Monday, October 23, 2006

Toward an effective American public diplomacy in the Middle East

Abu Aardvark is exploring the effectiveness of American public diplomacy, using the recent comments by Alberto Fernandez (think "arrogance... and stupidity") as a jumping-off point:
This is a way of establishing credibility and a reputation for candor with Arab audiences - two things that almost all American spokespeople who stick to the administration's script lack. His humility treats those audiences with respect, rather than trying to force talking points crafted in Washington down the throats of skeptical listeners who live in the region and know better...

For all that it is demonized by too many Americans, al-Jazeera is still by far the most watched and most politically influential Arab television network. Its programs are the most important place where Arab views of the United States and American policy are formulated. Those arguments about America can happen with or without American participation. All America's absence from those debates accomplishes is to cede the field to its enemies, to allow hostile arguments or allegations to go unchecked, and to give speakers on those programs no incentive to take American perspectives into account.

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