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Repairing American Public Diplomacy in the Middle East
Repairing American Public Diplomacy in the Middle East
William A. Rugh has a good article at Arab Media and Society about improving America’s image in the Middle East. While the last few years have seen improvements, overall American public diplomacy is not being utilized to its full potential. Rugh advises a continuation of engagement with Arab media - President Obama’s interview on Al Arabiya is a step in the right direction. He also suggests reforming the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is responsible for all U.S. government inte
Wednesday, February 11,2009 03:57
pomed.org

William A. Rugh has a good article at Arab Media and Society about improving America’s image in the Middle East. While the last few years have seen improvements, overall American public diplomacy is not being utilized to its full potential. Rugh advises a continuation of engagement with Arab media - President Obama’s interview on Al Arabiya is a step in the right direction. He also suggests reforming the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is responsible for all U.S. government international broadcasting, arguing that it “has been an irresponsible steward of America’s broadcasting assets.”

Additionally, the Pentagon’s role in public information programs (for which it is ill-equipped and ill-trained) has grown over the years. Both Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates have acknowledged that this should change and Rugh stresses that public diplomacy should be primarily restored to the State Department.

One important function of public diplomacy in the past has been to provide a barometer of foreign opinion. However, President Bush “seemed uninterested in foreign opinion, and his adminstration made little use of public diplomacy professionals as monitors and analysts of it.” If Obama is to make good on his promise of listening instead of dictating, this would be a good place to start.

Overall, Rugh recommends an approach to public diplomacy that incorporates the use of all Arab media (not just the “friendly” ones), substantial reforms of U.S.-owned enterprises such as Radio Sawa and al-Hurra, and a restoration of the State Department’s primacy in public diplomacy with enhanced training for officers in the public diplomacy career track.


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