As we approach the 100-day mark for the Obama Administration and despite the accolades bestowed on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her “e-Diplomacy” initiatives, as of March 23, 2009, the office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant for 63 days. Since the office of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy was created, it has been vacant one-third of the time.
|Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy||Sworn In||Resigned||Days in Office||Days Position Vacant||Total Days||Percent Vacant|
|Karen P. Hughes||7/29/2005||12/14/2007||868|
|James K. Glassman||6/5/2008||1/16/2009||225|
|Since USIA-State Merger||2309||1084||3393||32%|
If Public Diplomacy were important, wouldn’t it make sense to fill this spot quickly, regardless of the direction it will head? To my knowledge, the #1 candidate two months ago remains the #1 candidate today. Is it that Clinton (and possibly Obama) does not know where to take public diplomacy and whether an empowered (and operationalized) National Security Council is the route to go? Or possibly that she is looking at an invigorated State Department (which would implicitly push the development of the Department of Non-State within) that supports the Secretary’s view of personal, global engagement? Or, and this is the most likely, the priority is low and they’ll get around to dealing with public diplomacy at some point.
This is not a balancing act between “public diplomacy” and “smart power” as “smart power” requires effective communication to support and defend intelligent foreign policies, which is, in fact, the reason public diplomacy was institutionalized over sixty years ago. This is a question of who will lead the government’s global engagement that spans the whole of government, including the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury, and Health and Human Services, to the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and so on.
If the State Department fails to acknowledge their leadership responsibility in engaging global populations, it will continue to cede power and authority to the Defense Department who will be the only vertically integrated element of the Government that can provide the services necessary in a world of state and non-state actors. Defense will, by default, become the hub of activity. We have already seen the Secretary of Defense (and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) making policy statements that arguably should be coming from the Secretary of State. We are looking at a possibility that America’s government broadcasts devote more airtime to the activities of the Secretary of Defense than the Secretary of State.
Sixty-six days and counting…