Friday, June 12, 2009

Enter McHale

Enter McHale

Discovery Channel former executive Judith McHale, after many months of no Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department, was finally sworn in that position on May 26, having been the object of criticism as a choice for this function because of her lack of foreign policy experience.

As I suggested in a piece in the Guardian (April 22) hers is not an easy task, as she will have to convince skeptics the world over that she

  • is not a Democratic clone of the widely ridiculed Karen “Hurricane” Hughes, a Bush confidante who was in charge of public diplomacy (2005-2007) during his second term;
  • can handle an organization (the State Department), by some considered dysfunctional, that has its own, often arcane, way of doing things;
  • is able to demonstrate to the White House that public diplomacy is an integral part of the foreign policy process;
  • can make it crystal clear that she -- and not the "strategic communications" and psyops chiefs at DoD -- is in charge of public diplomacy;
  • can assure that the State Department work harmoniously and productively with the growing number non-governmental organizations involved in public diplomacy.
On June 11, Ms. McHale gave her first major address as Under Secretary of State, at the Center for a New American Security.

Early on in her remarks, she sought to demonstrate that PD is an integral part of two concepts highly favored by the new administration -- engagement and smart power:
Today we have a President and Secretaries of State and Defense who are committed to renewing our engagement with the people of the world and restoring the kind of leadership that made the United States a force for global progress for so much of our history. The Obama Administration recognizes the central role of public diplomacy as a tool of smart power and an essential ingredient for 21st century statecraft.
She then specified how public diplomacy can promote American security:
We need to develop a multi-dimensional, results-oriented approach that combines traditional outreach with cutting-edge technology to engage with people at all levels of society. Broadly speaking, public diplomacy operates on two levels.

First, communication. This is the air game, the radio and TV broadcasts, the websites and media outreach that all seek to explain and provide context for U.S. policies and action; and

Second, engagement, the ground game of direct people-to-people exchanges, speakers, and embassy-sponsored cultural events that build personal relationships.

It is imperative that we improve on both levels, that we get smarter about how we communicate and more ambitious in how we engage.
And she closed, unfortunately ungrammatically, with the following rather uninspiring rhetorical flourish:
From Cairo to Kabul, from quiet villages to crowded cities, America is once again reaching out a hand of friendship and seeking new relationship[s?]. We know it is the right thing to do and we know, like [sic] General Marshall did, that our future depends on it.
For the U.S. Department of State Office of English Language Programs, please see.

No comments: