About the Author: Aaron Snipe is the Deputy Spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
At U.S. embassies around the world, State Department Public Diplomacy Officers are constantly asking themselves, "How can we find new ways to communicate with foreign audiences?" Social media has opened new doors of dialogue for American diplomats seeking to engage foreign audiences. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have become new tools in the diplomatic toolbox of the modern Foreign Service Officer. Here in Iraq the U.S. Embassy is dedicating greater resources and personnel to using social media to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives. At a time when explaining our new relationship with the government and people of Iraq is of critical importance, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has launched a new program on the embassy's YouTube channel entitled, "Window into the U.S. Embassy." The new program features Arabic-speaking American diplomats who explain how the United States and Iraq are building an enduring partnership through America's robust civilian commitment. Under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, signed in November 2008, both countries are building bridges of cooperation that will endure and strengthen Iraq (and the United States) as America fulfills its commitment to withdrawing all U.S. troops by December 2011.
I'm a firm believer in Edward R. Murrow's tried and true words about effective communication with foreign audiences: "The real crucial link in the international communication chain is the last three feet... one person talking to another." While there's no substitute for meeting Iraqis face-to-face, and building relationships over a cup of steaming tea or a plate of kebabs, here at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad social media is helping us open windows into new audiences and build bridges across those last three (virtual) feet.