All posts by trent625

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?

Update from U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Hello, All.

I wanted to pass along to those of you who might be interested…

The minutes and transcript from the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s March 5 public meeting on the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative are available at: .

The next ACPD public meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 8 from 10 to11:30 am. The topic is ‘Defining the Value of Cultural Diplomacy in National Security.’

-Debbie Trent

Thursday, April 3 — Guest Speaker on PD at SIS

Communicating India's Soft Power-Daya Thussu


This Thursday at 1 pm in SIS 300, Daya Thussu, Indian diplomat, will give a talk on PD around the world. Thussu  was recognized at the International Studies Association convention last week  with the Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Communication  Division, and is a leading figure in global media and international communication research. You are all encouraged to attend.

Follow-up to the Week 10 Session on the “Middle Powers”

Hello, All.

As always, the student presentations on the readings yesterday were stimulating, and, just as predictably, there was so much deeper and wider we could have gone on the expansive space of the so-called “middle powers.” I wanted to share two more examples of PD where states in the “middle” space pursue national and ‘mutual diplomatic’ interests (as the Evan Potter reading points out). They are both in the broadcasting realm.

One is Radio Netherlands ( ). Every time I hear one of their reports, I learn about a different perspective on one cultural or political slice of “news” and I always feel better informed, even though I understand that there is a connection to the Dutch government, which has its national interest, communication strategy, and this or that radio program as a tactic.
The other example comes out of the US-based programming of National Public Radio. It bears on last evening’s discussion of Mexico (Rivas, 2011) and place branding/identity. NPR’s Steve Inskeep is doing a series called “Borderland” (e.g., ). Some of the broadcasts are complimentary of Mexico and US-Mexican border cooperation, others not-so-much. Regardless, they get me thinking. ‘Remember a comment one student made last week (when we were discussing sub-state diplomacy) after traveling over spring break to one part of Mexico where security is not an issue? A retired diplomat/dear friend who served in Juarez about a decade ago and is also listening to this series mentioned that Juarez may still be experiencing a lot of crime and corruption but is doing much better these days.
So, I’ll keep lobbying my family to gather south of the border, sending them links to credible, well-evidenced reports. Perhaps they will at least reconsider what they are reading in the mass media. I welcome your thoughts on Radio Netherlands, Mexico, and other topics of a “middle power” nature 🙂 .


Debbie Trent

Going Deeper on the Situation in Ukraine

Hello, All.

Some may be familiar with Stephen Cohen, recently emeritus at NYU and Princeton. I have read him for decades, but in recent weeks find most helpful his commentary on the political turmoil in Ukraine, and Western/Global Northern responses to actions by the Ukrainian and Russian governments. Because we have discussed the PD implications of these dynamics, and some have blogged on the topic, I thought you might like a link: .

As folks who study IR well appreciate, the politics are very complicated. I think that the media that we most tend to turn to (NYT, WP, NPR, WSJ, Economist…) are providing superficial if not inaccurate coverage. Analysts including Cohen are much more reliable sources. Whether, as recent class readings suggest, his blogging will have an effect is another matter, but I am going to turn increasingly to him and other analysts (easy enough to identify via the AU library databases/reference librarian’s help).

Update for Week 8 – Cultural Diplomacy

Greetings, All.

I’m mindful of the possibility of intense weather and increased potential for losing electricity/internet connections in the next 24 hours, so I wanted to post this soonest.

As mentioned last week, Aimee Fullman will be our guest speaker this Wednesday. You can read about her work at .  Ms. Fullman cautions that the website is in need of updating, but on Wednesday she will share a very interesting, tailored slide presentation and more on her multi-faceted story working in the field of cultural relations. With her presentation during the second half of class, and several students leading discussion on readings, an inspiring class is in store.

Please also monitor Blackboard announcements and AU mail for updates (as long as I have electric/internet connectivity).

-Debbie Trent