Friday, April 29, 2011

Schmidt and Cohen predict the future...

Wikileaks and the Middle East uprisings have illustrated the new challenges government’s face in controlling the impact of technology. As Schmidt and Cohen correctly conclude states will struggle to control information and individuals in the age of social networks.
In the Middle East, new connection technologies have been utilized to mobilize political opposition against despot leaders. Some Middle Eastern governments have been forced to become more open and accountable, such as Egypt and Tunisia. Yet, other governments have used these new tools to constrain opposition and become more closed and repressive. In countries such as Iran and Syria, social networking sites have been utilized by security forces to co-opt protest and search out dissidents. Indeed, there has been a struggle between those striving to promote what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called ‘the freedom to connect’ and those who view that freedom as inimical to their political survival.

Again Schmidt and Cohen correctly conclude that new technologies and networking will clash with well-founded concerns about national security. Dealing with the Wikileak’s releases has posed a particular challenge to America’s precarious balance of transparency v security. What the U.S. government considers secret has risen 75%, from 105,163 in 1996 to 183,224 in 2009, according to the U.S. Information Security Oversight Office However, instead holding “tightly to freedom and openness" as Schmidt and Cohen suggest, the U.S. will likely choose its unprecedented classifications. Meanwhile, Bradley Manning sits in isolation in a Kansas prison, awaiting trial. He face charges that could carry the death penalty for his alleged participation in the leaks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Diplomacy reconceived...from past work...

So this week’s blog was optional. I decided to post part of my lit review for a paper I wrote on the Office of eDiplomacy last semester as it is all about the topic of diplomacy being reconceived.

The Obama administration has made Government 2.0 initiative a priority. There are numerous articles on the possibilities and dangers of using collaborative tools in the government, especially in sensitive areas such as security and diplomacy. Because of the increased transparency and possibility for leaks, some fear that these new policies will create security risks.

NY Times columnist Jesse Lichtenstein’s profile on State Department employees’ Alec Ross and Jared Cohen in July 2010 references three scholars who highlight the controversy in the shifts in diplomatic practice. Evgeny Morozov at Georgetown is a critic of 21st Century Statecraft diplomacy. He sees how autocratic governments can use social media tools to control and repress populations. Scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter, (was until recently) Director of Policy Planning at State, asserts that we are already in a networked world, and we must measure power through our levels of connectedness. Another scholar, Clay Shirky at New York University, articulates that, “The loss of control you fear is already in the past. You do not actually control the message, and if you believe you control the message, it merely means you no longer understand what is going on.”[1]

Two articles in the November 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs magazine further the debate. Secretary Hillary Clinton calls for an emphasis on civilian power through a redefinition of diplomacy and development. She makes a case for more coordination between the State Department and US AID in order to achieve development work that is sustainable and long-term. Her vision, announced as Civil Society 2.0 in November 2009, gives foreign service officers more responsibility to reach out to not only other governments, but also to the private sector and civil society.[2]

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and new to Google from the State Department Jared Cohen, co-authored “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power.” They assert that beyond the nation-state efforts of defense, diplomacy and development, the most useful tools for citizens are created by the private sector in terms of hardware and software. They reference previous debates on what is most useful in development projects, such as whether modernization approaches coming from governments are effective. They argue that while governments and the private sector will continue to be the most influential, that if these powers don’t consider civilians and NGOs, efforts at development and diplomacy will fail. They acknowledge historical debates about communications technologies and the inherent security risks and potential benefits in any new technology. They also see how technology can act as a disintermediation tool in terms of opposition groups getting their messages out. Their underlying message is that progress can only be made when all groups are taken into consideration.[3]

In the October 2010 Foreign Service magazine, Marc Grossman wrote an article called “Speaking Out: Defining the Ideal Diplomat”. He was a Foreign Service officer from 1976-2005, with his last post as Under Secretary of Political Affairs from 2001-2005. He believes that new employees must have training that includes a “respect for the history of American diplomacy, a focus on leadership and accountability, guidance on how to link policy and resources, skill at program direction, and readiness to use new media.”[4] He also spells out that “Today’s diplomats must be able to work effectively with the interagency community, as well as overseas counterparts, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.”[5] His article reflects a larger trend present in not only government agencies, but also other agencies working on development projects. One of these trends is the increasing focus on multistakeholderism, where government agencies work with non-governmental agencies (NGOs), the private sector, and citizens to achieve their goals.[6]

[1] Lichtenstein, “Digital Diplomacy -,” 4.

[2] Clinton, “Leading through Civilian Power: Redefining American Diplomacy and Development,” 15.

[3] Schmidt and Cohen, “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion on Power.”

[4] Grossman, “Speaking Out: Defining the Ideal Diplomat,” 13.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Levinson, “Class Lecture I.”

Another One Bites the Dust:, We Hardly Knew You

While at the State Department last summer, I heard quite a bit about, the Web site begun at the tail end of Condoleezza Rice's tenure as Secretary of State as a multi-language home base for the United States' public diplomacy efforts. So I was surprised to see this short article stating that, as of March 31st, no longer exists, as State has abandoned ship and is "refocusing" their resources on Facebook and Twitter, which they call "push" efforts.

Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about this move. On the one hand, yes, Facebook and Twitter are great ways to connect with people all over the world. Absolutely. On the other hand, I can't help but think of Malcolm Gladwell's article, "Small Change," that we read earlier this semester, which takes a skeptical view of the power of social networking sites to effect meaningful political and social change because of their non-hierarchical structure. As he says, "Facebook and the like are tools for building networks, which are the opposite, in structure and character, of hierarchies. Unlike hierarchies, with their rules and procedures, networks aren't controlled by a single central authority."

I certainly understand why State wants to utilize Facebook and Twitter more than they have, especially in terms of individual embassies' and consulates' presence. But I'm not sure they should be totally abandoning the model either. It looked more official, more like it was coming from somewhere important. And State saw that as a bad thing, I guess. This despite the fact that Secretary Clinton, in the article we read last week, said that "public diplomacy must start at the top." While the directives to use social media do come from that top, I still think the United States needs a central Web site where all of its current information about public diplomacy initiatives is in one place. And I fear that all this jumping on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagon could ultimately have underwhelming results. The "weak ties" that these networks engender, while they may increase "resilience and adaptability," may not be as effective in the long run as more structured platforms like a formal Web site. It's a toss-up, though. Since I can't look at the Web site anymore, I can't say whether it was attractive, well-organized, or full of worthwhile content. If not, then maybe moving to Facebook and Twitter exclusively wasn't a totally bad idea--but why not try to revamp the Web site instead of abandoning the format entirely? This example shows how much work still needs to be done to make real strides in America's public diplomacy strategy.

It's All About the Strategy!

Zahara asks if US public diplomacy should focus on telling its story or building relationships. Is this even a real question? There are plenty of stories to tell, from wiping out the Native Americans to the War in Iraq –most of which would probably not help us create trusting relationships with the countries of the world. How to build relationships should be the focus of US PD efforts; however, in order to do this we must gain more credibility from foreign audiences and show that we actually want to help someone other than ourselves. The PD focus of countries such as China and Cuba is on developmental, medical and educational aid in developing countries; and while the US is the number one country that gives humanitarian aid, these efforts are not as efficient and publicized. In my opinion, US PD should focus more on listening to the issues of other countries and responding with action.

Zahara argues however, that even with a basis on relationship building, strategies would still be ineffective as a result of not fully understanding “the overarching strategy or grand strategy that conditions both strategy and tactics” (157). More professionals in the field of communication should be included in policy decision making so that this idea of grand strategy is not overlooked. Botan outlines four grand strategies: the intransigent, resistant, cooperative and integrative (157-159). I find this idea very interesting and useful, and like Zahara, agree that implementing any of these strategies is still pointless if the environment hasn’t been analyzed to gauge which strategy can be most effective. One would think that the importance of having a strategy would be the first step to implementing pd to foreign audiences, however it would appear that this has not been the case. While US PD reports that two way communication and listening are what is most important, communications theory is not truly being analyzed or implemented to reach these goals.

In order to do more than just ‘tell our story,’ the US government must recognize the importance of cross-cultural and communications research to include in PD efforts and implement them with a clear strategy in mind. It is hard to estimate the result of a PD initiative; however, the US is capable of doing a much better job gaining credibility by first taking these steps.


R.S. Zahara “Grand Strategy: From Battles to Bridges” in Battles to Bridges: US Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy after 9/11 (2010)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Does US Smart Power Exists

I was very inspired reading after Hilary Rodham Clintons Leading Through Civilian Power Subtitle: Redefining American Diplomacy and Development. Clinton talked about the “smart power” approach, which is needed to help solve global problems and for the US to find a balance between hard and soft power.

Clinton states, “We must not only rebuild—but also rethink, reform, and recalibrate.” This notion I believe is vital! I think the US, as well as other nations, have very big problems with change. Just like people, governments get in the habits of certain ways to do things and have tribulations to co-evolve with the developments of the time. The world is changing, relationships are changing, problems are changing…. So the US must change their means of diplomacy and development. We do see the US doing this, but not at a fast enough pace.

This is not to say that the US cannot still use traditional forms of diplomacy which Clinton notes will remain critical to advance the US agenda; but like Clinton affirms, “it is not enough.” I agree that people must work together, and engagement must go beyond just governments; we must also leverage power by creating connections. Everything that Clinton is saying I agree with, so is she following through? Are these changes being made?

One of her points that hit very close to home was the notion that “although the world’s problems are vast, the United States’ resources are not.” The US must take advantage of creating partnerships. However, this seems to be very hard for the US. For example, with the current partnership of nations involved in helping rebel forces in Libya, the US continues to be bombarded that they are not doing enough, that they have the power to take the lead, so why are they not taking it?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing Follow the Leader

Japan is of particular significance to our group's case study of South Korea's Public Diplomacy. Relations between Japan and Korea have been strained in the past, due to their colonial history. Nonetheless, Korea has had trouble promoting awareness and improving its image abroad, and has looked to the success of Japan as a model. As a result, Korea has adopted some of the same public diplomacy tactics as kind of a roadmap for gaining international recognition, and incidentally, along the way relations between the two have improved.

Tadashi Ogawa's chapter on the Origin and Development of Japan's Public Diplomacy highlights several aspects of Japanese public diplomacy which I noticed were mirrored by some of Korea's recent initiatives. In 2004, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was reformed to include culture more strategically as a public diplomacy resource. This led to the incorporation of public relations and cultural exchange into a newly established Public Diplomacy Department (PDD). Similarly, Korea established the Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PCNB) in January 2009. It also takes a public relations market approach to improving Korea's image, and has focused on advancing policies aimed at promoting the country’s culture and history worldwide.

Ogawa points out that a weakness of the Japanese approach is that there is no inter-ministerial coordination system within the Japanese government to discuss overall public diplomacy strategies or advise on resource allocation, performance, management, and evaluation. Korea has the same problem of a lack of cohesion around its PD efforts which have resulted in weak branding campaigns that have fallen flat.

A more successful aspect of Japanese strategy that Korea is trying to recreate is leveraging the success of pop-culture abroad. Similar to the J-Pop phenomenon, K-Pop first took off as a market phenomenon where cultural products gained popularity with global consumers. Recognizing the potential to wield soft power from the K-wave, (aka Hallyu), as Japan did with the J-wave, the Korean government has started subsidizing firms that promote Korean culture abroad, and allocating funding for production of new cultural and media products. In Japan part of the mass appeal of cultural products can be attributed to the "odorless" nature of exports like anime and manga, which Allison describes in Attractions of the J Wave. To quell animosity and perceptions of cultural hegemony in neighboring Asian countries, Korea has adopted a similar strategy for its pop-culture productions, favoring a more pan-Asian image.

2002 was a year where Japan and Korea united their PD efforts directed at the world as well as each other. They co-hosted the FIFA World Cup, and the Presidents agreed to designate 2002 as the Year of Japan-ROK National Exchange and to promote exchange in fields such as culture, sports, youth, regional exchange, and tourism. Ogawa notes how the Japanese perception of Korea was dramatically improved and, going forward relations between the two have been stable, thanks in large part to numerous people-to-people exchanges.

Japan: Four points

Point one: Maybe some overlap and less centralization is good for PD

Reading the article by Tadashi Ogawa on the history of Japan’s PD made me wonder if it is better to have PD programs and structures more loosely organized. He looks at how after WWII, Japan’s PD was based on the British model, where the different actors involved in creating and running programs did not have a centralized organizing body. It made me think that while I think it is good to not duplicate efforts, maybe overlaps can be positive, as long as the different organizers don’t feel threatened when those overlaps occur and can instead build off of each other. Also, sometimes smaller efforts that don’t have to go through chains of command can be more effective and connected to specific locations.

Point two: My Japan unit in 4th grade

My elementary school in NH (not a bastion of diversity) had a country or focus for each grade to study (Russia in 3rd, Medieval Europe in 5th). In 4th grade we had an elaborate Japanese festival, where each of us learned cultural and artistic skills that we then shared. I was in charge of an origami table, and then ran a tea ceremony. Other kids learned flower arranging (one of our classmates was Japanese and his mother came in to help teach us). We learned some words in Japanese and other parts of Japan’s history. I am wondering now if this program was part of the program in the 1980s by the Department of Cultural Exchange to promote more cultural exchange. It certainly made an impression on me at age 9 and made me want to go there.

Point three: Odorlessness

We have talked about how the success of Japanese anime is due in part to it not being traceable back to its country/culture of origin. The class discussion brought up that if a product is odorless, than how can it be used as a PD program? But, if the point is to take the Cull approach to a PD where the origin of a program no longer matters, than maybe odorlessness is in fact key to PD. Because then the message may get through without needing the messanger as the focus.

Point four: PD as reciprocity

I was intrigued to learn about how Japan has had PD programs which are also about educating Japanese people about other Asian cultures. Perhaps the US could learn from this. We could certainly use a bit more education internally about “otherness”. The history of why PD in the US is separated from domestic programs made some sense when the government and media were able to gatekeep information. But with the international flows of media, it would make more sense for the US to embrace PD as not about messaging differently to domestic and overseas audiences. Instead, what if the US were to also think about the reciprocity of internal PD as a way to build bridges? It seems like in Japan, this approach has helped to educate Japanese people about other cultures, and created ties between people from Japan and other countries.