National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations

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[Testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, Washington, D.C., February 10, 2004.]

I experienced September 11, 2001, and all that has come afterwards from the perspective of living and working in an Arab Muslim country in North Africa. In Morocco, a strong ally of the United States and a nation of thirty million Muslims, regrettably, as in many nations today, too many of their citizens have a different view of the United States than we would desire. Much of what I learned about foreign views of our country was from listening, engaging and interacting with Moroccans from all walks of life, and much of what I learned was troubling and disturbing. I would never have known how our country is really viewed both the positives and the negatives had I not been serving overseas for the last two turbulent years.

In the two months that I have been serving as the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, I have gained a greater understanding and appreciation of what the Under Secretary's office, our three bureaus, the public diplomacy offices of the regional bureaus, and our overseas posts do in the field of public diplomacy. Over the past two years, much as been written and debated about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the U.S. government public diplomacy activities and programs overseas. Helpful and responsible reports by Ambassador Ed Djerejian's Advisory Group, Dr. Abshire's Center for the Study of the Presidency, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Heritage Foundation have served to help us examine that which our government does well and that which can be improved. Many of their insights and recommendations we can all agree upon.

As we all know, unfortunately, our country has a problem in far too many parts of the world today, especially in the Middle East and South East Asia, a problem we have regrettably developed over many years through both Republican and Democratic administrations, and a problem that does not lend itself to a quick fix or a single solution or a simple plan. Just as it has taken us many years to get into this situation, so too will it take many years of hard focused work to get out of it. I believe our strategic goals are clear. We need to continue to focus on those areas of the world where there has been a deterioration of the view of our nation. That deterioration is most stark in the Arab and Muslim world. At the same time, we must work equally as hard in those areas where the opinion of the United States has not changed to date.

We should listen more, not only to foreign audiences, but to our own public diplomacy personnel overseas. Shortly, all public diplomacy officers will be able to communicate and share new ideas amongst ourselves and across all regions through a new interactive website devoted to the concerns of public diplomacy. Effective policy advocacy remains a priority, and I believe we basically do a good job of advocating our policies and explaining our actions. Audiences may not agree or like what we say and do, but we are communicating our policies to governments and influential elites, including in the foreign media. Our senior officials, Ambassadors and embassy staff are out there explaining U.S. policy, goals, and initiatives. We can all, of course, do better. We must do a better job of reaching beyond the traditional elites and government officials. We have not placed enough effort and focus on the non-elites who, today much more so than in the past, are a very strong force within their countries. This must be a priority focus now and in the future.

We only have to look at the outreach activities of many U.S. corporations overseas to see the value of being present and engaged in neighborhoods that we in government have for too long neglected. We need to support those programs and activities that go to the bottom line of halting and reversing this deterioration. …