Media Advisory—Press Conference
Lisa Shields [LS]: I would like to introduce Pete Peterson, who is Chairman of the Task Force. We at the Council also like to think that Pete’s main job in life is the Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Scattered Laughter) He happens also to have his own company called Blackstone, and if any of…
Peter G. Peterson [PGP]: No, no, no, no. I’m not CEO, I make that very clear. (Laughter)
PGP: I don’t know who made all those bad investments… (Laughter)
LS: It was the CEO.
PGP: Yeah. Yeah, the CEO, right. (Scattered Laughter)
LS: —also a senior aide in the Nixon White House and Secretary—administration. I’d also like to start on this end, just so you know, Pete’s going to make remarks in the beginning and then we’ll turn to questions and answers with some of the other panelists. David Morey was the Chair of the Working Committee on Organization and Budget for this report. He is the founder and president and CEO, (Laughs), of DMG, and international partner for Core Strategy Group, but he’s also worked on Presidential campaigns around the world. Henry Grunwald, whom many of you know, who was the Co-Chair and worked on the Working Committee on Messages, he was the Editor-in-Chief of all of Time Publications and was an ambassador to Austria in the late eighties.
On Pete’s left is Kathy Bloomgarden. She was the Chair on the Working Committee on Media and Messengers, for this task force. She’s also President of Ruder Finn—and to her left is Shibley Telhami, Co-Chair of the Working Committee on messages and he’s also the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland—So we’ll let Pete start.
PGP: Thank you very much. My colleagues and I thank you and welcome you. Incidentally, while I hope I am speaking for a consensus, I want the record to show that I’m speaking for myself, the co-chairmen are very independent folks, as you’ll find, probably an elephant gun couldn’t stop them from speaking if they disagreed with me. I want to be sure you all understand that the views you’re hearing today reflect the views of the task force and not the Council on Foreign Relations. The Council on Foreign Relations does not take positions as an organization. Its task forces do, but as individuals.
After our triumph in the Cold War, it seems to me that America’s both more admired—and at the same time resented—than ever. After the 9/11 attacks, these feelings have, if anything, sharpened. We believe that U.S. public diplomacy now requires very new thinking, and new decision making structures. In doing this, we must make clear why we are waging this war on terrorism, and why supporting this war is in the interests of other nations as well as our own. And because international terrorism is a transcendent threat to our national security, it is overwhelmingly in the national interest of the United States and it is also in our national interest that we formulate and manage our foreign policies so as to receive the indispensable cooperation of foreign countries.
Furthermore, in the past, it seems to us that foreign policy was often largely the prerogative of nation-states, and it was formed and communicated through interaction between heads of state and government ministers. Today, however, it is perfectly obvious that people, individuals, have far more access to information and far more of what we might call soft power to influence global affairs directly, indirectly, and through their governments. A multitude of factors have explained that: globalization, the increased speed with which information is transmitted and received and processed, 24-7 television programming, global news media, CNN and related entities, growing internet penetration, and smart mobile phones.
This is the central characteristics of this 21st century environment. Now the information age has democratized, it seemed to us, communication, by providing freedom of access to information, the ability to voice opinions, and the opportunity to enter into debate. Therefore, in our view, no foreign policy can succeed today without a sustained, coordinated, focused capability to understand and… why people… and to explain why people in private organizations must be involved in this process of foreign policy formulation and marketing.
Furthermore, we believe that fighting the war on terrorism and foreign policy are not things apart, but they’re part of an integrated whole. So let’s be clear. We do have an image problem. We have a serious image problem. Not only… and we have it abroad in many, many countries, not simply in the Middle East countries that we’re now preoccupied with. I’d like to turn your attention to just a handful of the studies that have taken place.
A distressingly large number of Arabs cited bin Laden as someone they admire the most. When asked whether they believed Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks, well over 70 percent of those polled in Indonesia, Kuwait and Pakistan said it’s not true. In Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan, 44 to 53 percent told Gallup pollsters they believe the western value system has a negative influence on the Islamic value system. Many in the Muslim world do not believe the U.S. military action in Afghanistan is morally justified, —over 59 percent of Turks, 67 percent of Kuwaitis and shockingly to me at least, 80 percent or more Pakistan. Of respondents to the Gallup poll on the Muslim world only, 6 percent of Iranians, 6 percent of Indonesians and 13 percent of Saudis believe the western nations respect Arab Islamic values. It’s no wonder, therefore, that this is perceived, or could be perceived as a war on Islam.
In Europe, it is also noteworthy that 85 percent of Germans, 80 percent of French, 73 percent of British and 68 percent of Italian respondents are saying the U.S. is acting in its own interests. In other words, they’re not in their interest, in the fight against terrorism. We have five urgent areas of reform that I will try to, as briefly as possibly, elaborate on. Develop immediately a coherent strategic and coordinating framework. Second, less of the mass communication with one-way push down, much increased customized two-way dialogue and if I may say so, debate. Three, much increased private sector involvement. Four, increase the effectiveness of public diplomacy resources, and finally, increase the resources themselves.
We could move on, take our first recommendation. Issue a President directive on public diplomacy. It is a fact, I think it is fair to say, that early in the year 2001, the Bush administration undertook a review of previous efforts to integrate public diplomacy under the foreign policy process. In July, 2002, 17 months later, and ten months after September 11th, this review is still in progress. Now I know that many of the administration feel they have made public diplomacy a genuine priority. Certainly new and useful steps have been taken. We met on June 18th, as a matter of fact, with Karen Hughes, with Charlotte Beers, Tucker Askew, and Ambassador Ross, who I believe is here. It is clear they’re all interested and in particular it is very clear that Karen Hughes is extremely interested and involved in not only what the administration plans to do, but involved thereafter.
However, to those people who follow these matters here and abroad, public diplomacy does not yet look like a genuine priority. And we feel it is essential that the President himself make clear the United States government to reforming public policy… diplomacy and making it a central element of American foreign policy.
Second, create a public diplomacy coordinating structure, led by the personal designate… personal designate(?). This structure is somewhat analogous to the National Security Council, in its role as adviser, synthesizer, coordinator and priority setter. It would help define communication strategies, streamline structures and horizontally transfer ownership of these efforts to U.S. government agencies, allies, private sector partners. It should include members at the Assistant Secretary level or above, in all of the relevant departments, State, Defense, Treasury, Commerce, the Attorney General, the Director of Central Intelligence, U.S. Agency for International Development and of course, given the importance of the broadcasting sector, the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
We believe that the Chair of this new structure should serve as the President’s personal advisor on public diplomacy, working out of the White House. This person must have the confidence and trust of the President, obviously. Incidentally, we feel that this individual should review all Presidential statements in advance, to consider their impact abroad, given what everyone knows at that time about foreign sensitivities and attitudes. It is perfectly obvious to anybody who thinks about this, that our political leaders need far less of this help on domestic communication, since by definition they have traveled the country from coast to coast, north to south, they understand the sensitivities and the sensibilities. We want to emphasize that the structure we’re proposing, the Chair would oversee and coordinate public diplomacy, but it would not engage in operations or program implementation.
Move public diplomacy from the margins to the center of foreign policy making. It seems to me, and I think to most of us on this task force, that too often Washington has formulated foreign policies on its own, failing to consider how they will play abroad, and making selling them an afterthought. To better serve the national interest, public diplomacy should be present at the creation, truly an integral part of foreign policy making. Policy officials, public diplomacy officials should be at the table, working with other U.S. officials as policy is sculpted.
Now considering foreign opinion doesn’t mean forsaking our interests, let alone our values. But it is naive not to realize that attitudes abroad can obstruct the success of U.S. policies. So we believe it should be standard operating procedure to consider others’ likely reaction to our moves, and to ensure that if we do decide to do something others dislike, we’ve got a way to make our case. Where possible, America should make its policies mesh with those of others, and where we can’t, and often we will not between able to do that, we should be… we should be unapologetic about that. But we should at least have a stance that we can explain.
I was informed by the interesting comments on this subject of Edward R. Murrow, the legendary newsman that President Kennedy appointed Director of the U.S. Information Agency, after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Mr. Murrow pointed out that public diplomacy officials should be in on the take offs, and not just the crash landings. Unfortunately, too often our current structure tends to create those crash landings.
It has produced, from time to time, some policies that whatever one thinks of their underlying merits, struck too many of even our best friends abroad as simply baffling. From our outright rejection of the Kyoto Climate Change Pact to our seeming dismissal of the International Criminal Court, we sometimes appear as obstructionists, not constructive critics. Better by far to have a different process, one that would have produced a U.S. proposal to fix Kyoto’s flaws, rather than making us seem callous about global warming, or one that would have offered a mechanism for protecting U.S. peace keepers, rather than making us look indifferent to the prospect of war criminals walking free.
Next… all of the panel, I believe, believes we must have more of this two way dialogue as contrasted to the conventional one way. I think it’s fair to say that historically, U.S. public policy has been communicated largely in a push-down method, which lacks sufficient reach and explanation to foreign media. The policy is created, speeches are given, press releases are written, press conferences are held, all with the primary… with a lot of focus at least on addressing the U.S. media. Many of our messages are delivered by a rather limited number of official messengers, with a primary foreign audience of foreign governments and international organizations, not foreign publics.
Too often in these sessions, the government does not engage in much open discussion or debate of how it arrived at its policy decisions. Now persuasion begins with listening. We found it instructive that the entire budget on foreign public opinion poll of five million dollars is less than many or a number of Senate and Governor and I guess even Mayor candidates spend on such research. Next, if we could.
Support the voices of moderation and empower them to engage in effective debate through means available, or created in their society. We need to remind ourselves that given the daunting demographics of that era, and I promised my friend Henry I would not engage in a book review of my worst selling book called "The Gray Dawn", on global demographics. But I think almost anyone knows that the young make up an extraordinary percentage of the population in the Middle East, the unemployment rates are huge, the prospects of the future rather dimmed, and combined with a lot of the fundamentalist anti-western education makes the young very likely prospects for a terror campaign.
But it is also worth noting that radical Islam’s assault on America and the west is also an assault on moderate and secular Islam in the vast majority of the Muslim world. And too often, in our view, the moderate voices are not heard above the din of the fanatics. We believe, therefore, that we must encourage debate within Islam about the radicals’ attempt to highjack Islam’s spiritual soul. We propose mullahs, journalists, talk show personalities, obviously foreign exchange students who are back in their home countries, who understand this country very well, and we believe that many of those would be more credible messengers, who could complement our government sources.
Next, foster increasingly meaningful relationship between the U.S. government and foreign journalists. I was interested to find in the research that we did that foreign reporters quite often feel they’re treated as second class citizens. I guess all reporters feel they’re treated as second class citizens, that’s a redundancy, I suppose. But they’re treated as though they’re on the fringe of U.S. communication efforts. Now to the extent that we marginalize these journalists, we alienate a group of people that could be highly effective, credible messengers.
Therefore, we strongly advocate much more access by them to not junior level officials, but our high level officials. And that we… our senior policy makers make time to brief journalists at U.S. foreign press centers, and make themselves available. This coordinated and consistent effort has to be done not just in times of crisis, but in terms of building long term relationships.
Next, craft messages that involve cultural overlaps. It is quite interesting to see that while we often emphasize specific issues, as we must, many of the problems really relate to the issue of values and social perceptions. Somehow, we have to get involved in how we bridge those gaps. We have to obviously focus, people, on those who can be influenced, but if we’re… if the polls we’re reading are correct, the Muslim world does have respect for many of our values, and we must emphasize those. Our Chairmen here can illustrate for you some suggestions we have to make on that, but let me illustrate this.
Even those who are very dubious about American policies admire, and there’s a certain mystique around our culture, around our values, around our economy and most certainly about our democratic traditions and our ability to self criticize and self correct. We emphasize and report a lot of American traits that we think if foreigners knew about them would enhance their view of us, including strength of family, religious faith, safety nets, volunteerism and so forth. And most important, the way we cherish and honor honest debate, which is something that is not so honored in their countries.
Next, private sector involvement. We spent a lot of time thinking about this, and debating it, but we think we’re going to get much more bang for the government buck, if we figure out how to use the private sector more. Why do we say that? First, the U.S. government has traditionally targeted foreign officials as a major part of its audience abroad. And necessarily, certain diplomatic protocols must be observed. For example, Henry, when you were an ambassador, I assume you made a speech, it was preferred that it be cleared in advance. That kind of structure is understandable in official circles, but it does keep our officials on a somewhat tight leash with regard to engaging in the kind of dialogue that we think is important. We believe independent messengers could be more fluid in their ability to target and engage and persuade various audiences.
Second, to be blunt about it, involving private sector participation adds to some extent a heat shield that can be useful when tackling controversial issues that might have negative political or diplomatic repercussions. Third, we believe it is very important to communicate, but also to demonstrate America’s belief in democratic and open debate, the give and take of a culture that thrives on legitimate critiques, admits weaknesses and uses truth as the most powerful arm of public diplomacy. Private messengers, in our opinion, can engage in this kind of debate more often than officials could, for fear of political backlash.
Fourth, the U.S. government, it seems to us, is unlikely to attract a sufficient number of truly creative professionals who could utilize the most cutting edge media and communications technology. We suspect that media or entertainment spokespeople may be more likely to cooperate with private sources, such as NGOs than with an effort directly funded by the government. Therefore, we propose that America also consider credible and independent messengers at home, and we list a variety of them there. Arab and American fire fighters and police fighters, victims, particularly women and children, including Arab and Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans who are thriving in America, and we see nothing wrong with using sports figures, Muhammad Ali, if we could recruit him, business leaders, scientists, health care leaders and so forth.
I was going to say we couple probably attract credible television properties such as MTV, and I was going to mention "Sesame Street", my wife as the founder of—., already have, so I think there’s a major role to be played for some of those independent properties.
Next, bridge the gap between the public and private sector initiatives by creating an independent, public-private, not for profit corporation for public diplomacy. We believe that experience of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS, is highly relevant, and it’s because it’s a somewhat similar entity to what we envision. This structure could operate as a tax exempt organization, could receive private sector grants, which have been substantial in the case of CPB. You may have forgotten, I had, that Walter Annenberg, for example, contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for a variety of initiatives.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been deeply involved in the support of such programs as "Sesame Street", there I go again, "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer¬”, Bill Moyers, "American Playhouse" and so forth. We received testimony and our own views that probably these kinds of public programs would not have been started were they to have been supported entirely by the public government. To emphasize, it should receive private sector grants, and attract media and personalities from the private sector.
Next, raise the effectiveness of public diplomacy resources. Henry Grunwald and other foreign service officers and investors were very useful in informing us on a whole variety of State Department reforms. We think perhaps most important is that we must make the point that public diplomacy in this new world is central to the work of all ambassadors and diplomats, that bold initiatives are rewarded, risks accepted, occasional mistakes accepted, and the absence of requisite skills penalized. We propose that the Under-Secretary of State’s budget and operational authority, and we’re glad that step was taken with Charlotte Beers, must be increased substantially. We believe that it should either be made a full time job or certainly a primary responsibility of the Deputy Assistant Secretary in each of the State Department’s regional offices.
As to U.N. ambassadors, if you’ve got time to read our report, you will see a very expanded list of suggestions on how to make this a much higher priority operation in both the training and the work of U.S. ambassadors. On the subject of training, it now… the Department now has a two week training course for new ambassadors, only a very small time is spent on public diplomacy. It provides a one or two page printed summary on public diplomacy in the country to which the ambassador is assigned. Two days are devoted to media skills, but this training isn’t even mandatory, and not all ambassadors do it. We believe the same thing should be said about all foreign policy officers.
Next, initiate a structured evaluation of diplomatic readiness and prioritize spending through a quadrennial diplomacy review. We after all have such a mechanism in the defense area, with the quadrennial defense review. We believe this should be conducted by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. It should be an effort that’s long term and much more strategy based. We believe that we should establish a variety of entities to increase training of foreign service officials in this field. Our report elaborates on that suggestion.
We propose a public diplomacy reserve corps, which could provide private sector people again that could help in particular countries. We have lots to say about international broadcasting, which is an extremely important area. We were pleased to see that among the new initiatives was something called the Middle East Radio Network, which was created this year. It’s known as Radio Sawa, and it’s aimed at young Arab adults, and it’s delivered by digital AM-FM radio, and satellite, most of its programs now are Middle East and American…
PGP:… god save them all, I might say, with newscasts twice an hour, but the concept is to start moving it into this area that we think is very important, talk shows, dialogue, debate and so forth by credible figures.
Finally, in… do we have another thing on increasing resources here? Yes, we do. Next one, please. Yeah. Increase public diplomacy resources. It’s interesting to note that the history of this country establishes that without sustained oversight and ownership by a committee in the Congress, you’re not very likely to get sustained interest or support. So we propose a new Congressional structure, probably within the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committee, that would be the focal point for these activities. Obviously, they would play a role in authorizing and appropriating resources for public diplomacy, but we think it’s extremely important that the Congress has a sense of ownership in this area.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we’re glad to say has expressed a lot of interest in our work, and I understand one of their representatives is here. Bring public diplomacy funding in line with its role as a vital component of foreign policy and national security. We think, because we had to gather a lot of the data, and it isn’t highly coordinated, that about a billion dollars is all that is spent throughout the U.S. government. To give you a reference point, that’s one-twenty-fifth of our foreign affairs budget. If you want to compare it to our defense department’s budget of 379 billion, even one percent of that would be four billion dollars.
As we looked at the budget, there have been very major cuts in a variety of the cultural exchange programs in the very countries where we’re having the worst problems. In Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and so forth, the declines have been stunning 25, 30, 35 percent. So obviously it must be funded more. Clearly, the government also needs enhancement in key areas. Foreign public opinion research, media studies, program evaluation and on and on. We believe that the government has fewer spending priorities that are higher than this one.
To sum up, the promise of America’s public diplomacy, in our view, has not been realized due to the lack of will, the absence of an overall strategy, a deficit of trained officials, cultural constraints, structural shortcomings, and a scarcity of resources. Money alone is not going to solve this problem. Strong leadership, imaginative thinking, planning and coordination are critical. We believe public diplomacy is a strategic instrument of foreign policy in this new world, and U.S. leaders, beginning with the President of the United States, must provide the sustained, coordinated and robust and effective diplomacy that America requires, and we believe the war on terrorism demands it. Thank you very much, and we’ll take your questions. Thank you. Yes? Could you tell us who you are, so that we can judge your neutrality? (Laughter)
Audience: Ben Barber, from the Washington Times. And the question is, the U.S. Information Agency was consolidated into the State Department about three years ago. What was the effect of that consolidation? Do you believe that that had… I mean, resources were declining before that as well, but do you feel that this sort of shot us in the foot as far as public diplomacy is concerned?
PGP: David Morey.
David Morey [DM]: Thank you, Pete. Are we on? The consensus of the task force is that that was an individual integration. As you all know, USIA in 1999 was in effect disassembled and integrated into the State Department, and that involved a diminishment of funds in the Clinton administration, so this stretches across different administrations, this need for prioritization. And that reintegration into the State Department, as you all may know, has created cultural complexities. It’s just a different world without an independent entity USIA, so that has structurally created some of the imperatives that Pete went through, in terms of reorganizing and indeed revolutionizing the way we think about public diplomacy today.
PGP: Yes, sir?
Audience: Ed Rowny, former Arms Compttroller. NPR this morning said that apparently they have adopted your, (Laughs), plan for public diplomacy. Is that true or… have they… you been scooped or have you been bought? Has your idea been bought now and…
PGP: Have we been bought? I hope not. (Scattered Laughter) Well, out of due… (Overlap)
PGP:… out of due respect for a gentleman from the Washington Times, it is simply a report in the Washington Post, and we don’t know to what extent it is official. I assume that it is official. We do not know the details, at least I don’t, of the structure. We don’t even know who’s going to head it. All we know is that it’s a step in the direction of coordination, and we think that’s desperately needed, to have a central place, as we do on foreign policy, as we do on economic policy, where there is in fact a U.S. policy. But we like the idea as a step, and as I told you, Karen Hughes and Ambassador Ross were there, and Tucker Askew, that’s his name, right? Tucker Askew was there. I assume he may play a major role on this, at the meeting we had, six weeks ago, it would be presumptuous of us to say that we had an influence, I haven’t any idea, but they certainly listened intently, and I’ve gotten a long and I thought very constructive letter from Charlotte Beers on a wide variety of our recommendations, so I hope we had an impact, but I don’t know. And I certainly don’t know whether their structure is identical to ours. Yes? Excuse me, go ahead.
Audience: Gary Thomas, I’m a foreign correspondent for Voice of America. For 60 years, Voice of America has been broadcasting and the objectivity and balance of our reports are enshrined in a 1976 law, which was the VOA charter. In this push for selling, for marketing, for spin, I see very little in the report about guaranteeing the objectivity and editorial journalistic independence of an entity like VOA or indeed any other journalistic entity that would fall under this public diplomacy initiative. What was talked about in terms of preserving journalistic integrity of VOA and other U.S. broadcasting entities?
PGP: If the message didn’t come through, it’s our error. We certainly emphasize truth as the primary instrument, and not using the techniques that others use. Henry, what would you say about this, as someone who’s had a lot of independence in your life?
Henry Grunwald [HG]: Well, I certainly agree that the respect for truth in what we put out to the world is absolutely essential. But if I may say so, truth can be interpreted and emphasized in many different ways. And I think there is… I see nothing wrong with using truth to make certain points that should be made to our public overseas. I don’t think there’s an inherent conflict, and we certainly don’t have any intention of suggesting spin as you… I think you used the word spin. That is not our intention.
DM: May I add something to that? I think if you… in our discussions, it was very clear that that was a concern all together, in particular that the international community, certainly in the Middle East, people are not going to trust the message if it looks tainted, if it looks like a spin. Moreover, they’re not going to trust it if they don’t trust the messenger, and that was an issue that we’ve talked about quite a bit. The whole idea, in fact the whole idea of the… corporation of public broadcasting, is to separate it from the… to distance public diplomacy somewhat from official positions. I think it’s very important to do that. Frankly, the extent to which even during those years when Voice of America, as you argued, has been very objective, that’s not the way it was seen in much of the world regardless, and certainly not in the Middle East. And clearly, part of the mistrust was built on it being associated with policy, whether or not it projected itself that way, directly that’s the way it was perceived by much of the Middle East, and I think in that regard if you look at the trends in terms of who listened to Voice of America, it never had in the Middle East, I’m specifically speaking of the Middle East, had significant listenership. And so any enterprise that is going to be effective is going to have to find a way to communicate to the public, there are a lot of different alternatives to… available to the public today. It’s a different world from the way it was 20 years ago. There are so many different, competing outlets, and people know the difference between spin and real information.
M: Let me add one point if I could. There has not been a strategic review of international broadcasting since 1994, then conducted I believe by the GLA, and one of the points made by the task force is it ought to be time to do that again, it seems to me, it seems to us, eight years is a good long time in this very complicated field to take a good hard look at international broadcasting.
PGP: Incidentally, I think the spirit of our group, whether we communicate it or not, ought to be reflected in the fact that I think we were unanimous in the view of pushing debates, and debates by their very nature involve criticisms. But we think that’s much more likely to be effective than simply official messages. You want to handle this? I think people would rather look at you, Lisa, than me. (Scattered Laughter)
Audience:… thank you. As you may know, the House of Representatives passed their version of a public diplomacy bill about two weeks ago, I think. It incorporated many of… it addressed many of these issues—.money at international broadcasting reform, the broadcasting board of governors did a couple of other things. I wanted to know whether or not the panel endorses that measure, and if you are looking for certain things to be addressed differently in the bill that the Senate is working on, the related measure the Senate’s working on.
PGP: Well, as I say, there’s been a lot of interest expressed in our work. I assume one of our next stops is going to be to testify and relate to those. Who wants to comment on the House bill? (Overlap)
DM:… try that. I think the spirit of our task force is that, just as Chairman Peterson mentioned of the reported restructuring of the Office of Global Communications reported in the Washington Post today, is a great first step. My understanding in our reading of the Hyde-Lantos Bill is, it does call for increased funds, it touches many of the bases that our report touches on. It is supported by the Under Secretary of State Charlotte Beers, it’s a good first step. I think our caution is it’s… these are first steps. In the spirit of Chairman Peterson’s remarks on the task force, there’s a need not to just adjust public diplomacy, but… and find ways to revolutionize public diplomacy, because the world has been revolutionized around us, and therefore the need to revolutionize public diplomacy itself exists.
Kathy Bloomgarden [KB]: I think we just want to emphasize that this is just not tactical support in terms of changing the priority or the funding, but it’s really a paradigm shift that we’re recommending, so that we have a different strategy in terms of approaching public diplomacy, which is a different approach than just simply doing, as David has mentioned, and Pete has emphasized, tactical steps one by one, although we find that there’s a resonance with what the administration and the debate on the Hill is putting forward.
PGP: Incidentally, in the same way that we ought to, in the context of debate, accept criticism of us, which is not likely to be as the case in official channels, we certainly shouldn’t be bashful in criticizing foreign behavior. One that I find particularly troubling is that some of our best allies, so-called, in the area, are supporting government sponsored stations that spend a great deal of their time bashing the United States, and since that is a channel that many people listen to, I would have thought it’s an important aspect of both public diplomacy and foreign policy to arrive at a policy of what we’re going to do about trying to change that. Not in the spirit of censorship, but that in the spirit of whether they are really allies if they cooperate in relentless bashing of this country, most of it untrue.
Audience: Elise Labott, with CNN. When you talk to people abroad, mostly Arab journalists, Arab students, they say that it’s the U.S. policies that they have the trouble with, and that the U.S. is trying to market policies that are negatively affecting the consumer, if you will. And that even if you trust the U.S. message one time, and you buy the policy, a lot of these people think that… find it’s a lemon policy, so… that’s what they say. So I guess the question is, how… if the U.S. is marketing policies that are in its own best interests, the U.S. conducts foreign policy for its own vital interests, and so how do you… do you think that there will be a receptivity to U.S. leaders, as we go forward, to think about their policies and how they’re going to play abroad, or if they’re just going to continue to do what’s in America’s best interests, and just try to sell it differently?
PGP: I think our Chairman of our Messages task force should take the first cut at that.
HG: Well, I think it’s a very essential question. First of all, we must realize that whatever we do in the area of public diplomacy will not change the situation overnight, or even very soon. This is going to be a very slow, gradual process. We certainly should not stop policies or shape policies only to keep… to gain favor with certain… in certain areas abroad. We simply can not do that. And to carry… to make policy in our own interests is of course self evident. Every country does that, and must do that. What I suggested first of all that even policies which are very unpopular in many areas could be and should be explained and justified and supported with evidence much more effectively than we have done on many occasions. And furthermore and perhaps even more importantly, there are many, many things the… America does, many policies that we carry forward which are really essentially very sound, and would be at least somewhat welcomed, if they were properly publicized and explained. So I think, I’ll repeat, this is going to be a gradual process. Maybe it’ll only be marginal sometimes, but even that would matter a great deal.
Shibley Telhami [ST]: May I add to this just three points? One is that obviously public diplomacy is not a remedy in and of itself, it’s a question of how do you make public diplomacy more effective? Clearly, there are policy issues that are going to go beyond any public diplomacy that have to be addressed separately, and you’re right, some of it is very important. At the same time, however, there are two fundamental recommendations that were very clear in our discussion and in the report, that clearly address this issue. That this is not seen as—.spin of the… put just another face on policy. The two aspects are that this… that public diplomacy becomes, as Pete said it, right there at the inception of policy, and by which I mean, we have witnessed in the past many months examples when either administration, whether it was the Clinton administration or the Bush administration, a single statement by a President, or a Secretary of State, outweighs all the billions of dollars that we spend on public diplomacy, because clearly that’s what the public watches, they interpret that as policy. Those words matter. Clearly, if you have public diplomacy at the inception, the formulation of policy, looking at the consequence of what we do and what we say, and understanding that consequence is part and parcel of the formulation of policy. So essentially, you take that into account when you conceive a policy.
And second, the notion that this is not a one directional enterprise, where we are just broadcasting, or advertising, but rather engaging. The notion that there is a dialogue, the notion that there is mutual learning, and that this would be then part of the input into the policy. That when you know what the public is, you can’t ignore it. It isn’t, as Henry said, you can’t just design your policy because what people around the world just wish, but clearly you can’t ignore that, because that’s part of understanding the consequence. So learning in the process is very important in the formulation of policy. And so in those steps increase the… desirability of the policy, they make it more likely that the public diplomacy could play a constructive role that would mitigate a lot of what is going on in the region in terms of perception of the policy. And that is why the notion here is that what is being proposed isn’t just incremental steps, here are some things we can do to improve the image, but rather the fundamental paradigmatic shift on how we do business in foreign policy, this has to be particularly of making policy in America, and it isn’t now.
KB: Yeah, I think I just want to add to what Shibley said, and that there appears to be a rather… a global distortion of what we’re saying, and I think Shibley’s rightly pointed out that our messages, are not being correctly conveyed or even heard. Terrorism is a global problem, it’s not just a U.S. problem, and you can see from the Zogby polls, the ten thousand people that were surveyed in the Arab world, that that message is not coming across. There are a great deal of shared values with the Islamic world, in terms of freedom, democracy, respect, economic growth potential for our families and our children, and none of these are building bonds today. Rather we have these vast gaps, and I think that what we’re doing is we’re really widening the divide and the gap because we don’t have a better understanding, and if we do pursue this paradigm shift, I think we’ll find much more responsiveness and dialogue, which will ultimately bring us closer.
PGP: I would have also thought that even in those cases where they disagree with our policies, we could gain not only by articulating shared values, but explaining the process by which devices are made in the United States. That very democratic process of debate and why we make the decisions we make is in itself illustrative of the American tradition, which is certainly not the case there.
Audience:… just wanted to—and the other points that were made indicate that this issue was raised several times in our discussions, and based… Jim Zogby, with the Arab-American Institute, with the task force, but also with Zogby polls, and two points. One is because of the very dialectic that we’re talking about, us engaging in the process of shaping, there is the sense that the Arab street, quote-unquote, which has been used as a sort of a… seen as an object, not as a force or a partner in discussions, will be changed. This is the paradigmatic shift that Shibley talked about. But also because once the policy is shaped, and shaped in the process of dialogue rather than pushed down, the message also changes, because we’re talking to people, people we know, people we respect, and people whose language and values we’ll come to better understand. That has not been the case up till now, and I think we’ve used language that speaks to one side, we haven’t focused on the language that speaks to the other side, and I think that that will be understood. I mean, one of the issues here is that you may not change the policy, although I think it will round it out, flesh it out, make it more real, but will also be more respectful in the discourse that we have, and I think that that’s so critical here. Respectful also of the concerns that the Chairman notes, about the issues around the edge, how the policy was shaped, what are the factors we take into consideration, that sometimes is more damaging even than the final policy results itself.
Audience: Jim Lobe, Interpress Service. The last… the colloquy that just preceded, I’d like to know more about. I mean, it seems to me that in a very subtle way, you’re kind of criticizing the way this administration… its policy and the way it communicates the policy… (Overlap)
PGP:… I think most administrations in my memory have made decisions in this way. Yeah. (Overlap)
Audience: Well, I… I mean, to quote… what you said, for example, about the international criminal court and the Kyoto Protocol. I mean, it wasn’t just a matter of how we explained our position on it, it was a matter of… you suggested that we shouldn’t obstruct as much, particularly vis-a-vis our allies and so on, and also the notion that there should be more of a dialogue here. The sense that I get is that this administration isn’t listening very well, and it’s making its policies on the basis of not listening, of listening perhaps only to itself, or even excluding the State Department, which after all, is the department that’s supposed to be in on the take off too, but as in the case of the Axis of Evil, it simply isn’t there. And what I’d like you to address is, I mean, to what extent you are making a substantive critique of the way this administration formulates policy, and the policy itself.
PGP: To repeat, I think this has been a tradition for some time. I can go back to, well, we used the example of human rights policies in this country, and how we would announce something without considering what the response would be, and then in a very crash landing mode, try to explain the policy. No, I think it’s being going on, personally, I don’t know what the rest of you think, for some time. (Overlap)
DM:… the quote that Pete mentioned of Edward R. Murrow was issued after the Bay of Pigs, that public diplomacy and in that case —tends to be in on the crash landings and not the take offs, and the need is to inculcate public diplomacy more in the policy making process today, because the world has gotten so much more complicated. Murrow, 30 years ago… (Overlap)
PGP: Yeah, I’ll be glad to take on the Kyoto thing, because I at least based on what I’ve seen, I question whether we did a good job here. I would have thought an alternative approach would have been to assert why we are concerned about global warming, and that we do think it’s an issue, assuming we do, and that we have the following recommendations to make as alternatives. I think the way it came across, and I was not there, so maybe I missed something, was essentially a rejection of something without offering a constructive alternative, or suggestions that would improve the environmental situation. But maybe I just didn’t see the whole package… (Overlap)
DM: Could I get in on that too? I think the distinction between… whether we’re criticizing basic policy or simply the manner in which it is communicated is very important. I think most of us on this task force did not have the intention to criticize U.S. foreign policy which is the job of perhaps another task force, or many task forces, but I, personally speaking for myself, I believe that the rejection of the Kyoto Treaty was correct, because it was basically, as the President… as President Clinton said, a flawed treaty, but I agree with Pete that the way in which we turned away from it could have been much more subtle and much more gentle, in a way. I feel the same way about the International Criminal Court, which again, personally I think is a very bad idea, but we have… there are certain ways in which we could have expressed that, and which we could cope with this, that we have not I think done as subtly or as diplomatically as we could have. To me, it is very much a matter of style, not… sometimes of substance, but mostly a matter of style.
KB: I think we also want to note that the structure of communication and information has changed, that this administration faces that much more acutely than previous administrations, which means there are more voices, there are more channels for communicating, there are more NGOs that are involved and engaged in pressure groups. So I think we have to realize that requires a different kind of response. So it’s the context in which public policy is made and introduced that has actually shifted.
Audience: Walt Cutler, Meridian International Center. You made reference to… brief reference to student exchanges, and also the cuts in cultural exchange programs. I wonder if the task force considered the value of the hands-on people to people exchanges which in my experience have had tremendous impact on public perceptions abroad, of the United States. Programs such as Fullbright, International Visitor Program and that sort of thing?
M: We did. Let me take that first, and indeed, foreign exchanges on a constant dollar basis, depending on how you calculate it, have fallen anywhere between 33 percent and 40 percent from 1993 to 2001, so this is an issue that crosses administrations, the de-funding of programs that our task force are very, very valuable. They’ve diminished in… in terms of Islamic countries, in terms of Muslim countries, at times when those youth populations have bulged. So we find that very worrisome. For example, in the case of Saudi Arabia, 50 percent of the population is under 20. It’s very interesting. And that 50 percent that has exposure to Internet and global U.S. satellite, has a 20 percent higher favorability perception towards the United States, so it seems to us exposure in all ways, person to person, international broadcasting, is advantageous and has to be part of this new paradigm of public diplomacy.
M: (Unmiked) I think we have to make a correction here. We’re talking about federal money to support students. The number of students who’ve come to this country from Islamic rule has increased dramatically in the last decade… (Overlap)
M: Right, we’re talking about State Department funding.
M: Yes. And that’s… but we have moved to a different era, so that to say that we have had less exchange… less… fewer students coming here is not accurate at all. We’ve had a dramatic increase in students coming from overseas to U.S. colleges and universities, and we should… it’s only a question of the resources the government…
M:… I think the feeling of the task force, correct me if I’m wrong, is that more should be done, along the… the Kennedy-Lugar Bill, for example, calls for enhanced exchanges to… (Overlap)
M: Not only that, but clearly, since 9/11, we have had a major, major decline… (Overlap)
PGP: Oh, yes. And we will in the future. (Overlap)
M:… and it’s likely to be worse, given the restrictions that we now have, at the very time that we need it most badly. So there’s no question that, you know, whatever the trend was in the past decade, we have a new trend established since 9/11, that is getting worse every single day, on both private and federal, and that trend, we have to find a way to reverse it. (Overlap)
M: (Unmiked) I just want to keep this accurate(?). What will diminish (Inaudible) will be visas and security concerns… (Overlap)
M: (Unmiked)… not (Inaudible), so we need to be accurate (Inaudible). (Scattered Laughter)
LS: We’re just going to take one more question, because we’re running out of time, but the panelists and the Chairman will be here after this if you have other questions or want to talk to them—
Audience: Anthony Shadid, with the Boston Globe. I’m just curious, just in my travels in the Middle East, I’m struck by how much U.S. support for Israel is probably the single most decisive impact on U.S. image, and the way that—mirror the intensity of that conflict. I’m wondering when we talk about a new public diplomacy strategy, how is it possible to tailor necessarily a message that, you know, sort of tailor a message that affects an impact very much tied to the news, basically.
DM: Yeah. Well, there are… you’re absolutely right, and clearly, the surveys that were done, my surveys, Zogby surveys, other surveys have done… show exactly the point. I mean, it’s not just sort of impressionistic. We know that that’s what people are focused on, that is the issue on people’s minds. I think at some level, as we said, there are limits to public diplomacy, but at another level, in every single survey that was done on the Middle East or probably even globally, to see… to look into the sources of resentment toward the United States, the aspect that is most identified is the absence of American empathy. That is, that the U.S. does not project empathy toward the sufferings and pain of others, that is at least the way it is being seen, and frankly, on Arab-Israeli issue, there are many, many… it’s a complicated issue, it’s not just one issue that reflects why people are resentful on it. One is policy and the perception that the U.S. is too pro-Israel on that. But there is I think another one, which I would even argue is fundamentally important, and that is the sense that there is not projection of empathy with the suffering of Arabs and Muslims when it occurs. Even aside from policy issues, regardless of what position we take, it is just the sense that we are tragically moved by the fact that there are people who are dying and suffering and going through a very intense pain. And I think that clearly is something that public diplomacy can do, and that is something that could be identified and highlighted at the inception of policy, and certainly at the inception of statements pertaining to policy.
PGP: And isn’t it pretty clear too that you have found an additional lack of awareness of the positive programs we have engaged in? For example, we’ve done a great deal with Muslims in Bosnia, and Muslims in other countries, and we’ve done a great deal for the Palestinians. But my impression is that we don’t present not only empathy, but a positive vision of programs that we do believe in, to raise the level of hope that exists (Inaudible). I guess we’ve exhausted you all… (Scattered Laughter) All right, thank you very much.