TO: Karen Hughes
FROM: John Brown, former Foreign Service officer
SUBJECT: Your New Job -- Some Advice from a 20-year Public Diplomacy
Ms. Hughes -- The below is offered for your consideration as you think about
your future position as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public
Affairs at the State Department.
1) Get real! Face the fact that the Bush administration's foreign policy
will continue to be unpopular abroad unless major corrective actions are
taken, both in substance and style. Yes, the recent U.S. "democratization"
push may be viewed less negatively abroad than unilateral military strikes
in the "war on terror." But foreigners are still intensely suspicious of
American motivations and actions.
2) Don't assume the world is like (or likes) America, and that what worked
in getting George W. Bush elected will be successful in "selling" America's
policies abroad. Don't treat foreigners as just potential Republicans.
Listen to what they have to say.
3) Forget about spin, focus on intelligent persuasion and bi/multilateral
communications. Take ideas seriously, including those of others.
4) Remember that America is a country, not a product, and that it can't be
"sold" to the rest of mankind like a brand to be consumed. Leave marketing
to the business sector. Don't over rely on polls but consult with area
5) Always be present when important foreign policy decisions are made, be it
in the White House or the State Department. Constantly remind other
decision-makers that policy and public diplomacy are intrinsically linked
and that foreign public opinion counts. You must be there on the take-off,
not the crash landing, of policy -- to cite the words your distinguished
predecessor, Edward R. Morrow, head of the United States Information Agency
(USIA) during the Kennedy administration.
6) With as few bureaucratic disruptions and endless "reorganizations" as
possible, give public diplomacy an essential role at the State Department
(today PD officers are second-class citizens in the foreign affairs
7) Provide field public diplomacy posts greater autonomy, a larger budget,
and direct lines of communications with your office at the State Department;
remain in close contact with officers in the field. Visit the posts, using
such occasions to inform foreign governments of the importance the USG gives
to public diplomacy.
8) Remind political appointees assigned to direct public diplomacy programs
in Washington that they should work with career civil servants with respect,
and not micromanage them out of fear that they lack sufficient "loyalty."
9) Urgently deal with the Muslim world, but don't neglect other countries,
including traditional allies. Forget about the flavor-of-the-month approach
to foreign policy, when one region dominates all of Washington's attention
at the exclusion of others.
10) Drop the one-size-fits-all attitude towards programs for overseas
audiences; tailor outreach to individual countries and regions.
11) Increase educational exchanges worldwide and reemphasize the importance
of cultural programs (e.g., exhibits, concerts).
12) Maintain funding for USG electronic media directed to overseas
audiences, but don't make them the be-all and end-all of public diplomacy.
Provide greater support for local independent media. Stop the silly warfare
against Al-Jazeera. And remember that people the world over do more just
than look at TV and listen to the radio.
13) Bear in mind that public diplomacy can only do so much, and that it is
not the solution to all our foreign policy problems.
14) Thirteen isn't a lucky number, so here's one more: Keep your sense of
John Brown, a former American diplomat, resigned from the Foreign Service in
opposition to the planned war in Iraq, stating in his resignation letter to
Secretary of State Powell that "The president's disregard for views in other
nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an
anti-American century." He edits a "Public Diplomacy Press Review" available
free by requesting it firstname.lastname@example.org