The Netherlands, water management, and ‘transformational’ PD



During my practicum team’s recent research-gathering trip to The Hague, Netherlands over Spring Break, we visited the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and spoke to Marisa Witte, a policy officer of Public Diplomacy there. Although in the context of our research project, we were disappointed and surprised that PD in the Netherlands greatly downplays the role of student exchanges and cultural programming (to the point that they are not handled by the PD department at all), in retrospect and in light of the readings on transformational diplomacy, I realized how much the focused, practical approach to PD that the Netherlands currently takes fits into this theoretical concept. In his article “Rethinking advocacy for the globalisation age,” Daryl Copeland expresses his hope that transformational Public Diplomacy can be used not only to bridge cultural divides, but also to address the pressing global problems facing the world, including those of “environmental degradation”; the Netherlands is doing just that with its PD efforts to promote Dutch knowledge in the areas of water management. Ms. Witte explained to us how the Dutch foreign ministry has been doing work linking and promoting Dutch experts in water management with needs in similarly low-lying regions such as post-Katrina New Orleans. Because of this ‘seeding,’ the Dutch expertise in this area is now recognized to such an extent that after Hurricane Sandy in New York, Dutch experts were immediately some of the first people contacted in order to give advice. With the increase of global warming, this type of practical, direct, and transformational public diplomacy seems like a logical step for a small country that wants to make a positive impact on a global scale.

STOP! No New Posts Here

Please see my email from 1/31 with directions on how to post to the new SIS 628 blog:

All posts and comments made on this page before 1/31 have already been migrated to the new site.  Please update your Bookmarks.

Here are the new group blogs. Remember to add /wp-admin to the end of the URL  to log in, get to  your  Dashboard, and create a new post:


Propaganda is an Essential Tool of Public Diplomacy

Chinese Pepsi Poster

Deng Xioapeng quite arguably, led China into the modern era by using public diplomacy. His famous quotes “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long if it catches mice”; and “to be rich is glorious”; changed the way the Chinese viewed the world and transformed their society. One year after he took over China, they normalized relations with the United States. Pepsi Cola built their first factory there shortly after and China officially enter the world economy.

The notion that public diplomacy is not propaganda is contrasted by every piece of evidence out there. The role of propaganda as a soft power is undeniable, and the stereotype of it being a bad thing is far removed from reality. Propaganda, by one definition, is nothing more than “the spreading of idea’s and information“; which is exactly what public diplomacy is. The role of public diplomacy and soft power in international affairs MUST be understood by all practitioners in the field of international communications. Those who are in denial of what they are doing are bound to be unskilled in the art of soft power and undoubtedly will end up as practitioners of hard power.

Those in denial of the role of propaganda in public diplomacy argue that “propaganda can only be one-sided, and manipulates facts”. This is far from the truth. The truth is, that propaganda’s role in public diplomacy has only been buried because the term itself has been undermined and given a bad name. A very exemplary (and quite flawed) argument can be viewed here. Propaganda can take many sides simultaneously, and often must to maintain the legitimacy of its message. As mentioned before, propaganda is the spreading of information as soft power. It must remain unbiased to maintain it’s legitimacy.

When Deng Xioapeng made his statements, he was propagating mere truths to the masses, and used the term “Chinese style socialism” to reinforce what he was saying. It was time for China to break free from it’s Moaist ideology and evolve into the modern era; and he “used the truth to set them free” so they could evolve. He wasn’t trying to undermine his nation’s system to become a flunky of another country. Three degrades later and China still maintains its culture and sovereignty. They just have a more modern way of life now.

Joseph Nye, in this lecture, describes public diplomacy and soft power as using the “art of attraction” to influence changes in human behavior peacefully. He argues that this “art of seduction” totally lacks coercion, and appeals to what people think. If people think they’re being lied to would they willingly ascribe to the lies? Just one lie and America could never be trusted again, so American propaganda would have to be used as nothing but the truth. Huntington’s “Clash of the Civilizations”,  according to Nye, is now more accurately described as a “clash of internal civilization” according to Nye . Nye argues that those who want to maintain power as a domestic resource would have practitioners of soft power believe that soft power is harmful  to our power by undermining much about it. This could explain why people believe that using the influence of information and attraction (propaganda) is a negative thing. Nye says in this lecture that soft power is used to create an enabling environment for policy between civilizations, so that could explain why peolpe with power would wish to undermine it and scare people away from using it in all it’s glory, including the propaganda aspect of it.

So what would the motivation be against using soft power and propaganda? Why would the United States choose to spend everything on hard power and next to nothing on soft power? I speculate that it has something to do with Washington culture of groupthink and neo-realist consensus to believe that Huntington’s “Clash of the Civilizations” will always ring true. I wonder if Huntington has noticed the positive changes taking place between China and the United States… The worlds two leading super powers have influenced each other to develop together in such a way that clashing would lead to mutual destruction. Ambassador Gary Locke has often said that the partnership of the United States and China is crucial to lifting the worlds populations out of poverty and into the modern era. Bill Gates has predicted that many of the symptoms of poverty will be globally cured in the coming decades.

So next time when public diplomacy professionals find themselves stuck in the Washington groupthink about public diplomacy and propaganda, they should realize the underlying reason why it’s given a bad name. Indeed, many power brokers have every reason in the world to want to prevent power from being diffused amongst the global masses even if it makes the world a better place… They must fear humane power would result in America being marginalized and less exceptional. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing… How can I “have my Pepsi and drink it too”; when there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who don’t even have access to potable water?

Loose Londoners: the possible security implications of more failed and failing states

Here is a link to the piece by Griff Witte on the Washington Post’s Website.

Witte discusses Europeans who have gone to fight in the war in Syria. In particular, the security concerns of the United Kingdom and France are highlighted. The concept that private citizens can go to certain places to receive training or indoctrination and then return home to cause security problems and acts of terrorism is not a new phenomenon.

The United States has had similar situations including a Syrian American raised in Alabama go to Somalia to join Al Shabaab and another American who became a cleric in Yemen.

The idea that conflict zones and weak states empower non-state actors is a well documented occurrence in International Affairs. Boaz Atzili has coined the term triadic deterrence to explain why strong states even dictators like Bashar al-Assad are preferable, to a country experiencing the threat of terrorism, compared to anarchy and political entities unable to project power and control their territory. This is because a state can put pressure on, threaten, punish, and negotiate with a fellow government much easier than it can with non state actors.

I am not advocating the support of the government in Syria. Rather I am questioning the support of some of the rebels who are more of a danger to NATO than Syria and its chemical weapons ever were.  This article in the Washington Post enables one to think  about other places people may go to join violent non state actors that are more directly the result of foreign policy decisions of NATO countries such  Libya and Iraq. The larger question this train of thought leads to is: does tearing down dictators with little legal justification and no post war strategy make the United States and its allies safer or does it cede more territory to the terror they have allegedly been at war with for over twelve years?

The Need for Synergy in Modern-Day Diplomacy

This week I found some of Kelley’s (2010) ideas slightly corresponding with my post from week 1 where I suggested that public diplomacy doesn’t really change the rules of the diplomatic ‘game’, but rather adds a publicly available dimension to it and creates an illusion of power in the hands of the people.

Kelley implies that public diplomacy has created a plethora of messages by non-state actors that forms various networks and alliances. There are big gaps between the positions of these different actors and between their positions and the official diplomatic messages. Despite the clear benefits of this more democratic form of conducting diplomacy, Kelley stresses the need for synergy in order to direct the power of separate actors to a concrete action. The best way to coordinate positions and create this synergy remains the official diplomatic channel that can unite the non-governmental actors and communicate the message to the relevant policy makers.

Moreover Kelley suggests that ‘big’ decisions such as signing of international treaties or legislation towards creation of new norms are still executed almost exclusively by official policy makers communicating through official diplomatic channels. Here as well, it implies from the article that the best way for the ‘new diplomats’ (p.293) to communicate their messages is still by joining forces with “their official counterparts” (p. 293).

So it looks like the essential power yet remains in the hands of the ‘old diplomats’ (ibid). The new types of diplomacy such as public and cultural diplomacy are important in filling in the gaps in governmental actions, however the new ways do not appear to replace the classic diplomatic communication between states. 

Survival Public Diplomacy: North Korea’s OGD and the Importance of Understanding Propaganda in Public Diplomacy


Sin Son Ho, DPRK’s Special Delegate to the United Nations at the United Nations in New York held an unexpected press conference last week last week in which he called for practical measures to be taken to thaw tensions on the Korean peninsula in a direction to improve relations and reconcile national unity on the peninsula.

This very positive public rhetoric has left analysts guessing at it’s sincerity. Had this speech been given a year or two ago, analysts would be more optimistic than now. It is no secret that North Korea has the art of propaganda masterfully refined to a science, but what about their public diplomacy? With the sensationalism that occurs in mainstream media worldwide, coupled with North Korea’s untrustworthiness, the lines between fact and fiction are hard to decipher, but those who can do so are crucial to understanding this conflict.

In the past six months North Korea detained American Citizen Merrill Newman for “atrocities during the war”, purged the Uncle of their own leader, been infuriated by South Korean President Park’s world “hate tour” against them and the US Congress’ passing of a nine million dollar information warfare budget to be spent against them. Not to mention the fact that the international community has condemned their “basketball diplomacy” campaign, largely due to Dennis Rodman’s idiotic mentions of detained American Kenneth Bae who is sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor for “subversion to overthrow the State” with “Operation Jericho”.

To top it off, several slatternly journalists have created sensational stories such as the Unhasu Orchestra being machine-gunned to death, and Jang Sang Thaek’s execution being carried out by over a hundred starving dogs. This doesn’t help the credibility of western journalist anymore than it serves any positive purpose towards understanding why North Korea is the way it is and what it is really up to. To truly resolve the Korean conflict, the propagandists on all sides must learn how to report the facts and only the facts, communicate with transparency, and stop using information as warfare.

North Korea’s main objective is eternal survival and maintenance of their regime. Their propaganda often serves as the gatekeeper to their survival, as their isolation and information is their greatest weapon.In North Korea, it is not Kim Jung Un who is running the country, but a man named Cho Yun Jun, who’s job title is “First Vice Director with Chain-of-Command Over Organizational Structures” ,which is the number one position in the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), which is the regimes institutional power that was set up by President Kim Il Sung during the founding of the regime to be the guardian of the regime, and to that effect, of “the throne”.

Jang Sang Thaeks purge was not a result of the flippant charges against him, which all North Korean’s are guilty of to some extent, but more of the result of the OGD using him as a pawn in their chess game to maintain state sovereignty after the failed 6.28 reform measures. They needed a scapegoat to push back the world against the thought that they were opening up.

Kim Jong Un may have wanted to reform the state, with Jang’s help, and many North Korean’s would like to see that happen, but as long as the OGD remains in power, no reform is possible. Kim Jong Un is nothing more than a symbolic figurehead. North Korea’s speech to the world about wanting peace is nothing more than a PR move to distract the world from their growing uneasiness at the external and internal behaviors of people who want reform badly. The speech should not be taken at face value, but as a sign that the regime is losing control. Hence the underlying reason for Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address which was focused on “Single Minded Unity”, which was a stark contrast from last years speech which was focused on “Idealogical Changes in Thinking Towards Progress and Education”.

This just goes to show the importance of understanding Public diplomacy and Propaganda in International Relations.