Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bruce Gregory -- Can We Achieve Meaningful Transformation Soon?

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."

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