Forum: Arts / Debates

Importance of Public Diplomacy
By balletslipper
On Wed Apr 20, 2011 09:24 AM

I have been researching this topic for a while, as it is of interest to me and I have been writing extensively on it, and see there are no similar topics on the board right now.
So, as someone majoring in politics, I'm interested to hear other folks' ideas.
I am curious as to whether or not there is a concensus among people about the importance of providing a good image abroad to one's country, especially if said country is a superpower, or at least a power player in global politics. This idea of soft power, that it is, 'seducing' the public into accepting a policy or action as opposed to coercing them seems to have become more and more prominent after the 2nd World War though for all intents and purposes the term refers simply to what we would call propaganda.

This question is particularly interesting when it comes to the U.S.A. as its culture has been very influential abroad, and it is in fact the world's leading communication society, but nations generally strive to have good PR and POV's touching on public diplomacy from/about anywhere are welcome.

4 Replies to Importance of Public Diplomacy

re: Importance of Public Diplomacy
By ChristinePremium member
On Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:11 AM
Sometimes when I travel I find myself observing other Americans and am embarrassed at how self centered and immature they act when on vacation. I almost want to apologize to the natives and say, "Not all Americans are like this" but then I realize that when humans are on vacation, Non-Americans as well as Americans, they are usually in a "manic" frame of mind.

Vacations usually involve a disruption in one's body clock, nutrition, and finances. No matter how well planned, a vacation often involves unforeseen challenges and due to the fact that tourists are strangers in a foreign land, there is not much accountability for rudeness. So, people who are not at their best behave in a way they might not at home. This can be an unfortunate reality in the "image" we portrait when traveling.

I do believe that Americans can do much to improve the image of America abroad. Despite our imperfections, we can help others see that basically we are kindhearted,generous, curious, people. We are not all immature rabid consumers without values. Learning just a few phrases in the language of the citizens of the countries we visit is a small way to communicate our humility and validate the people we visit. If this is impossible, simply asking, "Do you speak English?" before asking the hotel personnel for attention is a small courtesy which at least conveys appreciation for the skills and accommodations others make to serve travelers. Also...tip big! There is nothing quite like putting your money where your mouth is to convey gratitude for good service.

There has been a shift in public thought on many aspects of "image" lately. Years ago, when enlisted men and women were on leave they were reminded to wear their uniforms at all times, and to remember that they represented our country. Now, they are encouraged to blend in with the locals, not attract attention, and not make themselves targets of anti-American hostilities. Sadly, this is the world we live in now.

Keep On Dancing*
re: Importance of Public Diplomacy
By CheesePlusCakemember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Wed Apr 20, 2011 01:43 PM
I'm not quite sure what the debate is?

Yes, I do think soft power is important. Last year I studied China's growing influence and its campaign to spread soft power, and they are definitely trying to spread their influence through things like Confucious centers that teach Chinese language and culture around the world. Personally, I think it's working... I know many people that are studying Chinese, interning in China, etc in order to keep up with Chinese demands. I don't remember too many details now since my books on the topic are at home and I'm in class now (definitely paying attention to this oh so interesting geology lecture on oil...) but I can look up more details on China's soft power later.
re: Importance of Public Diplomacy
By balletslipper
On Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:07 AM
CheeseplusCake, I think you pretty much got what I was asking, but case it's confusing (to you or anybody else), I am basically wondering how people feel about catering to foreign audiences. This is particularly interesting for nations that already have a lot of hard power and can implement (certain) foreign policies without having to be popular.

Toppilly, have worked at a hotel where most of the guests where Americans, I have to say I haven't ever experienced that stereotype, in fact if I didn't hear about it, I wouldn't have known that some people feel that way about Americans abroad.
re: Importance of Public Diplomacy
By Heartmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Apr 22, 2011 02:11 PM
First of all, I preface this by saying I'm a strictly domestic American politics student. I don't do IR and I don't like IR. That said, I'm giving my hodge-podge of opinions.

I've always maintained that an isolationist approach is really the most prudent. But not isolationism as how it's typically interpreted.

I feel that, first of all, Americans feel like we have a responsibility to babysit everyone else. We feel that, as the lone superpower in a unipolar world (for the time being, anyway - stfu, China), we have to take care of everyone else. We must nation-build, spread democracy, send aid to foreign nations, and basically be the World Police (in lieu of the UN being completely and utterly useless). In my opinion, that pretty much goes against the idea of countries being sovereign nations. If someone is sovereign, you shouldn't mess with them. I sort of get this idea from the fact that, legally speaking (in America), your rights are protected unless they infringe on someone else's - for example, you can't hit anyone unless they punch you, and then you can only respond with equal force in self-defense. Well, countries should have to follow that rule: stay out, unless you get messed with.

That means no "preemptive attacks," and no stretching the boundaries of "messing with." "It affects the economy!" Well, deal with it, sugar. You're a big kid, take care of yourself. I mean, there's exceptions for like, genocide - but that's about it. Or somebody asking for help, but even thenÂ… it's common knowledge that one should never lend money when you're already in debt. I'm in favor of cutting all foreign aid until we pay our debts. The naysayers say to that - "but our public opinion!!!" Who cares about the public opinion? We should behave responsibly with our money and our resources. If other nations can't handle that, I don't care. And if they would collapse without our help - then they obviously don't deserve to be sovereign nations. They should collapse, allowing for the natural re-building into a state. "But then it will create a power vacuum and the Bad Guys will take over!!" Sovereign, dude, SOVEREIGN. Just because we don't like someone doesn't mean they shouldn't be a government. They're ALLOWED. We're all about free speech, but god forbid freedom of selection of governments, or free speech on a global scale. Until they point a gun at us and say they're going to squeeze the trigger, let 'em be. IR is like a bunch of kids at a lunch table. "Teacher, Timmy's LOOKING at me!" Shut up and eat your sandwich.

To bring this rant back. I basically dislike the idea of soft power. I don't think we should care what other nations think of us. It's no business of ours. In terms of trade - that should be detached from policy, just as it is (or should be) on a national scale in America. (Exceptions for, you know, torture and mass murder and so on.)

Everyone should do their own thing and mind their own business. We'd all be much happier that way. I don't mean we shouldn't participate in a global economy of both products and information. Of course we should. But in terms of puffing out our chests with military force and shoving our hands in conflicts between foreign countries who have nothing to do with us - sit down and shut up.

Besides, if you're talking power politics, fear is far more powerful than any other form of influence. That was the Hawk attitude post-Iraq invasion. "If other countries think we're going to invade them even if the UN says no - GOOD!" Clearly, bad call in that instance, but still a valid point. From an international perspective, a little healthy fear is a good thing in the eyes of other nations. Becauuuse it means what? Nobody messes with you.


Second though, nix "isolationism." I support a "MYOB" approach.

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