Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winning Hearts and Minds

In his article, Monroe Price quotes a foreign policy specialist, Metzl who believes that there is “a need to reach beyond governments and touch hearts and minds more directly.” Metzl called for a change in emphasis at the State Department for public persuasion rather than a system based on country contacts. The key element was to mesh public diplomacy with national interest decisions, “and to have public diplomacy involved early in policy making as well as in critical part of the execution of policy.” This is similar to what Nye argues in his article about Public Diplomacy and Soft Power. Nye states that the current struggle against transnational terrorism is “a struggle over winning hearts and minds,” and the current over reliance on hard power alone is not the path to success. He argues that “public diplomacy is an important tool in the arsenal of smart power, but smart public diplomacy requires an understanding of the role of credibility, self-criticism and the role of civil society in generating soft power.” Both authors agree that public diplomacy and soft power need to be incorporated into the policy making process and execution. The State Department cannot rely on contacts nor can we solely rely on hard power, especially if we want to win the hearts and minds of people. Perhaps the authors are a bit idealistic in their views, but it makes sense to use soft power to not only persuade people in other countries to believe in our policies and choices, but to really have them see and understand the issues. Trying to pull people to our side is not easy, as we know, but having good public diplomacy that can win them over, not just try to push them over, can really help. But, it is not just talk, as the authors mention, there must be action. Providing people in developing countries with aid helps boost Americas image, for example. More often than not, there is simply talk by diplomats and politicians and not enough dialogue or action. As Nye contends “effective public diplomacy is a two-way street that involves listening and talking.” Exchanges are often more effective than broadcasting.

Nye argues that the soft power of a country rests primarily on 3 resources: its culture, its political values, and its foreign policies. People started to pay more attention to soft power after September 11th. It was always important, but with the revolution of information technologies, it became more important. Nye states that only after the attacks did people start to realize the importance of investing in soft power. Now that there is so much information that we can access quite easily, there is what Nye calls “a paradox of plenty.” Plenty of information leads to scarcity of attention. When people are overwhelmed with the volume of information, it is hard to know what to focus on and attention rather than information becomes the scarce resource. Politics have become a contest of competitive credibility. How can governments better obtain and retain public attention and, at the same time, win the hearts and minds of people all over the world? Well, they first can take into consideration Price's recommendation, that “governments must recognize and internalize this communication transformation.” Taking the advantage of communication technologies is important and in some ways the U.S. has begun to do that. But, as Nye argues, “the effectiveness of public diplomacy is measured by minds changes, not dollars spent on slick production packages.” The fancy, expensive packages that Nye talks about may not be changing people's minds. But, it is also hard to measure this, as we discussed in class. How do we know which 'marketing' programs or packages are working? How do we measure the successes of soft power?

It find it interesting that only after wars or attacks on the U.S. and on the declining image of the U.S. does the government pay more attention to these issues. For example, the Peace Corps was started after the war by JFK to alleviate the negative feelings people had about the U.S. This kind of 'grassroots diplomacy,' as some call it, has been effective as have been study abroad programs for foreign students who come here as well as for those Americans who go abroad. Why not continually support this kinds of efforts, not just after crises?

I also thought Price's discussion on copyright is interesting because he feels that the globalized laws that the Berne Convention established were never adequately adjusted to new technologies or to the changes that arise from a global spread of information and media. Neil Netanel argues that “the international copyright laws have effectively become the arbiters of domestic copyright law.” In his view, intellectual property serves fundamentally to underwrite a domestic culture. The issue, Price says, is not whether Netanel is right or wrong, but rather the intricate relationship between one country's foreign policy towards another's copyright laws and the potential effect on political systems. It is true what Price argues, that an overly rigorous copyright enforcement policy can hamper efforts in developing countries to nourish 'free and independent media' and halt the “spread of parasitic start-ups.” “If there is a foreign policy need for plural media—during a period in which multiple voices are desirable—then raising the cost of entry is counterproductive.” It seems that the higher costs of entry would hinder the emergence of new entrants and cause the lack of plurality. International laws cannot and do not seem to effectively regulate or arbitrate in domestic settings. Nor do I think they should have sole say because each country, culture and region is different. Some governments refuse to take take intellectual property and copyright laws into consideration, but in the boundary-less world we live in now, where ideas and information flow so freely, there is a need for some kind of international laws. Coming up with the laws and regulations is difficult enough, but adequately implementing them would be even harder.


  1. "Providing people in developing countries with aid helps boost Americas image, for example."

    Interesting how this week's critique of USAID E-E programming by Dutta shows how the soft power of foreign aid can be a double-edged sword, hm? There is sometimes a fine line between soft power diplomacy and imperialistically-toned rhetoric, or what some people view as cultural imperialism.

    Intent seems the most important. If the intent truly is to share or celebrate an idea or a value, then that comes across. When the intent is to 'convince' others that a particular value should be embraced, I think people's BS-detectors turn on. The same then goes for aid: if the intent is to alleviate poverty and empower subaltern people to develop their resources and economy, well alright, but if the intent is really to create "more dynamic markets for U.S. goods and services" and "zones of order and peace where Americans can travel, study, exchange and do business safely" well, that is completely different, and perhaps the two objectives can never be successfully married?

  2. I just read the Dutta article and I agree that it is very difficult to merge the two objectives that the U.S. seems to have. I found Dutta's critique interesting because she is tough on EE, but doesn't provide any innovative ideas on how to solve the issues she writes about. The main issue is that nobody gives the subaltern people a platform to speak and even if they are heard, they're requests are rarely taken into consideration. I was having a conversation this weekend about the major problems in developing countries and we discussed the obsession with power and money or both. Is this human nature? So, it USAID's objectives to open up the markets? or are they trying to help those people? I'm sure it's both, but when this only makes it harder to achieve the latter.

  3. I agree with your note about how the US only seems to pay attention to our soft power, public diplomacy, and image during times of conflict. Its interesting, seeing how our culture is just as "loud" during times of nonconflict.
    In high school, I was part of People to People Student Ambassador Program and traveled to Europe with students from around Ohio. President Eisenhower started this program to send "cultural ambassadors" in non-typical forms (such as students) around the world; thinking that perhaps our culture and values is better protrayed separate from politics.
    While I'm not sure if high school students who are not very mature are the best choice to send overseas, programs like this (and the Peace Corp, like you mention) are maybe what we should be focusing on to speak for us through times of war and peace.