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PD and the war on Terror by Harold Pachios
Public Diplomacy and the War on Terror
Harold C. Pachios , Chairman, Advisory Commission for Public Diplomacy
Remarks to Newhouse School of Communication, Syracuse University
January 28, 2003
Harold Pachios: Thank you for inviting me here today. I have a story I want to tell you about public relations and Lyndon Johnson.
Johnson in 1965 learned, as we all did, the Pope was coming to the United States - the first time a Pope had ever been to the United States.
Now we see the Pope everywhere in his "Popemobile," in every country in the world. But in those days, Popes did not go anywhere. They stayed in Rome. And so, the Pope decided to come to the United States, for the first time in the history of the Papacy, fly overnight to New York, in the morning say Mass at Yankee Stadium and go home.
So Johnson, mindful that there were huge numbers of Catholic voters in the United States, was very disappointed he had not been invited to meet with the Pope, (talking about public relations) have his picture taken with the Pope. So, we came upon a scheme and we came upon it just a day and a half before the Pope was to arrive. Johnson had on his desk to sign the Immigration Act of 1965. Somebody said let's sign it at the Statue of Liberty - symbolism - and then we will cable the Vatican and say coincidentally, just by chance, the President is going to be in New York the day the Pope is going to be there so we will have to get together. It was done just before he was to arrive. I flew up to New York to meet with the television producers.
In those days, each network did not have it's own cameras covering these events. They had pool coverage. I forget which one; maybe it was NBC who had the pool coverage. So we went in the afternoon to the Statue of Liberty. We picked out all the camera positions for the President: making his talk at the Statue; signing the bill; and then to the Waldorf Towers where the President was going to meet with the Pope. The Pope was going to be driven there. They were going to go up to the 35th floor of the Waldorf Towers to a suite and have a chat. The Pope was going to go back down to his limousine and go to Kennedy Airport. The Pope's tour was going to arrive at the Waldorf at 8 a.m. the next morning.
At 10 o'clock at night, we are picking out the final camera positions. We had camera positions in the suite, outside the suite, the elevator. Finally the last one was in the 50th street entrance to the Waldorf Towers. The place was filled with cops. This was now maybe 8 hours before the Pope was to arrive. I never saw so many policemen in all my life. It dawned on me that in those days there were 27,000 policemen in New York and there wasn't much diversity. About 90% were Irish Catholic.
A policeman came over and said what are you doing? We said we were picking out a camera position. This guy was a big shot who had two stars on his shoulder. He was an inspector. He said, you will have no camera position there. Now we are talking about how to impress people. We are talking about how to reach people. You have to know your audience, and you have to know what their reference is. So, I went back and forth with this guy and finally I said, look, there is going to be a camera position here, and I took out my White House credentials. I was communicating forcefully.
He looked at me and said; I don't care who you are. All I can tell you is there is going to be no camera position between my men, who are going to be standing right over there at that doorway when his Holiness and the other fellow come out the door!
You have to understand who your audience is when you communicate.
Colonel Smullen (Professor of Communication at Syracuse University, and former State Department Chief of Staff) said there is a lot of distrust of the United States around the world - and it is true. Anti-Americanism is at its height. This is particularly ironic since we were the victims of the attack on 9/11, and this rising distrust of the United States has grown substantially since 9/11. It is a serious problem. It is an obstacle to successfully pursuing our foreign policy. We read a lot about unilateralism, and this issue of whether we should follow the lead of Secretary of State Collin Powell in trying to work with international bodies in trying to put together coalitions, or whether we should sign on with others in the administration who say it doesn't make that much difference, we'll do it ourselves. We have the power to do what we want to do.
In the long run, we can't win a war on terrorism alone. You see it every day in the newspaper.
Cooperation from Germany is essential.
Cooperation from Pakistan is essential.
Cooperation now from Libya is essential.
So how we succeed with our objectives depends a lot on the amount of cooperation we get from countries around the world. Fifty years ago countries made alliances based on secret diplomacy, based on the internal needs of governments. It was government to government. In many places in the world public opinion in those countries did not have much impact on the foreign policy of those countries.
Just take one country, Pakistan, which we just mentioned. Fifty years ago, if the Pakistani's forged a treaty with the United States, it didn't make much difference what the Pakistani people thought. Today, it is different, and it is different not only there, it is different in every country of the world, including authoritarian countries.
In Syria, the Syrian government will follow a foreign policy that is somewhat aligned with the opinion of the people of Syria. Fifty years ago, there was no television in Syria. There was no Internet in Syria. People were not well informed, and the government provided the sole source of information. Today in Syria every apartment has a satellite dish on their deck outside. They all get satellite television. They are no longer limited to government-provided information. So the shrinking of our globe with the communications revolution has changed the way foreign policy is formed.
Foreign policy now is responsive to public opinion in each country around the world. And that is where we are having our problem because we cannot have a broad-based coalition unless public opinion in those countries with whom we want to coalesce will support that coalition.
The polls are pretty rough. So why do they hate us? Perhaps we ought to talk about the Middle East because that is where most of the action is right now - Central Asia and the Middle East.
There are some that say they do not understand us. There are some people in the State Department who will say what we really need to do is to inform Arab audiences about American culture and about American values. That is important, and it is what we did traditionally in American diplomacy. But mostly, it is our policies. People are well informed. They watch television all over the world. I will give you one example. Broad public opinion in this country strongly supports Israel. And that is one thing we can explain to the world - I think, in understandable terms - why we are strong supporters of Israel.
Understand how Israel came about and why it was created. We can explain that it is another democracy and the United States has this common interest with democracies in the world -- common Judeo-Christian values. We can explain that. What we can't explain is why the Congress of the United States makes it a law that the United States Government cannot publish a document that identifies the Capitol of Israel as Tel Aviv. It must identify, according to United States Law, Jerusalem. Of course, this is one of the unresolved points of contention between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Very few people in the United States know that this is the law in the United States. Everybody at every level of society in the Middle East knows that is the law in the United States and knows that that law was passed last year.
So policy is one thing, but some of the things we do sends messages that result in this enormous feeling that we are biased; that we are insensitive to the Arab point of view; and that we are not fair to the Palestinians.
Part of our response, as I mentioned before, has been to say they don't understand us and let's talk about it. That was the traditional way we did it.
Our public diplomacy apparatus used to be in the United States Information Agency, created in 1948, abolished in 1999 by the Congress and pulled it into the State Department. What USIA used to do is now done by the State Department. Public diplomacy officers, essentially foreign service officers in the public relations business, assigned to our embassies throughout the world for 50 years, were in the street in free countries and countries behind the iron curtain, speaking the local language, making contacts with people -- but focusing on the elites -- saying if we can influence the thinking of professors, of journalists, of cultural elites then they in turn will influence the thinking of their societies.
Coupled with the work of these public diplomacy professionals, these American Foreign Service PR people, was radio, primarily Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. It was short wave, and it was aimed at these very same elites. They were the people who listened to the radios. The cab drivers in Prague in 1955 were not listening to short wave radio.
It worked well. It was successful. It was a great ideological battle for 45 years between communism and democracy and the values of a democratic society won in that ideological battle. Much of that was due to the work of these Foreign Service professionals and the Voice of America in those days in influencing elites. We still need to do that. We still do that. We still have in every embassy of the world people working at that. They set up American Centers. They are in constant contact with students and professors. In fact, in most large American posts abroad, there used to be independent libraries, free standing American cultural centers and libraries. Most of those are now in the embassies.
I used to travel to a lot of embassies. If you go into these embassies and you go into the American Library or Cultural Center, there are mostly students. A lot of those students want to know about going to school in the United States. All of that is done through our Public Diplomacy people. But now we have to reach the masses because people get their information from radio and television, and they are well informed.
Secondly, there are some people who think that we ought to be selling American policy and selling American values through tried and true Madison Avenue techniques. Now I will say that in order to give this discussion, I have been in political campaigns. Matt has been in political campaigns. I think both of us would agree that the techniques that American politicians use to communicate with their constituents are very well suited, in most cases, to communicating with foreign audiences about foreign policy, very well suited. But, I am not sure that simple ads are.
Ads work in American political campaigns, and they work very well. I am not certain ads work in the international environment. The State Department under the leadership of the Undersecretary of State, who runs this Public Diplomacy PR apparatus in the United States and around the world, had a program called Shared Values. She said they don't understand us. What we need to do is to show them that Muslims in America are free to practice their religion, free to flourish as all other Americans, and that's good. Secondly, that the Shared Values include education. In the Arab world, education and health care are the two most important things that people think about. When they take polls, what is most important to you and your family? Education, health care and, third, a job. If you take a poll in the United States, they say the same things. Shared values, common goals - we are not different -- so, says the State Department. Let's send that message. Let's have some ads appear. Let's show them the Shared Values ad.
These ads were prepared to be shown on Arab television networks and stations. Secondly, these ads were prepared to go on non-Arab countries, Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. They got aired in Indonesia. I think they got on in Malaysia. They didn't get on in Egypt because that is not a free society. Most television stations are controlled by the government. It [the campaign] didn't get on in most places in the Middle East, and it didn't tell people, in any event, something they didn't already know. So it is essentially abandoned.
When you read in a lot of newspapers the written pieces about the State Department's effort to brand America and to do it through advertising techniques, that is what they are talking about, and it [the campaign] is essentially over, probably a month ago.
One observation about branding: Countries for a long time have had brands. There are images when you think about France and when you think about Germany. Germany had a bad brand for a long time. So branding is not new. But one thing that I have always thought about the U.S. brand that would be important to promote among people who distrust us, among people who are concerned with what they see as unilateralism, is this brand:
The United States occupied Germany after the war, months after the Germans and the Americans were killing each other in World War II. The United States occupied Germany. The United States established, over a period of time, a civil society and a governmental structure, restored infrastructure. I was in the German Bundestag two or three years ago, and I met with a bunch of German legislators. One guy said something they all agreed with. If you are a German politician over the age of 60 years old, it is very difficult to be anti-American because those are people who were there in the late 1940s and early 1950s. For the most part, they were children who saw American soldiers as saviors, who saw American soldiers not as occupiers. No German over the age of 60 years old will tell you that the United States occupied Germany.
The same thing is true of Japan. The United States occupied Japan at the end of World War II. It unilaterally ended its occupation. The Japanese did not rise up and throw them out. It voluntarily ceased occupying, but only after restoring civil society and building democratic institutions. That's a brand.
The United States went to Bosnia and put together an international force to finally stop the killing. The United States did not lead an international force to occupy the Balkans but to stop people from being killed. Who? Stop whom from being killed? (Audience: Muslims!)
The same United States went to war against Serbia, not to occupy Serbia, not to occupy Kosovo -- but to put an end to the killing of Muslims. There are a lot of stories like that. And that's the brand that we should be selling. That is how we should be describing this country and the power that it uses.
Now we are going to have a question and answer session here, and I want to wrap up this basic picture of Public Diplomacy. I described to you how the traditional way was to influence the elites. We did it from short wave radio dealing with the cultural elites, bringing our culture to countries around the world. USIA used to send the New York Philharmonic all over the world, and used to send small string quartets, harpists, dance troops to demonstrate that we had a very vital cultural society. These other dimensions of our country were very successful. But now we have all of these microwave dishes everywhere in the world. Every cab driver has on the deck a microwave dish. And how do we reach them, and why do we need to reach them? Because if there is so much media around the world, why don't we just use the media that exists?
The media is not objective. Al-Jazeera, the famous independent television station in Qatar that serves most of the Arab world, is the most watched station in the Middle East. There is an anti-American bias. There is a bias in a lot of U.S. television. All my democratic friends, I happen to be a Democrat, they tell you they won't watch Fox - it is too right wing. Well, if you are an American, you may not want to watch Al-Jazeera because it is too anti-American, and you don't get the straight scoop.
One example is that television in the United States after 9/11 was a steady image over and over again of those two buildings crumbling in New York. When the Israelis sent troops and tanks to Jenin to the refugee camp, which was under siege, a child was killed. A photographer took the picture of a dead baby. I was told that the dead baby appeared on Al-Jazeera for two months, every day, that image. So, the idea is to try to break through, and one of the ways of doing it now is radio.
The United States has created, through Voice of America, AM/FM (VOA), stations with transmitters all over the Middle East. They are still being built but it is operating now. So people who are only part time in government, but know a lot about audience building have put this together, primarily a guy named Norm Pattiz who runs something called Westwood One, Los Angeles, the largest radio programming organization in the world. He knows how to get audiences and to use it. The target audience is 15 years old to 35. In every country in the Middle East is a government-owned radio network. All music, Arab and American music, except for four minutes in the half hour and four minutes on the hour, is the most popular radio station in several Middle East countries today. Even in Baghdad, it is a very popular station, U.S. Government owned.
Now Matt will show you this. (Sample of Radio SAWA is played.)
What you have heard is a powerful phenomenon in the Middle East. The news - you ask whether they tell the truth. The VOA does have a reputation for telling the truth. The minute its credibility is eroded, no one is going to listen.
Now the New York Times sent a couple of crews out to the Middle East on this phenomenon when the U.S.-owned radio station started. And some guys say in Amman it is the best music by far. They all say it is the best music and they all listen to it, but they shut it off when the news comes on. I don't think that is true.
I don't think they shut it off when the news comes on. So what it does is to provide what we believe is straight news on American policy. Now one thing that we have discovered that is kind of interesting is that in that region of the world, it is important to hear the voices of the policymakers.
When Colin Powell speaks and his voice is on that radio, dubbed all in Arabic, people listen because they don't trust intermediaries. They don't trust commentators. They don't trust reporters. If they hear it from Bush or if they hear Powell's voice, then they know that is what he said. So, that has been successful.
Now, the most important medium and the most powerful medium, we all know, is television. We need to do the same thing with television, which will reach even more people, satellite television. Nobody can block them. The VOA has television beamed at Cuba, the creation of some members of Congress who were very interested in doing one or two minutes of what the population of Miami and many of us would like to see, which is to beam ideas at Cuba and undermine Castro. That's a transmitter and it is blocked, and this has been going on for a long time. We spent about 18 or 19 million dollars a year doing it and nobody in Cuba can see it. But, it makes a lot of Congressmen happy that it is being dumped. But this is satellite television. Anybody with a microwave dish will get it.
Let me set the stage for what we want to show you. The Office of Management and Budget and the White House has just approved this for next year's budget: 65 million dollars to get it started, to be operated by Voice of America and it will be an American Government-owned satellite television broadcasting network for the Middle East.
We are going to answer some questions. Let me just say in closing that the critical decision and the critical problem is how to explain policy to people who disagree with the policy. To some degree, I won't say we have to alter policy - you can't put your finger in the air and ask what are they thinking in the Middle East today - and then change your policy. But in making public statements in Washington; in taking positions on issues our government has to more than ever consider at the outset what the impact will be on audiences around the world, and what that in turn will do in terms of public opinions impact in those countries on the policies of the countries that we want to use.
We don't do enough of that. We are doing more of it now than we have in the past, but we really don't begin, when making policy, to think about all of the other ramifications that we will have around the world.
We are here in a great University with great students - people who may be helping to make these policies one day; may be helping to explain these policies around the world - maybe in the very near future - because we need people like you in our embassies around the world to do this kind of work.
Think about, over the new days, weeks, and months, how we ought to be explaining our policy to people around the world who disagree with us; how we can affect at least mitigate this anti-American feeling that, for the most part, is based on opposition to our policies.
Matt and I would be very happy to answer your questions. Again, it is absolutely a privilege to be here with people who are going to ask the questions that guys like me can't answer.
Question: I noticed that in the radio broadcasts there was more of an international appeal to the broadcast. There was an avoidance of George Bush's voice -- it seemed like for a while. Do you think it is difficult to back off that negative image while still trying to explain policy?
Matt Lauer: Certainly the broadcasts don't steer away from George Bush's voice when they have an opportunity to use it. Like Harold said in the speech, the Middle Eastern audience wants to hear Bush talking, Powell talking, all the principals speaking because they [audiences] don't believe it unless they [the principals] say it. Often the reason they have such a negative viewpoint of the United States is because they are not getting the whole picture.
Just like here. We don't always get all sides of the argument. So often, in that format, they just deal with the hot topics or hot issues. But where they are drawing their audience for a Middle Eastern radio network, Radio Sawa, is they play that hot music so people tune in. It (Radio Sawa) is now the number one station in Baghdad, beating Saddam Hussein's son's radio station, The Voice of Youth.
They (Radio Sawa) are drawing the popular audience in by the music and as just a side effect, they are listening to the news and they are listening to the news with sort of a fair and objective viewpoint. So that's the way to sort of get around it. But there obviously are policies that are going to be viewed negatively and some are not. In a format like this, at least they are getting our side of the perspective.
Question: How would you respond to someone who said that our government or VOA does not give us that objective or unbiased viewpoint? How do you respond?
Harold Pachios: I think first of all there has to be some evidence of what is biased in the broadcast. Frankly, the big problem that VOA has had in this country is politicians saying we don't like the fact that it is so objective. After 9/11, they actually told Mullah Omar before the war began in Afghanistan that they wanted to put him on Voice of America. Members of Congress said this was crazy - we are spending American money to let this guy talk. He has his own station in Afghanistan. I would say the answer is, what is not objective about VOA. The fact is VOA has been around since after World War II and has enormous credibility in the world. BBC -- which VOA is patterned after but much more money is spent on BBC -- BBC is government owned by the British Government, and everywhere you go in the world, if you ask them what is the most trusted news organization in the world, they will all say the BBC, funded by the British Government.
Question: So you don't feel its pushing American culture at all?
Harold Pachios: No. We play American music on the radio station, on Sawa, so some of that is pushing American culture. Sure, they interview artists, American musicians, etc., and I think its good - everybody pushes their culture. Arab countries push their culture. We think it is important for people to understand us and to understand us in a cultural context, as well.
Matt Lauer: And the thing to remember is American culture is omnipresent right now anyway. People consume Hollywood movies. They consume American produced music in almost every country. It is what we export. And what we do not export and what people do not see a lot of is the objective policies, the objective news, and that's what things like VOA, Radio Sawa, Middle East Television Network do. Incidentally, a lot of people in the past, as Harold mentioned in his speech, listened to VOA. They were the elite audiences, the professors, the foreign ministers, the decision-makers of the government. They were not the young people or the rank and file members of society. So now we are trying to create programs that actually everyone listens to because the leaders are now responding to the public opinion of folks just like everyone in this room. The hope is to create channels that show a fair and objective news element, but also have a pop culture element to get people to listen to it anyway.
Harold Pachios: Incidentally, off that point, but I forgot to tell you what has been the most effective public diplomacy program in the history of U.S. Government Public Diplomacy; it is exchange programs, which are by far the most important and by far the most effective. The United States Government spends about a billion dollars a year on public diplomacy. About $5 hundred million, and it is going up, is spent on broadcasting. About $250 million, in round numbers, is for exchange programs. And the other $250 million is to run these operations and information programs from embassies. So exchanges are the most important and you have on this campus hundreds of foreign students: some here on funded exchanges; some here on their own. You want to know what life is like in America? Go to Syracuse University and live in the city of Syracuse. You will see how open it is and how diverse it is. You will see it all, and we are not afraid of it.
Question: I really appreciate your being able to present how we should keep the rest of the world informed on U.S. policy abroad, but I also believe we should be more responsible in seeing what is out there in the media. We have Internet; we have quick access to international newspapers in Europe or Latin America for example, to get another view. I think all of us could be more responsible and more aggressive in seeing what else is out there.
Harold Pachios: I think that is a terrific point. It really is. Every one of us can leave this room and go back home on the Internet and find out what the news is in any capital of the world. It is a very interesting exercise to see how that media is explaining our country and our policies. It is very, very important.
Question: We are so comfortable with [inaudible].
Harold Pachios: You know, as you talk, I think about university students and the difference that they make. What you just said, you said to your colleagues in this room. We have a problem in the United States with a large segment of our population that is totally disinterested in the rest of the world, particularly in some sections of the country, where they have become very insular, not so much in the Northeast but in the South and West.
We have members of Congress who brag that they have never been outside the United States and they have no interest in going outside the United States. So if we are going to make a difference, if we are going to have a country that is informed, as you suggest we should be, it is people like you who are going to do it. It is not people like those Congressmen who say they have never been out of the United States and have no intention of doing so. So you do have a responsibility. You are educated people. You are interested, committed, you are interested in the international community and you are open to ideas, so I hope you will all get in this business.
Question: Yes, Sir. A little earlier you mentioned about how effectively the U.S. used the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Germany and how the media will use that to portray people even today in the Bundestag and how much they really appreciate Americans being there.
In regards to Afghanistan today, is there anything that the media or diplomacy could be doing to actively portray to the Middle East what we are doing in Afghanistan. I realize over the past year there have been a lot of good things that have happened since we have been there occupying the area. Do you think there is anything we could portray to the international world?
Harold Pachios: Absolutely. There is a Fellow at Harvard at the Kennedy School named Joe Nye. Joe Nye has written books and articles on this whole issue of "soft power" as opposed to "hard power" -- hard power being military power, soft power being getting your way by influencing people. Humanitarian aid is a big part of that. We don't tell a very good story about what we do with humanitarian aid. We have USAID people all over Afghanistan. There is no element of government, including AID, that is telling that story internationally. It is not being done. So that is a very, very good point. Soft power means communicating the message that we have humanitarian objectives.
Matt Lauer: That is a very good point. Throughout the Middle East, the USAID funds so many things including a local version of Sesame Street in many countries and most people who live in those countries don't know that the American citizens are funding the water treatment plants, curriculums for their schools and things like Sesame Street. It is sort of the untold story of all of the things that the United States gives abroad and something that I think the State Department is focusing in on, and USAID is developing programs on essentially how to sell those programs or essentially promote them.
Harold Pachios: We do a lousy job in many of these areas, a lousy job.
Harold Pachios: We are trying to do a better job than we did in the past because of these issues that you talked about. It is particularly important now. We are trying to catch up. We ought to mention the billion dollars I told you about that we spend in the U.S. government on diplomacy. We spend in real dollars -- if you account for inflation and you compare two years after the Berlin Wall fell in 1991 with 2002 -- in real dollars we spend about one-third less on public diplomacy. We are now trying to catch up. What they did was Congress essentially dismantled our public diplomacy apparatus after the Cold War was won and didn't see the need for it. Now, as you suggest, we have to catch up. I don't know if that answers your question.
Question: We can just say that after the Cold War -- there was a gap in (inaudible) It is the same thing with public relations. A lot of people feel that a public relations is good (inaudible) but people wonder about it.
Harold Pachios: You are absolutely right. We didn't communicate in the way you are suggesting we should have been communicating during that period of time. You know what the theory was? Well CNN is around the world. Of course, CNN was in English for the most part. [Many] People didn't watch it. You could get it off satellite but it was in English. (Inaudible).
Everybody in the world wants to wear Calvin Klein jeans. Everybody in the world watches Bay Watch. [The thinking was] "Why does the government need to communicate? We communicate through our commercial media." It wasn't a very helpful message.
Question: I have a question for you. About the (Inaudible)& Iran -- it appears that we may have swapped roles in the paper. During those devastations in the streets of Iran -- when they wanted to change the government to be more open, wishing for normalization of relations with the United States -- do you think you could focus on that (inaudible) or are we going to gauge them or are we just going to keep isolating them? Maybe if we let them go they will eventually fall down and &(Inaudible).
Harold Pachios: These polls that Colonel Smullen was eluding to tell an interesting story about Iran. First of all, 65% of the population of Iran was not alive during the hostage situation in Iran. You are all young people. There is a huge number of young people there - 65% of the population. So what the polls show is the young people identify with American values, identify with democracy, freedom and rebellion - all of these things. They are an enormous force and it scares the regime to death, and this American radio with music, etc. is going to be a very powerful force. We are going to actually have a Farsi radio station with this same thing you saw with Sawa that is going to be done in Farsi, beamed to Iran. There are huge changes afoot in Iran, huge, and many people under 30 years old.
Matt Lauer: What is interesting about Iran is that the young Iranians are not very anti-American like the other people in the Muslim world. The Iranians blame their own government for their problems. They know they are in charge of it. They are the ones who brought it to power and, in most of those other nations, they blame the United States because we have an alliance relationship with those forms of government, like the Saudis. There is a massive young population in Saudi Arabia. They blame the United States for [their] not having a job or not having access to something because they see that we are supporting the regime and bolstering it. In Egypt, we see the same thing there with a very, very young population. They see that the U.S. Government is supporting their government. Therefore, they turn their attention towards America whereas the Iranians blame themselves and their current regime and know that our government does not have anything to do with it. So it is an interesting society and it just really at the point of changing, I think, with so many young people, that regime is probably on the verge of collapsing.