Thursday, April 21, 2011

Been fun!

One last blog entry (for now) to say it's been fun doing this with you all! Great last official class today, read Laura McGinnis' live blog if you get nostalgic...cheers!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Soft Power Straw Man

A continuation of the soft power debate at Foreign

Ken Adelman, former US Ambassador to the UN proffers that if if Congress cuts the foreign aid budget, US influence will be unaffected. He cites a cohort of data that show that US aid has not improved the behavior of certain countries.

His argument is a straw-man for two reasons. First, he looks selectively at only certain recipients. There are also US allies who receive aid, such as Columbia, Mexico, the Philippines, Georgia, to name a few. Second, Adelman misunderstands what soft-power is. Aid is hard power, something tangible: you could cash the checks the US rights and throw all the money in the air. Soft-power is something entirely different. When ideals attract another country and induce it into a favorable course of action, that is soft power.

True, America's ideals don't promote themselves. Dedicated civil servants are necessary to promote our ideals. True, not everyone is attracted to US ideals, culture, etc., but no one will be if America does not promote itself. That is why cutting the State Department budget is so dangerous. Without money and the necessary staff, we cannot promote.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Japan's pop culture PD--what's that about??

After our talks in class about Japan's PD through its pop culture products, I've had to think quite a bit about the value of such images, and what they might accomplish for Japan. As I said after class, my kids played with Power Rangers, traded Pokemon cards, passed around Manga books (I still remember images from the book like the one you see here, and how much my son loved the wordless stories). We also all saw Spirited Away, a very bizarre
Japanese children's fantasy film, so all of these things were of interest to my kids as well as other young kids in the international community where we lived overseas.

Did they know that any of those things were Japanese? Probably not. They knew the products were Asian, I think, but not necessarily Japanese--mainly the kids just enjoyed the products.

So this gets back to the question, what do these products to for Japan? I have to think that rather than being a Japanese identifier, they at least help promote an industry of books, art and film worldwide. In that way, they serve the country's economic interests. I think realists would say that that's all that counts anyway, and it's a bonus if folks also like the products for their cultural or artistic value.

I'm sure Japan earns more money from its car and electronics industries, but I'll put out the question to others: How big of an industry are Japan's pop culture exports, and how much revenue do they garner? Does the manufacture and sale of those items put a lot of people to work, and really benefit Japanese citizens?

I would also ask, can we call it PD if it's in blatant support of a country's (largely private sector) economic interests? Isn't that part of what PD does in promoting a nation's interests??

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Food for Peace

America's reliance on hard power has done its international image irreparable harm I believe. Harm that will take decades of altruistic intervention (who am I kidding, right?) to undo. But the food-for-peace program, where the U.S. sends food as a form of aid is a wonderful step in the right direction. While it often seems that the U.S. talks out of both sides of its mouth with regards to its moral righteousness, providing aid to malnourished and impoverished children is a great thing for U.S. PD.

Naomi Leight, over at USC blog, -

disagrees. She claims that America no longer is the only nation capable of aiding those in need and the fact that we're all obese (sadly true) says that we can't even take care of our own children. Perhaps she's right. With the advent of factory farming and fast-food, fried chicken and french fries are now some of the cheapest foods available. No wonder America (and other nations) are fat. However, that is an issue all together different than what she is writing about, I think she's wrong about the food as a source of soft power. While we refuse to disband our innumerable military bases and continue to occupy sovereign nations, the least we can do is help counteract our bully image via something good. Something altruistic. Perhaps, something yummy. Since foreign aid is such an insignificant amount of the budget, it makes no sense to do anything but augment these types of programs. While America's greatest export is war, perhaps this food aid is a soft power step in the right direction...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Fire Bell in the Public Diplomacy Night

Alarming read over at Foreign Policy.

Since today is the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, a slavery-related analogy is in order.

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson said that the Missouri dispute "like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union." The Missouri Compromise delayed disunion until for 40 years, until 1860.

By cutting the State Department budget significantly, the Great Budget Compromise of 2011 may be the beginning of the end of American soft power.

For the GOP, the State Department cuts are only partially balanced budget. That party has always been a skeptic of State because diplomacy, public or not, does not conform to their view of a muscular foreign policy. Public diplomacy is especially suspect because, to them, American greatness should be self-evident To try to explain or promote America abroad implicitly contradicts that self-evidence. Your Correspondent believes equally in America's greatness, if not exceptional greatness. However, reasonable people recognize that those with completely different life experiences may not share that view. One of the jobs of U.S. public diplomacy, soft power, or whatever you call it, is to introduce foreigners to our country so that can make judgments about us based on something other than local orthodoxies.

Thankfully, Joseph S. Nye has sounded the alarm on the GOP's threat American soft power. Let all those who value comprehensive national power hope that legislators heed the advice of Mr. Nye and Secretary Gates.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Smile Israel, you're on Candid Camera.

This is a bit short, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Israel is planning on attaching a dedicated cameraman to squads of soldiers, much in the same way that every unit would have a dedicated radio, medical, and machine gun specialist. The idea, of course, is that the army will become more accountable for its actions, and there will be an appearance of transparency. Transparency is something that Israel could use, as allegations of abuses and war crimes mount up in the war against Hamas.

Of course, there is no way that Israel can prove that any images or footage released by the Army isn't doctored or edited - this is something that Israel recognizes, in fact. It makes me wonder, then who they are trying to impress with this initiative. The US and other allies are fairly firmly bound up with Israel, but perhaps the embattled nation is trying to rebuild bridges after the debacle with the aid ships last year. The Palestinians and other Arab nations will not be impressed by this program, and it seems that Israel, as we discussed in class, just isn't really "getting it" as far as who their target audience should be.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Get off My Back, Brutes.

Public Diplomacy in the United States does a good job of slandering the Chinese negligence of human rights. And for good reason. The Chinese have numerous problems preventing Western Europe and North America from taking them seriously when China claims to take steps to address concerns. 

But what about the greatest purveyor of violence in the world? The United States? 

How can the United States via Hillary Clinton disparage China when we have atrocities occurring in our own backyard (and in a country near you!). It's hypocritical. It's outrageous. Although China is right to call out the US on this non-sensical behavior, it doesn't excuse their complicity with human rights violations. Two wrongs don't make a right. 

Most Americans, I presume, influenced by media and our government's diplomacy messaging, only see things from an American ethnocentric mentality. But, the rest of the world and your smarter than average American knows better. Check the Rolling Stone article this week on the Kill Team. Or trying children as adults. Or waterbording/other torture. Or executing retards. Or.....etc. etc...

Although we may stand above China in regards to human rights, we're certainly no archetype of altruism and the phony schadenfreude is growing stale.