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Updated May 1, 2006
While the 9/11 terrorist attacks rallied unprecedented support abroad for the United States initially, they also heightened the awareness among government officials and terrorism experts that a significant number of people, especially within Muslim populations, harbor enough hatred for America so as to become a pool for terrorists. Over time it became clear that for the global war on terrorism to succeed, sustained cooperation from around the world would be required.
In the years prior to September 11th, both Congress and the various administrations downplayed the importance of funding public diplomacy activities, and in 1999 abolished the primary public diplomacy agency--the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Public diplomacy often was viewed as less important than political and military functions and, therefore, was seen by some legislators as a pot of money that could be tapped for funding other government activities.
Even prior to the 2001 attacks, a number of decisions by the Bush Administration, including refusing to sign onto the Kyoto Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the Chemical Weapons Ban, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, damaged foreign opinion of the United States. After the decision to go to war with Iraq, much foreign opinion of the United States fell sharply, not only in the Arab and Muslim world, but even among some of America's closest allies. Some foreign policy and public diplomacy experts believe that using public diplomacy to provide clear and honest explanations of why those decisions were made could have prevented some of the loss of support in the war on terrorism.
Many U.S. policymakers now recognize the importance of how America and its policies are perceived abroad. A former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and both chairmen of the 9/11 Commission expressed the view that public diplomacy tools are at least as important in the war on terrorism as military tools and should be given equal status and increased funding. As a result of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (S. 2845, P.L. 108-458) which included provisions expanding public diplomacy activities in Muslim populations.
At the same time, some believe that there are limits to what public diplomacy can do when the problem is not foreign misperception of America, but rather disagreements with specific U.S. foreign policies. A major expansion of U.S. public diplomacy activities and funding cannot change that, they say.
This report presents the challenges that have focused renewed attention on public diplomacy, provides background on public diplomacy, actions the Administration and Congress have taken since 9/11 to make public diplomacy more effective, as well as recommendations offered by others, particularly the 9/11 Commission. It will be updated if events warrant.
Contents Introduction Background on Public Diplomacy History Funding Activities The International Information Programs (IIP) The Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) International Broadcasting Targeted Public Diplomacy Post 9/11 Information Programs Exchanges International Broadcasting 9/11 Commission Recommendations Other Options Conclusion Related Legislation List of Figures Figure 1. U.S. Government Expenditures on Public Diplomacy, FY1980-2007 req.
Public diplomacy is the promotion of America's interests, culture and policies by informing and influencing foreign populations. Immediately after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush Administration found itself in, not only a military, but also a public diplomacy war on terrorism. An early realization of the importance of words and cultural understanding surfaced when President Bush soon after the attacks named the U.S. response "Operation Enduring Crusade," a name that was quickly changed when experts pointed out that it could be interpreted by Muslims as being inflammatory. (1)
In 1999/2000, according to the 2003 Pew survey, more than 50%, and as high as 83%, of foreign populations around the world held favorable views of the United States. (2) Perhaps because of complacency with our position in the world and with the end of the Cold War, Congress and past administrations downplayed the importance of funding public diplomacy activities. (3) Public diplomacy was viewed as having a lower priority than political and military functions, and received less funding, while more money went to other activities deemed more important or more popular with constituents. Funding levels for public diplomacy dropped considerably during the late 1990s, due in part to the consolidation of broadcasting entities in FY1994 (4) and the abolishment of the U.S. Information Agency in October 1999 (5)--signs, according to some, that public diplomacy was not highly valued.
After the 2001 attacks, people around the world expressed shock and support for the U.S. government. Since then, however, negative attitudes about America have increased and become more intense, not just within Muslim populations, but worldwide. (6) The Iraq War, begun in March 2003, exacerbated negative opinions of America in virtually every country polled--both traditional allies and non allies. (7)
Today, there is a realization that strong negative public opinion about the United States could affect how helpful countries will be in the war on terrorism. Moreover, negative sentiment might assist terrorist groups in recruiting new members. Therefore in recent years a sense of urgency to utilize public diplomacy to the maximum extent possible has been expressed by top level officials, think tanks, and the 9/11 Commission.
The 108th Congress …