of communication we
need to be doing around the world and in the United
States. I will leave it at that. I have a sense of urgency,
and I know that a lot of people in this room have talked with, on a
continuing basis, people who are in intelligence services and the
anti-terrorism effort, and they all say it's not a question of if,
but when, and we are going to lose cities to terrible events. We
should not think about merely slowly changing our bureaucracy, but
think much more radically about how we can start protecting
ourselves and communicating effectively.
We come from the land of Madison Avenue and Hollywood. The
Secretary from the State Department was so apt when she talked
about the Santa Barbara example. I was going to use another
example, but she chose a wonderful one.
I was told a few years ago by one of our intelligence
people that Dallas was a higher-ranked terrorist threat than
Houston, although objectively Houston has more infrastructure,
resources, energy, and stuff. The reason was because Dallas
the TV show was seen throughout the world. And so they may be mad
bombers, but they watch Hollywood TV. They thought Dallas was
an important place, just as they thought Santa Barbara was a
The truth is that we have the greatest advertising capacity
in the world and the greatest image-making capacity in Hollywood
and yet we have not persuaded our population sufficiently to have
those wonderful capacities motivated, as they were during World War
II, to communicate on behalf of the country.
Questions and Answers
HARVEY FELDMAN: I was a Foreign Service
Officer, and I was one of the very few Foreign Service
Officers on loan to USIA for a considerable period of time during
the Vietnam War. I was then the Cultural Affairs Officer in Hong
Kong when I started an entirely new program. It was translations
into Chinese. I knew that one day I'd end up in China, and we
were going to need books. I started translating National Book Award
winners-fiction, biography, history-into Chinese.
This brings me to the problem I have with this panel. I've
written many interesting things, but it's all top-down. It's people
in Washington are going to control the message and how it's done. I
submit that you need good people in localities to know what's
necessary in their localities and to get it done. I got the
translators, I founded a publishing company, and we were in
business. By the way, speaking of metrics, I'm also the author of
the single largest-selling book that USIA ever did. It was an
anti-Chinese comic book that sold 7 million copies. Again, this is
not top-down, this is bottom-up.
COLLEEN GRAFFY: I think you are absolutely
correct, and that is why these Public Diplomacy Desk Officers that
I mentioned are in Washington working side by side on the policy.
They're responsible for the regions. They are in daily contact
with the post, so they are pulling from the field.
Our mantra is, "How do we bring value to the field?" And so they
are acting in between both. As an example, I was just on the phone
yesterday with our embassy in Ankara. They want a dance group to be
brought down to Konya. They want our help to get a film production
crew to capture it. Can we get it in in-flight magazines? We're
working together to figure out how we can help the post to get
the best of what they need to do, bring over the dance troupe,
The translation program is absolutely fantastic and it still
goes on, apparently thanks to you. When I was in Sofia in Bulgaria,
I went around the open book market where they have all these books
on Paris Hilton, trashy books on nothing about America, except
for Thomas Friedman's The Earth is Flat, and other books
that would not be out there except that we paid the difference
between making it worth the publisher's time to publish them and to
Unfortunately, finances are limited and it would be wonderful if
non-governmental ogranization communities wanted to adopt regions
and key books and get them translated and have the publishers
do it. It would be a marvelous public-private partnership.
TONY BLANKLEY: One of our problems is that, as
everybody knows, we have very few Arabic translating capabilities.
I find it shocking that here we are, six years after 9/11, and
we've had no serious effort to dramatically increase our
capacity to translate. There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world,
and most of them speak Arabic. I understand there are questions of
reliability, etc. Our government agencies have been ramping up
their traditional methods of getting translators. So we have
20 percent or 30 percent more-whatever the numbers are-when
what we need are thousands and thousands of people with that
If FDR had been given the challenge, he would have figured out
how to have recruited from around the world people to help us
translate so we can monitor the Internet. We can intervene on the
internet around the world, locally. Instead, we've done
nothing other than measure success by slight increments from a
level of Arabic translating capacity that is ludicrously
insufficient, whether it's the FBI, State, or CIA, because we use
the current methods. We haven't thought creatively enough about
those problems. Until we have that capacity, it's going to be very
hard, whether done from Washington or done around the world, to be
able to intervene, persuade, and argue.
COLLEEN GRAFFY: I can only speak for the State
Department, but there is a strategic language program, a convening
of university presidents to encourage it both on the private side,
and also in the government.
MICHAEL DORAN: I'm in complete agreement that
you need to empower people at the local level to do this. There
does, however, also need to be a strategic center looking at these
things, helping to resource the people in the field, and looking at
things from a global point of view. Because we have a global
ideological struggle, and we have other strategic public
diplomacy threats coming from competitors and other agents out
there that require a unit at the center running the campaign.
Second, I tried to put emphasis on the issue of surrogates, of
empowering others get out other messages that have a strategic
effect we want to see. That's basically the idea behind surrogate
broadcasting. Even if an agency that is resourced and given
the authorities to carry out broadcasting is brought into
existence, it's going to take years.
In the short term, something that we can do is drastically
increase the budget of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
RFE/RL has a budget of about $80 million, and if you look at
the Russian language or comparable foreign language broadcasts
of Russian, these are resourced at $220 million or even higher. The
same goes for al-Jazeera.
We're not even really competing in that respect. Something like
doubling the budget of RFE/RL would be something very smart to do
in the short term. That is not the official position of the DOD,
that's just one man's opinion.
CHRIS ARCOS: I left Homeland Security last
year. I was the first Assistant Secretary for International
Affairs, and I spent 26 years in the Foreign Service at USIA and
the State Department. I'm very encouraged by much of what was said,
but at the same time, I'm somewhat despairing. We're trying to have
a public diplomacy discussion in this country, particularly in
Washington. We do not have any collective sense of how to go about
Let me give you an example of what I had to deal with. I had
virtually every Islamic ambassador come to me and tell me how his
people were treated when they arrived in the United States when
they applied for a visa, how they were treated by the Committee on
Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and how they were
treated by Customs and Border Protection. State wasn't talking
to the other agencies, and the other agencies weren't talking. We
have no interagency public diplomacy effort. There's been enormous
damage done because of this lack of talking to each other, and I
would only say to you, Tony, that we can't do what Franklin
Roosevelt did until we decide one day to declare war officially and
mobilize the American people. If we try to do it on the cheap, as
we did with Korea, Vietnam, and now this one...
TONY BLANKLEY: I actually recommended that in
my book, a formal declaration, for precisely that reason.
CHRIS ARCOS: Because that's the only way you
can mobilize the American people.
TONY BLANKLEY: Regarding recruiting trips:
Persuading the country includes the President of the United States.
He hasn't yet, in all these years, ever given a speech to encourage
young men and women to join the Armed Forces. He's made a few
throwaway lines in other remarks. Unbelievable, in my mind. Yes,
the Marines, the Army, the Navy are out recruiting, and I know some
of the men and women who are doing it; they're working very hard.
But beyond the Services themselves, there's been no public
expression of encouragement for our young men and women to join. So
it's not surprising that they're not there.
MARK HUGELINI: I work at the State
Department, and I'm also a graduate student in
Comparative Public Policy. What I'm hearing a lot of is about
creating this new agency. I have several concerns about this. We're
already in the trillions of dollars for our budget. How
much would creating a new agency cost us when you take into
account the fact that we already have the State Department that has
structures in place? We have existing structures that need more
I'm also wondering about a disconnect that would take place if
we had an independent agency. Right now, as Colleen was saying, we
have embedded public diplomacy officers with our desk officers
so they know what's going on right away; there's no disconnect. How
could a new agency overcome these obstacles?
COLLEEN GRAFFY: Very quickly. About domestic
outreach, I think you make a very good point, and it's not quite
what you were describing, but we do have a domestic outreach team
within our EUR Bureau. We select individuals to be hometown
diplomats. They can come back to their home towns to speak at
university schools. We also have an outreach with anyone at the
State Department in our Bureau on academic community groups. I was
speaking at Thunderbird and Arizona State and the World Affairs
Council. That's the sort of outreach that's taking place. We need
to be doing more of it, but it does exist.
How can I disagree with having more resources? I can't, but you
should know that we did get a big boost in the public diplomacy
budget, and also a boost in Foreign Service Officers that will
include people specifically to do more public diplomacy. So that's
And with interagency, it's hard enough to get the different
bureaus within the State Department to recognize how to work
together. So for example, we'll have the Western Hemisphere Bureau
wondering why we're looking at Cuba, not realizing that Cuba is an
issue for Eur
U.S. government agencies are hampered in their efforts to improvepublic diplomacy by a combination of poor leadership, inadequatecoordination, and insufficient resources. As we seek to improve theU.S. image abroad and engage in a war of ideas with Muslimextremism, improving the relevant public diplomacy structures ofthe U.S. government are crucial.
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Helle C. Dale
Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute,
with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in
February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free
enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national
defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973