Public Affairs Must Inform Foreign Policy

June 1, 2009
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley

About the Author: P.J. Crowley serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

Last week, I began my tenure as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. I am humbled and exhilarated by the task before me and am grateful for the trust and confidence President Obama and Secretary Clinton have placed in me.

Almost 20 years ago, I was assigned to Germany, one of the highlights of my 26 years serving with the U.S. Air Force. I have been contemplating those days as I prepared for this assignment. During my time in Germany, the Berlin Wall ceased to divide East from West. The people of East and West Germany literally pushed until the wall was breached and ultimately removed.

In the aftermath, when given a choice, the people of Eastern Europe rejected Communism and moved swiftly to associate themselves with the rule of law, market economies and responsible and accountable governments. This success was due in no small measure to institutions like the United States Information Agency, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, which helped foreign publics understand that they could have the rights and opportunities of free people. This was public diplomacy at its best, and proved to be a cornerstone of our policy of containment. Now, Secretary Clinton’s focus on using smart power – the full complement of diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural tools is leading us back to a balanced approach to foreign policy that served us well throughout our history.

As we know, global challenges hardly disappeared with the end of the Cold War. Today, we continue to combat extreme ideologies in an expanding conflict in Afghanistan while dealing with festering violence in Iraq. Success in this current struggle will require the same kind of patience, determination and skill that we demonstrated during the Cold War – identifying a clear, peaceful and modern alternative to the people of the world, reinforcing our strategic narrative while diminishing that of extremist insurgents. As Secretary Clinton stated in her recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department is seeking the resources to deploy a new strategic communication strategy to buttress our foreign policy. Ultimately, we cannot succeed unless we build and sustain public support at home and around the world.

Today’s global communications environment is dramatically different than it was even a few years ago. A digital image can be transmitted from anywhere in the world at an instant, as we saw with the cell phone image of the execution of Saddam Hussein and its impact.

One of my goals is to have the State Department communicate its message more strategically. In order to do this, we must be dynamic and use all available means both old and new media - traditional methods such as the Daily Press Briefings as well as experimenting with new media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and video through the Internet. The culmination of this effort will be a virtual presence that is engaged in a global dialogue, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all corners of the world.

Given the expanded nature of the communications environment, Secretary Clinton decided to restructure the Bureau of Public Affairs. I will serve as the Assistant Secretary, but not as the every day spokesman for the department. One of my foremost responsibilities will be to ensure that public affairs informs public policy. This is why you’ll hear me repeatedly coming back to the idea of a strategic communications plan. My task, working with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale and the newly designated spokesman, Ian Kelly, will be to serve as the senior advisor to the Secretary, contribute to the administration’s interagency strategic planning and lead the Bureau of Public Affairs and the dedicated public affairs professionals at the State Department and around the world. I am an avid Red Sox fan. Judith is a Yankees fan and Ian a Cubs fan but we are united by a higher calling and significant challenges.

Tackling these global challenges – extremism, nonproliferation, climate change, global health and food security just to name a few – will require, as Secretary Clinton has said repeatedly, coordinated, international partnerships at the government-to-government and people-to-people levels and all variations in between. In order to build and sustain such partnerships, we must communicate effectively. Effective communication is a two-way street, so as much as I look forward to keeping you informed on new initiatives, I’m even more eager to hear your ideas.

Comments

Comments

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
June 1, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

Welcome aboard to the State Department and GOD Speed. Were Red Sox fans here, along with New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and ofcourse the Bruins Hockey team. I wish you all the success and the multitude of challenges ahead with everything that is happening in the world today. People in most towns and cities do not have a clue as to the impacts of what other countries can have on them. I myself try to keep up to date, so I know or have an idea what to expect. Good Luck and look foward to seeing you on the blog!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 1, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Obviously there's an element of humor inherent in Public Diplomacy that poses a rational threat to the status quo.

I don't know what baseball has to do with it, but if you are implying that Public Diplomacy on steroids is the way to go, I'm all for it.

Frankly, Sportsfans (and I'm one of those died-hard-long ago-and resurrected Bosoxs fans..., I'd like a little honorable competition on a level playing field to come back to the sport as well as among nations in general.

Best idea shot out of the park wins most approval. Play ball!

Here's where policy intersects with the human condition...

Bin Laden climbs K2 in search of of the Wise One's cave to ask him what the meaning of life is...

After much struggle and frostbite he climbs up the last cliff face to the entrance and kneels before the fire, exhausted.

"What up, Homie?" the Wise One asks..

"My name is Ossama Bin Laden! not Homie!!! I'm the world's most renoun terrorist, and I come to demand the answer to the meaning of life!"

The Wise One leaps up from his lotus position in one fluid Jackie Chan move and kicks bin laden flying out the cave and down the cliff face, never to be seen nor heard from again.

The Wise One sits down again and turns to his apprentice and asks for more tea, holding out his cup.

The apprentice having now been addressed and free to speak asks while he pours tea.., "Teacher, why did you kick the man from the cave when he was seeking enlightenment?""I figured he'd learn on the way down." the Wise One chuckled.

"I hope I do not have to attain enlightnment in such a manner, as your humble apprentice."

The Wise One smiled and said, "Homie, I would never choose an apprentice that was too stupid to live."

And so they sat drinking tea, the apprentice pondering what being stupid entailed... The Wise One contemplating the danger of idiots gathered in large numbers.

---

Congrats and welcome aboard sir!

Masood
|
California, USA
June 2, 2009

Masood in California writes:

Mr. Crowley, congratulations on an opportunity to serve for a higher cause! The way events are shaping up your job will be more important than ever before. You are right, we cannot win and succeed unless we build and sustain public support both at home and around the world.

Zharkov
|
United States
June 23, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

On occasion, it would be nice to reverse the public affairs job and communicate back to the State Department about how absolutely outraged U.S., Mexican, and Canadian citizens are about having to buy passports in order to cross the U.S. border.

Europeans are under the identical terrorist threat that Americans are -- France experienced months of muslim riots -- yet Europeans can travel almost everywhere in Europe without "papers" or passport, so it proves that passports do not hinder terrorism, they hinder tourism.

All of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 reportedly had valid passports so passports mean nothing at all to terrorists -- if they need one, they will get one.

The passport requirement is another meaningless bureaucratic measure to justify government taxation on the right to travel -- a right guaranteed to be free of federal taxation by our U.S. Constitution.

Our government has the power to tax only as stated in that document, and there was no taxation power for a federal permit or license to re-enter the country. Our Supreme Court had held that the right to travel is a fundamental right, a human right, a natural right not granted by any government but inherent in our very existence.

There is no reason for a passport requirement when every driver's license contains a person's picture and national residence, and every automobile has a license plate, and every person has a name and a face.

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
June 10, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

The situation in North Korea is very unstable. I believe there should be an international price to be paid when a country tests nuclear devices. A one billion dollar fine should be imposed by the United Nations. The sad part is how the two young American ladies captured and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, will be a pawn in North Koreans attempts to blackmale the world. "Human shields" It also shows how weak the Leadership is by taking two women into custody. I hope the Leader of North Korea reads this message, because he still has to answer to God for capturing innocent women, trying them in court, sentencing them for 12 years of hard labor. It just proves how narrow minded and ridicious the leadership acts. The two women were obvious news reporters NOT Spies. Explaining the difference, ONE Spies for intelligence, News People Report the news. Maybe one day the leader of North Korea will learn to understand the difference and feel even shorter in life. However, he still can do right by releasing the two American women and get them home to their families. It is also written that if a country holds innocent people, God's wrath is greater than Mans Wrath! Our prayers and thoughts are with the two American women, May God deal with this situation and grant them the release before God casts Judgement on North Korea!!! Remember this God has never needed a military, missiles, or nuclear weapons, he can bring hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, Trumpets of Thundering and Lightning, fires and diseases plagues on a country. My most humble suggestion, Release the two women before God answers the call. Then maybe God will forgive the country of North Korea for it's foolish acts!!!

RELASE THE TWO AMERICAN WOMEN ASAP!!!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 18, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"MR. CROWLEY: Well, ultimately, the measure of this is how the Iranian people view their government and view this election, and whether they see the government as being legitimate. This is not about the United States. This is about a debate that has been generated inside Iran. That debate is continuing as we speak. And it?s for the Government of Iran to satisfy the questions and the concerns that clearly their people have."

- Press Briefing, June 17

@ PJ Crowley

A long-running debate to be sure, but let me suggest at what point this nation must decide whether it is or not legitimate and speak up as we did with Mugabe, and also the Kenyan elections.

When any government structure through corrupion, fraud, and violent repression seeks to sustain its control over a population against their will.

Seeking to hide its activities through repression of media and communications, is symtomatic of the above.

When the Guardian Council's investigation of almost 700 separate complaints regarding election fraud are complete without charges brought and no appreciable justice for the people's concern met, then will be the time to step up to the plate and call a sham what it is sir.

That would then be the right and fair thing to do in support of the Iranian people's legitimate aspirations for freedom.

In the meantime, let's put this topic on the boards for public debate here, and help give Iranians a voice in the matter.

Thanks, and all my best to Sec Clinton for a speedy recovery.

EJ

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 23, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@PJ Crowley,

The only apporpriate response to the charges of "interference" in Iranian affairs by the US, is simply that the following evidence justifies our "responsibility to protect" populations when violence is used upon them en mass, indiscriminately.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRga9Zm-QYA

It goes without saying that those leading state sponsors of terror consider a life to be worthless, unless it be their own.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 22, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

PJ Crowley,

The only apporpriate response to the charges of "interference" in Iranian affairs by the US, is simply that the following evidence justifies our "responsibility to protect" populations when violence is used upon them en mass, indiscriminately.

Along with all other nation's responsibilty, I might add.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRga9Zm-QYA

It goes without saying that those leading state sponsors of terror consider a life to be worthless, unless it be their own.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ PJ Crowley,

To sum the Iranian events up in terms we can both relate to, we are at that inflection point where the ball either goes through Billy Buckner's legs or not in terms of making a difference along with the international community.

Will the Iranian people know the agony of defeat, and have to wait until the "curse of the Babe" is lifted to be granted that magic moment in the sun?

As Red Soxs fans, we can afford to be patient, and long suffering...it has an end. I won't speak for the Iranian people on that score.

Here's a pretty fair assesment of what's going on in Iran, in my opinion.

All I never wish I knew about the regime's designs as well as an effective international response to it can be summed up here and now, if we want the results we seek as a matter of national interest.

http://tinyurl.com/n9xruy

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 26, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Interview with doctor who tried to save Neda's life, eyewitness as well to who killed her:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8119658.stm

Doug
|
California, USA
July 10, 2009

Doug G. in California writes:

My congratulations to you, PJ. I was reading the LA Times one evening, and the TV news was on, and I heard a familiar voice. I looked up and there you were. Darn, spilled my red wine right down the front of my shirt. I am so proud of you.

Joel
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2009

Joel in New Mexico writes:

I was shocked and dismayed by the tone of your remarks on 7/20 regarding Honduras. One of the journalists asked you whether U.S. irritation with Venezuela was justification for the coup. You did not deny it. You also spoke about President Zelaya being taught a "lesson." The message that Latin America heard, loud and clear, was a boast that the U.S. was behind the coup. Surely that is not what you intended?

Americans who have not spent significant time in Latin America do not have a clue as to how arrogant their pronouncements can sound. For a century, right up through the invasion of Panama -- indeed, right up to the attempt to topple Chavez -- the U.S. invaded, occupied, and ordered coups of Latin American governments on a whim. Almost invariably, we claimed to be supporting democracy even as we armed and supported brutal dictators. Extremist movements such as FARC and communism did not arise because the people were ignorant. They arose out of desperation, because to paraphrase John Kennedy, the United States made peaceful change impossible and therefore made violent revolution inevitable.

The tone you took in your press briefing was irresponsible and seriously damaged U.S. interests in Latin America. Latin Americans need to know that, whatever we may think about the governments they elect, we respect them enough not to try to overrule them. They need to know that when coups attempt to impose de facto dictatorships, we will be staunch in solidarity with Latin America in ensuring that those illegal regimes do not stand.

The State Department has been doing an elaborate dance about whether the coup was illegal and whether we need to cut off aid. I suppose that is intended to get the coup leaders to stay at the table. But what it communicates is that the U.S. government is soft and indecisive on what is a black-and-white matter. Even the coup leaders have admitted that the expulsion of President Zelaya was illegal! People have been shot dead by the army, the Constitution has been suspended, and over a thousand people have reportedly been arrested by a military dictatorship. And yet the U.S. government is parsing international law -- which demands due process -- to the point that everyone in Latin America is convinced that elements of the U.S. government ordered the coup.

As a military man, Colonel Crowley, you should at the very least have enough self-discipline to stay on message. But as my representative in dealing with Latin America, I would hope that you would stop coddling criminals and start whole-heartedly supporting the rule of law.

Joel
|
New Mexico, USA
July 24, 2009

Joel in New Mexico writes:

The fearless, dignified demeanor of President Zelaya as he crossed into Honduras under the guns of the Honduran military and under threat of arrest should shame the State Department into taking the steps it should have taken weeks ago: suspend the bank accounts and the visas of those who committed the coup.

Shame, shame on our State Department, which smirked rather serve justice and international law. May it now redeem itself by taking up the cause of defending the right of a free people to choose their representatives free of the fear of military reprisal.

William
|
Michigan, USA
August 13, 2009

William in Michigan writes:

Belated congratulations on your appointment. Looks like you've had your hands full recently.

mina
|
Iran
August 23, 2009

Mina in Iran writes:

Dear Mr.Crowley -- I'm supporter of PMOI, did you and Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have seen this statement of NCRI about Camp Ashraf., we are in Iran don't know how we can give our concern about Ashraf residents, please , please if your government is really care for human rights , answer to this demand of NCRI , and save 2 wounded persons which are in Bald-Iraq hospital Please reply me back
Thanks
Mina & Ashraf residents' family in Iran
---
Camp Ashraf: State of the wounded people and hostages Iranian opposition's Camp Ashraf attacked - Statement 87

NCRI - Three weeks after the criminal attack by Iraqi mercenaries against the PMOI members in Camp Ashraf, the following is a report on the state of a number of the wounded and those who have been taken hostage:

1) Saeed Habibi, has been hospitalized in Balad Hospital due to being run over by an armored Humvee vehicle. The bones in his hip and left leg have been crushed. Due to the breaking of his pelvis and its dislocation, he is unable to move and cannot pass urine as his urethra is cut off.

Currently his urine is removed by a tube from his bladder passed through his abdomen. Under such circumstances, only a highly specialized urologist can carry out the crucial operation that is not available in Balad Hospital. This is possible if U.S. forces transfer him abroad or to their own hospitals in Germany or the U.S. Otherwise, they could at least allow a specialist team, for which the Iranian Resistance would cover all the costs, to go to Balad Hospital to carry out the operation with the assistance and the facilities of the hospital. In accordance with the regulations of U.S. military hospitals, U.S. forces are not permitting other doctors or specialists to go to the Balad Hospital.

The Iranian Resistance urges the U,S. ambassador in Baghdad, the commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant international organizations to allow for this patient to be sent abroad and be handed over to his family and friends in Germany or the U.S. or at least make an exception in Balad Hospital to accept a medical team that Ashraf residents would introduce to see to him. Habibi is a PMOI member, who has been in opposition to the religious dictatorship in Iran for the past 27 years.

2) Massoud Ahmadi, is hospitalized in Balad for shot in the left leg and shattered shin. He must undergo operations for bone and skin graft.

3) The 36 wounded hostages were badly beaten and some were also shot at the time of their abduction. They are kept in the police station in Khalis and at the start of the fourth week of their hunger strike they are all suffering from weakness. Javad Gougerdi, Mehdi Abdolrahimi, Ali Tavalomi, Abbas Fili and Mehdi Zaree, are seriously weak and are slowly losing their sense of hearing and sight. Ibrahim Komari and Mohammad-Reza Houshmand due to their injuries are still in great pain. Yesterday, during a court hearing by an investigating judge in Khalis, a number of the wounded who could not even stand on their feet fainted. The hostages' strict demand is to be able to meet with their lawyers, Prof. Stephen Schneebaum, Kenneth Lewis, Mark Stephens and Franois Serres, Executive Director of the International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf.

The PMOI (MEK) members were taken hostage in the following manner: Four Iraqi armed men in black uniform would attack a wounded or beaten person, and then one of them would put a scarf around his neck and tie it then drag him on the ground so that he could not shout as he was being taken away. The mercenaries would then take the abducted hostage to a vehicle or a small room in the vicinity outside of Camp Ashraf, and there he would be tortured, beaten and abused.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
August 20, 2009

Robert
|
United Kingdom
August 24, 2009

Robert in the United Kingdom writes:

Dear Mr Cowley,

Always glad to hear the Administration's views. However the tirade from the FBI Head was offensive. Imagine your response if our most senior policeman castigated your elected officials.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 24, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Robert in UK,

If you think what the FBI had to say was offensive, you won't see my considered opinion in print here for a good reason...(chuckle).

I'm now thinking of the appropriate politically correct UK terminology to describe the Right Honorable Scottish Justice Minister's decision.

Thick as a brick it was, to be sure.

(stronger and more colorful terms expressed upon request, anytime.)

Denise C.
|
California, USA
October 10, 2009

Denise C. in California writes:

Mr. Crowley: I am absolutely appalled at the derogatory comments that you recently made about President Bush and the "shoe throwing incident." Although I realize that you are proud of President Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize win, your statement was petty, unprofessional and un-American. It is critical that all Americans keep a united front against negative world opinion. Mocking a former American president for having been attacked by a foreign journalist is obscene. Praise President Obama but don't let your personal feelings transmit a message of divisiveness to the world. I don't believe that President Obama is at all deserving of this award, however, I would be outraged if a foreign journalist threw a shoe at him. I assume that since you are employed by the State Department that you are in fact aware of the definition of diplomacy. Maybe you should show some now. Do your job and represent all Americans, or get a new job!

Steve
|
Virginia, USA
October 11, 2009

Steve in Virginia writes:

Dear Mr. Crowley,

I recently read your comment regarding Mr. Obamas winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. You talk about "forward momentum" and even here you state "One of my goals is to have the State Department communicate its message more strategically"

Your uncalled for comment about "having shoes thrown at them", SHAME ON YOU. Why don't you focus on this so called forward momentum and stop the unfair and unwanted remarks such as this. The American poople derserve more from this administration, work on it will ya!!

.

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