h1

Public Diplomacy and The Question of Governance

April 16, 2015

Discussions of public diplomacy have frequently broken the activity down into three elements; information, education and culture and international broadcasting.

But…if we look around at what public diplomacy/cultural relations organizations actually do there’s a sizeable chunk of work that would be better labelled as concerned with governance. Bruce Gregory (2008) has made the connection between public diplomacy and the literature on international governance but we can also add the mode of organization within the state. For example a project that is concerned with capacity building for civil society organizations involved with conflict resolution or election monitoring or women’s rights. This is an area that overlaps with work done by development agencies or on their behalf.

This potentially an thought that can be developed along at least three related lines:

For the critically inclined this can be read as the export of a particular mode of neoliberal governance (Foucault 2007, 2008, Neumann and Sending 2010).

This would imply that as a practice of statecraft public diplomacies are about creating foreign publics not just ‘engaging’ them. However it could be argued that this has always been the case – even back in the 1890s creating a committee of the Alliance Française was creating a public [what a public is links to Walter Lippmann, John Dewey and Bruno Latour (Marres 2005)] Or another starting point would be the linked appearance of the Cold War and the question of development where statecraft becomes particularly involved with the internal organization of states.

This then casts light on the ever elusive search for dialogue.   At least since the early 1960s the era of dialogue in foreign public engagement has been proclaimed but never quite arrives (explaining why it is constantly being proclaimed. If a country sees itself as exporting the future there’s an implied hierarchy. Dialogue happens between equals so this tension between the explicit rhetoric of dialogue and the implicit hierarchy generates some interesting tensions.

References

Foucault M (2007) Security, territory, population. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucault M (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-79. Senellart M (ed). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gregory B (2008) Public Diplomacy and Governance: Challenges for Scholars and Practitioners, in Cooper AF, Hocking B and Maley W (eds) Global Governance and Diplomacy: Worlds Apart, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 241–56.

Marres N (2005) Issues Spark a Public into Being: A Key But Often Forgotten Point of the Lippmann-Dewey Debate, in Latour B and Weibel P (eds) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 208–17.

Neumann IB and Sending OJ (2010) Governing the Global Polity: Practice, Mentality, Rationality. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

h1

Locating Public Diplomacy in International Relations

April 14, 2015

The thing that started me working on the public diplomacies project was the observation that people were very keen to make suggestions about how public diplomacy could be improved but were very vague about the basis for these suggestions. As I’ve argued on several occasions discussions of public diplomacy tend start with the question ‘how can we make it better?’ But to answer this question we need to answer two other questions; what do people do (and why do they do it)? And why does whatever they do succeed or fail?

As the project has proceeded I’ve realized that there’s another question that needs to be addressed: how does the engagement of foreign publics fit into the broader picture of International Relations both as a field of study and as a field of practice? The difficulty with dealing with this question is that in order to fit in public diplomacy you need to some serious re-engineering of how we think about IR.

In a paper at ISA earlier this year Networked Realism? History, Theory and Transnational State Action I had crack at this. The first part of the paper reviews the background of the work that I’ve been doing on the history of public diplomacy/cultural relations and all the other sorts of foreign public engagement. I then go on and make three claims (all of which have been made on this blog at some time or another).

Firstly, IR tends to work with an opposition between a territorially defined state and a transnational civil society with an assumption in some quarters that the latter will overcome the former. History suggests that that this opposition is wrong. Civil society has been a major carrier of ‘the national’ not just in terms of expectations of mutual support from state actors, ngos, business, disapora etc but in the export of national models. Consistently from the late 19th c. non-state actors have initiated, pushed for, and participated in public diplomacy and cultural relations activities.

Secondly, history also tells us that states are relatively incoherent networks (which sometimes manage a degree of coordination), that need to draw resources from, and interact with other actors. Their ability to do this successfully explains quite a lot about the ability of states to act internationally.

Thirdly, parts of these networks extend well beyond the territorial boundaries of the state and as do civil society networks. Rather than discuss power (or soft power) as a single attribute of a state it needs to be broken down spatially and across issues to become a set of questions about influence in defined situations.

A lot of IR writing tends to use nation-state as a synonym for ‘state’ but my argument is that the ‘nation’ bit needs much more attention – less because of extreme expressions of nationalism – but because of the pervasiveness of routine national identification of compatriots and others. This ‘nation centrism’ gives a picture of world politics where states rest on a more robust foundation of national identifying civil societies, and where international competition is pervasive albeit less associated with military competition than in state-centric versions of realism.

h1

Morocco’s New Public Diplomacy Network: West African Sufi Brotherhoods

March 23, 2015

In theory public diplomacy is about building relationships. In practice countries rarely start from scratch they build from a base provided by relationships that already exist.

There’s an interesting example of this in a new report from FRIDE on Morocco’s Religious Diplomacy in Africa. Morocco has tended to ignore Africa but because of the economic situation in Europe and the regional security situation it has launched a diplomatic offensive to build relations with African countries. One of the relationships it is activating is that with the Tijaniyyah Brotherhood a Sufi network with millions of members spread across west Africa. Because the Islam in the region was originally spread by the Moroccan Almoravid dynasty the king of Morocco is regarded as a religious leader and Fez as destination for pilgrimage this network is being activated as an asset for Morocco. This means pledges to build mosques, offers of training for imams and cheap flights for those coming to Morocco on pilgrimage. The promotion of Moroccan sufi Islam is extremely welcome in Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, Niger and Benin presumably as a balance to the activities of more hardline varieties of Islam.

Of course this being International Relations there’s a competitive element here – Morocco traditionally regards Algeria as a rival and the sufi card is one that Algeria, as a formally secular state lacks.

It’s also worth noting that as with many things public diplomacy initiatives that new tend to be repetition of things that were done in the past Kane (1997) points to previous efforts, from the 1960s to the 1980s, by the Egyptians, the Iraqis and the Saudis as well as the Moroccan to engage the Sufi brotherhoods as part of their public diplomacies.
Kane O (1997) Muslim Missionaries and African States, in Rudolph SH and Piscatori J (eds) Transnational Religion and Fading States, Boulder  Colo.: Westview, pp. 47–62.
Tadlaoui G (2015) Morocco’s Religious Diplomacy in Africa. Madrid: FRIDE.
h1

West Germany and the Global Anti-Communist Network, 1956-65:

March 16, 2015

In recent years quite a lot has been written about American backing for ‘state-private networks’   (eg Saunders 1999, Scott-Smith and Krabbendam 2003, Laville and Wilford, 2006, Wilford 2008) during the Cold War so I was intrigued to come across a new working paper from the Cold War International History Project on the West German supported Comité International d’Information et d’Action Sociale (CIAS). This was network of mostly European organizations that came into being in 1956 as an effort to adapt the earlier Paix et Liberté network to the post Stalin evolution of the Cold War. The German Volksbund für Frieden und Freiheit (VFF) was one of the strongest components of the CIAS, in part because it had support from multiple parts of the West German government. The key source for this paper by Torben Gülstorff are the reports from the CIAS to the Auswärtige Amt.

During the decade covered in the paper the CIAS was one of three major anti-Communist networks, the other two being Asian People’s Anti-Communist League (APACL) and the Confederatión Interamericana de la Defensa del Continente (CIADC).*  One of the things that I found most interesting about the paper was the comparison of the three organizations albeit from the perspective of the VFF. The OPACL revolved around an axis between Taipei and Seoul (although this created a tension between the relatively pro-Japanese Republic of China and the anti-Japanese Republic of Korea), and had a policy line that called for the eradication of Communism in Asia as such it was closely aligned with governments. The CIADC was more moderate ideologically but enjoyed little government support. The VFF/CIAS line was intended to keep an opening to the left and was concerned to warn against the lures of Communism (and keep tabs on Communist sympathisers) but did not embrace the kind of ‘eradicationist’ line taken by the APACL. One of the roles that the VFF filled within the CIAS seems to have been to keep more hard line elements under control. A particular issue for the VFF was the degree of anti-Americanism that existed within anti-Communist networks, here Gülstorff points to the lasting legacy of Nazi anti-Bolshevism. These three organizations merged in 1965 to form the World Anti Communist League (WACL) which reflected the ascendancy of the hard line OPACL despite the resistance of the VFF.

From the point of the view of the West German government one of the roles of the VFF/CIAS link was to keep the struggle against East Germany on the agenda of the world anti Communist movement.

The creation of the WACL in 1965 seems to have been a success for the OPACL radicals.

There’s a lot material in the paper and also a lot of loose ends but it helps to broaden the agenda in thinking about Cold War networks beyond the CIA.

*The absence of the USA is an interesting question.Gülstorff points to the fragmentation of anti-Communism within the US and suggests that J.Edgar Hoover might have hand in producing this state of affairs.

Laville H and Wilford H, eds (2006) The US government, citizen groups and the Cold War : the state-private network. London: Routledge.

Saunders FS (1999) Who Paid the Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War. London: Granta.

Scott-Smith G and Krabbendam H, eds (2003) The Cultural Cold War in Western Europe, 1945-1960. London ; Portland, OR: Frank Cass.

Wilford H (2008) The mighty Wurlitzer : how the CIA played America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

h1

Lobbyists and the Outsourcing of Public Diplomacy

March 12, 2015

At the end of January the Corporate Europe Observatory put out Spin Doctors to the Autocrats: How European PR Firms Whitewash Repressive Regimes

It’s an interesting catalogue of cases of how authoritarian regimes use lobbyists, PR companies or legal firms to exert influence in Brussels or clean up their image in Europe. The instruments employed range from op-eds, straight lobbying, junkets, editing Wikipedia, creating think tanks and ‘friends of’ groups. CEO are calling for tighter regulation of lobbyists both at EU and national levels. One interesting point is that while there are one set of rules in Brussels if you are doing lobbying they don’t apply if you’re doing nation-branding work.

This raises a broader question of when and why countries outsource public diplomacy.   Three, not mutually exclusive, hypotheses

  1. It’s about the nature of the political system. Professionalized commercial lobbying and representation appears first in the US nearly a century ago. An open but complex political system requires specialist expertise. [Francis Fukuyama recently argued for the similarity of the EU system to that in Washington DC.
  2. It’s about limits in the capacity of the state’s representation either in general or to deal with a particular project or situation.   Commercial representation offers a surge capacity with specific expertise. CEO make the point that say PR companies hired by Russia work directly to the Kremlin and not through the MFA hence providing flexibility.
  3. It’s about creating distance between the country and the activity.       An embassy that says we’re great is less credible than an apparently independent group.
h1

French Cultural Diplomacy in Eastern Europe, 1936-51

March 4, 2015

I suspect that Annie Guénard-Maget’s newish book Une Diplomatie Culturelle Dans Les Tensions Internationales: La France En Europe Centrale Et Orientale (1936-1940/1944-51). Brussels: Peter Lang, 2014 isn’t going to be a best seller but if you’re interested in the history of public diplomacies it’s a fascinating contribution.

The study looks at the development of French cultural diplomacy in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia on either side of the Second World War (1936-40 and 1944-51) It’s a valuable contribution for a number of reasons.

1. Quite a lot has been written about French activities in the America’s so it’s very interesting to see a discussion of the cultural instrument at work in a core zone of contestation. The book begins with the attempt to revive French activities in the region in the face of a rising Fascist threat. In 1940 France was groping towards a strategic concept that integrated cultural activities and propaganda with other aspects of statecraft.

2. The second half of the book is even more interesting and provides a different perspective on the early Cold War from that found in Anglo-American accounts. From the moment of the liberation the French leadership saw the reconstruction of their presence in Eastern Europe as an important part of the restoration of France’s position in the world and jumped in with both feet; schools, higher education links, cultural institutes and Alliance Française committees were all soon operational and entrenched by cultural agreements. The growth of communist power soon meant that these links came under pressure but the cultural agreements both provided routes by which the new governments could cause trouble (because of requirements for agreement to various actions) but also made them harder to get rid of. There are useful comparisons with the experience of the UK and the US who were more cautious about getting involved but also more likely to operate unilaterally via their embassies and consulates.

3. Whereas British and American accounts of these events (and I think perspectives at the time) tended to play down differences between countries in favour of a focus on the advance of Soviet power the French perspective (as well as Guénard-Maget’s account) was much more ‘national’ in two ways. Firstly, it placed much more weight on the local situation in s the six countries but also in the assumption that in the end the nation was the basic unit of international relations. For example a country might be run by communists but in the end they were still had a nationality that nation had a special bond with France. Or a country might reject a programme of visiting French lecturers. The solution – send French communists, after all they were still French before they were communists.

4. The fact that the study looks at multiple countries allows an examination of what was common to these cases and what differs. One irony is that the Yugoslavian government was particularly suspicious of the French despite Tito’s split with Stalin.

5. There’s a mass of detail here which can get a bit heavy but really adds to the story.

h1

(Not) The Freedom House Guide to Policy Advocacy

March 2, 2015

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the place of civil society in public diplomacy and International Relations. One of the things that is interesting is the way that the use of the term gets narrowed down to mean ‘liberal, cosmopolitan, pro-Western elites’ and forgets that the religious extremists protesting outside the embassy or the guy sitting in his mother’s basement and inciting nationalist hatred on the internet are part of civil society too. The result is that civil society in the first sense is less popular and less influential than it appears when you put it in the context of civil society as a whole.  This has been a recurring problem in public diplomacy programmes over the last decade.

This was the frame of mind that I encountered a new article in The National Interest Power to the People: Taking Diplomacy to the Streets, written by Mark Lagon (the president of Freedom House) and Sarah Grebowski it demands ‘societal diplomacy’ that is a

” more nimble, realistic foreign-policy strategy requires diplomacy with civil society. At best, it will contribute constructively to political change brought about by domestic actors, serving more liberal rule and U.S. interests.”

I read it with some scepticism but then I realized that it offered a practically perfect guide to how to write a policy advocacy piece – so here’s what I learned.

1. DO make it clear that you policy is completely new and has nothing to do with any policy that has ever been tried before. This is much easier than having to explain the difference from public diplomacy, democracy support, human rights work or any other sort of contemporary diplomatic practice. This has the added advantage of ensuring that you don’t have to respond to any criticisms of these previous policies and strategies.

2. DON’T hide any of the massive advantages your new policy has

“can catalyze change at a minute fraction of the cost the United States pays to maintain its military dominance. It also aligns with U.S. values, since aiding civil society is a way for the United States to bolster universal human rights and cultivate democratic aspirations….restore America’s reputation as a force for good. Above all, it can serve a dynamic understanding of U.S. interests by anticipating and, where possible, influencing shifts in countries’ leadership…gain flexibility in responding to unpredictable outcomes…the United States can position itself on the “right side of history,”….societal diplomacy would have positive ramifications for the United States’ legitimacy as a global leader”….”the United States can chip away at the false idea that its goal is to spread democracy by force—and the well-founded suspicion that its support for democratization is self-servingly selective in practice.”

3. DO ignore or minimize any downside to your new policy (this particularly applies if you choose the People’s Republic of China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as priority targets) but don’t completely ignore them as they can be easily overcome – if the Saudi government is unhappy: “the United States should exercise leverage over the regime”

4. DO assume that the targets of your new policy won’t expel your diplomats or act in a way that can damage US interests.

5. DON’T waste space on practicalities like the kind of resources needed to execute this strate

Keep those rules in mind and policy innovation will be no problem!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers