ZenPundit
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
 
DIPLOMACY IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

The infamous Diplomad has passed from the blogospheric scene but the State Department Republican Underground Torch is in the hands of a worthy successor, The Daily Demarche. Today Dr. Demarche has posted an important piece on the public diplomacy problem. Reacting to a report that critically assesses the state of America's international image, Dr. Demarche writes:

"This "relief" is the very connection that we should be looking to strengthen from a feeling of "better America than China" into a sense that we are serious when we speak about the spread of democracy and freedom. As our Embassies become more fortress like and we have less and less direct, personal, contact with our host country neighbors it becomes even more imperative that we maximize every resource to communicate with the world. Whenever possible officers should be engaging the host country population directly, coupled with exchanges and grants for host country nationals to visit America and learn first hand. Beyond that we should be using the Internet, television, film and radio as much as possible to provide information about America and Americans. "

Americans, who have a streak of crusading idealism mixed with self-absorbed pragmatism, tend to forget that a good measure of our previous popularity ( or assumptions of good intentions) that did exist in other nations resulted from the fact that our enemies were scary and aggressive dictatorships. Self-Interest is a magical thing. Standing next to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. the Imperial Japanese Army, Mao ZeDong, Kim Il-Sung, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein made it hard not to look like the guys in the white hats. Now with the would-be world-rulers a memory, we are the big, hyperpower, interlopers allegedly standing squarely in the way of New Yugopotamiastan's day in the Sun.

Our behavior really hasn't changed much since 9/11. Imagine the reaction of Harry Truman to that event and you will realize that history will praise George W. Bush for his sense of humanitarian restraint. Pearl Harbor bought the Axis nothing but total war, the firebombing of Dresden and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No, what has changed is the self-interest of our friends and neighbors, most of whom see themselves as safe from the Islamist tide. They aren't but that fact has yet to hit home with most of them. Patience, it will.

Until it does our appeals to anything but their practical national interests will fall on deaf ears. Our public diplomacy should hammer away at democracy and liberty but it should also be nuanced to the vanity and particular venality of our listeners. Men will walk a little further if the pot of gold is just around the corner.


 
Comments:
you said:
No, what has changed is the self-interest of our friends and neighbors, most of whom see themselves as safe from the Islamist tide. They aren't but that fact has yet to hit home with most of them. Patience, it will.

I know for a fact that the islamist tide has already broken over France and Germany. You only have to look at the recent nationalist governments they've elected to see that. China and Russia have islamic separatist movements. It's really narrow minded to think that America is the only country to have suffered at the hands of Islam.
 
I didn't say that America was the only country to suffer at the hands of Islamists. I said that other countries - primarily I meant the continental Europeans but I grant you that I was unclear - are not yet politically ready to deal with that reality. They are inching in our direction though and the Dutch took a psychological leap forward after the murder of Van Gogh.

Russia, China and India are a good deal more realistic on the Islamist issue because they face active insurgencies, not just terror cells in immigrant communities. Saudi Arabia too is starting to emerge from denial as well ever since al Qaida struck at C.P. Abdullah's National Guard/tribal power base. It's going to take a major assassination of an al-Saud before they really crack down on their militants and drop the carrot-stick-reform strategy.
 
another book you could read is The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders. It's about our engagement of the battle of ideas in Europe during the Cold War. It could be read as a guide to our battle of ideas in the muslim world.
 
Thanks Jared ! I'll take a look on my next book run.
 
Mark,

Great post as always.

Even assassinations may not energize the Saudis. Near the fall of the Romanov Empire, the mayor of St. Petersburg told a friend that he would not inform the secret police of an impending assassination of a high-ranking official (The Degaev Affair).

A system can grow so corrupt that even those who benefit from it either despise it or despair at it. We may be close to that with Riyadh.
 
Hi Dan,

Thank you much. I'm not sure though if the al-Saud are as far gone as the Romanov dynasty yet. The Tsarina was a fantasist and Nicholas was a weakling ( though even Nicolas was stirred by his uncle Sergei's assassination)and Russia was in a war far beyond its capabilities.

My reading of the Saudis - though I'd strongly advise you to check with Crossroads Arabia for their opinion or Collounsbury since I am not an Arabist - is that their current paralysis stems from internal family politics regarding the succession.

Abdullah's rise is not automatic despite his title of Crown Prince because it's a fratrilineal-consensus monarchy. A family council will confirm the next king and the rising third generation ( like Prince Bandar bin Sultan) will be heard this time along with now old " the Sudairi " senior princes. If the succession was firmly decided the regime would probably be more decisive.

Now back to the grind for me......
 
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