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Public Diplomacy

James K. Glassman

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James K. Glassman

In June 2008, James Glassman replaced Karen Hughes as the United States Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. The eight months prior to this appointment, Glassman was the Chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In addition to his work at the BBG, Glassman served on the 2003 Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World [1], commonly known as the Djerejian Group. Before working with the United States Federal Government, Glassman was a well-known journalist, editor and TV personality.

During his confirmation hearings, Glassman emphasized seizing on the growing bipartisan support for rebuilding American public diplomacy. For Glassman, public diplomacy is supposed to “inform, engage and influence” foreign publics so to promote the United States’ national interest. In order to achieve this rebuilding, Glassman proposes that America do three things:

  • Leading the “war of ideals”
  • Increasing educational and cultural exchanges
  • Incorporating new technologies. [2]

After his confirmation, Glassman published an op-ed with the Wall Street Journal, entitled, “How to Win the War of Ideals”. [3] Adding to his congressional testimony, Glassman articulated a policy of diversion as an overarching goal of American public diplomacy. Diversion, as opposed to winning hearts and minds, signaled a change towards public diplomacy’s role in promoting America’s national security. Glassman wrote:

“Our public diplomacy efforts should encourage Muslims, individuals and groups, to spread the denunciations of violence by these men and others far and wide. But non-Muslim Americans themselves should not shrink from confidently opposing poisonous ideas either. A second approach to the war of ideas may, in the long run, be even more effective. Call it "diversion." The ideology that motivates al Qaeda and similar groups is based on the notion that believers have a duty to carry out the excommunication (and execution) of unbelievers, or even of those who collaborate with unbelievers, or refuse to resist them. This ideology posits a Manichean world, divided into two camps: one practicing the terrorists' version of Islam, the other not. This is a fantasy, but a distressingly powerful one. Our vision is a pluralistic world with many peaceful and productive choices on how to order one's life. The task is not to persuade potential recruits to become like Americans or Europeans, but to divert them from becoming terrorists. We do that by helping to build networks (virtual and physical) and countermovements – not just political but cultural, social, athletic and more: mothers against violence, video gamers, soccer enthusiasts, young entrepreneurs, Islamic democrats. For example, there is an emerging global network of families of Islamic victims of terrorist attacks. While winning hearts and minds would be an admirable feat, the war of ideas needs to adopt the more immediate and realistic goal of diverting impressionable segments of the population from being recruited into violent extremism.”

Prior to his work in the government, Glassman was well-known for being a pioneer in journo-lobbying. A former editor of Roll Call and financial columnist for the Washington Post, Glassman found Tech Central Station (TCS) in early 2000. When asked what the purpose of Tech Central Station was, Glassman stated:

"We concentrate on such issues as Internet taxation, broad-band dissemination, privacy, biotechnology, high tech trade, and so on," [serving as] "a kind of watchdog in an area in which few people seem to be doing long-term principled thinking on public policy." [4]

TCS has done well as it has built a sizable readership base and has attracted prominent conservative and libertarian columnists, such as Newt Gingrich. Glassman is also a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he is the editor-in-chief of AEI’s magazine, The American. [5]


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