Minutes of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy March 2010 Official Meeting

Minutes for the March 2010 meeting of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy are now available. At the meeting were Commissioners Bill Hybl (Chairman), Lyndon Olson (Vice Chairman), John Osborn, Penne Korth Peacock, Jay Snyder, and Lezlee Westine. In reverse order of appearance, presenting were Walter Douglas representing the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Rosa Brooks representing the Defense Department, and myself representing, well, another perspective.

The meeting was well attended, perhaps one of the best attended events in recent memory. If you weren't there, then I suggest you at least skim the transcript with particular attention to Rosa's remarks and the question & answer period after the presentations.

During Rosa's presentation, there was an inadvertent highlight of the continuing absence of a definition for public diplomacy, or at least the clear ability to communicate it. In framing what the Defense Department does and what the State Department does, Rosa noted the strategic framework for public diplomacy did not include a definition of public diplomacy, so she asked Walter Douglas for a definition:

DR. BROOKS: ...I actually would be interested, when Walter comes up, to see the latest definition of public diplomacy for a state. That was one thing that, in the framework, struck me as not there, which again may be -- and I guess, question mark, does it matter? Does it matter if we're not -

PARTICIPANT: It's here.

DR. BROOKS: It's here? It is there? Okay, I missed it. Can you define it for me?

MR. DOUGLAS: I will read you -

DR. BROOKS: Read it to me.

MR. DOUGLAS: -- the key line. "To support the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives, advance national interest, enhance national security by informing and influencing foreign publics by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world."

DR. BROOKS: Okay, so that's the mission statement for what public diplomacy is.

There are other interesting exchanges, like after Walter responded to a question about private-public partnerships raised by a Foreign Service Officer:

...it's been driven by a few individuals, especially, and the State Department has really embraced this. I'm thinking of Jared Cohen, Alec Ross, and these guys, where we are bringing these businesses together -- they tend to be the high-tech ones, they tend to be working in Internet, media, that sort of thing -- but to try to work sort of -- that's a public-private partnership.

I started my reply with the commitment to buy Walter a beer because the individuals and initiatives mentioned above are not within the public diplomacy operation (Jared is in policy and planning and Alec works directly for the Secretary). The essence of the answer was thus there are private-public partnership but the initial ones that come to mind are outside of McHale's shop. In my response, I added that private-public partnerships in the larger sense are owned by another Under Secretary, the same one that 'owns' the China Pavilion. Walter, I still owe you beer, probably two.

This transcript is the first published minutes of a meeting of the Advisory Commission since September 12, 2007.

I'm interested in your thoughts on the meeting, whether you attended or just read the transcript.