Thursday, June 17, 2010
Cultural Diplomacy and Strategic Communications/Public Diplomacy
On Thursday, June 17th, bright and early at 9:00 am at 121 Cannon on Capitol Hill, I attended, at the kind invitation of Michael Clauser, Congressional Aide in Rep. Mac Thornberry's office, a briefing of the Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy caucus. The purpose of the briefing (which lasted over an hour) was to discuss the White House's National Framework for Strategic Communication, the “1055 Report” on Strategic Communication (Defense Department), the Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy (State Department).
The speakers who (in order of their presentations) summarized these reports were Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications; Rosa Brooks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law and Humanitarian Policy; and Kitty DiMartino, Chief of Staff for the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy.
There was time for a few questions after the speakers' presentations. I was among those who raised their hands, in order to ask about the role of cultural diplomacy (CD) in the administration's plans for strategic communications.
Noting that the impact of American culture was problematical in some countries, I asked why CD -- which I defined as a government's presentation of its country's culture -- had not been mentioned during the briefing, except (in a related way) when Ms. DiMartino cited "cultural programming" as one of public diplomacy's activities.
Mr. Rhodes politely said mine was "an important question," stressing the White House's interest in culture as seen in the April Muslim-focused entrepreneur's summit hosted by President Obama. He then went on to show the administration's concern with culture in its emphasis on using US education, science-technology, and sport (he mentioned basketball in Turkey) as vehicles to promote the US overseas.
Ms. Brooks, who spoke next, simply exclaimed "American Idol," to which I retorted by uttering "Sex and the City."
In a lengthier reply, Ms. DiMartino said that cultural diplomacy had been a topic of discussion in the recent Public Diplomacy review at the State Department at which "field officers" (Public Affairs Officers -- PAOs) had taken part.
Ms. DiMartino underscored that cultural diplomacy is a tool of US foreign policy, not an activity in and of itself; those who see it thus, she said, should work for organizations other than the State Department, such as NGOs.