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[infowar.de] Bush plant "Office of Global Communications"
Bush to Create Formal Office To Shape U.S. Image Abroad
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 30, 2002; Page A01
The Bush White House has decided to transform what was a
temporary effort to rebut Taliban disinformation about the Afghan
war into a permanent, fully staffed "Office of Global
Communications" to coordinate the administration's foreign policy
message and supervise America's image abroad, according to
The office, due to be up and running by fall, will allow the White
House to exert more control over what has become one of the
hottest areas of government and private-sector initiatives since
Sept. 11. Known as "public diplomacy," it attempts to address the
question President Bush posed in his speech to Congress the week
after the terrorist attacks: "Why do they hate us?"
At the time, Bush was referring to the terrorists who attacked the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "They hate our freedoms,"
he has repeatedly said since then. But as demonstrations, boycotts
and other expressions of anti-Americanism have spread across the
Islamic world and beyond, the question has taken on broader
meaning -- and the need for a broader response.
A senior administration official said the goal of the office was not to
supplant the State Department, which has primary responsibility for
"telling America's story" overseas, or replace other agencies with
international outreach functions. The office, he said, would add
"thematic and strategic value," along with presidential clout, to their
"If you were to ask people representing the government who travel,
who serve overseas -- even leading Americans -- 'What does
America want to say to people in the world? What are the top three
points? What is the answer?' that has to come from the top," the
Headed by a yet-to-be-named "counselor to the president," the office
would expand many of the responsibilities of the White House
Coalition Information Center, established shortly after the U.S.
military campaign in Afghanistan began last fall.
High-ranking officials from here and Britain made scores of Arab
media appearances in what the White House considers one of the
most successful efforts to assure the Arab world that the United
States has not launched a global anti-Muslim campaign. Even as it
was booking guests on Qatar-based al-Jazeera, the White House
Coalition Information Center was laying out a uniform, daily
message to communicate across high- and low-tech media outlets. It
is that level of management, undertaken quickly and effectively
across the administration, that the White House thinks it will be able
The new office is the brainchild of senior Bush adviser Karen P.
Hughes, architect of the administration's efforts to ensure a uniform
message on domestic policy. Although Hughes returned to live in
Texas early this month, officials said she will remain closely
involved in the new operation.
Charlotte Beers, the advertising agency executive Bush appointed
last year to the State Department's top public diplomacy job, said
one of the September lessons still being learned "is that we can and
should do more to educate, and influence the attitudes of, foreign
audiences toward our country."
Graham E. Fuller, a former vice chairman of the CIA's National
Intelligence Council and a longtime Near East analyst for the
agency, said that during years of living and traveling in the Middle
East, "I have never felt such an extraordinary gap between the two
worlds. . . . Clearly, in a region where we desperately need friends
and supporters, their number is dwindling, and we are increasingly
on the defensive."
"How has this state of affairs come about?" House International
Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) said in a
speech last month to the Council on Foreign Relations. "How is it
that the country that invented Hollywood and Madison Avenue has
allowed such a destructive and parodied image of itself to become
the intellectual coin of the realm overseas?"
Hyde shares a widespread conviction that a major part of the
problem has been poor salesmanship. In this view, the best way to
fight a negative image is to increase the flow of positive information,
using every tool at the United States' command, including the most
modern information technology, student exchanges and placement
of overseas American libraries.
Some critics question whether expanding and improving delivery will
help if there is no change in the message. "If fundamental policies
are seen to be flawed, a prettied-up package will not make a
difference," Fuller told a recent meeting of the bipartisan U.S.
Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
The problem is particularly acute in the Middle East, he said, a part
of the world where U.S. support for Israel and for non-democratic
regimes are seen as fundamental tenets of wrongheaded American
policy. "Immense interest in American culture" remains, along with
approval of the U.S. political system and domestic freedoms, Fuller
said. But he said "there is a sense of double standards" among Arab
youth who say: " 'We want your political values. It is you we perceive
as not applying them in any consistent way.' "
Through polling, focus groups and fact-finding missions, the
administration has been exploring how to enhance the image of the
Among the first ventures is Radio Sawa, a 24-hour U.S. government
radio station that began broadcasting to the Arab world last spring. A
far cry from the wordy, editorializing Voice of America that has been
the centerpiece of U.S. government broadcasting since World War
II, Radio Sawa is modeled after Top-100 FM stations in this country.
Sawa, which means "together" in Arabic, uses market research to
select a frequently updated playlist of American and Arab pop music
that will appeal to young Arab listeners. Although there are plans to
add more substantive programming, its current editorial content is a
brief news bulletin twice an hour.
In a promotional prototype of future programming, Mohammed, an
Arab youth, calls a radio talk show to say: "I want to know why the
United States is fighting a war against Islam." In response, the
station plays an excerpt from one of many Bush speeches on the
peaceful nature of Islam and the ways in which terrorists have
The State Department has begun producing what Beers calls "mini-
documentaries on Muslim life in America" to air on satellite stations
in the Middle East. Having dismantled, for budgetary and security
reasons, most of the once-ubiquitous American Cultural Centers and
libraries around the world, the State Department plans to expand the
"American Room" concept begun in Russia in the early 1990s.
Corners of Americana established with local staff in existing local
libraries or other cultural sites, the "rooms" are considered less
appealing as terrorist targets.
With these efforts in their infancy, it is unclear how effective they will=
be. "We're reinventing the wheel," Walter R. Roberts, a veteran of
high posts in public diplomacy efforts in previous administrations
and a consultant to the advisory commission, said of the American
Rooms at a recent commission meeting.
One Arab American who has closely followed public diplomacy
developments said, "We need to ally ourselves with the right people.
Our embassies need to go out and mingle. They hang out with the
elites and don't engage those who resent us" but who have not
turned to violence. "It's like a campaign," said this observer. "You've
got to go after the swing voters."
Beers says this is precisely the attitude she is trying to instill. She
has pledged that all U.S. diplomats, no matter what their rank, will
receive more extensive training in the American "message" of
democracy, personal freedom and free markets and learn how to
spread it through local societies. Recruitment programs now
emphasize public affairs, long considered near the bottom of the
diplomatic career ladder, as an increasingly important specialty.
Early this year, Beers brought U.S. embassy public affairs officers
from around the world to Washington for a morale-boosting
Congress has also moved into the public diplomacy arena. The
House last week passed, with no opposition, a Hyde-sponsored bill
that eventually would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the
public diplomacy budget, expand the responsibilities of Beers's
office, establish civilian exchange programs in the Muslim world and
fund round-the-clock satellite television to the Middle East. Similar
efforts are underway in the Senate.
Hollywood has signed on to help, although early flag-waving has
evolved in most cases into nervousness about being drawn into a
less clear-cut propaganda effort.
Almost every public policy think tank, including the American
Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, has held
symposiums and offered advice. Today, the Council on Foreign
Relations will weigh in with the release of "Strategy for Reform," the
result of a month-long public diplomacy study by a private-sector
But while there is a torrent of new attention, concern over how the
United States is perceived abroad and what the government should
do to influence foreign attitudes is a well-worn subject in
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to identify a target
audience overseas with his Office of War Information, which created
the Voice of America and established American Information Centers
in liberated areas of Europe.
During the Cold War, President Harry S. Truman launched a
"Campaign of Truth" that he said was "as important as armed
strength or economic aid" in the battle against communism. Its most
memorable creation was the U.S. International Information
Administration, which established overseas libraries and foreign
exchange programs. Under Dwight D. Eisenhower, it became the
United States Information Agency.
Eisenhower rejected placing the agency under presidential control,
and direct White House involvement was not revived until Ronald
Reagan took office. In a classified, January 1983 National Security
Decision Directive, Reagan placed responsibility for "overall
planning, direction, coordination and monitoring of implementation
of public diplomacy activities" under the National Security Council.
Relative global peace and a search for cuts in the federal
bureaucracy made USIA a natural target for the Clinton
administration, and there were few complaints when it was
eliminated as a separate agency in 1999. By September 2001, the
White House viewed public diplomacy as a back-burner enterprise
for a superpower with unilateral interests and responsibilities.
Christopher Ross, a State Department specialist in Middle Eastern
affairs who returned to government last year as "special coordinator"
in Beers's office, said, "In the 10 years between the Cold War and
September 11, we had forgotten about the outside world." The harsh
anti-American rhetoric and images that had begun to overtake initial
responses of international sympathy and support, he said, "showed
us what people think of us, and we were shocked."
=A9 2002 The Washington Post Company
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