One problem is that they seem to be approaching this as some kind of marketing initiative: “It is clear the American brand has been badly damaged,” says F. William Smullen III. The American brand? The United States of America is something to be sold like breakfast cereal or steel-belted radials? Why not instead formulate a coherent and principled foreign policy, and pursue it with consistency and integrity, whether or not it is popular with other countries?
The Hughes/Bush approach, conversely, seems to be to offer appeasement in return for popularity — a weak reed on which to build any lasting national security. “Report: U.S. Image in Bad Shape: Hughes Set to Begin Public Diplomacy,” from the Washington Post, with thanks to Scaramouche:
As Karen Hughes, longtime presidential adviser and new public diplomacy guru at the State Department, prepares to leave this weekend on a “listening tour” of the Middle East, a congressionally mandated advisory panel to the department warned that “America’s image and reputation abroad could hardly be worse.”
The panel’s report, which has been seen by senior officials but not yet officially released, said a fact-finding mission to the Middle East last year found that “there is deep and abiding anger toward U.S. policies and actions.” The Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy cited polling that found that large majorities in Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia “view George W. Bush as a greater threat to the world order than Osama bin Laden.”
The report warned that televised images of U.S. policy choices — such as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the invasion of Iraq — reverberate across the Arab media and will “long haunt the image of the United States.” The committee recommended a series of steps, including increased funding and staffing, to rebuild efforts to promote U.S. culture and ideas — an essential task that it said has been eroded through bureaucratic shuffling and indifference.
In much of the world, the report said, the United States is viewed as “less a beacon of hope than a dangerous force to be countered.”
The advisory committee was created by Congress in 2004 and charged with advising the secretary of state on how to advance the use of cultural diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. Patricia de Stacy Harrison, at the time an assistant secretary of state, was appointed chairman. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell named F. William Smullen III, his former chief of staff, as a member. Congress selected seven other members for their expertise in cultural, educational and communications issues.
In her maiden overseas trip since being confirmed as undersecretary of state, Hughes is to visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said improving the U.S. image abroad is one of her top priorities; her success in recruiting President Bush’s longtime confidante to spearhead the effort is seen by many in Washington as a coup.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that Hughes is “going to be starting a conversation with the rest of the world.” He said that she will be “listening” on the trip, “and in listening, she will also be trying to explain our policies and laying the foundation for the coming years, in terms of our public diplomacy efforts.”…
“It is clear the American brand has been badly damaged,” Smullen said. “I’m not suggesting we have to change our policy, but we do need to take an assessment of the attitudes toward us by people around the world.”