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Considering U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Changing Context of Diplomacy around the World

This semester we have traversed the main concepts, debates, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of public diplomacy. We have discussed the “new” PD, amid the various kinds of political power, from hard to social to soft to power of the people. We have compared PD approaches of small, middle, and large powers, amid the tensions of domestic, intermestic, and transnational politics and identity.

As Bruce Gregory wrote in 2011 (“American public diplomacy: Enduring characteristics, elusive transformation,” Hague Journal of Diplomacy 6) and in February, 2014 ( ), diplomacy is going increasingly public because of the growing public nature of political power. At the same time, the U.S. government is still a preeminent power. Gregory (2011) argues that American public diplomacy should change with these times, but that an internal transformation of U.S. PD is elusive. His argument suggests to me that U.S. public diplomacy must go beyond a mindset and practice of ‘adapt or die’ to an approach of ‘transform, institutionally, or lose relevance, if not sovereignty.’

Of course, the present and future of U.S. PD have implications for other governments’ PD. James Pamment returned from the International Studies Association convention last month and blogged — — about some of the ideas, debates, and challenges explored in Toronto about PD in the US and around the world.

I’m looking forward in our penultimate class session to hearing your perspectives on current U.S. public diplomacy, in the context of PD and politics around the world. About the 2011 Gregory piece in particular, I am also curious: what postscript might you add to the article’s assessment of the first two years of the Obama administration’s diplomatic engagement?

11 thoughts on “Considering U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Changing Context of Diplomacy around the World”

  1. Thank you Prof. Trent for giving us all kinds of perspectives on the global public diplomacy. This week’s reading is very interesting to me which reminds me another article I read in the past few days.

    This article pointed out that now “it’s time for Congress to hit the ‘reset’ button on public diplomacy.”

    In the last part of the article, the author states that “It’s time for Congress to hit the “reset” button on public diplomacy. One reform idea that’s gathering steam: abolish the BBG. The Voice of America would then be stood up as an independent organization, operating under a clear, concise charter and the direction of a long-serving nonpartisan CEO. Radio Free Europe and other BBG-managed services that operate mostly as independent contractors could be placed under the direction of the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED could then keep them focused on promoting democracy and freedom of expression.

    Along with better oversight, our public diplomacy needs better investment strategies. Washington needs to stop cutting language services, radio and shortwave broadcasting and start acting like a serious superpower. ”

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