Thanksgiving Thoughts For 2021 Afghan Pilgrims

David Von Drehle’s column in the Washington Post’s Thanksgiving Day edition sums it all up: “Gratitude is a muscle. It strengthens us with use.” “Ultimately,” the widely-followed columnist concludes, “gratitude is somehow linked to hope and hope is the pre-requisite of action.” “One must be grateful for the Earth before one can save it. One…

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Lessons From Glasgow Climate Summit

The Council on Foreign Relations, a respected observer, summarizes the summit findings in an authoritative essay entitled: “What the Summit Did and Did Not Accomplish”. Its summary: Would you consider COP26 a success?  The quick response, according to the CFR, was blunt: “Yes, but barely.”  The recently-concluded summit, it said, “delivered on its primary goal…

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Lessons From Covid-19 And A Look Ahead

The New York Times reports Nov. 17 that the Biden administration plans to invest billions of dollars to expand United States production of coronavirus vaccines to deal with the deadly plague at home and abroad. “That goal,” according to Times correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “is a proposed first step in a new plan”, enabling the…

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students sitting together in a coffee shop

Amid pandemic decline in study abroad, U.S. remains the top attraction

According to a report released today, the U.S. remains the premier destination for international students, but as expected, overall student numbers fell during the pandemic.  The Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors, released November 15, reports a total of 914,095 international students studied at American universities in the 2020/21 academic year. That number represents…

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Democracy Is Fragile — And Resilient, Too

In an article in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes her concerns about United States foreign policy in the 2020s. “Historically,” she says, “our republic’s claim on the global imagination has been inseparable from its identity — however imperfectly embodied — as a champion of human freedom. That…

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Climate Talks: A Long Way To Go

A draft agreement at the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, expresses “alarm and concern” about our planet’s global warming in 2021 and well beyond. The Associated Press reported on November 10 that coal mining and production remain a principal element of that concern. “There is a big push at the summit by most developed countries…

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Climate Change: It’s High Time To Act

At a landmark global summit in Glasgow this week, world leaders must reckon with and take specific steps to curb global warming. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently described the crisis: “We have reached a tipping point in the need for climate action. The disruption to our climate and our planet is already worse than we…

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Glasgow Climate Change Summit: Prospects

On October 31, representatives of around 200 countries are set to gather in Scotland for an annual U.N. conference on climate change. Central to their debate:  progress on limiting global warming in the 2020s. There is a growing popular consensus that there’s not a minute to lose in making such reforms.  President Biden told the…

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Colin Powell: A Leader For The Ages

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff died early October 18 after complications caused by COVID-19, according to his family. He was 84 years old. As the family put it: “General Powell was fully vaccinated, and we want to thank the staff of the Walter Reed National…

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Taiwan: Epicenter Of A Coming Global Crisis?

The world must be fully aware of the perils that would erupt should China occupy its tiny southeast Pacific coastal neighbor, Taiwan, and abolish it as a separate, internationally recognized republic. How would the United States and the world react if Beijing eliminated Taiwan and integrated it with the mainland? Background of the current situation…

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The Arctic: A Fresh Focus For The United States?

New legislation introduced in the United States Senate would expand America’s attention to the strategically important Arctic region to our north. The proposed law would establish a new Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for Arctic Affairs, “it’s high time that we have such representation,” according to Sherri Goodman, a former United States Deputy Undersecretary for…

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Helping Afghan Child Refugees In America: A Pair Of Moving Examples

Starting October 1st, the Biden administration is doubling the ceiling on Afghan refugees re-settling here, permitting local communities to expand aid to displaced Afghans arriving in the United States. Washington is expanding the total to 125,000, according to local newspapers in New Jersey and Florida. “It’s just the humane thing to do… they are humans…

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Climate Change: A Grim Update

A U.S. State Department report, “The Climate Crisis; Working Together for Future Generations,” sums it all up: “Bold action to tackle the climate crisis is more urgent than ever.  The record-breaking heat, floods, storms and drought, and wildfires devastating communities around the world underscore the grave risks we also face. “Through our actions at home…

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"Our View" label

Our View – Public Diplomacy and Afghanistan

Following is the text of a letter from the Public Diplomacy Council and the Public Diplomacy Association of America to members of congressional foreign affairs committees regarding public diplomacy on the situation in Afghanistan.   The Public Diplomacy Council and Public Diplomacy Association of America are non-partisan, non-profit organizations committed to promoting the professional practice,…

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portrait Lee Satterfield

Biden Nominee for Educational and Cultural Affairs Gets a Senate Hearing

The Biden Administration’s nominee for a major part of U.S. public diplomacy received a favorable hearing from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Assistant secretaries for educational and cultural affairs are traditionally primus inter pares in State’s public diplomacy leadership circle.  In 2019, the bureau’s budget was $700.9 million.  Only the U.S. Agency for Global Media…

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map of Cuba and Haiti

Caribbean Crises: What’s Next?

By Alan Heil In rapid succession, new developments to the south are potentially threatening U.S. security.  Among them, crises in Haiti and Cuba. According to Politico, the Pentagon has made it clear it has no appetite for new U.S. military engagements nearby, yet experts and former officials are calling on President to devote more resources…

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map of haiti

Haiti: Another Crisis

By Alan Heil The small Caribbean state of Haiti is once again plagued by seemingly unresolvable deadly turmoil. Located at the western end of the island of Hispaniola 400 miles south of Florida, this tiny country of 11 million people once again finds itself in the most horrific crisis this year in the Western hemisphere.…

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A Global Dialogue About Citizen Diplomats

The largest activity of the Public Diplomacy Council is probably one that most members don’t know about.  I refer to the Citizen Diplomacy Research Group. Formed in June, 2020 by PDC member and sociologist and nonprofit executive Paul Lachelier with assistance from the PDC’s Debbie Trent, this affinity group includes a good number of PDC…

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Climate Change: Challenges Ahead

By Alan Heil Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re expert scientists from a distant universe with our first opportunity for a close-up view from space of what its inhabitants call Planet Earth. Their recent studies have detected a recurring increase in surface temperatures on that planet. What we see in this first closeup glimpse…

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jet taking off with mountains in distance

Afghanistan: Perils or Promise?

By Alan Heil Today’s news that the United States and NATO allies have departed the Bagram Air Base, the largest military installation in Afghanistan, calls for reflection. Twenty years ago, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan. That was just a couple of weeks after al-Qaeda terrorists from Afghanistan killed 2,977 Americans in the infamous September 11 attacks…

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Commencement Remarks 2021: Wisdom for the Ages

by Alan Heil Graduate addresses can blend together as compositions rendered in a fine orchestra.   To quote Amelia Nierenberg in the New York Times: “Graduation is really a victory.”  Or, as basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told graduates at Washington University in St. Louis: “Surviving means that you have come through the catastrophe, but you’re still…

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Taiwan: An Accelerating Crisis?

by Alan Heil The tiny democratic Chinese-speaking Pacific island republic lies within sight of Communist China and is now facing twin crises: a coronavirus outbreak in addition to long-standing potential threats from the mainland superpower. Taiwan’s population is 24 million, compared to mainland China’s 1.4 billion. Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University describes the Taiwan…

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Gaza: What Should Happen Now?

By Alan Heil Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded a two-day mission to the Middle East May 26, winning what the Associated Press termed “valuable diplomatic support” for a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas leaders. This followed quickly on the heels of an 11-day war that cost the lives of nearly 250…

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Gaza Crisis: No Pause In Sight

by Alan Heil An anxious world is waiting. As of dusk on the eighth day since a few Israelis evicted Palestinian residents from their homes in East Jerusalem, sustained retaliatory air attacks from Gaza and Israeli responses have set in motion the Middle East’s most serious fighting since 2014. As nightfall approached in the region…

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Middle East map with toy cannon

The Middle East Cauldron Erupts Again

by Alan Heil Full-blown conflict in Israel and Gaza, triggered by Israeli seizure May 10 of several Palestinian homes and expulsion of their residents in east Jerusalem… Hundreds of civilians or soldiers killed or injured in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself during the initial week of this latest tragic chapter of Arab-Israeli tensions……

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Samantha Power at lectern

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. USAID GAINS SAMANTHA’S POWER: USAID has some 9,000 staff members working in about 100 countries. Many of these professionals, especially including public affairs personnel, must be very happy with their new Administrator, Samantha Power, the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, war correspondent who got her start in Bosnia, and human rights advocate. She began…

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Myanmar’s Horrific Crisis

Myanmar, or Burma, on May 1st entered its fourth month under a brutal military regime.  That regime has killed more than 700 citizens and innocent civilians since it seized power on February 1. That was the very day a newly elected democratically parliament in Myanmar was about to hold its initial meeting. The Association for…

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protest sign "There Is No Planet B"

U.S. Takes Lead on Climate Change with Virtual Summit

At a two-day Washington virtual summit April 22-23, President Biden urged the 40 participating nations to counter the problem of increasing planetary pollution seriously and with the urgency that crisis demands. One approach:  what philanthropist Bill Gates describes as huge new public and private investment in innovation globally to avoid catastrophic climate change.  “Just using…

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Climate Envoy John Kerry with Secretary of State Biden at table

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. UNITED STATES PULLS OFF “LEADERS SUMMIT ON CLIMATE”:  This year’s “Earth Day” was different. It really was “Earth Days” — plural.  April 22-23, 2021 were rather remarkable days for the Biden Administration and U.S. public diplomacy. Timed for the annual “Earth Day” observance, the White House and State Department quite smoothly managed a two-day Leaders…

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Africans performing traditional dance

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. COMING UP: A COSTLY U.S. DEPARTURE FROM AFGHANISTAN?: For literally decades, one of the most challenging and frustrating jobs for U.S. diplomats, as well as the military and non-governmental organizations, has been trying to deal with the Afghanistan war and the Afghan government and the Taliban. Billions have been spent on various well-intended “nation-building,” “reconstruction,” and…

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Aung San Suu Kyi portrait

A Springtime Revival of Pro-Democracy Activism?

From East Asia to North Africa, we are witnessing a determined effort on behalf of proposed democracies struggling to overcome authoritarian regimes. These occur in two key countries, Myanmar (previously known as Burma) in East Asia, and Algeria on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Daily and unrelenting protests in Myanmar threaten a dictatorship that…

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Aerial photo of container vessel in Suez Canal

Some Lessons of Suez, 2021

The limited flow of traffic through the Suez Canal in late March and likely in the first day or so of April has wreaked havoc on the global economy.  That’s because a huge freight ship twisted sideways, lodged its bow and stern in both canal banks and blocked all vessels from using the vital link…

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Conference stage with speaker

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. GLOBAL TIES U.S. MARKS 60 YEARS OF CITIZEN DIPLOMACY: The March 22-26, 2021 National Meeting of Global Ties U.S. — the nation-wide network of partners and community supporters which makes the successful, State Department-funded International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) possible — was historic. Not only did the huge annual gathering mark the 60th anniversary of…

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children walking in refugee camp

The Tragic Case of the Rohingyas

Who are the Rohingyas?  Short answer:  more than a million displaced refugees who fled from Burma to neighboring Bangladesh to escape persecution four years ago, and whose future remains very uncertain even today. The Rohingyas have long have been a matter of regional, as well as international concern.  On March 25, Pakistan, Bangladesh’s western neighbor,…

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Seeds of Democracy in a Tumultuous World

Can the North African country of Libya offer hope for reforms elsewhere? On March 16, a new national unity civilian government took power in Tripoli.  In the words of a recent Washington Post editorial: “After a decade of chaos, the oil rich nation has taken a significant step toward a new political order.” Libya’s recent…

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cherry blossoms Jefferson Memorial

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. HATE CRIMES — ANOTHER PUBLIC DIPLOMACY CHALLENGE: Our ambassadors and PD officers suddenly have a new challenge: explaining what President Biden has called a “skyrocketing spike” of harassment and violence against Asian Americans and the need for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to pass Congress. On several occasions since taking office, President Biden has clearly…

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Dr. Biden at podium

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. HONORING “WOMEN OF COURAGE” AND ADVANCING A “FEMINIST FOREIGN POLICY”: For the past 15 years, the State Department has marked International Women’s Day by recognizing a group of amazing women who have shown unusual courage and leadership. This year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) ceremony, held March 8, 2021, seemed better and more inspiring than…

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Photo of Secretary Blinken and PM Trudeau on a large screen

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. VISITING THE NEIGHBORS – OFFICIALLY, BUT VIRTUALLY:  A major feature of diplomacy has been face-to-face interaction between American senior officials and their foreign counterparts.  Those days — at least for the immediate future — are over during this painful time of border crossing restrictions. As Secretary of State Blinken demonstrated on February 26, 2021, you can…

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Peace Tendrils in a World of Conflict?

For the first time in nearly 20 years, India and Pakistan have announced that they’ve agreed to a ceasefire across their shared border, effective February 26. Joanna Slater of the Washington Post reports from New Delhi that this is the first such announcement between the two Asian neighbors since such sporadic cross-border firings began in…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. MATT POTTINGER, CHINA, AND “VACCINE DIPLOMACY”:  Matt who? Although he is not a household name, the low-profile Pottinger probably had more influence on the Trump Administration’s “get tough on China” policy and strategic communications than anyone else. As NSC’s Asia Director and then the Deputy National Security Advisor from the very start of the Trump…

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Public Diplomacy and the Advocacy Imperative: An Intergenerational Dialogue

By Sherry Lee Mueller and Olivia Chavez The Advocacy Imperative The Public Diplomacy Council mission is to promote excellence in professional practice, academic study, and advocacy for public diplomacy. The first two endeavors are relatively easy to comprehend. It is the third – advocacy – that is often neglected and misunderstood. Yet we are approaching…

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VOA Staff Protests Against Attempted Censorship Erupt in Waning Days of the Trump Administration

Less than a week before the end of President Trump’s term in office January 20, at least 30 VOA journalists and staff members petitioned for the immediate resignation of its new director Robert R. Reilly, and his recently appointed deputy director Elizabeth Robbins.  As the Washington Post reported: “Simmering tensions between journalists and managers at…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. A CHILLING WAKE-UP CALL AND THE “INFORMATION WAR”: As Americans — and people around the world — continue to struggle to understand the stomach-churning January 6, 2021 insurrection in the Capitol and the historic second impeachment of President Trump, one concern is crying out for attention: the intersection between democracy and technology. Policymakers, social media…

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FBI wanted poster for Capitol rioters

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1.CHAOS IN THE CAPITOL AND DEMOCRACY: Any public diplomacy officer who has ever served in a so-called “banana republic” or Third World country — with authoritarian leadership, muzzled media, unfair elections, weak law enforcement, violence, and corruption — could not have been comfortable with the ugliness they viewed on January 6, 2021. As the rioters…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. THE WESTERN SAHARA PUBLIC DIPLOMACY CHALLENGES: President Trump’s historic December 10, 2020 proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara has created new U.S. policy — and PD — challenges. That territory has long been controversial, and it is quite an uncharted area for traditional diplomacy. After Spain withdrew from its then-colony in 1975, Morocco…

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portrait with U.S. flag

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1.ROLLING OUT “AMERICA IS BACK!”: The incoming Biden Administration has named its key foreign policy officials, most of whom are well-known, reassuring names to many within the public diplomacy community. Of the six appointees in the cluster, five have had extensive experience within the State Department. In announcing the appointments on November 24, 2020, President-elect…

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Thanksgiving’s Legacy: Rays of Hope

The ingenuity of hopeful humanity, from a 27-year-old environmental activist in India to President-elect Joseph Biden in United States.  Both have faith that a bright day for weary, afflicted humans the world over must follow a grim winter for mounting victims of the greatest pandemic tragedy (COV-19) this century. According to Washington Post reporter Taniya…

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Uncle Sam Wants You to Be a Citizen Diplomat: Historic Highlights of U.S. Citizen Diplomacy

By Sherry Mueller and Hayley Pottle There is certainly no shortage of foreign policy advice directed at President-elect Biden. The need to restructure the State Department and rebuild America’s diplomatic strength is widely acknowledged. As former defense secretary, Robert Gates, phrased it in his article in the July/August 2020 issue of Foreign Affairs, “Washington has…

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head shot of Mike Anderson with Indonesian temple in background

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1.THE NOT-SO-OPEN “OPEN DOORS” REPORT:The new —  and always useful — Institute of International Education (IIE) annual report on international students is out with findings that are not surprising given the pandemic. Funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the latest Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange found that a “snapshot survey” last…

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Looking Ahead to U.S. International Broadcasting in 2021

President-elect Biden has taken a promising first step to ensure that the five networks uphold that reputation by naming former Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel and Time Magazine columnist as director of a Biden transition team for international broadcasting and other foreign policy assets. America’s five U.S. overseas government multimedia networks face a crucial…

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Piano & PD: Dreams and Passions Inspire Cultural Diplomacy

This past week the Public Diplomacy Council hosted a very special event centered around cultural diplomacy. PDC member and American pianist Pauline Yang shared her musical outreach during public diplomacy visits organized by Ambassadors in Japan, Ethiopia, and Portugal. Her stellar presentation was inspiring and a breath of fresh air when so many virtual events…

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America’s Presidential Transition: Quick Action Needed after Vice President Joe Biden’s decisive electoral win

A record number of U.S. voters cast ballots in the November 3 Presidential election, more than 150 million people. The latest electoral votes are reported as 306 for former vice president Biden and 232 electoral votes for President Trump. Some recounts are still underway, but most U. S. historians say that Joseph R. Biden will…

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PD Word Cloud

The Value, and Values of Public Diplomacy

Joe Biden’s election as president is prompting broad reexamination of the United States’ diplomacy under the glare of a skeptical world.  The U.S. electorate voted for an improvement in relations with traditional allies as well as for greater respect around the globe, and President Biden’s experience and approach to governing will go a long way…

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America’s Publicly-Funded Overseas Networks: An Unrelenting Crisis

The threat to the five international multimedia U.S. networks, at times, seems unrelenting. These networks are a key public diplomacy aspect of the nation’s outreach to at least 100 countries around the world.  Herewith, a summary of the ongoing debate about prospects for their future. In an editorial on October 28, the Washington Post headline…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. MERIDIAN GOES VIRTUAL OVER GLOBAL HEALTH DIPLOMACY: Kudos to Meridian International Center for pulling off its groundbreaking, 5 ½-hr virtual event on October 23, 2020.  Approximately 1,000 people around the world engaged in the nonprofit’s ninth annual Meridian Summit convened and produced by Meridian President and CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday,  former Coordinator of State’s…

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Covid-19: a Universal Tragedy

President Trump’s battle with coronavirus and its spread to several of his top aides have dominated global media since the news broke October 1 that the president had contracted the disease.  The President is one of more than 35 million persons around the world confirmed to have contracted the disease according to the World Health…

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U.S. International Broadcasting: a Crisis in Leadership?

The House Foreign Affairs Committee summoned Michael Pack, the CEO of five publicly-funded overseas networks, to be the principal figure at a long-scheduled hearing September 24.  The problem was: Mr. Pack, though under subpoena after resisting the invitation, never showed up. The main issue:  Mr. Pack’s nearly four-month leadership of the Voice of America, Radio…

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Saks-McMillion with group at a party

Q&A with a Council Member: Marilyn Saks-McMillion

Having highlighted some of the Public Diplomacy Council’s new Rising Professional members this summer, I am shifting the series’ focus to feature several of the PDC’s more experienced members in the coming weeks. My intent to highlight the importance of intergenerational learning echoes PDC President Sherry Mueller’s message in her book Working World, coauthored with…

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Is It the Dawn of a New Middle East?

That was President Trump’s characterization of the treaty signings at the White House September 15 of the first agreements in more than a quarter of a century between Israel and a pair of tiny Arab Persian Gulf states, the United Arab Republic (UAE) and Bahrain. The announcement was rolled out for maximum public diplomacy.  But…

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Paul Richter and Karen Tumulty sitting in their library

Covering Foreign Affairs in a Changing World Featuring Paul Richter and Karen Tumulty

The September 14 First Monday Forum featured two outstanding speakers, Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty and former Los Angeles Times correspondent Paul Richter, author of the book The Ambassadors: America’s Diplomats on the Front Lines. A dynamic husband-wife team, the couple have been regarded as among the best journalists in Washington. With extensive expertise in…

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Remembering Hans “Tom” Tuch

Hans N. (Tom) Tuch, an early and persistent advocate of public diplomacy as an indispensable element in the conduct of U.S. foreign affairs, died on September 7, 2020 at his residence in Bethesda,MD. He was 95. The cause of death were complications following a recent fall.  His seminal book, “Communicating with the World: U.S. Public…

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Q&A with a Council Member: Joe B. Johnson

This next installment of my Q&A Series marks the start of a new chapter; having highlighted some of the Public Diplomacy Council’s new Rising Professional members this summer, I am shifting the series’ focus to feature several of the PDC’s more experienced members in the coming weeks. My intent to highlight the importance of intergenerational…

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Yemen’s Civil War: An Update

Yemen’s civil war, now in its sixth year, has directly affected or cost the lives of up to an estimated 100,000 people. Once again, there’s hope for a breakthrough and settlement of at least some factional differences aimed at ending the world’s most devastating civil conflict. The challenges to U. S. public diplomacy are complex.…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1.TEACHING ABOUT PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND POWER:  The bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) is continuing to do productive work to improve the public diplomacy functions vested in U.S. Government entities. Its latest product, Teaching Public Diplomacy and the Information Instruments of Power in a Complex Information Environment, is an 88-page special report intended for…

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Israel-United Arab Emirates Accord: a Meaningful Step with a Soft Power Twist

The Israel-UAE accord announced by President Trump August 13 has the potential of normalizing diplomatic ties between Israel and a third Arab state. Is that potentially a significant step forward in defusing the Arab-Israeli dispute?  Read ahead. The agreement, fashioned by the two Middle Eastern countries and encouraged by Washington, establishes formal relations between a…

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Q&A with a Rising Professional: Oumama Kabli

This spring, the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) welcomed a new category of Rising Professional members into its ranks. Over the past three weeks, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Rangel Fellow Mojib Ziarmal Ghaznawi, Wes Davison, and Shannon McNaught. This fourth installment of my Q&A series features yet another multifaceted Rising Professional member who…

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Five Favorites by Mike Anderson

1.TURMOIL IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT? “Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration’s Decimation of the State Department,” a Democratic staff report prepared for the use of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, was released July 28, 2020. The highly critical document’s chapter titles indicate the report’s concerns: “Vacant  Posts and Frequent Turnover: An America Less Present…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. COMMISSION REPORT STIRS CONTROVERSY OVER HUMAN RIGHTS: United States diplomats have always been committed to human rights internationally, but how that commitment is practiced in terms of specific foreign policy and countries and communicated through credible PD efforts can be contentious. The new 60-page report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, personally established by…

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Street protest in Hong Kong

Diplomatic Clash Between United States and China

The United States’ closure of China’s consulate in Houston, which was followed by the shuttering of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu by China, was attributed to intelligence activities supported by the Chinese government.  But it’s worth remembering China’s expansion and authoritarian control measures that underly the diplomatic clash. The PRC tightens its grip on Hong…

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Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. ICE CHILLS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS:  Surprise July 6 guidance from ICE — the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – modified temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant foreign students taking online courses in U.S. schools this coming fall semester. The stunning, new ruling has caused widespread confusion, uncertainty and concern since…

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Leading U.S. Members of Congress and Media Organizations Support VOA Foreign Journalists whose visa renewals may be at risk

The Washington Post and New York Times have been joined by the National Press Club and PEN America in requesting newly-appointed U.S. international broadcasting CEO Michael Pack to quickly extend guest visas of non-citizen VOA staff members. These 76 journalists are essential to the Voice, the nation’s largest government-funded global multimedia overseas network that reaches…

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Perception Hacking: the Dark Side of Public Diplomacy

Attendees at First Monday Forum got a data-drawn picture of the extent to which the world is being assaulted by disinformation and propaganda, with the United States in the bullseye.  What is public diplomacy’s role? “Perception Hacking: How Russia, China, and Iran Use (and Abuse) Western Information Platforms” was the title.  Bret Schaefer, Media and Disinformation…

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Senators to Pack: If You Politicize We’ll Cut Your Budget

Seven Senators wrote to new global media director Michael Pack threatening budget cuts if the United States-supported media are politicized. The group, in an announcement June 2, expressed “deep concern” over what they termed  as a purge by the Trump administration of five senior officers of U.S. international multimedia organizations shortly after the resignation of Voice of…

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Wanted: Young Professionals with a Passion for Public Diplomacy

An Intergenerational Dialogue When newly elected PDC President Sherry Lee Mueller and newly hired PDC Fellow Olivia Chavez first met, they both were unsure what their new responsibilities entailed but they knew one thing; they wanted to work together and learn from each other. What follows is an excerpt from our conversation on multigenerational leadership,…

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America’s Overseas Broadcasting Credibility at Risk

On June 17, Michael Pack, the newly-confirmed director of U.S. international broadcasting, arrived at its headquarters in southwest Washington, D.C, with this pledge: “I am fully committed to honoring the VOA Charter, the missions of the grantee broadcasters (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Network in Arabic and Radio-TV Marti…

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head shot of Mike Anderson with Indonesian temple in background

Five PD Favorites by Mike Anderson

1. TURBULENCE AND TRANSITION CONTINUE: This time they directly impact public diplomacy and America’s international media efforts.  A new CEO, Michael Pack, finally confirmed by the Senate, has been installed at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), and  the heads of  four USAGM entities – Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio…

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PDC Launching a Citizen Diplomacy Research Group

Interested in citizen diplomacy? Due to globalization, the internet, and long-term democratization trends, citizen diplomacy is likely to grow in the future, becoming a more important part of public diplomacy and international affairs. Citizen diplomacy entails citizen-to-citizen communication and collaboration across borders for political, economic, religious, cultural, educational, or other public purposes. Government funding and…

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VOA Director Amanda Bennett and her Deputy Resign to Clear the Way for Michael Pack to head Nations Largest Global Media Outlet

After four years and two months of innovative leadership at the Voice of America, Ms. Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara issued a statement on June 15 saying: “It’s time for us to leave. This morning, we sent our resignations to Michael Pack, the newly-arrived CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). In…

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Head shots of Sherry Mueller and Nancy Snow from video

Scholar Deems Public Diplomacy Critical at a Perilous Time

PDC President Sherry Mueller introduced Dr. Nancy Snow at the First Monday Forum on June 1, 2020. Screenshot from Zoom teleconferencing. Distinguished scholar Nancy Snow, who teaches at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies in Japan and holds the Walt Disney Chair at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University in Beijing, warned against cutting ties with China at…

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Memorial Weekend Tributes for the Ages

The New York Times edition of Sunday, May 24 was an eye-catching tribute to nearly 100,000 American fatalities of the coronavirus pandemic. The entire front page of that unprecedented issue of the Times consisted of victims’ names in small type, top to bottom. Page 1’s listing of six columns continued for 10 columns more on…

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Mr. Rogers’ Gift: The New PDC Rising Professionals Membership Category

We have just welcomed our 12th Rising Professional member to the Public Diplomacy Council! One PDC member recently asked me why I am so excited and investing so much effort in this new membership category. Three main reasons come to mind. First, the category came about through a series of group discussions among graduate students,…

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China, Censorship, and Book Translations

The President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Matthew Pottinger – who speaks fluent Mandarin and worked for seven years as a journalist in China — recently gave a speech on the 101st anniversary of China’s May Fourth Movement of 1919. [1] China Digital Times reported “government authorities” issued this order the next day:  “Strictly delete any reposts,…

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Portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln on “Liberty”

When Public Diplomacy practitioners engage with counterparts from other nations, they must listen carefully when universal values are discussed.  They must find ways to clarify goals and values when language may obscure them.  Abraham Lincoln addressed this point in a plain way in his “Address at Sanitary Fair in Baltimore: A Lecture on Liberty,” on…

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White House Criticism of VOA, Unprecedented in its 78 year History

The Voice of America is the nation’s largest publicly-funded international broadcaster, reaching 280,000,000 multimedia users in 47 languages each week, many of whom access it daily for honest, balanced and accurate world news. To most senior VOA officials, past and present, including this writer, an unsigned White House blog on April 9, 1600 Daily, omitted…

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Coronavirus: An Unprecedented Worldwide Media & Public Diplomacy Challenge

Imagine, for a moment, if you were responsible for covering a worldwide threat now regularly compared with World War II in its devastation and future deadly impact? As The Hill correspondent Reid Wilson reports: “The pandemic spreading across the globe has been slow to spread throughout Africa, a continent of 49 countries. But public health…

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covid-19: a Pandemic, Not Just a Flu

“CRACKS APPEARING IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY…AS CORONAVIRUS TERRORIZES THE WORLD” That grim headline is the opening of a program March 25 moderated by the Voice of America’s Greta van Susteren.  That half hour weekly Wednesday panel is entitled Plugged In.  Ms. van Susteren samples experts’ up-to-the minute assessments of global health crisis endangering millions of…

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“We are being challenged every single day”

“In the [information environment], we are being challenged every single day. Our competitors are contesting us daily, seeking to sow disinformation, probing cyber defenses, stealing intellectual property, conducting reconnaissance in places we wouldn’t even consider part of the battlefield – like our universities, industry and online applications like games. They’re challenging norms of behavior in…

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Afghanistan at a Crossroads

On Leap Year Day, the United States and Taliban signed an agreement in Qatar that sought to end the nearly 19-year-old Afghan civil war. Under the agreement, Afghan parties to the conflict would: Agree on a permanent ceasefire and power-sharing in postwar Afghanistan Begin negotiations March 10 (Tuesday of this week). In the preparation for…

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New Angles in U.S. Overseas Networks’ Coronavirus Coverage

After a comprehensive survey, VOA veteran analyst Matthew Baise reports that the nation’s largest publicly-funded network has attracted more than 7.8 million page views on the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in China and other countries since January 18. According to Baise, the Voice’s coverage “has been diverse, tailored to target audiences, and highly successful.” …

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China Fighting Virus … and Viral Speech

As of February 17 the Coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, had killed 1,868 people in the Peoples Republic, according to the PRC National Health Commission. Chinese state television reported that Liu Zhiming, the director of the Wuhan hospital specifically assigned to deal with Corona, has succumbed to the virus, the seventh health worker there to…

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Nye at Walter Roberts Lecture: Morals and Soft Power

A capacity crowd attended Dr. Joseph Nye’s Walter Roberts Endowment lecture on January 28 at George Washington University’s School of International Affairs in Washington.  He shared the stage with Tara Sonenshine, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, who asked penetrating questions preceding those from the audience of diplomats and students attracted by the…

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“Public Diplomacy Isn’t a Megaphone; It’s a Telephone!”

That pithy reminder popped out near the conclusion of a January 23 public hearing as the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) issued its 70th annual report on the fine art many P.D. specialists spend their lives fostering —effective international dialogues and exchanges here and abroad: genuine two-way communication in many forums. Three members…

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President Kennedy at the Voice of America, 1962. Credit: White House official photograph by Abbie Rowe.

President Kennedy on the Voice of America (1962)

In the last decade, authoritarian regimes have increasingly used their print, broadcast, and social media to control or restrict their own citizens’ access to news and information – in order to shape or channel the opinions of their populations. The same regimes use the media to influence international opinion, often propagating outright lies and falsehoods.  …

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A look Ahead to 2020

Surveying the world scene as a new year and new decade dawns, many would agree, on the basis of events this past year that there aren’t many rays of hope on the horizon. 2019: —As Middle East Institute President Paul Salem describes the year past:  “In the Middle East and North Africa, there were five…

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Enhancing the Spread of True Facts: VOA’s Expanding Role

Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett, in a wide-ranging conversation Nov. 6 with American University students and public diplomacy advocates, reminded her audience that VOA “is all about a free press.” Examples abound:  A VOA multilingual VOA team has been in Hong Kong to report pro-democracy demonstrations in that Chinese territory. Objective journalism IS public…

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“Propaganda in Reverse”

“Jingoist newspaper articles, or thoughtlessly provocative speeches in Congress, may become propaganda in reverse.” This was the 1963 observation of emeritus Princeton professor of politics John B. Whitton (1892-1977) in his book Propaganda and the Cold War (Washington, Public Affairs Press, 1963, pp. 10-11).  His chapter on “The American Effort Challenged” included a subhead —…

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People, Values and U.S. International Leadership

Our People and Our Values Are the Core of U.S. International Leadership A Statement by PDC and PDAA Boards of Directors October 31, 2019   As Board members of the Public Diplomacy Council and the Public Diplomacy Association of America, non-partisan organizations of professionals committed to U.S. global leadership, we support all public servants who…

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Edward G. Lansdale, 1956. Credit: USAF Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center.

Ed Lansdale, Vietnam, “Sharp Power” and “Psychological”

                The disinformation, propaganda, and malign narratives that now trouble international relations reach beyond the traditional Public Diplomacy frames of “mutual understanding,” “winning hearts and minds” and “soft power.” They are tools of “sharp power,” defined by the National Endowment for Democracy as “authoritarian influence efforts” that “pierce,…

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TV camera pointed at announcer in a studio

U.S-Funded Overseas Media: Foundations for a New Leadership Team? 

October heralds the formation of a new management team overseeing the nation’s five taxpayer-funded networks that reach an estimated unduplicated 345 million users online, TV and radio listeners each week. The networks are the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE-RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), The Middle East Broadcast Network (NBN) in Arabic.…

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Memories of Lou Olom (1917-2019)

Lou was one of the most thoughtful, dedicated, and politically savvy public diplomacy professionals of his generation.  Louis T. Olom (1917-2019), a career civil servant, will be remembered for his many contributions to public diplomacy during the years in which it was gradually gaining acceptance as a field of professional practice in US diplomacy. Lou’s…

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John Lansing departs USAGM for National Public Radio

John Lansing, who has headed the five U.S. overseas taxpayer-funded networks since 2015, will become president and CEO of National Public Radio on October 1. The five U.S. networks are:   Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), the Middle East Broadcasting Network in Arabic, (MBN) and Radio-TV Marti in…

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U.S. Public Diplomacy losing to Public Affairs?

That will be the question tomorrow when the senior public diplomacy official, Michelle Giuda, appears before the Advisory Commission for Public Diplomacy to discuss the ongoing merger of two bureaus under her aegis. The Council is co-hosting this event with the Advisory Commission at at George Washington University Elliott School’s Lindner Family Commons, 1957 E…

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VOA Khmer reporters broadcast live on Facebook.

The Death of Two Journalistic Giants: Landmark Leaders in the History of America’s Voice

In the 20th century, two distinguished leaders at VOA were indispensable in the growth of the nation’s largest U.S.-funded international broadcaster: former Central News editor in chief and White House correspondent Philomena (Phil) Jurey, 91, and Near East and South Asia director Salman (Sam) M. Hilmy, 89. Their work significantly amplified America’s public diplomacy during…

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Libby Liu speaking at podium

A Struggle for Minds in Closed Societies: a Radio Free Asia Update

In a live telecast on C-Span August 5, Radio Free Asia Director Libby Liu addressed a roundtable of public diplomacy specialists and focused on RFA’s U.S. government-funded multimedia network’s broadcasts to the Peoples Republic of China. RFA broadcasts on television, radio, and a variety of online channels to six East Asian countries: Cambodia, China, Laos,…

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portrait of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the war of ideas

Ayaan Hirsi Ali published a long essay, “A Problem From Heaven: Why the United States Should Back Islam’s Reformation,” in a 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs.  Her article opened a window on the dilemmas faced by Public Diplomacy policymakers after 9/11 and the judgment calls by two Under Secretaries for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs,…

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Rescuing Desperate Souls Through Knowledge: VOA’S Unique Outreach in 2019

On July 29, the Voice of America launched one of world’s most unique international broadcast language services: Rohingya. That service now reaches hundreds of thousands of displaced peoples in Bangladesh who for years have fled severe anti-Muslim persecution in neighboring Myanmar, or Burma. The five day a week half-hour program, Lifeline, is broadcast via radio on medium…

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The Value of a U.S. Speaker

Professor Wilfred M. McClay, then holding the SunTrust Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, recalled his experience as a U.S. speaker who visited Turkey under State Department auspices in 2006.  His article gave testimony to the value of Public Diplomacy’s speaker programs. It showed how speakers’ willingness to go…

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A USIA legend: Douglas Pike, Vietnam, and counterinsurgency

As Americans look back on nearly two decades of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experiences and analyses of a junior officer of the U.S. Information Agency during the war in Vietnam, Douglas Pike (1924-2002), deserve to be recovered.  This Public Diplomacy legend’s insights into what and how insurgencies communicate reach beyond Vietnam.  They offer…

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Chinese movie poster showing photo of military commando

Xi Jinping on art and culture

The opening of a Chinese patriotic film, The Eight Hundred, scheduled for July 5 at the Shanghai Film Festival, has been canceled.  Apparently, its portrayal of a Nationalist army unit that stood against the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937 was too positive.  Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times reports “. . .…

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The “Profits” of Cultural Interchange

Cultural interchange is “fundamentally reciprocal” and “a matter of give and take. It means influencing and being influenced.” These were themes in a speech to the Public Affairs Institute of the University of Virginia on July 8, 1939, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Cultural Relations of the Department of State, Charles A.…

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UNESCO logo

The Principles of the UNESCO Constitution

The United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has, in recent years, become controversial. According to a State Department summary, “The United States joined UNESCO at its founding but later withdrew in 1984 because of a growing disparity between U.S. foreign policy and UNESCO goals. After an almost twenty-year absence from the organization, the…

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Nick Cull’s Enlightening Vision of 21st Century Public Diplomacy

A capacity crowd filled a 6th floor lecture hall at George Washington University’s School of International Studies. It was the First Monday Forum on June 3 of public diplomacy specialists and GWU students. They came to hear Dr. Nicholas J. Cull of the University of Southern California, an internationally known scholar and advocate of the…

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portrait of Eugene Kopp

Eugene Kopp, a cherished leader of U.S. public diplomacy

Eugene Kopp, who served twice as Deputy Director of USIA (1973-1977 and 1989-1992) and as Acting Director in 1976 -1977, died on Monday, May 13, 2019, of cardiac arrest. Mr. Kopp, a political appointee of Republican Presidents, engendered an unusual degree of respect and affection from a generation of government employees working in public diplomacy. …

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“Countering” is Not Enough

The following essay commented on President Obama’s September 29, 2015, speech at the Leaders Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, held at the United Nations. It appeared on the former Public Diplomacy Council website as a “Commentary,” but it is no longer available on the web. It is here re-published for reference. Foreign policy…

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A New Path Ahead For U.S. Public Diplomacy Advocates In A Digital Age?

What is public diplomacy? It’s a term used more widely than ever in the 21st century, as a leading scholar of the concept, the University of Southern California’s Professor Nicholas J. Cull explains: “Public diplomacy deals with the influence of public attitudes on the formation and execution of a nation’s foreign policies.” Dr. Cull adds…

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Global Media Giants Meet to Debate Their Future and Challenges Ahead in the 21st Century

It was perhaps the largest gathering of public diplomacy advocates and international broadcasters and media scholars ever held in America. The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) organized a day-long conference May 7 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in an atrium within sight of the Lincoln Memorial. Highlight of the day: an address by…

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Is an ISIS Comeback Possible?

It appeared to some to be the end of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) a month ago. That was when its last territorial holding in southeastern Syria, the town of Baghouz, was captured by largely Kurdish units of the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition forces. A network of underground tunnels where ISIS fighters…

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Evolution of Public Diplomacy One Mutation at a Time

Last week offered two glimpses of U.S. public diplomacy’s gradual evolution. The State Department received confirmation that a merger between two of its three public diplomacy bureaus will move ahead.  International Information Programs and the Public Affairs bureau will become the Bureau of Global Public Affairs. A less visible but deeper change went public Thursday,…

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Authoritarian Media: Supercharged in a Digital Age

In this era of expanding use of new communications tools, accuracy in media matters as never before. Globally, truth and fairness in journalism is endangered in unprecedented ways. Two specialists from the National Endowment for Democracy recently explained to a First Monday of the Month forum of the PDC and PDAA how China, Russia and…

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HMS Argyll off the coast of Sierra Leone

A Case Study of Information Operations and Public Diplomacy: Sierra Leone 2000

In a crisis where military forces are deployed, information operations and public diplomacy specialists must be integrated into planning and operations from the first day. This was the conclusion of a case study of mass atrocity prevention and response – OPERATION PALLISER, the British intervention in the Sierra Leone civil war in 2000 – by…

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World War II and the Aims of Broadcasting

During World War II, the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS) monitored broadcasts from around the world, providing valuable intelligence on conditions in other nations for U.S. national leaders. Organizationally, FBIS was part of the Federal Communications Commission. The founding president of Bennington College, Robert Devore Leigh (1890-1961), left the academy to direct FBIS through 1944.…

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PDC: New Members Welcome

The Public Diplomacy Council has taken on some outstanding new members over the last few months. As the national organization dedicated to the advancement of the public diplomacy profession, we believe that effective public diplomacy is indispensable to successful national security. For that reason, the Council promotes improved professional practice, academic study of the field,…

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The Hard Case for Soft Power: Four D.C. Roundtables Reflect Challenges and Impact

What is U.S. “soft power” in a digital world? A key facet is the ability to form international friendships, person-to-person and organization-to-organization, in the 21st century. This enhances, in a very human way, “hard power,” the ability to affect militarily the fate of societies and nations around the globe. Here in Washington, soft power advocates…

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What Can Public Diplomacy Learn from a Fighter Pilot?

Air Force Colonel John Boyd (1927-1999), “the fighter pilot who changed the art of war,” was a key military thinker in the last decades of the 20th century.  His energy-maneuverability theory revolutionized fighter tactics, and his famous “Patterns of Conflict” briefing has deeply influenced two generations of military strategists. Public Diplomacy is an instrument of…

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A Tale of Metrics: Japan’s Wartime News and Propaganda

“Metrics,” “data,” “evaluation,” and “results, not outputs” have proven to be real challenges for Public Diplomacy and strategic communication.  So has demonstrating that a program, activity, or campaign “moves the needle.” Yesteryear Foreign Service Officers at U.S. Information Service posts religiously tallied “placements.” From time to time, USIA’s research office commissioned surveys. At the dawn…

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map of the middle east

Faint Glimmers of Hope in a Devastated Middle East?

In an essay entitled “The Middle East: Regional Disorder,” Columbia University Professor Lawrence G. Potter warns of the impact on global security of catastrophic developments in that troubled region. It’s a prime reason for U.S. and international public diplomacy, in all its forms. Writing in the 2019 edition of the Foreign Policy Association’s annual Great…

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Sister Cities International: Promoting Peace and Cooperation

“One Individual, One Community at a Time” Imagine an American non-profit, non-partisan organization that reaches out to improve lives in cities, towns and villages around the globe. President Dwight Eisenhower first had that dream in 1956. It has now enhanced mutual respect and understanding through worldwide exchanges for more than seven decades. Roger-Mark De Souza,…

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Building on the U.S. Partnership with Mexico: an Expert’s Analysis

Two years ago this week, Mexican-U.S. relations took a deep dive, when Mexico’s former President Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled a meeting in Washington with incoming President Donald Trump during Mr. Trump’s first week in office. The dispute centered on Mr. Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for construction of a planned wall along unfinished sections of…

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Public Diplomacy: Truth-Power in a Digital Age

It was October 15. 2015. The Broadcasting Board of Governors, recently renamed the U.S. Agency for Global Media, heard some sound advice about the power of the five taxpayer-funded multimedia networks it leads. “To state the obvious,” guest speaker Adam Clayton Powell III told the Board, “not everything is true, some things are provably false.…

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head shot of Barry Zorthian

Lessons of Counterinsurgency: A Word from Barry Zorthian

During the Vietnam War, Barry Zorthian (1920-2010) was the Director of the U.S. Information Service in Saigon, and he was the prime mover in establishing the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO).  JUSPAO brought together the media operations of the State Department, the U.S. Information Service, USAID, the CIA, and the Military Assistance Command,…

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Don Bishop speaks from a podium

Public Diplomacy: Old organization, New Trends, and Ways Forward

Remarks of Donald M. Bishop Public Diplomacy Council First Monday Forum “The History and Future of Public Diplomacy” November 6, 2018 My colleagues on the panel will, I am confident, touch on the large issues that engage Public Diplomacy in the Foreign Service, serving America’s goals in the world – issues like democracy, exchanges, culture…

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Cynthia and Panel

Public Diplomacy: Hopes and Fears at a Landmark Anniversary

Thirty years ago, a group of retired and active foreign service officers founded the Public Diplomacy Foundation. Their successors held a round-table November 5 at George Washington University (GWU), a close-up assessment of the state of this fine art of people-to- people dialogues today. The event was co-sponsored by the Public Diplomacy Council, successor to…

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Voting booths on a table top

Autumn 2018: Two National Elections in Starkly Different Settings

If you have voted for a new parliament in Afghanistan, or are a U.S. citizen planning to cast your ballot November 8, pause — and consider the contrasts. These came to mind at a briefing by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which surveys its audiences and shares results.  In Afghanistan, half of eligible…

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The Khashoggi Murder: What’s Next?

The darkest clouds hovering over the slaying of a noted Saudi journalist at the country’s consulate in Istanbul are multiplying daily. However, the immediate question remains: what’s next, and when and where will the murderers be brought to justice? To sum up latest developments: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the Turkish parliament Tuesday to confirm that…

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Trump shakes hands with Putin

Diplomacy Disrupted

Fresh from his world order wrecking tour of Europe in July 2018, President Donald J. Trump has clarified what diplomatic culture is by displaying the countercultural variant at every turn. At his prizefight in Helsinki, he delivered the final blow to the essence of diplomacy which former American Ambassador Chas W. Freeman calls: “the processes…

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower meeting with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles at the White House.

1957: Eisenhower, Dulles and merging USIA back into State, or Not

On Friday morning, January 18, 1957, Arthur Larson gave a lengthy and wide-ranging presentation on the United States Information Agency to President Eisenhower’s cabinet. After 22 months as under secretary at the Labor Department, and now one month as USIA Director, Larson used charts, maps, and film clips to describe the barely four-year-old agency. The nearly three dozen attendees…

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A group of teen boys dressed in blue baseball uniforms

Reaching Youth

The State Department brought John Matel out of retirement to manage public diplomacy activities in São Paulo for 42 days in August and September, 2018, as “while actually employed.” Before his retirement from the Foreign Service he was Country Public Affairs Officer for Brazil from 2011 to 2014.  Reaching Youth Brazil’s flagship youth exchange is…

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Building Trust: the Ultimate Challenge in an Age of Global Media Voices, Sounds and Images

“Words matter!” That phrase was the theme of a wide-ranging survey by a senior official of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (the USAGM) of the challenges confronting Western broadcasters today. Dr. Haroon K. Ullah, chief strategy officer of the newly-renamed agency known since 1994 as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was the principal speaker at…

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White man wearing blue shirt and red tie.

On Even the Darkest Night, Two Headlights are Always Better Than One!

On October 1, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Tom Kent moves on after two highly successful years at that U.S.-funded network. After service in Washington and Prague for RFE/RL, he’ll be in New York writing and teaching about journalism, disinformation and Russian affairs. Noteworthy achievements during Tom’s RFE/RL tenure: Formal inauguration with the Voice of…

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Loyalty Recognized

The State Department brought John Matel out of retirement to manage public diplomacy activities in São Paulo for 42 days in August and September, 2018, as “while actually employed.” Before his retirement from the Foreign Service he was Country Public Affairs Officer for Brazil from 2011 to 2014.  Paulo Agustoni had been working for the…

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World’s Fairs: Back Again in America’s Global Outreach

After nearly two decades, the U.S. has now rejoined the universe of Global Expos — more commonly known as World’s Fairs. Jim Core, director of the State Department’s tiny restored international expositions unit, is enthusiastic about the prospects. “These fairs,” he said, “are the Olympics of U.S. public diplomacy.” He was addressing the Public Diplomacy…

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Two men smile

Volunteerism

The praise was a bit embarrassing, and I am not sure I liked how it was tactically deployed, but the masters of ceremony held up the USA as the paragon of volunteerism, gently disparaging the Brazilian audience, pointing out that only around 4% of Brazilians were involved in volunteer activities. The State Department brought me…

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The Troll in Your Computer

Remember trolls? They used to be mythical creatures from children’s stories who lurked in caves or under bridges. Not any more. Today’s trolls now lurk online, where they attack Western values, defend Vladimir Putin, and do whatever they can to plant nutty conspiracy theories and disrupt rational discussions on news and opinion websites. They’re not…

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