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Call for revivial of cultural diplomacy to counter Anti-Americanism

While the US consulate lowered the American profile in Frankfurt by moving to a heavily fortified complex on the outskirts of town, US arts lobbies want to reach out more to the world by utilizing US cultural capabilities and talents. Writing for the International Herald Tribune, Alan Riding asks:

With Washington now dusting off public diplomacy as a strategy to combat rampant anti-Americanism, is it time to revive cultural diplomacy? The purpose would not be to mute American popular culture. In any event, that would be impossible: It is pumped out on an industrial scale and the world responds, often with delight, sometimes with disgust. Instead, rather than trying to compete for the attention of the masses, cultural diplomacy would aim to persuade elites of the virtues of American civilization.

This approach is now being quietly promoted by several arts lobbies in the United States. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in July, a group called Americans for International Arts and Cultural Exchange wrote: "Our coalition believes America has many cultural capabilities and talents that remain underutilized in the international arena and which can be effective in reaching out and telling our story to the world." (...)

It is hardly a radical idea. Britain, France, Germany, Japan and many other American allies have long used culture - libraries, art galleries, orchestras and theater groups, lecture tours and the like - to show their best face to the world.(...) It is also easily forgotten that the United States pioneered cultural diplomacy to combat Nazi propaganda before World War II. Later, on a larger scale, it used artistic and intellectual freedom as a weapon against communism, both inside the Soviet bloc, through radio broadcasts and cultural exchanges, and across Western Europe, through, say, sponsorship of literary magazines. (...)

But with the collapse of Soviet communism, the battle of ideas was declared won. And soon budgetary support for cultural diplomacy evaporated. By the late 1990s, when the United States Information Agency was folded into the State Department, Congress forced the cancellation of most cultural exchanges and the closure of American libraries and cultural centers around the world. In a joint study last year, Hodsoll's center and the Coalition for American Leadership Abroad offered numerous suggestions, which included increasing cultural exchanges; facilitating visits to the United States by foreign artists and scholars; sponsoring trips abroad by American artists; the reopening of libraries and cultural centers; and the expansion of English-language programs and cultural workshops. It also proposed adding $10 million to cultural funding by the State Department (which stands, this year, at a modest $4.05 million) and called for greater involvement by the private sector. (...)

Entrenched anti-Americanism will take years of persuasion to be reversed. And here experts add a caveat: For cultural diplomacy to be effective, it must emphasize broader American values over the specific interests of any administration. (Hat tip to Eccentric Star)

Another International Herald Tribune article describes how "Frankfurt is quickly losing its American flavor" due to the closure of  the Rhein Main Air Base and because:

Last week, the United States Consulate left central Frankfurt for a heavily fortified complex on the outskirts of town. And the consulate's cultural center, Amerika Haus, moved its staff out of a landmark downtown building to join the consulate in its suburban redoubt. It adds up to a palpable lowering of the American profile in Frankfurt, a city that since World War II has been known, and occasionally tweaked by Germans, for being the most American in Germany. (...) 

Founded after the war as a pocket-size American library, the center, and others like it throughout Germany, was often the first introduction for Germans to American ideas and culture. While the consulate still holds a lease on the building and continues to stage events there, the American staff is gone and its future is uncertain.

"They're supposed to be practicing public diplomacy," said Dennis Phillips, an American who met his German wife while stationed in Bremerhaven in 1968 and came back 14 years ago to work in a bank. "If they retreat behind gates and high walls, that's not public diplomacy," he said. "It may be diplomacy, but it's not public diplomacy." The consulate says its move was dictated by space as well as security. With the largest consulate staff in the world, it was bursting at the seams. The new building is big and sits well back from the street, making it more secure than the old one, which nestled in an elegant neighborhood. Moving American diplomats out of Amerika Haus will allow the building to relax its tight security measures, which had made it a less welcoming place for the German public.

The German Fulbright Alumni Association celebrated Senator Fulbright's 100th birthday in Frankfurt's Amerika Haus in April 2005. The event was organised in cooperation with the US consulate, the German American Fulbright Commission and the Zentrum für Nordamerikastudien

By the way on October 25th, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed Muslim generosity as reflection of Ramadan spirit at the annual State Department Iftaar Dinner:

Good evening.  Ramadan Kareem.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored that distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps could be here this evening and I am very pleased at the representation of our civil society and faith-based communities.  Thank you very much for joining me tonight. As a former academic, I appreciate that so many professors and students are also with us here today, especially the Fulbrighters and other visiting scholars.  There is really nothing more important that we do than the exchange of young people between countries.

Full transcript at The State Department.


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At the Zoo on :

Nothing America does will have any effect on European anti-Americansm. - Kathy K

Joerg W on :

Why is that? Would you care to elaborate on your point? Is your argument that Europeans are envious and therefore will be anti-American until they get rid of their envy and solve their problems?

At the Zoo on :

Yes. It's not that there's nothing to criticize in America. But Europe accuses us of its sins, not ours. And Europe doesn't criticize us, it persecutes us. We're not too stupid to see that. For Europe's own sake, it must quit distracting itself by obsessing about the Evil Capitalist Entity across the sea and face its real problems. - Kathy K

Gregory Kelly on :

Deploying Effective Public Diplomacy (Relations) Not Just a U.S. Problem During the period of 1998-2001, I was public relations-marketing manager, New York office for an Asian national tourist office. In this particular government-cultural structure, the tourism department was viewed relatively low or unimportant in terms of public diplomacy for this nation in the U.S. market. With the forward thinking of some great directors posted in the office during that period, we deftly orchestrated a culinary arts pr-mkt campaign (Public Diplomacy) that dominated the U.S. culinary arts-culture-tourism community and media at that time. Ironically, the renaissance of this type of promotion currently under way by aforementioned tourist board is failing miserably (bet that is not in the reports back to headquarters!) for reasons to be discussed in a later post. Case Study Germany: Since much of the critiquing in the media and blogs involves comments about U.S. Public Diplomacy in Germany we will present another side to the story. 1. The outgoing German Chancellor actively fostered Anti-Americanism for political gain. We do not fault him; it is/was his prerogative. 2. German Public Diplomacy in the U.S. market was/is adversely affected by the policies of the outgoing Chancellor. How could he justify capital expenditures for public diplomacy initiatives in the U.S. while proactively promoting Anti-Americanism? It is during this period that Germany failed to adapt to the ever-changing paradigm of the U.S. and public opinion for the purpose of public diplomacy and promotional activities. That is the bad news. The good news is that Germany has in place a formidable mega infrastructure and under utilized resources presently situated in the U.S. Market that with the right ignition source, will serve to overcome biased, sensationalistic media reporting and other false perceptions.

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