Karen Hughes, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, has been strangely silent this summer. The Bush confidante sworn in with much hoopla nearly a year ago to fix America's image overseas has had practically nothing to say recently about pressing issues of the day. Why? Was it a desire on her part to take a break from the demands of her job? Or did her lack of knowledge about the Middle East require her to be unheard if not unseen?
But now, upon the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Hurricane Karen, as she is known in Bush circles (or at least was until Katrina brought the President's poll numbers down), has chosen to let her views about the state of the world be better known, in a September 12 article in the national daily USA Today.
Unfortunately, Hughes's just published global tour d'horizon, reminiscent of a sanctimonious small-town sermon, reflects much that has been wrong with American public diplomacy with her at the helm. Her 928-word piece, "Where's the Outrage: A United World Must Resolutely Condemn Terror" shows Hughes — and her notions about America's place on our small planet — at their worst, for several reasons:
"With nearly 50 years in marketing, Keith Reinhard knows when a brand is in trouble," Christopher Lee writes in the Washington Post. "Even before the war in Iraq bred new resentment of the United States abroad, the country had developed an image problem, says Reinhard," who in 2004 founded Business for Diplomatic Action, to get U.S. corporations involved in public diplomacy.
"To make up for the diplomatic damage done by the Iraq war and to try and leave the U.S. better positioned to respond to -- and possibly even pre-empt -- conflagrations of the future," the Bush administration is trying to make foreign-service officers "more agile and less hemmed in by the high walls and bureaucracies of the traditional embassy." Currently, "a fifth of all U.S.
With the help of U.S. Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public AffairsKaren Hughes, "the Bush administration has drawn up a classified list of about a dozen high-priority countries on which to focus public diplomacy." Hughes "said strategic plans were being developed for those 'pilot' countries," which include Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt. Hughes "said her department would seek out clerics from Muslim nations where some Friday prayers encouraged hatred and bring those clerics to America on exchange programs." "People who have been to America or know someone who has been to America are far more likely to have a positive view of our country," she explained. Another goal is to identify "strategic influencers." Hughes gave the example of a dinner she attended at the U.S. ambassador's home in Morocco, "where the person on her right was a famous cooking show host, while on her left was a track star."
The U.S. State Department and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication are co-sponsoring a "Reinventing Public Diplomacy Through Games Competition, which seeks to improve America's reputation abroad," reports Wired magazine.
All is not champagne and caviar in Moscow. Pro-Putin political forces are concerned that the West -- particularly the US -- is growing increasingly distant from President Vladmir Putin and the current Russian administration.
"The innocence of (Moazzam) Begg, the Tipton Three and the other British detainees who have come home is a part of the story of Guantanamo that no official wants people to hear," writes Victoria Brittain, the co-author with Begg of the book Enemy Combatant.
While George W. Bush's domestic poll numbers find a new low, the U.S. image abroad continues to scrape bottom. Addressing the White House's failure to win "hearts and minds," John Brown writes, "Personnel and programs matter in foreign policy, but what counts most is policy itself. ...
"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress yesterday to provide $75 million in emergency funding to step up pressure on the Iranian government." If granted, the request would increase to $85 million the 2006 budget "to promote political change inside Iran," up from