Public Diplomacy 2.0: A New Approach to Global Engagement

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
December 3, 2008
Internet Cafe in China

Earlier this week, Under Secretary James K. Glassman spoke at the New America Foundation. An excerpt from his prepared remarks follows:

In the war of ideas, our core task in 2008 is to create an environment hostile to violent extremism. We do that in two ways: by undermining extremist ideologies and by encouraging young people to follow productive paths that lead away from terrorism.

The Colombian experience is relevant to both these tracks. It also reminds us that there is nihilistic violence in the world that is built on ideologies that have nothing at all to do with Islam. The intellectual historian Paul Berman puts the case very well in his important book Terror and Liberalism:

“Camus…noticed a modern impulse to rebel, which had come out of the French Revolution and the nineteenth century and had very quickly, in the name of an ideal, mutated into a cult of death. And the ideal was always the same, though each movement gave it a different name. It was not skepticism and doubt. It was the ideal of submission. It was submission to the kind of authority that liberal civilization had slowly undermined, and which the new movements wished to reestablish on a novel basis. It was the ideal of the one, instead of the many. The ideal of something godlike. The total state, the total doctrine, the total movement.”

That describes the FARC, which emerged from the Colombian Community Party. It describes Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It describes the Iran of ayatollahs and the other threats we face in the 21st century.

Beyond ideology, what most violent extremists around the world have in common is that their leaders hijack impressionable young people to carry out their crimes of terrorism. These young people are exceptionally vulnerable. A terrorist leader fills the hole in the heart of a young person searching for identity with what is sometimes seen as the most alluring game in town, linking adventure with a doctrine of hatred, fantasy, greed, and hysteria.

The reality – as young people who join Al Qaeda and the FARC soon learn – is quite different.

In Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, I met a young man severely disfigured with burns when the fuel truck he was driving for Al Qaeda in Iraq was blown up by his supposed comrades by remote control. He was driving a guided missile and did not know it. Now, after prison and rehabilitation in the Saudis’ remarkable deradicalization program, he serves enthusiastically as a living warning to others of the nature of the Al Qaeda death cult.

In Colombia, I met a young woman named Flor who had joined the FARC at age 12 because she was bored. She soon found she had made a terrible mistake, living in an organization where babies were literally ripped from the wombs of pregnant women fighters. But she was trapped in the jungle for seven years.

The question that my colleague Jared Cohen and I asked after meeting the leaders of Million Voices movement in Bogota was this: Are there other anti-violence, anti-extremist, anti-oppression organizations out there that were using new online techniques to build movements? Could these young people both undermine pernicious ideologies and find a productive outlet, a way to create positive identities through a global network that promotes peace and freedom rather than death and totalitarianism?

We found 17 for starters – organizing against violence and extremism in South Africa, the UK, India, Cuba, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Darfur, and Egypt. And, in partnership with such private-sector institutions as Google, MTV, AT&T,, Access 360 Media, Columbia University, and Facebook itself, we are bringing them to New York for a summit starting on Wednesday. These groups will be joined by about a dozen others that do not have an online presence but want one – from places like Indonesia, Iraq, and Venezuela.

The purpose of the summit is to share best practices, produce a manual and an online hub, and create a giant global conversation about how young people can oppose violence and extremism.

To return to Paul Berman, these young people subscribe to the “ideal of the many,” not “the ideal of the one.”

This project is an example of how we see public diplomacy changing. We have arrived at the view that the best way to achieve our goals in public diplomacy is through a new approach to communicating, an approach that is made far easier because of the emergence of Web 2.0, or social networking, technologies. We call our new approach Public Diplomacy 2.0. ...

... Public Diplomacy 2.0 is more than interactivity. It is a holistic approach, an attitude. Monroe E. Price, director of the Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research in London, recently wrote about a short book by the French deconstructivist philospher Jacques Derrida called “Of Hospitality.” This is a tome that has nothing at all to do with strategic communications but that vigorously analyzes the term beginning with the idea of the foreigner in Plato, showing that hospitality has two senses. First, to host implies to control or to own. But at the same time, to host means to welcome unconditionally, to open up one’s property.

In Price’s reading, Derrida would argue that public diplomacy should move from being “primarily a means of projecting perceptions of the U.S…to one which would be a platform for cooperation, mediation, and reception – a mode of being informed as well as informing.”

I like this paradigm: from the host as owner to the host as welcomer. The concept goes to the heart of what our research shows is a major reason for animosity toward the United States: the view by others that we don’t respect their opinions, that we do not actively listen and understand.

Derrida’s notion, as filtered through Price, is a good description of Public Diplomacy 2.0. We in government act as a facilitator or convener. The risks inherent here are absolutely necessary if we want to: 1) have our ideas heard and respected, and 2) be seen as what we are – a society that itself hears and respects the views of others.

Read Under Secretary Glassman's complete remarks.



New York, USA
December 4, 2008

Ron in New York writes:

Get the kids away from the screens!....Send them to other countries to live and learn and really interact with other kids...make it impossible for kids to see themselves as isolated, disaffiliated, and alienated from others....make being away from home as comfortable as being at home....and if your home is not comfortable, make it so through global cooperation...GET Real 2.0

Syrian P.
December 4, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@ Mr. Glassman said: A terrorist leader fills the hole in the heart of a young person searching for identity with what is sometimes seen as the most alluring game in town, linking adventure with a doctrine of hatred, fantasy, greed, and hysteria.

What Mr. Glassman described it right out of a typical Hollywood movies script and do not represent the realties of the situation in the world. Deprivation, oppression, tyranny, injustice, inequality, corruption, religious, Political and Social Dictatorships systems, the lack of education, employment and opportunities, protection and security to even survive the streets as it is well known in say, Brazil, for one instance. But again arm chair Diplomats finds it hard to stoop down to deal with those realities, so a Hollywood script will suffice.

@ Mr. Glassman continues: The purpose of the summit is to share best practices, produce a manual and an online hub, and create a giant global conversation about how young people can oppose violence and extremism.

Don't you think it is too late for summits, declarations and statements, the world's youth's needs solutions that can directly and promptly addresses the above grievances for real. They need to see societies that can deliver hope, future and fulfill dreams. That is why they abhor a suited diplomat and admire the radical leader, you will never succeed by introducing and developing gimmicks anymore, the internet has given today's comrades something they never had in the past, the internet, they are educated and are educating the masses faster today. In the war of ideas, you will fail, because they provide the hope for better future and diplomats provides the unacceptable past. As long as the underlying root causes are not addressed, man is on his way to an appointment with not so pleasant destiny, and we are near that end.

So Mr. Glassman what solutions you and the U.S. State Department provides to resolve these ills in world governments, deprivation, oppression, tyranny, injustice, inequality, corruption, religious, Political and Social Dictatorships systems, the lack of education, employment and opportunities, protection and security. And would solutions you present, if any, be reliable and acceptable to the world's youth. Can not see how U.S. diplomats can win the war of ideas when they are clueless in D.C...What did the U.S. accomplished in the past Eight years? Why anyone should believe that the next 4 will be any difference.

December 4, 2008

Robert in Iraq writes:

This little blog note about the drug war is written in the style of piecing together pieces of information which appear related on the surface but are really only titillating button pushes. He has to try to impress with his "intellectualism" by referring to philosophers, including the Deconstructivist Derrida, who tangentially reduces coherent thought into meaningless parts. He is relevant insofar as he reports the progress being made by other, more serious workers in the cause of international peace. However, he perversely projects a false solution of diplomacy which implies that our policy and diplomats are not receptive, and don't listen. This is the same idea that has been projected by the liberal politicians who have been opposed to Republican power for the last 30 years. The assertion that our public policy consists "primarily a means of projecting perceptions of the U.S." is observably false. Is that what we are doing by funding the drug wars in South America, or protecting the Taiwanese from invasion by the Chinese? If you actually think about what our public policy involves in regard to any other country, from Israel to Bangladesh, it is largely counter perceptual. This highlights the very problem that shallow pseudo intellectuals have with our public policy.

What pseudo intellectual liberals such as this guy fail to comprehend is that 1) there are very serious cultural differences between U.S. citizens and people in the societies breeding most of the terrorists, and 2) no matter how much we listen and consider the opinions and so on of diplomats and leaders from other countries, our final policy decisions may not end up being exactly what they would desire, for a variety of reasons.

As to these two related points, the people that we engage in talks with in order to form our foreign policy may not truly represent the majority of people in their societies. The Middle East, and Africa, for example, is highly factionalized, in the sense that people look to unofficial public leaders rather than the official government, and has few truly representational governments, even in areas which are supposed to be Democratic. Which people do we try to please? Whoever we don't will say that we aren't listening to and respecting their opinions, and whoever we do go with will say that if we don't capitulate 100%, because that is how they believe that they can get more of what they want.

What do people like this under secretary believe that intelligence gathering is if not listening? Have they ever visited the CIA website and seen all of the cultural information? Do they imagine that our diplomats and others at the embassy and representing the U.S. to the people of other countries tell them to shut up, perhaps refusing to talk to them except to call with demands? Would foreign leaders meet with any of our people at all, if this were the case? Clearly, this assertion is purely for emotional effect.

It is most clear based on what policies have been effective and ineffective over the years that the best way to be listened to and respected isn't just listening to others, but to maintain clear, careful, and consistent policies which present clear goals and eventually achieve those goals. Success breeds respect in the world when one is speaking of foreign governments. However, are we really talking about public policy and diplomacy as dealing with foreign rulers who may or may not have the best interests of their own people at heart? We have attempted public policy from both sides, supporting and undermining governments for the sake of various people around the world, with little success in the area of eliminating the roots of terrorism. As in the U.S., promoting the freedom for people to work at a grass roots level and supporting their ability to organize against extremism and violence on their own is probably the best policy of all. Common people have to be empowered in ways which cause them to value life and see opportunities for improvement for themselves and their families.

Facilitating this as a matter of public policy is the ultimate solution to most terrorism, and most community violence in general.

Tennessee, USA
December 5, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

The overall problem in actuality is in the perspective of application. To who's interest is diplomacy in? That should be the real question and the viability of information imputes.

How can you verify any information from new technology as being truthful? I see it as weakening your viability in imputes used for decision making. China alone can easily pump out any political, cultural or economic views by the millions and be shown as actual to the source as any individual, group, place, time, etc. I feel without personal contact, any information received this method as lowering reliability, not enhancing it.

In general, throughout history, Leaders of one Nation talk to Leaders of another to solve problems. This has lead to a Science of Politics and Science of Diplomacy, all premised in the sciences of psychology, culture, history, economics, etc. Diplomacy has become a science with formats, hence the recent understanding of President Nixon and Kissingers frustration in dealing with North Vietnam. What we failed to do was understand that this was a turning point in diplomacy. North Vietnam was the first realistic fanatical stand in modern history. I personally liked the solution they came up with, as the only way to deal with an abstract is to eliminate it, or give a clear understanding of such as a last resort. What differencial would PB 2.0 have had in the past?

The problem is, that in todays world of more complex imputes from misunderstood and non adaptive small groups with lethal ability that have a viable construct within any given society today, they are cut out of the equation as they are not represented in any manner and any text is not realiable; therefore, not only does the science not apply, there is no diplomacy on any personal level and their fanatical views are not flexible.

Quotes, paradigms and idioms are wonderful. Make us look so darn intelligent yet America is in the situation it is due to delayed response to all facets of problems facing us which went unsolved because we developed this imaginary ideology of solving problems with words or numbers collected from various sources rather than taking realistic, common sense actions.

Even the Roman Empire failed largely due to its non reactive Senate who found words, their superior intellect, facts in hand and status quo a way of life. It is called Pious -- a leadership of Pious persona. ..on all fronts and sides. More impute which is not vialbe creates more problem, how does anything in 2.0 change that one thread of truth comming from one person which can make a diffence?

As far as any negativity toward America in this blog: We have problems and I personally suffered greatly from some political problems; but, no matter what I say or feel at times I know from personal experience no matter where I was in this world, there was ALWAYS an American there helping somehow, with no weapon in hand. There is an American helping in some manner all over this world with only their skills to help and not profiting from any political, military, religious or monetary source -- just humanistic care.

We are a great Nation of good hearted people who will continue to give more than any other nation on earth and this who our diplomacy represents -- to render other people with the gift of the freedom and infrastructure to give of themselves to each other as well as others.

That is the true essence of our Great Society and Nation is the freedom for productive development.

Kentucky, USA
December 6, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

"In the war of ideas, our core task in 2008 is to create an environment hostile to violent extremism."

By that I'm sure you mean violent extremism towards us. Our use of violent extremism is sanctified.

Putting the Iraqi cities under siege and then dropping thousands of cluster munitions on civilian structures sounds pretty violent and extreme. As does phosphorous rounds and napalm. 40,000 Iraqi people rounded up into prisons without legal recourse also sounds pretty extreme. Indiscriminate killing of civilians via a missile strike is no different from a suicide bomber assassinating a high profile target at the expense of by-standers.

"what most violent extremists around the world have in common is that their leaders hijack impressionable young people to carry out their crimes of terrorism."

Considering the bombardment of recruitment ads on our television and radio waves and the doctrine espoused by our administration I thought for a minute Mr. Glassman was referring to our own military.

Every leader, every nation, attempts to shape their youth according to the idealized cultural model. They demonize the actions of the enemy and justify their own, even when those actions are of the same kind. The attempt to win the war of ideas is really only the attempt to imprint the youth first.

(I'd also like to point out to who ever coined the phrase "war of ideas", it sucks. It may be attractive sell to aggressive policy hacks in the establishment but it conjures up a whole host of negative connotations. The whole statement is counterproductive and contradictory -- first of all, people are tired of war. War on drugs, war on poverty, war of ideas, war on terror, war on everything. War war war. War implies a winner and a loser. Now consider this, if a person holds a view contrary to the view we want them to have, if we automatically ascribe them the "enemy" status because of the "war", how conducive is that towards changing their mind? Why not try something uplifting like: The New Way, or The Righteous Path, or Perceptual Revolution, anything else but more war...)

In principal I understand the message and encourage the sentiment -- but this is a fluff piece. You can't talk a starving man out of stealing bread. Or a person marginalized from fighting tooth and nail to obtain breathing room. Address the fundamental causes of "extremism" and you'll get much closer. Those are generally poverty, lack of law, lack of education, freedom from oppression, civic participation and control of the government, and so on. But there will always be people who, no matter how much power or wealth, will always strive for more. You can apply that to terrorists or the U.S.

Religion, nationalism, terrorism, the political arena, they are all drapings over the same basic human drives. Though the details differ, the motivations are the same: power. The power to escape oppression, or the power to benefit from oppression, take your pick. The tools developed to acquire that power are much like biological evolutions, the most effective means are reproduced and perfected, the rest discarded. Much like how a protein ligand binds to a receptor molecule, the key is designed to fit the lock and the tool is designed to solve a specific problem. Terrorism in the cities, piracy on the coast, they are natural choices (tools) by those who cannot pursue their quest for power through "legitimate" means. Irregular warfare is used against symmetric warfare because it works. A philosophy that promotes violence as a means to an end works in a warrior society. Charisma, persuasiveness, popularity, are respected in more docile environments.

Cultural hegemony is just another expression of power. So we have Christianity vs. Islam, Democracy vs. Communism, Capitalism vs. Socialism, Relativism vs. Objectivism, ect. Personally, I think people give these structures too much credit. While certain structures increase or retard developments in particular areas, it is the resources available, be it material, personnel, technical, or more amorphous elements, that determines peoples actions. The scarcer the resources, the more conflict. And since people are inherently factionalists, there will always be conflict between groups who strive to control the resources and disseminate their ideas as broadly as possible.

What was the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with the propagandistic "War of Ideas" anything more than the attempt to control strategic landmass, resources, and ideological thought?

Florida, USA
December 6, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

As I read the different comments I was impressed by the many good points that were made. My thoughts are these... regardless of the relationship, listening and respecting another's ideas is essential to any successful communication, whether it is diplomatic or personal. It is human to want to be heard and understood. The U.S. has been naive in dealing with the world's problems. Vietnam was a good example. Who cares about "freedom" if you are starving, homeless and your children are dying? There must be a reason, other than fear, to support a government. When the ordinary people are ignored there will be a "rebellion" of some kind. In a democracy, or a tyranny, the people will always be a factor.

Kentucky, USA
December 7, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

Famous broadcaster and Director of the USIA,

Edward R. Murrow:

"Truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that."

And one more, so powerfully written I had to include it:

-Ford 50th Anniversary Show on June 15, 1953

"If we confuse dissent with disloyalty -- if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric or unorthodox -- if we deny the essence of racial equality, then hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the. . . confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought."

Some poignant advice about dealing with others. I wonder how Mr. Murrow would feel about America, and our public diplomacy, today?

Florida, USA
December 7, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

@ Kirk in Kentucky -- Well said, Kirk. "Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the.... confidence of the men and women who aspire to that freedom..." We become no different than any other country when we base our actions, whether diplomatic or militaristic, on lies.

New York, USA
December 7, 2008

Ron in New York writes:

The U.S. cannot threaten other countries with extinction if they don't adopt our principles.....and then back into a position of benevolent convenor when 9/11 hits.


Latest Stories

October 1, 2010

Events in Ecuador

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, DipNote Bloggers highlight U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remarks… more