Public Diplomacy Undersecretary Karen Hughes discovers the Muslim World first hand

George W. Bush’s first appointee to the Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, has taken her first trip abroad to try and understand better the plight of women in Arab and predominently Muslim Countries.

Public diplomacy must be taken seriously by any administration to regain and/or retain the trust and respect of countries worldwide. It is based on the concept of “soft power,” as coined by former Undersecretary of State to Bill Clinton, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. It is because of “soft power” that America is known worldwide for the 3 M’s – McDonalds, Microsoft, and Michael Jordan – three entities that did more for the American purpose and image than any “hard power” – or military force – could ever do.

A report released today by the State Department’s Advisory Committe on Public Diplomacy pointed to “the erosion of our trust and credibility within the international community must be reversed if we hope to use more than our military and economic might in the shaping of world opinion,” the report said. “Culture matters.”

“[Soft power] is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.”, Nye writes in his book.

Karen Hughes is not being received very well in the Middle East. This should serve as a big lesson as to why public diplomacy must be brought to the forefront of U.S. foreign policy to express global understanding, and a respect for the well-being of all.

Americans and global citizens alike view Karen Hughes mission as “propaganda.” I personally don’t think the Bush Administration requires a diplomat for the purposes of spreading propaganda – it seems to be taken care of naturally. Hughes responds: ?Some skeptics say this visit is all about public relations and image. But I don?t see it like that. Government policies really affect people?s lives.?

Hughes met with women’s rights advocates in Istanbul today, and was greeted with harsh criticism. They condemned the arrests and shoving aside of Cindy Sheehan, and proclaimed that war is responsible for the onset of poverty and the denouncing of women’s rights. Hughes reacted that nobody likes war, but the women in Iraq are much better off now, to which one human rights activist grew responded disturbedly: “In every photograph that comes from Iraq, there is that look of fear in the eyes of women and children. . . . This needs to be resolved as soon as possible.” Another women’s rights advocate proclaimed “”This war is really, really bringing your positive efforts to the level of zero.”

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, it was clear that it would be tough for Hughes to discern exactly what freedom means to women abroad. One woman remarked: “I don’t want to drive a car,” she said. “I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver’s license?”

To be continued….

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