Thursday, October 22, 2009
House Foreign Affairs Committee counsel Daniel Silverberg shares his perspective on the Pentagon's expanded role in overseas U.S. information programs here, one of the more compelling presentations at the October 5 George Washington University conference "New Approaches to U.S. Global Outreach."
Senior Pentagon advisor Rosa Brooks took part in the "New Approaches to U.S. Global Outreach" conference at George Washington University on October 5, 2009. You can see her comments here.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Our GW colleague Prof. Bruce Gregory, who has done as much as anyone to promote the study of public diplomacy in the United States, kicked off the October 5 "New Perspectives on U.S. Global Outreach" conference in his usual exemplary fashion. Under the heading "Mapping Smart Power in Multi-Stakeholder Public Diplomacy / Strategic Communication," Bruce has neatly framed the key issues in the uneasy dichotomy of how the U.S. carries out its engagement and information efforts with foreign audiences. Some of the questions he raises are familiar, but others are relatively unheralded. All of Bruce's observations are phrased with unusual elegance and clarity.
Here's how Bruce sums up the PD-SC transformational challenge, as yet unmet by a new Administration still getting its bearings and testing the levers of smart power and national image-making:
"...Can we achieve meaningful transformation soon? Real change seldom occurs late in Administrations – if it comes at all. Presidents and senior leaders value effective PD and SC. At the personal level, some of them demonstrate world-class skills; others do not. But with limited time, finite political capital, and no electoral votes to be gained, they seldom take on the hard work of institutional transformation. We don’t need more studies. I suspect most of us have “report fatigue.” We don’t lack advice. We lack the roadmaps and leadership required for implementation. If the Obama Administration does not move quickly on these issues, we face another round of reports in the run-up to 2012, and perhaps again in 2016."
Students from GW's School of Media and Public Affairs twittered throughout the Gates-Clinton event, and picked up on many of the best moments on stage, along with the off-camera atmospherics at Lisner auditorium.
The "great question" asked by "an SMPA senior" about the State Department's use of new media -- per one tweet -- was put to Secretary Clinton by Caitlin Downs, a standout student from last spring's undergraduate PD course.
I'm borrowing a couple of photo tweets as well...views both from inside and outside Lisner.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Clinton, Gates on U.S. Power, Persuasion: "The American Toolbox Should Contain Something Other Than Hammers"
Before an appreciative SRO audience tonight at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, Secretaries Clinton and Gates fielded questions from CNN's Christiane Amanpour and GW's Frank Sesno on some of the top foreign policy and national security challenges of the day: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran. Yet they did not forget to address the question that had originally motivated their joint appearance at GW -- namely, the use of "smart power" by the Obama administration, including in public diplomacy and strategic communication.
At the outset of the event, Clinton and Gates echoed one of the principal themes from our morning "New Directions in U.S. Global Outreach" panels -- namely, that in the Obama administration, there is broad agreement at the top about how the U.S. should go about its business in the world. After recalling that past secretaries of State and Defense at times had barely spoken to each other, Gates emphasized that he and Secretary Clinton "get along" well and that they made sure that their staffs understood it was not "career-enhancing" to stir up disagreements between the two organizations. "It helps," Gates explained wryly, to recognize that the Secretary of State is "the principal spokesperson for foreign policy...Once you get over that hurdle, it all falls into place."
Later, in response to a question from Frank Sesno about who should be in charge of U.S. global information efforts, Gates, with a smile, simply pointed towards Clinton. She spoke enthusiastically about State's public diplomacy role, citing the Department's nudging of Twitter executives to postpone maintenance that would have interrupted service at the height of the Iranian post-election street protests, and efforts in Afghanistan to keep cellphone networks up and running despite insurgent threats. However, both secretaries made the point that on the battlefield, soldiers by necessity had to assume the role of communicators too. Gates pointed out that young military officers and NCOs had stepped up to the role admirably, even without professional training, establishing personal relationships which helped build bridges to the local population.
Sesno recalled that Secretary Gates had done a lot to promote institutional change at the Pentagon, and then asked Gates what advice he would offer Clinton for transforming State. First, Gates replied to loud applause, "the American toolbox should contain something other than hammers." Then, he suggested the challenge might not be so much within the Department, but rather "the willingness of Congress to give [Secretary Clinton] the resources she needs" to rebuild the country's foreign policy and assistance assets.
The October 5 public diplomacy doubleheader at George Washington University got off to a fine start this morning thanks to the contributions of scholars, policymakers, and hands-on practitioners alike who took part in our "New Approaches to U.S. Global Outreach" conference. To kick things off, GWU's own Bruce Gregory sketched out many of the key issues confronting the Obama administration in redirecting and retooling America's global outreach efforts: how to encourage more and better "listening" to foreign audiences and stakeholders, how to redress the interagency disparities in funding, and how to make the necessary transformations in the U.S. approach -- changes everyone inside and outside government say they support -- happen sooner rather than later.
The day's first panel, moderated by Kristin Lord, demonstrated more comity than conflict on the question of whether U.S. government agencies could respond to the challenge. State's Dan Sreebny stressed that the most important ingredient was in place -- a shared determination at the top to get it right. Yet now the hard work of putting into practice the vision of a new Administration committed to dialogue and a "whole of government" approach, lay ahead. OSD's Rosa Brooks agreed, and made the point that this type of transformation in organizational culture and decisionmaking would inevitably take time, like any serious cultural shift. The U.S. needed to get "dramatically better," she stressed, in factoring in stakeholder attitudes abroad, at all levels of government, or otherwise it would pay a steep price. SOCOM's John Carman made the case that today's practice of strategic communication and information operations has learned important lessons about cultural awareness and measuring effectiveness, including in Iraq, that are now part of the Pentagon's established doctrine. But House Foreign Affairs Committee counsel Dan Silverberg expressed concern about the degree to which DoD's strategic communication programs have advanced far beyond the Pentagon's traditional terms of reference in information operations -- and done so at the expense of other actors and without sufficient Congressional consultation.
Our second, "Ground Truth" panel was devoted to the view from the field, where civilian and military communicators are engaged in the nitty-gritty work of engaging foreign audiences, building partnerships, and influencing attitudes -- hopefully -- in a positive direction. We heard from State's Ciara Knudsen, who emphasized the importance of prior training and preparation in stitching together a shared approach to communication on the ground, as well as Foreign Service officer Aaron Snipe's passionate argument for plenty of good, old-fashioned retail PD and personal engagement on the ground. SOCOM's Maj. Ed Fisher highlighted the dilemmas of seeking short-term results when sometimes progress could only be measured in the long-term; a "poker-hand" mentality was not the right approach, he said. AFRICOM's Mark Swayne spoke of AFRICOM's pioneering efforts at combining civilian and military leadership at the top of the command structure, and General Ward's emphasis on making AFRICOM a "listening and learning" command.
More to follow on their specific contributions, including some conference highlights in video form.