News

    Bush Choice for Public Diplomacy Role Faces Daunting Task

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Faced with a declining U.S. image abroad, President Bush is turning to one of his most loyal and trusted advisers to help improve the international view of the United States. Once confirmed by the Senate, former White House political adviser Karen Hughes will assume the post of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Both the administration and Congress acknowledge that she faces a daunting challenge.

    Karen Hughes recently told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she will mobilize the Bush administration to, " do more listening overseas." She also said she plans to travel extensively to reach out to foreign leaders and citizens.

    "The mission of public diplomacy is to engage, inform and help others understand our policies and values," she said. "But I am mindful that before we seek to be understood, we must first work to understand. If I had the opportunity to say just one thing to people throughout the world, it would be: I am eager to listen."

    At the same time, Ms. Hughes promised to do more, "to confront hateful propaganda, dispel dangerous myths and get out the truth about U.S. policy and values."

    Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress hope her proven expertise as a communicator on behalf of President Bush will revitalize U.S. public diplomacy efforts and spark a more favorable view of the United States internationally.

    "In an era when allied cooperation is essential in the war against terrorism, negative public opinion overseas has enormous and unfortunate consequences," said Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "And we have asked how the United States can be, quote, all thumbs [inept], end of quote, at public diplomacy when we are so expert at the strategy and tactics of public relations, marketing and advertising."

    Ms. Hughes takes on her task at a time of growing concern about how the world views the United States, especially in the context of the war on terror.

    Several public opinion surveys in recent years indicate a steep decline in how the United States is viewed in many countries. A recent Pew Global Attitudes study found that majorities in 10 of the 16 countries surveyed had a negative view of the United States.

    There is particular concern about the Middle East where criticism has been focused on U.S. support for Israel and for the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

    Professor Shibley Telhami is an expert on the Middle East at the University of Maryland who served on a White House-appointed advisory group on public diplomacy.

    "So I think what happened in terms of losing the support of people and losing the sympathy of people was not the fight against al-Qaida, which people sympathize with," he said. "I think the fact is that most people around the world did not see a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."

    Karen Hughes says she intends to try to counteract negative views of the United States through what she calls the four E's: engagement, exchanges, education and empowerment.

    Some critics of U.S. public diplomacy efforts are urging the administration to selectively target their messages.

    Mike Hurley is director for counterterrorism and policy review for the independent, bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

    "I think that what we need to do and certainly what the 9/11 commission recommended was to reach out to the vast majority of moderate Muslims in the Muslim world and to engage them in new and constructive ways on a daily basis," he said.

    One recent international poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in Washington found a slight improvement in the U.S. image abroad. Pew Senior Editor Jodie Allen says that came about in part because of appreciation for the U.S. role in tsunami relief.

    "We do find in our survey that tsunami aid, for example, produced a positive reaction both in the target country, Indonesia, but also in Europe and in Morocco," she said. "We are not going to be able to talk our way into popularity. But we can behave in ways to show these countries that we understand their concerns and that we are anxious to help."

    While specific instances like tsunami aid may help, experts say the United States needs a comprehensive, long-term approach to improving its image in the rest of the world and countering its critics.

    "We will not have a quick solution to these problems, but as strategy of long term vision, bold steps, dealing honestly around the world and speaking honestly about shortcomings of other societies and addressing our own problems is perhaps a good formula to move forward," said Mike Hurley.

    Karen Hughes says she has no illusions about the challenge she faces. Ms. Hughes says the United States is competing for attention and credibility in the midst of what she calls an international information explosion.

    "I recognize that the job ahead will be difficult," she said. "Perceptions do not change quickly or easily. We are involved in a generational and global struggle of ideas, a struggle that pits the power of hate against the power of hope."

    As part of the new U.S. effort, Ms. Hughes says she wants to reach out to the private sector, including companies, universities and the entertainment industry to develop a more creative approach to telling America's story.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora