Copeland (2009) advocates for the need to restructure the Foreign Service and integrate the classic diplomacy with the public diplomacy dimension in order to better serve purposes of development, security and long-term strategic relationships between states. Interestingly, to me it seems like a call for utilizing public diplomacy to give decision-makers the power they have lost with the rise of globalization and public diplomacy.
I think that the diplomatic efforts in Syria and Iran are a good example of growing unpopularity of war and an increased focus on diplomatic dialog. It seems that the framework of the talks tried to bond together issues of development in these countries with security concerns on the other side, just as suggested by Copeland. However these efforts do not fall under the framework of public diplomacy, rather it’s simply a new age where dialog is preferred to war (because of undesired financial and social consequences of warfare). The governments and not the people are still the ones managing this dialog. Moreover for now these efforts did not produce particularly positive outcomes.
Also, issues concerning security and development require vast financial resources and a high degree of cooperation on behalf of regulatory agencies. This can hardly be achieved by PD. Advocacy and networking are very important in the process but the essential decisions still go back to the governmental level. The root causes of underdevelopment and inequality remain historical governmental policies that can be changed mainly at the higher rank of decision-making and not by diplomats becoming better at networking with local populations.
So from my perspective it seems that the concept of transformational public diplomacy is essentially about using advocacy to empower governments to take actions on issues of development and security. Until now PD was mainly used to promote a rather shallow dialog between populations, focusing on softer issues. TPD is trying to make PD relevant to the more crucial decision-making, but still, between governments.
This week Ban Ki Moon made a major diplomatic blunder. The issue revolves around the second round of peace talks regarding Syria and the Assad regime. According to Amia Nakhoul and Khaled Yacoub Oweis of Reuters, “Ban said Iran’s foreign minister had told him Tehran accepted the 2012 statement [from the first Geneva conference peace talks], which includes a requirement that Syria set up a transitional government.” Officials in Tehran denied this premise and “the Syrian opposition threatened to pull out of the conference and Western countries demanded Ban withdraw the invitation.”1 So that he did; a move that further highlighted the weakness of this second round of peace talks, calling into question how much good they can actually accomplish.
This is not an unfounded critique of the UN peace talks—Reuters correctly reported that it has been a year and a half since the first Geneva conference concluded without a compromise. Since then, all other diplomatic endeavors have also failed. To me, this forces us to question whether soft power approaches to conflict resolution can succeed in combatting hard power problems. As a student of International Communication and Diplomacy, I would like to think they could—but situations like this call these idealistic hopes into question.
Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote on this topic recently. She urged the UN to remember the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine, and focus the peace talks on getting the different factions to agree on allowing humanitarian aid access to civilians and to stop targeting medical personnel on the ground. Slaughter goes further, asserting, “If Assad’s Ba’ath party cannot uphold that responsibility, it forfeits its own legitimacy as a participant in any future government.”2 This would in fact solve the political aspect of this conflict by ousting Assad, but a resolution only has as much power as the signers and backers give it. If the Assad Regime does not support the R2P Doctrine, then they have no reason to delegitimize their own authority.
Bringing the debate back to U.S. Foreign Policy, Slaughter implores President Obama and his administration to “put the credible threat of force back on the table.” She asserts the only time in this three-year civil war that diplomacy has succeeded was when the U.S. made the credible threat of missile strikes. This threat, however, is no longer credible if there is no power behind the punch. Thus, Slaughter suggests, the U.S. and regional partners need to be willing to follow up and strike the Assad Regime if (read—when) this second set of peace talks fails.3
Will diplomacy win? Only time can tell. But from what we have witnessed so far, you cannot broker peace with individuals in the business of terror.