Public diplomacy is no substitute for smart foreign policy, nor can it fix a myopic one. But miscalculations of both its power and place have left it a hobbled tool in our diplomatic arsenal.
Hopefully the newest designated chief of public diplomacy, Jim Glassman, understands this. His bona fides for the job are solid; but the challenges, unhappily, remain as distinct today as they did seven years ago under Charlotte Beers, the first Public Diplomacy chief of the Bush administration.
I would like to commend Congresswoman Diane Watson for organizing the Congressional Symposium on American Film and Public Diplomacy and her sponsorship of legislation that includes establishing the Johnny Grant Film Series featuring classic American cinema in U.S. embassies and missions overseas. I think it is a grand idea that allows us to tap into one of the United States' most significant contributions to culture over the past century as an element of public diplomacy outreach.
For all the seething scorn and vitriol Americans have hurled toward Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in recent years one would never suspect a kindly word of either uttered privately, let alone publicly. But when it comes to public diplomacy such inhibitions seem to disappear even amongst the highest ranking political leadership and in the most public fashion. In a speech on November 26 before an audience at Kansas State University, it was Defense Secretary Robert Gates' turn to wax profoundly on the subject.