Can the US government genuinely engage with foreign public?

Comor&Bean state that the American government’s embrace of engagement in PD is delusional because it is virtually an “effort at manipulation” to get foreign audience empathize with American policies, rather than “genuine dialogue.” They suggest the government revise this to “a rhetorical approach based on ethical communication,” which gives people “the right and prospective ability to obtain and judge messages and make decisions that affect them.”


This reminds of an interview I had with Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Senior VP for the Arts at Meridian International Center. He emphasized he always makes sure to deliver programs in the way audience can make their own decision, and tries not to tell audience to think in a certain way.


Moreover, last semester, for my “Cultural Leadership” class, I conducted interviews with leaders in intercultural field. One of the interviewees was Ms. Aimee Fullman. Ms. Fullman mentioned, when she wants to motivate people, she believes it is always important to ask questions, trying to figure out the significance of what they are doing together, in light of “where does this fit into their journey?” Although this interview itself was not about PD, I think her approach is very close to “genuine dialogue” Comor&Bean suggesting, rather than trying to manipulate others to agree with own value.


Comor&Bean say this approach is difficult to achieve since it is “a direct challenge to entrenched US foreign policy norms,” which implies it will take quite a long time for the government to make the shift.


Dr. Sandberg stated one of their advantages over the government is their flexibility. I’m now wondering whether the government really needs to apply this approach by itself? It might be better (or easier) to have more partnerships with non-governmental actors, which can operate with flexibility and independence in carrying out the initiatives?



5 thoughts on “Can the US government genuinely engage with foreign public?”

  1. Great post Emi. I agree with the Comor and Bean that you quote. The United States uses PD to justify its existing and future policies. It is all about manipulation and persuasion than an effort at collaboration. I think the part of Comor and Bean on page 214 where they quote an Egyptian newspaper says it best “it still remains the case that if Obama is to improve the U.S.’s image in the Arab world he has to change those policies and attitudes that were directly responsible for sowing anti-U.S. hatred”. The U.S. government is never going to let a foreign government or public alter or appear to alter its policy if it can help it. The aim, (as it should be), is to achieve foreign policy goals in the interests of the United States not to make friends. It is much easier to do whatever seems like it may accomplish short term goals and create a PD policy or reinterpret international law or a historical narrative to fit that than to try to create a consistent set of policies. This is the case because some issues are politically very sensitive and because making decisions that are in the national interest in the eyes of the current government is always going to be a priority. This state of affairs make it very hard to take PD seriously if it is just a window dressing that accompanies the presence or absence of positive or negative economic and military policy. I think it is incredibly important to communicate and understand the world in order to make or amend current and future policy, improve a country’s image abroad, facilitate an increased exchange of ideas or goods and other goals. However, if this information is not going to be taken into consideration when decisions are made the result is a PD campaign that loses credibility or is not aligned with other policies thereby reducing its effectiveness.

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