Nov. 11 readings

It was interesting to read Andreas Sandre’s article on fast diplomacy. His observations on the “cheapening” of diplomacy was thought-provoking and brought to mind the Netpolitik report which spoke of an increase in “tension between velocity of information and judgment.” What will this new face of digital diplomacy look like once risk management becomes a component of it?

I enjoyed Joseph Nye’s overview of soft power. On the subject of the decline of America’s soft power, Nye mentions a striking quote from German editor Josef Joffe who “once argued that America’s soft power was even larger than its economic and military assets.” (p 96) Can the US effectively revamp and strengthen its “smart power” (combination of hard and soft power) and gain back credibility?

On page 98 of the soft power article, there was an interesting reference to how the Office of Wartime Information (OWI), created by President Franklin Roosevelt, used Hollywood as an “effective propaganda tool.” It struck me how propaganda, or at the very least, overzealous patriotism is still slipped in mainstream Hollywood films. Last weekend, as a friend’s husband was watching “Olympus Has Fallen,” I watched briefly out of curiosity. The movie is about an ex-Secret Service agent who is trapped inside the White House during an attack led by North Korean terrorists and his mission is to save the President and others who are being held hostage. One could argue that the movie is supposed to be far-fetched, testosterone-fueled escapist entertainment. But the thought of propaganda crossed my mind as I watched the stale storyline unfold of the American “hero” who defeats the bad guys and saves the day.


November 11 Reading Reflections

Sandre, “Global Interconnectivity, Social Dipolomacy and Non-state Actors”:

-This article discusses the government’s current and increasingly important task of harnessing the power and reach of digital Internet technologies and social media platforms in order to carry out diplomatic agendas. I enjoyed Sandre’s description of this technological transformation’s impact on governments as a shift from “vertical hierarchies into horizontal webs…where governments are part of the game, rather than the one exclusively controlling it.” This analogy resonated with me and helps to succinctly elucidate the emerging challenge that social media and network systems have engendered against government hegemony. Interconnectivity is the key characteristic of the present relationships between governments and their publics. Social diplomacy now not only refers to the ability of governments to control the messages being conveyed through the Internet, but also the national activists have a means of mobilization that eliminates the limitations of physical distance. Foreign policy has had no choice but to evolve and become interconnected to the procedural forces of social networking.

Sandre, “Fast Diplomacy, the future of Foreign Policy?”:

-The most intriguing inclusion in this article I believe was the quoting of State Dept. spokesperson Nuland, “we want to see all of our embassies have active Twitter fees” in order to produce “what will be most impactful in terms of conveying the views of the U.S. government in terms of having a direct dialogue with the people of the country.” This statement was a perfect case study of Sandre’s aforementioned assertions about the emergent role of Non-state actors as well as the inherent interconnectivity that allows social media users to reach a potentially endless audience. Sandre also questions whether the government’s increased use of the Internet technologies and social media platforms as a means for completing diplomatic processes denigrates our foreign policy. I agree with her suggestions that it all depends on how these tools are used and that potentially digital diplomacy could be highly beneficial and engender more effective communication amongst government officials.

Nye, “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power”:

I really enjoyed Nye’s definition and analysis of soft power when put into the context wherein it describes the ability to use attraction to influence other to want what you want. In my SIS 641 class we often discuss the topic of frame of mind and perceived realities. I felt this analysis of soft power resonated greatly with what we discussed in Dr. Weaver’s course in that one’s perceptions of reality is far greater and more important than reality itself. The use of soft power has the potential to change others perceptions of reality. This is a very powerful statement and one that I think should be understood for those intending to execute soft power within public diplomacy.

Public Diplomacy and Soft Power

  • In Nye’s article Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, one thing I felt to be very interesting was he mentioned the three dimensions of public diplomacy in today’s international society. The first one is daily communication, which “involves explaining the context of domestic and foreign policy decisions”(Nye, p. 102), while the second one dimension pointed out that the power of strategic communication, which develops central themes and ideologies as political and advertising campaign does. The third dimension discussed the crucial role of relationship building within key individuals. However, he continues stating that the “public diplomacy is an instrument that governments use to mobilize [the resources that produce soft power] to communicate with and attract the publics of other countries, rather than merely their governments”. (Nye, p. 95), which I believe not necessarily true since these three dimensions could also apply to the development of propaganda, while domestically influence the national culture and political appearance to its citizens
  • In Fast Diplomacy, Andreas Sandre pointed out the idea that how the fast diplomacy can be detrimental to a nation’s public diplomacy, which limits the time to consider and communicate with all the possible outcomes. Also, as he mentioned, “because social media exponentially multiplies a message and its reach, mistakes often occur in sudden and unexpected fashion” (Sandre). Therefore, to my point of view, adequate regulation and surveillance is necessarily needed, since social media cites still monitored by people, it’s extremely hard to express a nation’s voice in such a short time.
  • In Global Interconnectivity, Sandre again noted that a good public diplomacy depends on communications, which means not only expressing your culture and ideology, but also consume other countries views and concerns. That’s how interconnectivity formed, however, since half of the world press currently wither still hold the position of western view or in their own bureaucracy, it’s far from easy to make the “public diplomacy interconnectivity” to be practical.

Nov 11 Reading: Soft Power, Public Diplomacy and Social Diplomacy


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This week readings are lighter than the previous ones: an article from annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science and two shorter articles from Huffington Post by the author Andreas Sandre.

I think this week theme for International Communication class is about the Public Diplomacy from the point of view of policy makers and diplomats rather than that of ordinary citizen.

 In the first article, Public Diplomacy and Soft power by Joseph S.Nye, Jr, the author vividly explain the concept of soft power and public diplomacy, their sources and the methodologies to generate them.

For Joseph S.Nye, the power means the ability to affect other’s behavior to obtain the outcomes you want and it can be done by three ways: by threat or coercion (stick), by inducement or payments (carrots) and by attraction to make others want what you want. Here, the author’s thesis is clear, concise and also condensation of complex strategies in power politics and international relations.

The ability to influence others and make them want what you want is called as soft power that a major power emits its level of transparency, openness and prosperity to the rest of the world as model to emulate other countries and steer their direction toward its desired path.

Soft power came from three resources: culture, political values and foreign policies. A country’s cultural exports can be either high culture, which include literature, arts and educations that appeals to its elites or popular culture which focuses on mass entertainment.

Here, I have got some doubts on the role of Soft power, is the use of Smart power the ultimate solution in international affairs? I don’t think so. By using soft power, a superpower nation may able to influence other countries inclinations but that will not change its basic requirements and cannot quell the nations’ struggles to get them. For example, the soft power of Great Britain may suspend the quest for American Independence for a period of time but cannot deter the desirability of Americans for a new nation. It is the same for US’s soft power which may overwhelm the daily lives of Chinese citizens but it doesn’t change the reality of China’s huge population and scarcity of domestic resources that led the Chinese government to set policies on securing the natural resources beyond its boundaries, sometime against the interest of United States.

Next, the author distinguish the difference between the power of resources and power of outcomes in which some countries/stakeholders may have more resource power but could end up losing in power battle. Understanding the distinction of these two aspects of power is important for relationship between Soft power and public diplomacy.

In further definition, the soft power of country or organization is produced by its values or culture which sets its policies, internal practices and the way it handles its relations with others. Mean while, public diplomacy, in my understanding propaganda, is the instrument that the government uses to mobilize its resources in communicating with public of other countries, with activities such as broadcasting, subsidizing cultural exports, promoting its language through cultural center and exchange programs.

In this article, although the author has no evident, it portrayed that US’s cutting the investments in Soft power after Cold War, particularly for Arab and Muslim countries, resulted the anti-American sentiment and the rise of terrorism countering the US led globalization. In this case, I like to raise another question: Is the rise of anti-American sentiments in Muslim countries is the results of the cutting funds for Soft power? In other words, will the spending on Public diplomacy in Musilm countries avoid the terrorist efforts targeted at US interest?

In the same article, it has become more difficult to deal with democratic governments than authoritarian governments in promoting US’s positive image among publics. In the new digital landscape of plenty of information, attention rather than information become scarce resource and credibility has become more important than in the past because of “paradox of plenty”.

Meanwhile, in the first Huffington Post article: “Fast diplomacy: the future of Foreign Policy?”, it reveals a dilemma facing in the world of diplomacy.  The use of digital diplomacy is like double end of a knife, it is fast, multipliable and allows you to engage with the mass public but at the same time, create more risks prone environment where mistakes occur in a sudden and unexpected fashion.

In another Huffington Post article “Global interconnectivity, Social Diplomacy and Non-state actors”, it highlight the importance of Social media not only in social lives but also in cross border issues, political systems and foreign policy.

“Today, it’s not only about restricted bilateral meeting, or ministerial summits. Now world leaders and foreign ministers are tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Youtubing, and blogging. Of course, face-to-face traditional diplomacy is important, but it has evolved…..a conversation where all players interact with each other and where governments are part of the game, rather than the one exclusively controlling it.” Embassies in Washinton DC using Social Media

The dynamism of social media has brought several non-State actors including citizens, networks, government agencies, regional groupings, business, foundation and NGOs into international politics and policy making. Below is the analysis on foreign embassies in Washington DC that use Social Medias as a platform to disseminate their desired information. The post is co-written by Dr. Ali Fisher, Associate Director, Intermedia.

Social media use by embassy


At this point, the author assumes that the opinion widely described on social media as the opinion of the public as a whole. Here, I got another question: Are social media true representatives for the opinions of public as a whole? I doubt that since in most countries, the internet and social media users are young people and not true demographics of the whole society.

In the end of Joseph S.Nye, Jr’s article, it provides three dimensions of public diplomacy which I think are the most important information of whole article. First, the daily communication on context of domestic and foreign policy decisions with foreign presses as important target, second, in the view of Strategic communication, to develops special themes or symbolic events as political or advertising campaign does and third, the development of lasting relationships with key individuals over many years through scholarships, exchanges, training, seminars, conferences and access to media channels.

The author aware that even the best advertising cannot sell an unpopular product while the policies that appear to be self-serving or arrogantly presented are likely to prohibit rather than produce soft power.

Joseph S.Nye, Jr defined that the ability to combine hard and soft power effectively is “smart power” and this is what United States has effectively practiced throughout much of Cold War but declined after post 9-11 global war on terrorism. The psychological operations (psyops) are very useful for military but it proved to have negative effects in peace time. Poorly defined global war on terrorism has increased the fears among the civil society that undercut America’s soft power.

Most importantly, his article concluded with its main thesis: public diplomacy is an important tool in the arsenal of smart power but smart public diplomacy requires credibility, self-criticism and the role of civil society in generating soft power. The public diplomacy that degenerate into propaganda not only fails to convince but can undercut the soft power.

Soft Power and National Image Building

This week’s general introduction to the inception of public diplomacy and its evolution during the information stage, where nontraditional actors are given a voice, was extremely fascinating.  Because of the heightened importance of soft power relations, public diplomacy is major tool in exchanging cultural /political ideas and policies without overt force.  Does the use of public diplomacy and international information exchanges equate to transparency between nations and their citizens?  Or is there a general message that officially must be abided by through endorsed governmental organizations?

What are the different types of diplomacy and how can we accurately define their uses in specific situations?

Has the information age obstructed reliable outlets by contributing to the fact that, “attention rather than information [has become] the scarce resource…[where] those who can distinguish valuable information from background clutter gain power”(Nye, 100)? And how can we manage this influx of opinions and accounts  in order to accurately disperse holistic information?

The readings this week really touched on my favorite topics in International Communication: Public Diplomacy and Soft Power. When I interned at the State Department this past winter, I worked in their Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) which is at the heart of soft power communication initiatives at the State Department. So yes, going into the readings this week I was beaming.

Andreas Sandre’s pieces on Public Diplomacy were particularly of interest to me. In both articles Sandre makes the case for the importance of soft power working in tandem with hard power and the pertinence of giving more presence to soft power in the information age.

At one point Sandre points out that social media is “cheapening” public diplomacy. What does Sandre mean by this? I glean that Sandre is equating public diplomacy with a fine art that takes time and extensive knowledge to facilitate. In this regard, is it the speed, accessibility, and transparency of public diplomacy what is “cheapening” soft power? I would like to discuss this in class because it really intrigued and confused me.

In terms of more and more people having their hand in soft power efforts, is this  what Sandre argues is degrading the process?  Is it the lack of credibility that has accompanied the boom of social media voices chiming in to the news world?

What would add value and credibility back to the process?

Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, Fast Diplomacy, & Global Inter-connectivity….

During the reading of “Global Inter-connectivity”, it was refreshing to to be reading that many diplomats and bureaucrats are acknowledging that the use of technology is creating greater transparency and that utilizing these technologies is necessary for their own organisations as well. Which will then force them to adhere to the soft power of many others or else feel increasing amounts of backlash. I think that all major elitist meetings should be recorded and broadcast live with reception of outside viewers sending in questions, comments, and even a recap after the meeting with questions and comments. I feel that there is not only a social responsibilty, but it is also the opportunity to disprove any lingering questions of elitist domination over the rest of the world. A lot of people in media became very critical, especially over the last three years of what’s called the “Bilderberg Group”, meetings. Please google if you don’t know what this is. This strange secrecy of who attends, super tight security and the blocking of the press, really creates much distrust between elitists and the rest of the global population. To disprove any misunderstandings, this organisation and others should just become much more transparent. If they don’t, I feel that within time it will be demanded and there will be no other choice. I think that they should “lead the parade” and become more public with their meetings, but not just this organisation, many others. I just used this one as an example, because it seems like one of the most harshly criticized.

Also during the article, “Global Inter-connectivity”, it is mentioned that diplomacy must be “more grassroots”. I feel that this should have been ahead of the agenda from the beginning. Why are they just now discovering this?  Do they not know what diplomacy actually is? It should be at the top of their list, in order to survive they must interact with the majority in open dialogue or else they may be chased out. It seems to common of an experience today, that an embassy is either under attack or high levels of suspicion of an attack. Diplomats must be more aware that the spread of information is vast and whether they want to be more transparent or not, this world is more transparent.

I think that many bureaucrats have over extended themselves and maybe they need to release some of the control and allow spontaneous order to evolve naturally. I felt that during certain parts of the article “Fast Diplomacy”, the tone of some of the bureaucrats mentioned, where scared, angry, confused, and other things. I feel that if bureacrats feel threatened or at a loss of control and they don’t like it, then maybe they need to re-think things, re-tool their processes, and begin a changed mindset that allows for better flow for all. I think the last bureaucrat from the EU of this article summed up much when in his confused state of mind he absurdly says that:

“We’re living in a monitory age. People feel they have the right to monitor decisions. There’s now surveillance as well as
surveillance,” said Daniel Korski, Special Advisor on Communication to EU High Representative for Foreign and Security
Policy Catherine Ashton. “Some of all this change has negative effects, for example governments are more risk-averse. The
modern world has so many actors, and issues are so complex, that the notion that bureaucrats have all the answers and
information is absurd”.

He’s right in admitting that bureaucracies do not have all the answers, but he is wrong in assuming that others want answers. Others want their liberties back, they don’t want to feel constrained by the bureaucracies. He is also admitting that the bureaucracies do not have the capacity, but they want to assume control. It is time for the bureaucracies to release control, release the stress put upon their teams, and have open dialogues, honest messages and policies, and spontaneous order will follow. The bureaucratic machines are breaking down, because they are assuming too much control and are being faced with well informed organized resistance.

I really could not stand to read Josesp Nye’s article. I felt like he was trying to use coercion throughout the entire article, for the readers to buy into his idea of “soft power”. His way of thinking and seeing the world, seemed very archaic and backwards. At times I felt that it was very sociopathic and narrow in appeal.

To elaborate a bit, I’m gonna call this excerpt “Soft Force” not Soft Power, because that’s what he continues to describe. “If I can get you to want to do what I want, then I do not have to force you to do what you do not want”, this just screams sociopath to me. So in some ways, I think he is saying that, we can use threats, and other means to get what you want? Stated another way; if I can get you to accept without evidential physical force that can be proven scientifically, this soft power. This in many ways is still force, we just haven’t been measuring in the Western world the real damage that is being done. Coercing others to change their way of life, can be very detrimental to the world and can throw it out of balance. Many people have been saying to the Western world to back off.

Real soft power, is listening and having respect for all. Not coercion, this is still force. It just hasn’t been measurably proven to many out of touch members of the western society. Real soft power should not have to “entice” or “attract” it should be easily understood, communicated in a way that doesn’t even require the same linguistic skills. The messenger has it all backwards.

I think JFK had it right; “To inspire others is real power”.