Week 1 – Importance of U.S. public diplomacy post ideological conficts of the Cold War era

Public diplomacy is more important currently than it was during the Cold War due to the growth of social media and crowdsourcing of information online, as well as a worldwide emphasis on nation branding to portray modern development. Increasingly civilians and non-state actors are having greater impact on foreign relations via the internet. It is no longer who has physical access to engage with another country, but rather who has internet access to engage globally in discussions which reveal the values, interests, and intentions of the public of a given country to the online world.

In this respect it is much more difficult to state manage what is being portrayed to foreign publics. This dilemma is mitigated by the state actors involved in public diplomacy efforts to ensure misconceptions are dispelled via more official exchange programs and international broadcasting. Additionally, the Bureau of International Information Programs within the State Department has a ten person digital outreach team that currently participates on popular Arabic, Persian, and Urdu blogs, news sites, and discussion groups to explain US foreign policy and counter misinformation. The interne can also deliver educational and cultural resources to a wider foreign public such as online conferences, video games, and language courses. Today, in the midst of an ideological war on terror, it is imperative for state actors to participate in foreign public forums to garner impactful truths of US foreign policy.

Nation branding as an effort to market a country in an ideal light, is a major tool of public diplomacy that has been weaved into the strategies of foreign policy today. During the Cold War era the US used public diplomacy to project certain values to counteract Communism worldwide. However, it was projected during that time in the form of propaganda through foreign media. Today, nation branding calls for a mutual respect between engaged countries. There continues to be a fine line in projecting a nation’s values and fostering mutual understanding of nations in conflict with one another. It is evident the importance of public diplomacy has amplified over the years since the Cold War. The increased number of state, non-state, and civilian actors involved and internet growth has complicated foreign relations which only heightens the need to recognize public diplomacy as an essential, integral part of diplomatic efforts in general.

-Samantha Sobash


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