Public Diplomacy is seen by many as a governing factor of Obama’s foreign policy, “the soft power president”. In an attempt to improve the public image of the United States, Barrack Obama addresses his global audience through his various speeches and campaigns in support of his foreign policy agenda. Although the speeches seem to be over ambitious and targeted, the administration is often seen struggling to deliver. This essay has been premised around the argument that there exists a direct relationship between the impact of foreign policy of a country and its public diplomacy, and the existing imbalance between the two in view of the U. S foreign policy under the Obama administration.
This essay has been structured into three main analyses, with the first one focusing on the incoherence of the U. S. foreign policy and its scrutiny by scholars in this field of research. The second focus is predicated based on the existing imbalance between policy and public diplomacy, and finally the view on Obama’s message to the Arab world. The essay further concludes with some key recommendations. The argument in this essay is in isolation from the Wikileaks cable leakage to maintain strict focus on the role played by the Obama administration in maintaining their strategic relations.
Although Wikileaks is currently playing a major role in tarnishing U. S. ’ global standing, the leak, according to the author, has no direct implication to U. S. public engagement efforts. Wikileaks however, reiterates the existing “say-do gap” between policy and diplomacy. In the CNAS America’s Extended handbook, Lynch examines the extent to which Obama’s public engagement strategy has been successful. “Public engagement is no silver bullet. If policies are unpopular, no amount of snazzy marketing will make them beloved.
If national interests are fundamentally at odds, no amount of dialogue will align them. Practitioners of public engagement can aspire only to explain the motivation behind unpopular policies, put them in context, and highlight the many areas where interests and values do overlap. ” Another challenge the Obama administration faces it to strike the right balance between the long term goals of establishing relations and the short term demands that needs to be addressed immediately.
However it is worthwhile to assume that Obama’s popularity has definitely been conducive for the “re-presentation” of America through the eyes of the world. “According to Gallup surveys, the overall global views of American leadership have risen by 17 points in the year Obama has been president. ” U. S. Foreign Policy Prior to evaluating the impact of the administration’s engagement strategy and public diplomacy success, it is vital to examine the foreign policy of the U. S in the current Obama era and the difference between rhetoric and implementation.
Noam Chomsky, a world renowned political activist and the professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, criticized Obama’s foreign policy as nothing but an extension of Bush’s second term as president where the policy shifted from aggressive enforcement of hard power to negotiations. Chomsky also made an interesting comparison of Obama and Bush to the Cuban missile crisis. During the Kennedy administration, the planners were crafting decisions that would consequentially result in the elimination of Britain.
In response to this, the advisor delineated this “special relationship” with Britain as “our lieutenant, the fashionable word is ‘partner’. Chomsky further states that the Bush administration deemed the world as ‘lieutenants’, as seen in Bush’s actions in the war in Iraq and his indifference to what the world thought of about the invasion. His arrogance not only resulted in a blaring antagonism towards the U. S but also resulted in a major decline of brand U. S and its popularity.
Various countries, largely in the Muslim world had a negative image of the U. S and resulted in the “Anti-Americanism Movement”. According to Noam Chomsky, the difference in Obama’s approach is that “He politely greets the leaders and people of the world as “partners,” and only in private does he continue to treat them as “lieutenants. “” He further adds on to say that “it is wise to attend to deeds, not rhetoric and pleasant demeanor. ” But in terms of maintaining equilibrium between the rhetoric of what is said and done, we see a fairly obvious mismatch with one being sidelined over the other.
Take for example Israel-Palestine state conflict. “Over the last 35 years there has been a large international outcry of how this conflict should have been resolved which was having “a two state settlement on the international border”. But this was never really the real agenda of the United States. In 1976, the Security Council passed a resolution for a two state settlement which was vetoed by the United States. When Obama came to power, he was seen to have a positive scheme in carrying out the two state settlements.
Obama’s primary focus was on the expansion of the Israeli forces rather than its existence and “related infrastructure development”. Even in his presidential speech after he took office, he spoke about the Middle Eastern Peace Settlement as a peace proposal the Arabs must live up to and to start “normalizing relations with Israel”. Chomsky in an interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now quoted that “Well, Obama picked out the corollary, but omitted the substance, which is a way of saying we’re going to maintain our rejectionist stance. Couldn’t have been clearer, and that’s what’s happened.
Chomsky also suggested that due to the existing Israel-States relations and the “closely integrated nature of their civilian industries, it is injudicious to think that the United States has a neutral stand to the Israel-Palestine conflict. ” He added, “It is small wonder that the most fervent support for Israeli actions comes from the business press and the Republican Party, the more extreme of the two business-oriented political parties. ” In view of the continuing war that is taking place in Afghanistan, Obama is said to only be escalating the war that started during the Bush administration.
According to the nonpartisan budget and security monitors budget report that was stated in Government Executive, said that the Obama administration has requested $538 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2010 which makes Obama the only president who has spent more on defense in one year term time since World War II. ” In an article published by Chomsky, he singled out the main reason the Nobel committee’s decision to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. It was with the consideration of Obama’s ‘rhetoric on reducing nuclear power’.
Several argued that Obama did not deliver on a lot of what was promised especially with regard to the Middle East peace agreements. “The hopes and prospects for peace aren’t well aligned—not even close. The task is to bring them nearer. Presumably that was the intent of the Nobel Peace Prize committee in choosing President Barack Obama. ” Hence, it can be seen more as an encouragement for the President to make reform rather than any true measure of his policy success. Similar views of criticism are also shared by author and journalist Webster Griffin Tarpley, who suggests that Obama operates hrough “duplicity, deceit and deception. ”
Although most of his claims expressed through his articles are fairly exaggerated and overly critical of the administration, his focus lies primarily in “say-do gap” and summarizes Obama’s position as a “Wall Street puppet” who he claims is a tool for bankers and financiers to protect the Wall Street against mass protests. Another challenge the administration is faced with is the ongoing debate of the high budget allocation in Iraq and Afghanistan despite of an escalating unemployment rate and ongoing economic recession.
The latest figures in unemployment rates show an increase from two tenths of a percent to 9. 8 percent as the employers’ added only 39,000 jobs in November from 172,000 jobs created in October. ” The report was also released at the same time Barrack Obama decided to fly to Afghanistan on an unannounced trip and personally thank the U. S troops for their service in Afghanistan during the holiday season. One would wonder if this was just an attempt to shift media focus on his unannounced trip and pay less heed to the alarming unemployment figures. Bridging the gap between Policy and Public Diplomacy?
So does public diplomacy really matter with the incessant expansion of the gap between rhetoric and deeds? Does U. S Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy work in isolation? The main imbalance comes from the fundamental difference of how international policies are executed and the defining factors that govern the implementation of public diplomacy. International policies “at the most elemental level of resource allocation and decision-making, remains heavily militarized, whereas public diplomacy and its practitioners have yet to adapt to the “exigencies of globalization.
On the other hand, Obama is certainly seen taking significant measures overpass the divide between his incoherent foreign policies and public diplomacy. New media has also played a pervasive role in the significance of public diplomacy. “The need for greater attention to public diplomacy is partly a function of globalized communication, which has sharpened the points at which policy and public meet. ” In the example of Iran, in an effort to improve the Iran-U. S relations, Obama had released an online video after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed Obama’s invitation to engage in dialogue.
The video was posted on the White House official website and a channel on YouTube in which Obama congratulated the Iranian citizens on the event of the Nowruz (“New Day”) holiday. Although the three minute 20 seconds video failed to appeal to the Iranian leaders, the video equally addressed the Iranian citizens and was being watched by the entire world.
Although this cannot be seen as a huge success in terms of mending relationships with Iran, it certainly helps to shift the entire blame of “strained bilateral relations” from the hands of the U. S. In view of a lasting impact of U. S public diplomacy especially in the world of interactive media, it is archaic to allow public diplomacy to function in monologue. U. S. policy makers need a far better sense of not just what the world thinks of America – we have a good idea of that from a large volume of polling – but also what the world expects of America.
But although Obama’s style of addressing his global audience through his various popular speeches can moderately changed the view of the U. S image, it is also necessary that the American officials in the United States and around the world are capable of living up to the expectations that the president has set to deliver in his speeches. It is also noted that there is a stark difference between public diplomacy in Washington and public diplomacy of what field posts do who have different issues to address concerning local issues. While officials in Washington decide on global policies and expect Foreign Service Officials (FSOs) to deliver these policies to local audiences, it is not just enough to duplicate these policies as it is done at the State Department of Washington.
They must equally be efficient and elaborate on these policies to suit the interests of a local audience. Hence this dual perspective should be considered in carrying out the public diplomacy both at the state level and a filed level. Of course, this does not mean that the FSOs ignore the main agenda of the policies but must bear in mind the sensitivity of local audiences. In an article by William Rugh, Professor at Tufts University he commented that “Even the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, whose job it is to supervise the U. S. overnment’s communication with foreign publics, tends to see the world from a Washington perspective rather than a field perspective. ”
Rugh further comments that in order for the U. S to have success in public diplomacy, PD practitioners must spend a significant amount of time engaging with the local organizations and people of the country. This will give the officials a better understanding of local issues and views of America. Some also argue that the Obama administration should be less focused on the Middle East issues and focus on strengthening lost relations with Russia, Latin America and Africa.
The U. S Public Diplomacy was largely criticized after its failure to positively reflect on the terrorist attacks in Ingushetia, Russia. Neither did Obama make a phone call to President Medvedev to address the issue immediately nor was there a written statement regarding this. This created a sense of hostility in the minds of the Russian leaders and citizens especially after the U. S’ plea for support from Russia regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Obama’s Message to the Muslim World
The much anticipated Cairo speech that was delivered in June 2009 was watched with much anticipation by the world with the hope to bring change to several tensions that still exists between United States and the Islamic world. The President added “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” The speech focused on key concerns such as the war in Ira, Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran, Human Rights, Gender and Democracy, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The speech was well received by the audience and was broadcast live, attracting attention worldwide. Muslims from most parts of the world received his speech with admiration and the hope for change. “Meanwhile, in Iraq the speech failed to generate a lot of interest and wasn’t featured in the newspapers. ” When primarily focusing on the context of the speech, many Muslims saw disappointment in his neutral take on most issues especially when it came to the Israel-Palestine issue.
According to Noam Chomsky, there was nothing significant about the Israel-Palestine issue as Obama called on Arabs and Israelis “not to point fingers” and “to see conflict this conflict only on one side or another”. Obama gave no indication that the role of the United States should be considered in solving this issue. Chomsky adds saying “Obama has called on the Arab states to proceed with normalization, studiously ignoring, however, the crucial political settlement that is its precondition. Obama’s message to the Muslim world also highlights his personal story as someone “who has Muslim members in his family” Another significant focus on Obama’s messages is empathizes on commonalities with U. S and the Arab world. “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. ” But even his repetitive lingo of the “Muslim World” has created an unintentional outcome of re-emphasizing the American adversaries in the eyes of Muslim extremists.
Radical Muslims perceive humanity to be a divide between Muslims and Non-Muslims and such a use in lingo could result in a sense of enforcement of America’s ideologies in the minds of extremists. Another example of Obama’s failure to effectively communicate with the Arab world is the launching of the Arab television news channel by the U. S, Al-Hurra. “The main role of Al-Hurra is to present the American views to the Arab world. The U. S. government invested more than $ 620 million and was intended to compete against Al-Jazeera.
Due to the poor production of news and coverage, Al-Hurra barely had any viewership compared to one of the most popular news channels in the Middle East. The U. S should instead terminate the channel and work towards finding a channel of communication with an audience. Conclusion Public Diplomacy, as it is recognized today is indivisible from both foreign policies and the diplomatic relationships with its allies. American narratives in public engagement strategies are with the basic assumption that Americans are misunderstood by the world and hence there exists a need for “re-presentation”.
Obama is fully seen to follow this narrative and has also to a fair extent reinvigorated the image of the U. S. to fulfill implicit political strategies. Yet, there still exists a parallel debate regarding the efficiency of the Obama administration. The CNAS America’s Extended Handbook made some relevant recommendations, few of which are highlighted here. “Firstly, to develop public engagement strategy in support of all major policies especially those identified in the forthcoming 2010 National Security Strategy. Secondly, leverage renewed U.
S standing in countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil where the popularity of the U. S was not translated into greater co-operation. The handbook also suggested that a major follow through of presidential speeches and to conduct a major review of U. S broadcasting and the broadcasting board of governors. This essay has shown the major drawbacks in President Obama’s public diplomacy and a standpoint that views Obama’s public diplomacy as a failure in terms of delivering what he said he would through his communication with the world.