Public Diplomacy

Spring 2004 - Media and Public Diplomacy

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SMPA 270 Syllabus - Spring 2004
Bibliography - SMPA 270 Media and Public Diplomacy

Media and Public Diplomacy

The theory and practice of public diplomacy: informing, influencing, and establishing dialogue with international publics and institutions. A conceptual and historical examination of public diplomacy, current practices, and contemporary issues including international information dissemination, educational and cultural exchange, and international broadcasting. The focus of the course will be on exploring the future conduct of public diplomacy in support of the national interest.


01. International Affairs and the Conduct of Diplomacy Jan 13, 2004

The purpose of the course is to provide a comprehensive view of the theory and practice of public diplomacy.

Part I (units 1 - 6) includes a brief history of public diplomacy, its conceptual bases, and its political development. Public diplomacy came of age in World War II, was institutionalized during the Cold War, and began to decline as the Cold War ended. As we entered the 21st century, it was evident that public diplomacy as practiced for the previous half century had lost its political support, even as profound changes in the international environment warranted great attention to international public opinion.

After the tragic events of 9/11, attention to public diplomacy was again pushed to the forefront. Part II (units 7 - 9) explores the role of public diplomacy in support of national interests in the age of terrorism. While most observers would acknowledge that a transition is underway, few would agree on its future shape. Whether by evolution or revolution, the transformation will be profound. Driven by the threat of terrorism and the decline of international support for the United States, the role and practice of public diplomacy remains uncertain.

The focus of Part III (units 10-14) is on student research on the future conduct of public diplomacy. This part of the course is designed to reach a class consensus on how public diplomacy can be transformed to serve the national interest in the 21st century.

Required Readings:

  • Chas. W. Freeman, Jr., "Tasks and Skills of Diplomacy," Arts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy. Washington: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1997, pp. 107-140.
  • Newt Gingrich, "Rogue State Department," Foreign Policy, July-August 2003.
  • Richard Holbrooke, "State Department Scapegoats," Washington Post, July 1, 2003.

02. Introduction to Public Diplomacy: History & Structure Jan 20, 2004

International information programs and international educational and cultural programs form the basis of what has come to be called public diplomacy. It has been practiced by nations for centuries, particularly during wartime or other times of crisis. After a steady decline from the height of the cold war, there has been a resurgence of interest since the tragedy of 9/11. Nonetheless, it is still regarded by many as the stepchild of traditional diplomacy.

Required Readings:

  • Walter Lippmann, "The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads," Public Opinion, New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997, pp. 3-20. [Originally published 1922, it remains as valid today as it was 80 years ago.]
  • Harold Innis, "Minerva's Owl," The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951, pp. 3-32.
  • Wilbur Schramm, "The Nature of Communication between Humans," in The Process and Effects of Mass Communication, rev. ed., edited by Wilbur Schramm and Donald F. Roberts, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971, pp. 3-53. [Note the date of publication; although three decades old, this is a useful survey of many of the assumptions that underlie traditional public diplomacy activities.]

03. The New Diplomacy Jan 27, 2004

In the last decade of the 20th century, international relations changed in two fundamental ways: the Communist revolution ended with the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the information revolution came to maturity. While the nation-state retained its role as the fundamental unit of international relations, the rise of non-state actors, international media, and multi-national corporations led many to question the adequacy of traditional state-to-state diplomacy. Change was evident, but not fast enough for those who called for a revolution in diplomatic affairs as an analogue to the Pentagon’s revolution in military affairs. Most assumed that public diplomacy would be a key element of the new diplomacy.

Required readings:

  • Barry Fulton, "The Information Age: New Dimensions for U. S. Foreign Policy," Great Decisions 1999. New York: The Foreign Policy Association, 1999, pp. 9-18.

04. Identity/Culture/Community Feb 3, 2004

Public Diplomacy operates within the constraints of culture and personal identity. Shaped by our culture and bound by an identity we develop over a lifetime, we tend to resist change that challenges our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

Required Readings:

  • Erica Goode, "How Culture Molds Habits of Thought," New York Times, August 8, 2000.
  • Paul Berman, "Terror and Liberalism," The American Prospect, October 22, 2001.
  • John Tierney, "Baffled Occupiers, or the Missed Understandings," Washington Post, October 22, 2003

05. Image/ Idea/Time Feb 10, 2004

Information increases exponentially, yet the time available to process it remains constant. Even with technological efficiencies, most information available to understand our environment is inaccessible because of the constraint of time. Consequently, we turn to efficiencies -- bogus or otherwise -- to simplify complexity. We copy pre-literate societies by attending to images when reasoned, discursive explanations are unavailable. Whether it is marketing Gap clothing or branding Britain, we simplify complexity.

Required Readings:

  • Daniel J. Boorstin, "From News Gathering to News Making: A Flood of Pseudo-Events," The Image: A Guide to Psuedo-Events in America. New York: Vintage Books, 1992, pp. 7-44. (originally published 1961)
  • Brian Hocking, "The Diplomacy of Image and Memory: Swiss Bankers and Nazi Gold," Discussion Papers, Center for the Study of Diplomacy, University of Leicester, April 2000.
  • Barry Fulton, "Time, Image, and Idea," PowerPoint Presentation, GWU, Fall 2003.

06. Global Networking Feb 17, 2004

In its 1999 annual report, the Intel Corporation predicted there will be one billion connected computers in five to eight years. Current data suggest that the prediction is well within reach. With the rich connectivity this implies across national boundaries, how will the role of diplomats change? Will they be part of this network by contributing to it, or will their work remain largely within official channels?

Required Readings:

  • Manuel Castells, "Conclusion: The Network Society," The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996, pp. 469-478.
  • Jamie F. Metzl, "Network Diplomacy," Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Winter/Spring 2001, pp. 77-87.


07. The Challenge of 9/11 Feb 24, 2004

It is a cliche to say the world changed on 9/11. But it is no exaggeration to say that American complacency toward the outside world ended on that date. Many were shocked to discover the level of hostility that exists in many parts of the world toward American policies. Political commentators and political leaders rediscovered public diplomacy and demanded that the government improve its conduct. All agreed that more resources were necessary, but a consensus on the means has yet to emerge.

Required Readings:

  • William Powers, "Brand of the Free," National Journal, November 17, 2001, pp. 3576-3579.
  • Franklin Foer, "Flacks Americana," The New Republic, May 20, 2002, pp. 24-29.
  • Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Managed Information Dissemination, Washington: Department of Defense, October 2001, pp. 1 - 7 with covering memoranda and table of contents.
  • Peter G. Peterson, "Public Diplomacy and the War on Terrorism," Foreign Affairs, Sep-Oct 2002, pp. 74 - 94.

08. Defining the National Interest Mar 2, 2004

Influence theorists have traditionally made a distinction between "mass" and "class" audiences. USIA, driven by budget requirements, confronted the dichotomy by embracing both views. VOA prided itself on reaching a mass audience and claimed tens of millions of listeners. USIS targeted its audiences by identifying individuals who totaled in the thousands. It justified the high expenses by embracing the two-step flow theory of communication, which suggests that elites are the conduit to the masses. From the requirements of PPBS in the sixties to GPRA in the nineties, USIA tended to define its audiences in ever-smaller numbers.

What is said? What is heard? What is communicated across cultures? How relevant is Walter Lippman's observation: "In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture." (p. 55) How do our messages serve the national interest?

Does public diplomacy make a difference? Does it affect public opinion abroad? How compelling is the evidence? Does it serve America's national interest? How do information and educational activities compare in their effect?

Required Readings:

  • Samuel P. Huntington, "The Erosion of American National Interests," Foreign Affairs, September/October 1997.
  • Joseph S. Nye, Jr., "Redefining the National Interest, Foreign Affairs, July/August 1999.
  • Edward N. Luttwak, "Why We Need an Incoherent Foreign Policy," The Washington Quarterly, Winter 1998, pp. 21-31.
  • Excerpts from:

The National Security Strategy of the U.S., Sept 2002 Department of State FY 2004 Performance Plan

09. The Islamic World: the Public Diplomacy Challenge Mar 9, 2004

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire, policymakers and scholars struggled to define the last decade of the 20th century by identifying the key actors and issues facing the international community. It is becoming increasingly evident that the transformation period in which we are living is being defined by the discontents of the Islamic world and the terrorism that a small minority has embraced. The purpose of this unit is to explore how the conduct of public diplomacy is or should be changed by this evolving worldview.

Required Readings/Viewings:

  • Excerpts from:

Arab Human Development Report: 2003. New York: UNDP, 2003. Views of a Changing World, Pew Center, 2002

  • Documentary Film:

The Battle of Algiers (French film released in 1965)

  • Websites:

Al Jazeera Voice of America Radio Sawa


10. Student Papers Mar 23, 2004

Students will present results of original research studies exploring the future conduct of public diplomacy in selected political, cultural, or geographic areas of the world.

Required Readings:

  • Reinventing Diplomacy in the Information Age. Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1998.

11. Student Papers Mar 30, 2004

Students will present results of original research studies exploring the future conduct of public diplomacy in selected political, cultural, or geographic areas of the world.

Required Readings:

  • Barry Fulton, "NATO Missile Attack on Chinese Embassy" (case study). NFATC, 2001.

12. Student Papers Apr 6, 2004

Students will present results of original research studies exploring the future conduct of public diplomacy in selected political, cultural, or geographic areas of the world.

Required Readings:

13. Student Papers Apr 13, 2004

Students will present results of original research studies exploring the future conduct of public diplomacy in selected political, cultural, or geographic areas of the world.

Required Readings:

14. Conclusion: Canons of Public Diplomacy Apr 20, 2004

Drawing on student research, assigned readings, classroom discussions, and an extended outline presented by the instructor, the class will seek to agree on the critical elements for the successful conduct of public diplomacy in the 21st Century.

Required Readings:

  • Barry Fulton, “Canons of Public Diplomacy,�? (in draft), 2004.

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