DIPLOMACY IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE
The infamous Diplomad has passed from the blogospheric scene but the State Department Republican Underground Torch is in the hands of a worthy successor, The Daily Demarche. Today Dr. Demarche has posted an important piece on the public diplomacy problem. Reacting to a report that critically assesses the state of America’s international image, Dr. Demarche writes:
“This “relief” is the very connection that we should be looking to strengthen from a feeling of “better America than China” into a sense that we are serious when we speak about the spread of democracy and freedom. As our Embassies become more fortress like and we have less and less direct, personal, contact with our host country neighbors it becomes even more imperative that we maximize every resource to communicate with the world. Whenever possible officers should be engaging the host country population directly, coupled with exchanges and grants for host country nationals to visit America and learn first hand. Beyond that we should be using the Internet, television, film and radio as much as possible to provide information about America and Americans. “
Americans, who have a streak of crusading idealism mixed with self-absorbed pragmatism, tend to forget that a good measure of our previous popularity ( or assumptions of good intentions) that did exist in other nations resulted from the fact that our enemies were scary and aggressive dictatorships. Self-Interest is a magical thing. Standing next to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. the Imperial Japanese Army, Mao ZeDong, Kim Il-Sung, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein made it hard not to look like the guys in the white hats. Now with the would-be world-rulers a memory, we are the big, hyperpower, interlopers allegedly standing squarely in the way of New Yugopotamiastan’s day in the Sun.
Our behavior really hasn’t changed much since 9/11. Imagine the reaction of Harry Truman to that event and you will realize that history will praise George W. Bush for his sense of humanitarian restraint. Pearl Harbor bought the Axis nothing but total war, the firebombing of Dresden and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No, what has changed is the self-interest of our friends and neighbors, most of whom see themselves as safe from the Islamist tide. They aren’t but that fact has yet to hit home with most of them. Patience, it will.
Until it does our appeals to anything but their practical national interests will fall on deaf ears. Our public diplomacy should hammer away at democracy and liberty but it should also be nuanced to the vanity and particular venality of our listeners. Men will walk a little further if the pot of gold is just around the corner.