re: "C stands for Culture – and America Centers"
"Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the new administration put the Cs back in public diplomacy or better yet, just plain old traditional diplomacy. Since the end of the Cold War, the US government has largely ignored the immense, but unquantifiable, power of culture in America’s image building abroad."
One way you can tell the professionals from the amateurs in the war on terrorism is the blank look that the amateurs get when you talk about information warfare or, for that matter, lawfare. Rebuilding our public diplomacy capabilities isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing.
"(T)he diversity and quality of American culture is one of American public diplomacy’s greatest strengths and unsung songs as suggested in John Brown’s recent post on Common Dreams.
This has been demonstrated time after time, person after person in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the Communist world."
So much for the wisdom of the "game-over" attitude that lead to all that cashing-in of the peace dividend. The end of history is not yet at hand.
"Congress combined with Clinton’s budget cutting and government staff shrinking during the 1990s to squash the cultural component of American public diplomacy. This neglect – whether benign or willful - destroyed Arts America, the single office in the US government tasked with promoting America’s cultural image abroad. It also destroyed the already neglected Washington-based coordinated administrative and best practices support for the remnants of America’s overseas Cultural and Information Centers."
I'm not a PD guy specifically, although I admire and value my PD colleagues. And while my FS career began after USIA was absorbed into the Department, I had worked for State in other capacities for years. I had the opportunity, even at a fairly late date, to visit still-open American cultural centers and libraries.
Let me not put too fine a point on it: every closure of an American library or cultural center was a victory for those who hate America and want to spread that viewpoint around unimpeded.
"Obama’s right about the need to establish, or re-establish, our Centers or America Houses overseas, but they should also be reopened in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. He needs to keep this pledge and sooner rather than later.
In many cases, these institutions were once-upon-a-time anchored by center-piece USIS libraries and were located in accessible parts of large cities"
From a security standpoint, USIS libraries present huge risks, but they had their own security standards tailored to their mission.
"These cultural centers, for the most part, worked. A few still exist but State Department support for them is all too minimal if at all. Yet, these Centers are where our public diplomacy staff meet “the people” and “people” of all walks of life often first meet the real America."
I've been that first real American that a foreign visitor to an American PD facility got to meet in person, got to shake their hand, smile, and answer their frank and honest questions about America. It can be exhausting, but nothing can substitute for it. Ask our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan about getting out and meeting the people face-to-face and as friends. That's one of the ways we've managed to win in Iraq, after so many predictions of failure.