Archive for ‘Nation State’

12/02/2011

Public Diplomacy Gives the Silent Treatment

Public Diplomacy (PD) is tired of being put in a box. She is the misunderstood stepsister of International Relations that once hated her black sheepishness and is now coming into her own. Instead of fitting into a neatly presentable package, PD is a convoluted mess that only self-loathing theorists try to love. Her quirks and non-traditional characteristics are becoming more accepted in academia, but only the academics holding her tightly know that they know only an inkling of what makes her tick.

They know the trigger points: “What is public diplomacy?” Ha. Wrong question. And in response to that question, PD will simply play the silent game because she is complicated and offended at your attempt to define her in a single sentence. At times, all she’s trying to get at is a little influence. At other times, she’s helping build brands. And other times, she’s just glad to facilitate a little human connection at the international level.

Misunderstood. Underestimated.

The best way to know PD is to observe her in dimensions. The more obvious ones we’ve known for years—her military and economic strategies; her weekly lunch-ins at the Embassy in Islamabad. But she has a softer side. She’s in the coding and gaming tech initiatives at the Department of State—winning over the hearts and minds of the people, one coder at a time. She’s in the international education and research-exchange programs paid by the DOD, sending little ambassadors one scholarship at a time overseas. She’s in the Facebook pages and the development organizations and the phones and computers given away to start the conversation between the US and other nations.

So stop assuming you can use her with no consequences. PD is not just a silver bullet to solve your problems. And she certainly doesn’t appreciate being misused so your ego can be satisfied. If you want to know some essence of PD, focus on her softer side, but ultimately you’re going to have to analyze her like any other concept and find ways to open your mind to her presence in new ways.

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11/18/2011

Boren Fellows: The New Faces of Public Diplomacy?

Our group presented our paper: Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding through International Exchange Programs this week to highlight the role and/or effects of international exchange and cross-cultural educational research in efforts of public diplomacy. We focused on the Fulbright (a tool of fostering international goodwill), Peace Corps (international service), and the Boren Fellowship. I wanted to focus on Boren for the sake of this blog entry.

Boren, unlike the other two, is overtly tied to U.S. national security goals, making it a unique tool used by the government to achieve these goals. This fellowship goes to mostly graduate students to enable their international research related to national security interests with the explicit mandate that they return to work for the U.S. Government. The National Security Education Program funds the program, mostly from the Department of Defense.

The reality is that restrictive laws on public diplomacy (through the Smith-Mundt Act) have forced the U.S. to get creative with public diplomacy. International exchange programs like this are an effective alternative to an imposing military presence or DOD-led public diplomacy initiative. Because of this, the U.S. has expanded traditional definitions of national security outside of a security-military-only focus and this scholarship also goes to those doing international development or priority-language projects. Whether intentional or not, these student recipients are like citizen ambassadors, going out into the field and creating connections with those in other countries that help them understand Americans better and vice versa. In some ways, they add to this concept of “branding” the nation as well, and raise questions of an accurate depiction of Americans versus the U.S. Government’s agenda for the American image.

Either way, international scholarships are a great way to get some of the brightest, highly educated students engaged with international issues. This both prepares future leaders in American government to understand the issues of the day, as well as brings expertise to these intelligence positions for their government service requirement. In the future, public diplomacy will undoubtedly rely more upon this soft power approach—not undoing the need for traditional hard power, but creating a more effective balance to create a better image and reputation for the U.S.

11/11/2011

Why the Government Should Hire Me (Us)

Communications scholars continue to debate the influence of social media on political change, activism, and other social phenomena that seem to have some undetermined corollary effect on how society functions. Researchers analyze Twitter feeds to determine where collective activism and communication is taking place. Governments have a stake in the trend, whether their intentions are to encourage thriving democratic movements or to shut them down.

One thing is true: The government especially need people who can locate paths of information. They are trying to use open source data mining tools to piece together information for conversations in the future. Whether this is through traditional forms of communication or new media-shaped political debates about the Arab Spring, the government needs graduates from good communications programs to fill voids in international relations and public diplomacy who are cued into contemporary studies on new media, media ownership, and communication. We are systems people. We want to know why things work the way they do beyond the typical discussions in the public forum. In the complex web of public-private interests, where are the choke points?

Social media through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other significant feeds spreads ideas across international borders. But the means of analyzing this information is still a bit hazy. Open source data means no personal identification, which can be beneficial for international advocates for human rights, but difficult for data mining. Knowing what communication paths to trust and identify is also one of the roles of a communications scholar. As government plays a crucial role in world affairs, it seems timely and relevant that it would start looking to graduate students that understand how to use new media in the context of culture, world affairs, and public diplomacy.

10/26/2011

Predestination or Free Will…for Networks?

John Calvin & David Grewel: Like-minds?

Religious theorists have asked this question for centuries about the spiritual realm and now network theorists are joining the mix in regard to the nature of the global and social Network system. Have networks always existed (Latour) or do networks formed in the information age now define its current social structure (Castells)?

The understanding of networks directly affects how we interpret globalization, domination, inequality, and how free we are to “choose” to adopt certain dominant global norms. David Grewel argues in his piece Network Power and Globalization that networks seem free also have elements of buried force that explain how the “dynamic operating in globalization nevertheless reflects a kind of domination” (89). Grewel does not disregard the importance of economic dependency or military control in indirect control, but categorizes globalization as empire.

We establish this dichotomy of choice and powerful influence through norms that ultimately contruct “network power.” Grewel defines this as “a group of people united in a particular way that makes them capable of mutual recognition and exchange” (91). Network power requires critical mass and effectively eliminates other choices as it reaches critical mass. In other words, the more people jumping onto one network, the fewer people are likely to remain in alternative networks. Network power chooses the network “market winners” in a way. Grewel perceives this as created fewer choices for free will to be exerted because they existed before a dominant network took power. He does not seem to address the possibility that new competitive networks could enter the market and provide better alternatives to the dominant ones, likely because the dominant networks are tied up in an array of bureaucratic policies. Grewel uses the WTO as an example of a “priviledged point of access” (91) and argues that Nation-States that want to stay competitive must effectively adopt WTO policy (in full) to compete.

While this is done through formal consent and signing of treaties, the WTO requires countries to accept its terms in full. Part of the reason is to ensure compliance and create necessary boundaries for fair trade. But it leaves no room for alternative styles of trade and eliminates certain sectors like agriculture (94). Now that the WTO governs nearly all international trade law, what choice does a country have if it wants to trade internationally but to accept provisions of the WTO?

Grewel points to the costs that new standards require, as well as the frequent perceived cultural loss by changing from standards that play an “important role in people’s identities or culture,” such as linguistics (96). These changes greatly affect minority cultures and marginalized populations that do not have equal access to adapting to these changes.

Grewel then opens the door for a compromise through oppenness, compatibility, and malleability (97). While the analysis provides more space for entrants to adopt culturally-sensitive standards through the WTO that are more compatible with their current standards, Grewel does not set out a solution for dealing with human rights policy in these trade agreements. While revision should be easy to do in any network system as a way to respond to outcomes, network power (the dominant) should also be careful not to allow nations to opt-out of imperative human rights requirements, which underline the Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations.

This article and other network scholars consider language and metrics as the biggest challenge in network power. As networks dominate through globalization, they fear these losses as also a loss of choice and liberty. But networks must invite diverse opinions without compromising on fundamental rights. In other words, Grewel’s opt-out system may be the optimal solution for cultural protection in a network power system, but Nation States should be called to account in an international system not to opt-out of recognizing and honoring the fundamental human rights of their citizens.

09/23/2011

The Decline of the Nation State? What’s Next?

British International Development Minister visits Liberia

Human constructs may be manufactured but can carry very real power and influence. The evolution of the nation state gradually redefines borders and areas of governance. From philosopher and writer Ernest Renan’s description of this “daily plebiscite” in 1882 to what we recognize as nation states today, these constructs require a certain importance and buy-in by the greater people or it well ceases to exist.

In class, we raised several challenging questions: Does a nation state cease to exist simply when those enforcing its existence cease to recognize it any longer? As the rise of globalization presents challenges at the international level, has the nation state lost the support and confidence of the people?

Castells attributed media in part for de-linking people and the nation state in the current crisis of legitimacy that exists. As media originally communicated the design and implementation of the nation state, it also aided the vast global expansion in communication between nations. As our society becomes more global in nature, the problems become more complex.

With greater communication and interconnectedness, we also face issues that often involve several nation states, or that one nation cannot control. For example, the economic turmoil that currently affects the U.S. is equally present in Europe and many other parts of the world. After September 11, the U.S. buckled down on its security measures and implemented the Patriot Act in an effort to control any attempted acts of terror. And the demand for cyber-related professionals continues to grow as cyber security threatens network availability and sensitive data. None of these issues exist in a vacuum. None of them affect only the U.S.

So if the nation state can’t possibly address many of our national security issues alone, what kind of a construct can? And further, for the growing number of citizens that don’t think the nation state represents them anymore, does this mean a new, more representative construct is needed?

Academically or idealistically, we might entertain an argument for global governance or even global citizenship. But the reality of tribalism, religious conflict, and other traditions that naturally separate out different tribal groups pose a real difficulty in terms of governance and power struggle. Perhaps a greater consideration is how we can come to live in a society that benefits from greater cooperation and harmony without reliance on the nation state governing body, but the implications may be unrealistic at this point in time.