BACK TO : PUBLIC DIPLOMACY (PD) and CULTURAL DIPLOMACY (CD)
The purpose of U.S. public diplomacy in historical perspective by J Wang
Copyright © 2007 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Telling the American story to the world: The purpose of U.S. public diplomacy in historical perspective
Public Relations Review
Volume 33, Issue 1, March 2007, Pages 21-30
This paper seeks to provide an historical reflection on the central purpose of U.S. public diplomacy through an examination of the manifest mandate of the three major institutional settings for such international communication programs, i.e., the Committee on Public Information, the Office of War Information, and the United States Information Agency, and to shed light on the current public diplomacy endeavor spearheaded by the Department of State. The review demonstrates that U.S. public diplomacy has been principally an ad hoc instrument of American foreign policy to meet wartime exigencies and has been underscored by the promotion of American values of democracy and freedom. Over the years, it has expanded to encompass multiple modes of engagement, while at the same time there has been constant tension concerning the role of public diplomacy as a strategic, policy function versus merely as a "mouthpiece" within the foreign affairs apparatus. All of these themes continue to reverberate in the contemporary practice of public diplomacy.
Keywords: Public diplomacy; International public relations; International communication
1. An historical retrospective
1.1. Committee on Public Information during WWI
1.2. Office of War Information during WWII
1.3. United States Information Agency during the cold war
2.1. Public diplomacy as an instrument of wartime exigency
2.2. Democracy promotion as part of public diplomacy
2.3. Expanding modes of engagement
2.4. Public diplomacy: mouthpiece versus policy instrument
3. America's dialog with the world
A New York Times story, headlined "Experts Say the World Loves and Hates U.S.," starts with the lead, "Three public opinion experts told Congress today that the people of the world still liked Americans but that they had steadily declining respect for American policies." This is not, as one might have thought, a recent report on the growing anti-Americanism around the world in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its dateline is July 22, 1968, when Lloyd A. Free, George Gallup, and Edward L. Bernays testified before a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs, as part of its hearing on "The Future of U.S. Public Diplomacy."
Nearly three decades later, the United States is bracing for similar challenges in managing its image and reputation overseas. With a spate of polls showing its favorability rating has dropped precipitously in many parts of the world (e.g., Pew Research Center, 2005 and Pew Research Center, 2006), the country bemoans the negative perception and misunderstanding among foreign publics. "Beyond the threat of a direct attack by al Qaeda and those influenced by that movement," as pointed out in a Council on Foreign Relations' (2003, p. v) report, "the United States is now facing a more fundamental loss of goodwill and trust from publics from around the world." Such antipathy towards the world's sole superpower not only compromises America's security, but also makes global collaboration more daunting. As a result, there is general consensus on the necessity and urgency to reinvigorate programs to effectively manage U.S. image and reputation in the global community.
The U.S. government has reaffirmed its commitment to Public Diplomacy, historically defined as "a government's process of communicating with foreign publics in an attempt to bring about understanding for its nation's ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture, as well as its national goals and current policies" (Tuch, 1990).1 Congress has boosted funding for the expansion of public diplomacy programs (Zeller, 2006). There is also increasing academic interest in the topic as evidenced by a body of research in this area of inquiry as a subset of international communication and public relations studies (e.g., Gilboa, 2000; Grunig, 1993; Kruckeberg & Vujnovic, 2005; Kunczik, 1997; Manheim, 1994, Plaisance, 2005 and Ross, 2002; Signitzer & Coombs, 1992; Snow, 2003; Wang, 2006 and Zaharna, 2004).2
Needless to say, the issue of a nation's image and reputation abroad and its management through public diplomatic actions are nothing new. The idea and practice of public diplomacy has a rich, storied history in the U.S. One may trace this type of cross-national communication to the advent of the country. But as a formal, organized function of the government, such overseas information operation began in earnest during the First World War with the creation of the Committee on Public Information (CPI). Over the years, it was best exemplified, for example, by programs carried out through CPI, the Office of War Information (OWI) during the Second World War, and the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the Cold War. With the U.S. embarking on another journey of international engagement and communication in the post-9/11 world, it is worth looking back on the history of public diplomacy to make sense of its contemporary challenges.
Before considering how to pursue public diplomacy, one must address and clarify why we are doing it in the first place. A key debate over public diplomacy rests on the contention of its central purpose(s) in a nation-state's foreign affairs process. Should U.S. public diplomacy address near-term policy goals or long-term objectives of building relationships? Should it focus on promoting American ideas and ideals or developing mutual understanding among peoples? Should it represent the imperatives of the incumbent administration or the broader interests of the country? These are some of the core questions that frame the basic issues in the debate (Tuch, 1990, p. 13). This paper seeks to provide an historical reflection on the mission of U.S. public diplomacy through an examination of the three institutional settings for such programs and activities (i.e., CPI, OWI, and USIA), and to shed light on the central purpose of the current public diplomacy endeavor spearheaded by the Department of State. Admittedly, these three agencies only represent part of the entire effort. Many other official and private entities took part in the work of "winning the hearts and minds." Nonetheless, they were the "flagship" programs, most illuminating about the essence of public diplomacy in the U.S.3 It is certainly beyond this paper to take stock of their entire efforts and outcome. There have been accounts of the individual entities (e.g., CPI [Creel, 1920; Mock & Larson, 1939; Vaughn, 1980], OWI [Winkler, 1978], and USIA [Bogart, 1995, Dizard, 2004, Henderson, 1969 and Malone, 1988]). Our task is rather modest. We focus on the aspect of the manifest mandate of these agencies - the expressed purpose attributed to the endeavor by the government - as an entry point to identify the commonalities and differences over time.4 The mission articulation - what an organization is and what it wants to do - is significant, as the proclaimed objectives will most likely guide and be operationalized into action.5
To examine the mandate of the three agencies, we explain their respective missions by following a chronological order as well as situating them in the larger context of how the agencies were created. We then analyze and interpret them schematically. We rely on government documents and historical accounts of these organizations in published works and news coverage.6 In the case of USIA which spanned over nine administrations, we discuss its various mandates in select administrations to encompass the spectrum of goals. In what follows, we begin with an overview of the three agencies, followed by an analysis of the central themes embodied in the government's articulation of the agencies' mandates. We conclude by discussing the implications for the contemporary concept and practice of public diplomacy.
1. An historical retrospective
1.1. Committee on Public Information during WWI
When President Woodrow Wilson presented the case to lead America into war with Germany in April 1917, there was a clear sense that the country was not unified behind the cause and was not ready for the fight. With the growing importance of public opinion in the body politic, WWI was fundamentally different from previous wars in that it was also "the fight for the minds of men" (Creel, 1920, p. 3). On April 13, 1917, Wilson established an independent information agency - the Committee on Public Information - to rally support behind the war effort.
The work of CPI had two dimensions, domestic and international. Domestically, it focused on mobilizing support for the war - the task of "holding fast the inner lines." Commenting on CPI's domestic work, Vaughn (1980, p. 4) wrote, "The CPI succeeded all too well. It organized patriotic enthusiasm where it existed and created it where it did not &" CPI's domestic publicity effort generated a tremendous amount of controversy and objection from the press, academia, and legislators, due to its censorship and misinformation practices as well as Creel's larger-than-life personality ("The Committee on Public Misinformation," 1917).
Aside from mobilizing domestic support, CPI extended its work beyond the U.S. shores. Its overseas operation represented the first ever major U.S. government effort in communicating with the publics in foreign countries, which is the focus of this paper. CPI's international mandate encompassed three aspects: (1) contributing to the war effort through boosting morale in the Allied countries, building support in the neutral nations, and fostering dissension among the Central Powers, (2) improving America's image overseas through highlighting positive features to counter negative perceptions, and (3) promoting American-style democracy (Wolper, 1993, p. 19). CPI's activities in Spain (Wolper, 1993) and China (Schmidt, 1998), for example, reflected these multiple but interlinked goals. CPI immediately ceased its operation after the armistice and was soon abolished.
But CPI's impact lingered well beyond its 18-month existence. While it was highly successful in building international as well as domestic support for America's war effort, CPI was remembered "in a bitter way" in the following years ("Washington Cold to Publicity Idea," 1923). Some of its communication (propagandistic) and censorship practices sowed the seeds of American public's suspicion of such a function in a democratic society (Winkler, 1978, p. 3).
1.2. Office of War Information during WWII
In the years leading up to the Second World War, the indispensable role of information in the conduct of the war was well acknowledged (see, e.g., Lasswell, 1927). Before entering WWII, the Roosevelt administration had already set up several federal agencies with responsibilities for information dissemination. As America joined the fight against the Axis countries, there was an urgent need for bureaucratic efficiency in the government's communication operation. On June 13, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt consolidated the functions of the various agencies into the new Office of War Information. Like CPI, OWI had a dual mandate with two main organizational divisions, domestic and foreign. According to Roosevelt's executive order, OWI was given the charge to "use the press, radio and motion pictures for information programs designed to form an intelligent public understanding of the war and of government programs" and "to coordinate Federal activities to assure an accurate and consistent flow of war information to the United States and the world" ("President Plans Single News Unit," 1942).7
Much of the debate on OWI's domestic work, as in the case of CPI, was centered on wartime censorship and its conflicts with democratic ideals. But for its overseas effort, there seemed to be less controversy. OWI's international activities ranged from targeted information programs on the battlefield in support of military operation, to broad initiatives of communicating U.S. foreign policy around the world. In addition, it also engaged in portraying and promoting the American way of life - a "mighty, dedicated, wholesome country" with the "better interests of all mankind at heart" - to help articulate the moral claims for America's involvement in the war (Winkler, 1978, p. 154).
Nonetheless, for OWI, there was not as much clarity on the goals of the agency for its international communication. In the case of CPI, Wilson's high-minded vision about the nature and outcome of the war was clearly and consistently presented to the international audience (e.g., Schmidt, 1998). As Winkler (p. 153) wrote, "Propaganda for democracy in the hopeful, idealistic terms of the early founders of OWI was simply out of place in a war that policy makers claimed they were fighting for the purposes of military victory alone."
When WWII drew to a close, OWI apparently lost its raison d'être. With budgetary concerns in Congress as well as pressure from the emerging commercial media against government-operated information outlets (Dizard, 2004, p. 37), OWI was abolished by President Truman on August 31, 1945. However, OWI left behind some highly valuable assets, including the Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcast (created in 1942), which were then consolidated and folded into the Department of State.
1.3. United States Information Agency during the cold war
Immediately after WWII, there was debate about the usefulness of government-operated information programs overseas. In light of the massive post-war reconstruction in Europe and Japan and, in particular, the emerging Soviet challenge in the form of communist ideology, Congress recognized the need to continue overseas information operations and went on to enact "The Unites States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948," sponsored by Senator Alexander Smith (R-New Jersey) and Representative Karl Mundt (R-South Dakota). The Smith-Mundt Act stated two broad objectives for government's international information programs: "to promote a better understanding of the United States in other countries, and to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries." The Act provided the legal foundation for U.S. public diplomacy for years to come. It was also significant in that the government had the mandate to not only perform an informational function in its international communication but a cultural one as well. The other notable aspect of the Smith-Mundt Act was that it forbade the domestic dissemination of any information programs prepared for international audiences, out of concern that government overseas propaganda violates the spirit of a democratic society.
After several years of gestation, the reorganization of U.S. overseas information operation began to take shape towards the end of the Truman administration and the beginning of the Eisenhower administration. Broadly speaking, the covert psychological war operations were given to the Central Intelligence Agency; while public communication through, for instance, the VOA broadcast and U.S. information service posts overseas, was to be carried out by a new independent agency - the United States Information Agency.
During its nearly 45 years of existence, the mandate of USIA was not monolithic, but reflected the vicissitudes of U.S. administrations. At its launch, President Eisenhower outlined the central purpose of USIA - "to submit evidence to peoples of other nations by means of communication techniques that the objectives and policies of the United States are in harmony with and will advance their legitimate aspirations for freedom, progress and peace" (Tuch, 1990, p. 21). At a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Smith-Mundt Act in 1958, President Eisenhower noted that, "Information and education are powerful forces in support of peace. Just as war begins in the minds of men, so does peace" ("Eisenhower's Remarks," 1958).
When the renowned broadcaster Edward R. Murrow became its director in the Kennedy administration, the mission of USIA expanded. The task of government international communication was to "to help achieve United States foreign policy objectives by (1) influencing public attitudes in other nations and by (2) advising the President, his representatives abroad, and the various departments and agencies on the implications of foreign opinion for present and contemplated Unites States policies, programs and official statements" (Malone, 1988, p. 20). The advisory function of USIA in the foreign policy process was championed by Murrow who commented that "I want to be in on the take-offs - not only on the landings." This oft-quoted remark exemplifies the aspiration of public diplomacy officers to be part of the strategic foreign affairs management function rather than merely serving as a mouthpiece.
With America's increasing involvement in the Vietnam War, USIA also participated in the traditional battlefield information operations as well as in supporting the Vietnamese information ministry (Tuch, 1990, p. 30). During the 1960s and into the 1970s, the agency developed a stronger information infrastructure with wider coverage of VOA. A major shift in the mission of USIA came during the Carter administration.
Public diplomacy had then been basically about "telling the American story," but there were increasing calls for putting an emphasis on "dialogue" with foreign publics (Malone, 1988, pp. 26-27). According to President Carter's vision, the fundamental premise of U.S. government's international communication was that "it is in our national interest to encourage sharing of ideas and cultural activities among the people of the United States and the peoples of other nations" (as explained in Tuch, 1990, p. 32). The five main tasks for USIA (then renamed the United States International Communication Agency [USICA]) as outlined by Carter included: (1) to encourage the exchange of people and ideas; (2) to inform foreign publics about U.S. policies, society and culture; (3) to ensure the U.S. government understand foreign public opinion for its policy making; (4) to design programs that facilitate the flow of information and ideas among the peoples of the world; and (5) to conduct negotiations on cultural exchanges (p. 33). The re-organization resulted in moving the educational and cultural exchange programs from the State Department to USICA, thus consolidating all the major public diplomacy efforts.
As the Reagan administration came into office, the name of the agency reverted back to USIA; so did the emphasis and tone of its work, characterized by information and persuasion to reflect Reagan's ideological warfare against the former Soviet Union. As exemplified by programs, such as the "Project Truth" initiative spearheaded by the then USIA director Charles Z. Wick, the general mission of USIA was to inform the world about America and to counter Soviet propaganda, much narrower than what was earlier articulated during the Carter administration (Malone, 1988, pp. 64-65). As Dizard (2004, p. 201) wrote, "Charles Wick melded the new Reagan policies into USIA operations in ways that were arguably the most successful coordination of White House and agency activities in the agency's history." However, critics raised concerns about the government's public diplomacy program for its concentration on countering Soviet propaganda to the neglect of educational and cultural programs that helped to establish the "intellectual connection" with other countries (e.g., Gardner, 1983).
With the collapse of the former Soviet Union, USIA's Cold War focus appeared to have lost its relevance. A New York Times front page headline was most indicative of the debate over the nature of USIA's work in the post-Cold War era: "U.S. Voices Overseas: Antiquated Weapons?" (1990). At issue was whether USIA should end as the Cold War ended; if not, what then was the new mission for the agency and for public diplomacy in general. At his swearing-in ceremony as the director of USIA, Joseph D. Duffey (in Bogart, 1995, pp. xxvi-xxvii) explained that the agency's goals were to "(1) foster greater understanding of the United States by the peoples of the world, (2) provide for U.S. policymakers information about the sentiments and the opinions of peoples in other regions of the world, (3) make available accurate information about the United States and its policies to members of the public in every region of the world, (4) assist American citizens as they seek to better understand the greater world community, and (5) nurture understanding of American values and & provide technical assistance to peoples in other nations who are engaged in the growing worldwide movement for democratic government and open-market economies." As part of the vision, for instance, USIA also began to engage in promoting business and trade. Duffey stated before a Senate subcommittee, "More and more, we are teaching others not only about the principles of free markets but the very mechanisms that make free and open markets possible" (in Snow, 1997, p. 1). In 1999, in response to congressional pressure to achieve bureaucratic efficiency, the Clinton administration closed down USIA by folding some of its operations into the State Department, thus officially ending its nearly half a century of existence.
Public diplomacy is broadly defined in this paper as the task of communicating with foreign publics (Leonard, 2002). Based on this historical review of the manifest mandate of the three U.S. international communication agencies, we can make at least four observations concerning the central purposes of U.S. public diplomacy programs.
2.1. Public diplomacy as an instrument of wartime exigency
As illustrated through the cases, U.S. public diplomacy has served primarily as an instrument of foreign policy to meet wartime exigencies. From World War I and World War II to the Cold War, recognizing the ultimate importance of international public opinion in the conduct of the war, the U.S. government set up agencies to facilitate communication with foreign publics as an integral part of its war strategy. In the cases of CPI and OWI, achieving the wartime goals were explicitly stated in the agencies' missions. For USIA, although the emphasis on winning the Cold War was not consistently and explicitly articulated in the agency's mandates throughout the various administrations, the agency operated against the backdrop of the Cold War and, as Bogart (1995) stated, "the mission and function of USIA have been inseparable from Cold War geopolitics" (p. x).
Despite the agencies' indispensable role in winning the wars, their status in the government apparatus was never permanent. The paramount mission of the agencies, whether through disseminating information or building global understanding of America, was to help win the war. Hence, they immediately became obsolete once the government declared victory. In all three cases, the agencies were subsequently or eventually disbanded. In other words, they were "temporary," ad hoc functions rather than an integral part of the government mechanism during both times of war and peace. This certainly does not mean that government's international communication stopped with the end of these agencies. But the decisions to abolish them after each of the three major wars clearly demonstrated that they were not accorded a vital role and institutional power as an instrument of peacetime communication, and that their mandate was essentially to support war execution. As a result, public diplomacy was not sustained with the force and intensity as during wartime.
2.2. Democracy promotion as part of public diplomacy
The examination of the mission articulations of the three agencies also illustrates that public diplomacy efforts have reflected the government's commitment to promoting American-style democracy and freedom in the global arena. For instance, promoting democracy and freedom was one of the stated goals of CPI. Through CPI's extensive information campaigns, America's ideas and ideals embodied in Wilson's Fourteen Points during WWI were transmitted around the world, leading to such news headlines as "Whole World Got Wilson's Message" (1917). Even though democracy promotion was not explicitly outlined in the OWI mandate, the Roosevelt administration did first advocate the twin goals of destroying the Axis forces and promoting self-determination around the world, but later re-directed OWI's communication efforts primarily to winning the war as opposed to promoting democracy (Dizard, 2004, p. 31). The experience of USIA also suggests that although democracy promotion was not always enshrined in the agency's mandate, a key component of USIA's work was to promote and enhance international public's understanding of American values and beliefs in democracy and freedom.
2.3. Expanding modes of engagement
The field of public diplomacy, as Grunig (1993) argued, "consists essentially of the application of public relations to strategic relationships of organizations with international publics" (p. 143). The basic modes of public relations management were exemplified in the mandates of the agencies, but the emphasis shifted and the scope expanded over the years.
In information advocacy, the goal is to impart information on behalf of an organization to its stakeholders. The press agentry and public information models as conceptualized by Grunig and Hunt (1984) fall into this category of activities. Or, as Grunig and Grunig (1992) later argued, these two models are along the continuum of "craft public relations." An example of public diplomacy in this mode of communication would be the deployment of information programs in another country to advance one's own policy objectives and to change perceptions (and behaviors) regardless of the information needs of the target foreign publics. Such an orientation was prevalent in the work of CPI and OWI during the two world wars.
In strategic communication, the work of public diplomacy is not only to promote the policies and values of a particular nation but also to engineer consensus and facilitate understanding among overseas publics. To accomplish that, it is crucial to understand the needs of foreign publics and to adjust one's communication strategy and tactics accordingly. This is represented by Grunig and Hunt's (1984) two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical models of public relations; or as embodied by Grunig and Grunig's (1992) revised conceptualization of "professional public relations." For instance, as part of the mandate of USIA during the Kennedy administration, researching on international public opinion was institutionalized within the agency, and the government utilized such research data to formulate communication policies to achieve larger policy goals.
The essence of dialogic communication can be expressed, in Habermas' conceptualization, as "'an ideal speech situation' whereby nothing but the better arguments count and where actors try to persuade each other and are themselves open to being convinced" (Risse, 2000, p. 10). Such communicative action takes place in public spheres where self-interests are set aside and participants strive for the larger goals of public good (Leitch & Neilson, 2001). The objectives of communication, in this sense, are not to "maximize, optimize, or satisfy given preferences" as inherent and entrenched in information advocacy and strategic communication (including the two-way symmetrical communication) (e.g., Kent & Taylor, 2002). Dialogic communication - communicative acts unburdened with a message and characterized by exchanges to achieve mutual understanding - was not a prominent part of U.S. public diplomacy work. However, this orientation was evident, for instance, by the Carter administration's emphasis on sharing rather than just informing and persuading. As Snow (1997) has argued, in the case of USIA, the primary function of U.S. public diplomacy focused on information dissemination and strategic persuasion, while the mandate of building mutual understanding largely remained secondary. Nevertheless, from CPI and OWI to USIA, we see a transition from primarily information advocacy to an expanding scope of engagement.
2.4. Public diplomacy: mouthpiece versus policy instrument
This historical review also demonstrates that, despite the broad agreement on the importance of public diplomacy, the debate over its role in the foreign policy-making process emerged during the USIA years and was on-going. At issue is whether public diplomacy should be involved in policy making as well as policy communication. In this regard, it parallels the larger debate on the role and function of public relations in an organizational process, i.e., serving as a communication technician or a strategic management function (though the dichotomy of the roles is probably more pronounced in theory than in practice) (Grunig & Repper, 1992). As a communication technician, the essential task is to utilize the available communication devices to relay decisions and information from the organization to its stakeholders. As a strategic management function, on the other hand, public relations must participate in the organization's strategic planning in order to deliver effective communication solutions and impact (Grunig & Repper, 1992).
In the cases of CPI and OWI, the mandate of communicating with foreign publics represented management of information dissemination, i.e., primarily the role of communication technicians. Based on the expressed mandate of the three agencies, only during certain periods in the USIA years (e.g., the Kennedy administration) was the policy function of public diplomacy explicitly communicated and advocated.8 The prevailing approach seems to have been treating public diplomacy as a communications means to achieve policy ends. As Kramer (n.d.) has argued, public diplomacy is there to "create leeway for policy," not vice versa.
3. America's dialog with the world
The post-9/11 U.S. public diplomacy has experienced several incarnations characterized by a succession of responsible officials. Karen Hughes, the current Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, outlined the mission of public diplomacy in her testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations. According to Hughes (2005), U.S. public diplomacy efforts are guided by three strategic imperatives to (1) "offer a positive vision of hope and opportunity to people throughout the world, a vision rooted in our enduring commitment to freedom;" (2) "to isolate and marginalize violent extremists, and undermine their efforts to exploit religion to rationalize their acts of terror;" and (3) "to foster a sense of common interests and common values between Americans and people of different countries, cultures and faiths across our world." As such, the government is pursuing four broad initiatives, Engage, Exchange, Educate and Empower (i.e., the four "E's"), that encompass a wide array of communications programs, from media engagement for policy advocacy, and cultural and educational exchanges, to language learning and enabling non-government actors in the process.
The renewed interest in public diplomacy was clearly a direct outcome of the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing "war on terrorism."9 With the declaration of a new "war," public diplomacy once again returned to the limelight and is high on the government agenda. As in the earlier efforts, the current mission of public diplomacy (i.e., the first two imperatives) appears to address the pressing concerns of the contemporary war and is underscored by American ideals of democracy and freedom. The third part of the mission is a continuation of the vision of building mutual understanding as advocated by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948.
Aside from the commonalities of the mission of public diplomacy across time, the current endeavor has one aspect that represents some departure from the previous goals, that is the emphasis on including American citizens and non-government actors in the process. Historically, public diplomacy focused on government communication with foreign audiences. Yet, with the increasing movement of people, information and capital, the world of communication is globalized and transparent. The separation of communication between domestic and international audiences as codified by the Smith-Mundt Act is no longer tenable, as the line demarcating what is international and what is domestic is increasingly blurred. Neither can the government monopolize the practice of public diplomacy, as the task needs to be shared and more effectively pursued by multiple social entities, including citizens and the non-government sector (Wang, 2006).
In summary, in light of the history of U.S. public diplomacy, the proclaimed three-part mission of the current endeavor at the Department of State is not a radical departure, but a culmination of historical trends. What remain to be seen is whether the efforts will be sustained over time, especially beyond war times, and whether the scope of engagement and role emphasis will shift.
This paper aims to enrich our understanding of current and long-standing issues regarding the mission and function of U.S. public diplomacy. What binds the agencies and their public diplomacy efforts from different time periods is a shared historical legacy. We contend that U.S. public diplomacy has been principally an ad hoc instrument of American foreign policy to meet wartime exigencies and has been underscored by the promotion of American values of democracy and freedom. In the context of shifting priorities, it has also experienced identity challenges with regard to its role and function within the government. We observe that, over the years, U.S. public diplomacy has expanded to encompass multiple modes of communication, while at the same time there has been constant tension concerning the ultimate role of public diplomacy as a strategic, policy function versus merely as a "mouthpiece" within the foreign affairs apparatus.
Although it is beyond this paper to examine the underlining factors for the four themes characterizing the mandate of public diplomacy, we can at least posit that behind them is a confluence of forces, ranging from societal factors (e.g., prevailing political and wartime consensus, America's belief in democracy and freedom), organizational politics (e.g., inter-agency arrangements), and competitive pressure from rivalry (e.g., German propaganda efforts during WWI and WWII, and the Soviet outreach programs during the Cold War), to the development of the public relations profession in the 20th century10 and the forces of personalities involved (e.g., Wilson and Creel, Kennedy and Morrow, Reagan and Wick). Future research needs to look into and investigate the extent to which these different forces have helped to shape the mandate and contours of U.S. public diplomacy.
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1 Public diplomacy is one form of a nation's overseas communication program, and is different from "psychological operations" (i.e., information tactics used on the battlefield in international military conflicts) and "public affairs" (i.e., domestic communication about foreign affairs and issues) (Johnson & Dale, 2003, p. 3). The way how these activities are organized by the government has changed over the years. Psychological operations are now typically conducted through the Department of Defense. The concept of "public diplomacy" in this paper refers to the types of communication activities generally pursued by the Department of State.Most credit Edmund A. Gullion for coining the term "public diplomacy" in 1965 (e.g., Cull, 2003 and Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy, 2006). But the term had, in fact, been in use (at least) as early as during WWI. For instance, The New York Times published stories with the phrase "public diplomacy" on various occasions (e.g., "Forms Outline of Future Peace," 1917; "If Germany Replies," 1916). Gullion was probably the first to conceptualize the idea by providing a more precise definition and explanation.
2 The idea and practice of "public diplomacy" has also been viewed through the prism of (government) propaganda. The term "propaganda," long associated with the propagation of Catholic faith, was used interchangeably with government overseas information programs in the early days, but took a negative turn during the two world wars. The manifold uses and abuses of the word in academic literature and popular parlance have since made the definition of the concept particularly challenging (e.g., Combs & Nimmo, 1993; Cunningham, 2002 and Ellul, 1973; Jowett & O'Donnell, 1999). Some argue that propaganda is a neutral concept and is contextually dependent (e.g., "white propaganda," "black propaganda", and "grey propaganda," while others see the inherent "defective quality" of communication that is considered and labeled as propaganda (Cunningham, 2002, p. 99). In this paper, the term "propaganda" when referred to does not necessarily carry the pejorative sense.
3 For this reason, the International Information Administration, the immediate predecessor to USIA, for example, is not part of the study.
4 Aside from this manifest purpose, organizations may also be driven by latent objectives (e.g., institutional and personal interests), which are not part of the scope of this paper.
5 Although the premise for this paper that stated goals direct execution is generally a valid one, it is important to note that organizational missions may be interpreted and/or implemented differently.
6 For government documents, we reviewed presidential executive orders with regard to the creation of CPI (Executive Order No. 2594) and OWI (Executive Order No. 9182), and the "United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948" (Public Law 402). In the example of Executive Order No. 2594, it only stated the establishment of CPI and the appointment of the commitment chairman and its members. As the mission of CPI was not spelled out in the presidential document, we also reviewed relevant historical accounts in books and news coverage of CPI. In the case of USIA, its mandate shifted and was reshaped based on the priorities of the respective administrations. To explain the different mandates during the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations, we use pronouncements by respective presidents and/or then USIA directors.For historical accounts, we include the major works published by diplomatic historians on the subject of U.S. public diplomacy and the three organizations. See "References" for titles.For journalistic accounts, we conducted a search in the New York Times Historical Database, which provides complete coverage from 1851 through 2003. Relevant items on U.S. public diplomacy and the three agencies were then examined.
7 Presidential Executive Order No. 9182 outlines six goals for OWI. We highlight the first two in this paper, while the other goals are related to the agency's information management process and in some ways are encapsulated in the first two aspects of the mandate.
8 Despite the stated missions that included a policy function, it was far from the case in practice (e.g., Keith, 2004).
9 There is on-going debate on whether the struggle against global terrorism constitutes a war as conventionally defined.
10 The addition of this observation was suggested by one of the reviewers, and the author gratefully acknowledges the suggestion.