Public Diplomacy for AWESOME People… the Du4 Way!
I am extremely honored that Dr. Craig Hayden has invited me to speak to his public diplomacy class at American University Thursday evening this week. I met Craig through shared colleagues at the MountainRunner Institute, and we have since collaborated on a number of things. He’s a great dude, loves beer, and I thought it would be cool to throw up a landing post for me, him, his class, and anyone else who gets PO’d by the sure-to-incense incendiary fire that will come burbling out of my Macallan-addled lips Thursday night.
I have a love-hate relationship with public diplomacy. Coming from a background in the Department of Defense, I did not understand the peculiar delineation between PD and other forms of government communication and influence until my own graduate work at Johns Hopkins. Upon discovering the very simple definition that PD involves a government’s communications directly to foreign governments’ citizens (and thus bypassing that foreign government), I became instantly enamored of the idea. After all, in DOD, when you “communicate” with a foreign population, you’re usually dropping a bunch of comic strips from the sky written so badly that the recipients think all Americans really are retarded.
My work generally involved finding ways to improve the U.S. government’s communication capability, be it PD, public affairs, IO/PSYOP, or other means. One of my mentors, the late Jeffrey B. Jones, called all of these disciplines strategic communication, a term that has since entered the DOD lexicon and gone on to confuse and infuriate virtually everyone else in government. If DOD does one thing well, it defines its doctrine exhaustively, and an integrated communication and influence doctrine is something our government has needed for a long time. I became a fan of Jeff’s definition from the get-go, and I proceeded to execute my work under such a fashion.
How does this affect public diplomacy? Well, aside from all the other problems in the U.S. national security apparatus, PD practitioners have been almost historically kicked in the ass by said interagency apparatus. Since the U.S. Information Agency – the premier public diplomacy institution of the Cold War – was folded up into the State Department by the Clinton Administration, PD has been regarded as a largely unnecessary, unneeded career field.
However, some of the brightest information warriors I have ever met have come from PD backgrounds. Some still serve the State Department. But they are a dying breed, and State is not adapting fast enough to the 21st century to train, educate, and deploy PD officers of the future. Many communication and diplomacy experts have even called for the dissolution of the public diplomacy career field, arguing that others do it better in today’s day and age.
I come down on this issue very simply: communication is influence. Period. Call it public diplomacy. Call it public affairs. Call it public relations. Call it fuck all, I don’t care. It’s all the same shit and these penny-ante fights government gets into over who owns influence planning and execution are mere dick measuring exercises to protect budgets and retain standing within our own ranks. If any of us PD “professionals” had a whit about us, we would (re)read Unrestricted Warfare by Senior Col Qiao Liang and Senior Col Wang Xiangsui and understand that global communication, global influence, requires the strategic, national integration of ALL government branches and agencies and their communications initiatives. It requires, to borrow an analogy, for America to conduct herself as a composer would an orchestra, creating multitudes of musical movements that all combine into one big, beautiful symphony.
If you’re a student in Craig’s class, drop me a line in the comments. Send questions, concerns, or even challenges, and I promise to answer them to the best of my ability in class on Thursday.
- Another US Deficit – China and America – Public Diplomacy in the Age of the Internet (mountainrunner.us)
- Zhui: U.S. public diplomacy through Corporate Engagement (mountainrunner.us)
- WikiLeaks and the sham of “public diplomacy” (salon.com)
- John Brown: Public Diplomacy: “Out” for the U.S., “In” Overseas? (huffingtonpost.com)
- China and American Public Diplomacy: Another US Deficit (mountainrunner.us)
- In the interest of informed debate on Public Diplomacy (mountainrunner.us)
- Whither public diplomacy? (mountainrunner.us)