Skip to content

Medienkritik on How to Improve US Public Diplomacy

Eric Staal of Republicans Abroad Germany was a guest of the public TV talk show "Maybrit Illner" and has effectively responded to criticism against the United States and received applause from the studio audience.
Eric said that he respects the criticism, but pointed out that criticism of US policy should have an honest motivation (like concern for injustices in the world) rather than be motivated by another political agenda. He doubts whether many critics have such an honest motivation, because people don't protest against China because of Darfur, for instance.

Ray D. of Davids Medienkritik describes Eric's talk show appearance as a stellar example of how Americans should engage the German media and complains:
The US Embassy in Berlin is a near total failure in its efforts to engage the German mass media so as to reach the largest possible German audience. The American taxpayer is being under-served by his or her representatives in Germany. Frankly - the public diplomacy officials at the US Embassy in Berlin ought to send Eric Staal half of their annual paychecks - because he just did more to engage the German people in 2 minutes than they have done in the past year.
UPDATE: Is it the job of ambassadors to appear on TV? The German ambassador certainly does it often, as Pat points out in the comments section. Besides, here is an  example from August 2002, when the transatlantic disagreements over Iraq intensified:  Germany's Ambassador Ischinger went on the fiercely pro-war FOX News and told the rather aggressive host Bill O'Reilly why Germany is not supporting the war plans:
We have our hands full with the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Why do we have to go against Iraq right now? Are you really sure that containment has failed?
Ischinger also wrote on the embassy homepage in August 2002: "An Attack on Iraq Now Could Harm International Coalition Against Terrorism." Ischinger defended Germany again on The O'Reilly Factor in December 2003 as Sonja wrote in the Atlantic Review post Pressure on Germany by FOX’s O’Reilly Factor (in German).
In May 2006, Ischinger also wrote a pretty outspoken and US critical editorial in the Washington Post. See the Atlantic Review post: Germany's Outgoing Ambassador to the U.S. discusses the War on Terrorism

Trackbacks

No Trackbacks

Comments

Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Zyme on :

Just because the main purpose of Davidīs Medienkritik seems to be getting on the publicīs nerves, that is certainly not the job of the US embassy in Germany. Itīs a good thing those bloggers donīt receive any paychecks. This way we donīt have to make up our mind regarding how many more useful purposes might exist for such funding.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Do you disagree with Eric Staal? Why should not the US ambassador join political talk shows to make statements similar to those by Eric?

Zyme on :

"Why should not the US ambassador join political talk shows to make statements similar to those by Eric?" Because it is not a diplomatīs job to entertain the people of the nation he has been sent to. He or she has to work with the respective government to achieve something. When the next general elections are coming, the electorate usually considers quite a number of issues - but certainly not the TV-appearances of foreigners.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I just wrote an update to point out that the German ambassador is often on US TV. It's called public diplomacy and is part of the job. Especially in this day and age, with the importance of the media and public opinion polls etc.

Pat Patterson on :

Right after the American Revolution the duties of an American ambassador or consul to a foreign country was mainly negotiating trade and debt, keeping our drunken sailors and marines out of jail and actively representing the benefits of democracy throughout the world. In one famous case the American consul in the extremely jittery colony of Bermuda promised in return for better trade opportunities that he would not allow the sailors and missionaries to hand out anti-Crown leaflets. These leaflets, copies are still in the Smithsonian, called for the citizens and residents of Bermuda to throw out the British and even at this early date to end slavery. But the mission statement of the Department of State is both broad and specific. The staff are required, among many duties, to serve as the public representatives of the US. This also means going on TV as much say as the German Ambassador to the US has been on C-Span the last few years. But if you want to wade through the boilerplate the requiremnts of the US mission are, as noted earlier, general and policy specific. [url]http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/dosstrat/2004/23503.htm[/url] Now whether the staff is competent, to attempt the kind of effective outreach exemplified by Eric Staal, can probably be answered in the negative. My own experiences with the US Embassy in London some years ago, so I can't speak on its current staff or competence, suggested that the bulk of the American staff were simply punching their ticket for a return to Wasington, the beneficiaries of daddy's campaign largess or well-connected party people.

Consul-At-Arms on :

"My own experiences with the US Embassy in London some years ago, so I can't speak on its current staff or competence, suggested that the bulk of the American staff were simply punching their ticket for a return to Wasington, the beneficiaries of daddy's campaign largess or well-connected party people." My suggestion is that you do some research () that would enable you to make less ignorant comments about how American diplomatic missions are staffed. Aside from a minority of principal officers (primarily ambassadors and a handful of consuls general) who are political appointees of a sitting president, all other U.S. diplomatic personnel assigned to our permanent missions abroad are professional foreign service officers or specialists and not anybody's party hacks or major campaign donors. While it is quite common for the U.S. ambassador in London to be one of those political appointees, virtually none of the staff working for him or her won't be career personnel. Assignment to a prestigious First World post like London is generally highly sought after; generally you have to have "paid your dues" at somewhere much less pleasant in order to go there. More often than not, an American diplomat will spent 60-70 percent (or higher) of their career in an overseas posting, so going back to D.C. after London, while more likely than going anywhere else in the U.S., is less likely than a follow-on assignment somewhere else overseas.

Pat Patterson on :

I certainly hope most of my nation's current ambassadorial and consulate staffs are not so thin-skinned. Note I said, "...some years ago." Plus the party people I was referring to were not political parties but the kind that say a young staffer might go to after work in the West End or specifically the night spots around the Sloane Square area. I'm sorry if Consul-at-Arms is offended but I will repeat that many of the younger Americans, though probably well qualified, I met were in London, mainly due to either political or family connections, instead of say some less hospitable place in the world where English was still spoken. I should have added that at that time the most professional and competent people I met were Kingman Brewster, the Marine guards, the British subjects and the one lone Irish citizen protecting and working in the embassy. But since I didn't really have a chance to meet all the American staff I will admit that my criticisms could have been too harsh.

Consul-At-Arms on :

"Thin-skinned"? Perhaps; I'm on leave at the moment and am taking considerably less pains at not calling "bullshit" when I see it. My apologies; I had intended to post the following link, http://www.state.gov/careers/, within the empty parenthesis of my second paragraph, to give you something to read about Foreign Service careers: how diplomats are selected, hired, assigned, &tc. London is a big place, and our embassy there is correspondingly so. I've never visited myself so I can't speak to either who is representing themselves as U.S. diplomats in the London club scene nor to the possibility that there are some well-connected folks taking assignments there, possibly as part of various other delegations within the purview of the overall mission but not the normal run of FSOs. I'm afraid Amb. Brewster (b. 1919;d. 1988) was a bit before my time although I can say that I'm a huge fan of both our Marine Security Guard personnel and our Locally Engaged Staff members.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Consul Thanks for comments. What is your view of public diplomacy? Do you think the embassy should do more in places like Germany? I know that Ambassador Timken's position is that he prefers personal contacts (and therefore is travelling around Germany all the time) rather than TV appearances, but I think he would certainly reach a wider audience on TV, even if he would only speak in English. More about Ambassador and Mrs. Timken's work in this Atlantic Review post from August 2006: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/368-First-Anniversary-Praise-for-Ambassador-Timkens-Work.html[/url]

Consul-At-Arms on :

"Thanks for comments." You're very welcome. "What is your view of public diplomacy?" My belief is that public diplomacy is a vital component of our foreign policy mission. Under the "transformational diplomacy" rubric, it's a component of all of our diplomatic efforts, not just the domain of our public/press affairs specialists. That's always been true, but it's now talked about publicly by people at the highest levels. Personally, I don't know that I agree that the former United States Information Agency (USIA) should have been consolidated with the State Dept. (as was accomplished during a previous presidential administration), but that decision was made long ago. "Do you think the embassy should do more in places like Germany?" I'm not sure I get what you're asking here. Could you be more specific? It would be wonderful to do more in places like Germany, but AmEmb Berlin (http://germany.usembassy.gov/) is only one of more than 260 U.S. diplomatic posts; it gets only so much in the way of resources (money &/or personnel) and has to compete for those with growing missions such as in China, Mexico and India. If you've been paying attention, our European missions have been losing positions/resources and other, more growing and dynamic regions have been on the gaining end of that equation. American foreign policy budgets are contracting again (remember "doing more with less") so it's a worse situation than a zero-sum game. I would love it if our many "Amerika Haus" operations hadn't had to close in recent years. I've always thought that the goodwill and exposure to the best parts of American culture those afforded were priceless in terms of garnering goodwill. "I know that Ambassador Timken's position is that he prefers personal contacts (and therefore is travelling around Germany all the time) rather than TV appearances, but I think he would certainly reach a wider audience on TV, even if he would only speak in English." Amb. Timken (http://germany.usembassy.gov/germany/timken_bio.html) makes no bones about being the United States' ambassador to all of Germany, not just to Berlin. As a direct consequence, he spends something like half of his time visiting and meeting with people in places other than Berlin. It would be the equivalent of a German ambassador in the U.S. who got outside of the Beltway (for cultural purposes, assume that places like New York and L.A. are not really "outside the beltway" places) and met Americans across the country. Having been stationed in Germany several times myself, I would have to echo his assessment (per the article you linked) that, outside of the German press, you don't really encounter much anti-Americanism.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

To be more specific: I was wondering what your view is on talk show appearances by the Ambassador and his senior staff. Amb Timken does spend a lot of time traveling and meeting with Germans face to face. That is great. Personal contacts make a big different. Ambassador Dan Coats (before Timken) has done it as well. I have discussed the Iraq issue with Ambassador Coats in his residence once. I was part of a small group of Johns Hopkins alumni, who were invited. Was great. I don't know, but I assume that US ambassadors meet predominantly (like 2/3) with US friendly folks. Likewise, I think that those Germans, who dislike US policy for the wrong reasons or have prejudices about Americans, do not visit the Amerika Häuser. How to reach the target audience? If Amb Timken or his senior staff would go on TV shows like Eric Stall did, then they would reach many more Germans than they could in personal meetings, incl. those who have Anti-American sentiments or simply do not know the US side or the Republican side of a news story, because of one-sided media coverage. Do US ambassadors, stationed in other countries, go on TV talk shows? Do US ambassadors participate regularly in TV shows on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, the dozens of Pakistani, Indonesian etc channels?

Bill L on :

I think the State Department has gotten a kick in the rear already. While perusing my server logs I followed a link to a carnival page. Where you have an adsense ad. Which is filled with waving American flags and the invitation to "apply for US citizenship now." RMOTFL

Anonymous on :

"We have our hands full with the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban." The German ambassador said that?!!! In what sense do the Germans 'have their hands full' in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban? Or was he speaking on the behalf of the UK, Canada, and the US - the countries actually doing the vast bulk of the 'fighting'?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

a) Germany is not a military power. The Bundeswehr has not reformed all that much since the Cold War. Not many troops to fight terrorists insurgents etc. The US is a the biggest military, but is unable to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq sufficiently. I think we can all agree, that US operations in Afghanistan were set back a lot, when Washington moved ressources to Iraq in 2003 and 2004. b) "The fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban" is more than military operations, but involves a lot of political, financial, intelligence etc operations as well. Those are also needed to stabilize Iraq. The German ambassador realized that Germany can't do both. I think, Germany is even unable to contribute to stabilize Afganistan alone. => If Germany had gotten involved in Iraq, then Germany would do even less in Afghanistan. German politicians, ambassadors and think tankers realize the limits of their country's power. Perhaps their US counterparts should be more realistic about their country's power before they advocate some international mission. A few months ago, Die ZEIT wrote that Washington DC is full of 30 year old Think Tankers, who know exactly how to shape the world. This can-do spirit is the problem! Usually, Germans love the positive attitude most Americans have: This famous American "can-do" spirit. I think this spirit is to blame for the start of the Iraq war.

Don S on :

Joerg, I think Germany's problem is less a matter of capacity than it is of willingness. Or perhaps both - if you lack willingness you will inevitably find youself unable to do almost anything. Americans ask ourselves why Germans are unwilling. After 50 years of Americans (and Brits, Canadians, et al) finding the will to help Germany defend itself against the Warsaw Pact Germans can find little reason to return the favor?!!! It's true that Germany lacks certain things because of the incredibly small proportion of GDP Germans invest on the military. Germany force the US to shoulder those burdens - and at times abuse us if the service does not meet German standards. I've been remembering the South Asian tsunami disaster. During the resulting potlatch of aid provision Schroeder's government suddenly found itself bereft of a fleet of transport aircraft - Germany having declined to invest in such because the US could provide. I recall the German government making a forceful and highly-publicised request (almost a demand) that the US government produce such aircraft forthwith so that the German potlatch could be conveyed to the victims in a timely manner. The aircraft were then occupied in transporting US potlatch to the stricken region so the request was turned down on two grounds: A) that the US government owned the aircraft & the Germans had no contractural right to aircraft which Germany does not own, crew, or pay for in any way. B) The necessary delay in refueling the aircraft and sending them to Germany plus inevitable screwups in coordination would result in fewer supplies reaching the stricken areas and dislocation to the aid efforts at a time when many lives were at stake. The reaction from the German media (and certain parts of the US Left) was both instructive and deafening (particularly the latter). Bush was being selfish and must be made to SHARE! Apparently Bush (and the US) were too EVIL to be permitted the honor of rendering aid. Or something. Another excellent suggestion (from UN officials this time) was that the US armed forces in place and rendering aid be required to wear blue UN uniforms in lieu of their normal khakis - immediately. Given that American aircraft carrier task forces do not normally stock UN uniforms in the required numbers presumably these uniforms should be crash-produced and shipped out forthwith. Apart from the implied insult to the American uniform and people and the foolish misuse of money this would have required that uniforms go in place of something else; food, bottled water, tents, medicines? It was not the best moment for the US & German media or the international chattering classes generally, was it? A question for you Joerg: Has the German government solved the transport aircraft problem either by constructing a fleet of your own or by contracting for first call on such a fleet from the US, the Russians, or Lufthansa? Or will the same thing happen the next time the world does a potlatch?!!!!

Fuchur on :

"After 50 years of Americans (and Brits, Canadians, et al) finding the will to help Germany defend itself against the Warsaw Pact Germans can find little reason to return the favor" If memory serves me correctly, the Warsaw Pact was not merely directed against Germany, but also against Americans (and Brits, Canadians, et al). The point of NATO was not "let's all help Germany" - it was "let's all help each other". I find the hypocrisy pretty sickening: the same people who get all teary-eyed about the great American heroes who defended freedom nonchalantly spit in the face of the German soldiers who did just the same thing. My dad was in the German airforce. During the Cuba Crisis, the German pilots were on alert like the rest of Nato. Had it come to war, they would have been there like all the others. Also, please note that Cuba is rather far away from Germany... So, spare me the nonsense about Germany having to "return the favor": We've been doing just that for 50 years. Ironically, there are countries who indeed did just what you accuse Germany of, ie. freeload on American security: for example Japan. But I have learned that, contrary to Germany, Japan is to be considered a great ally to the US. As Joerg already said a while ago: The reason must be Japan's huge military contributions to Iraq and Afghanistan... IMO, the whole "betrayal"-canard is laughable. Germany backed the US in every major issue over the past 60 years. Then, we decide not to join in one war. And - hey presto - it turns out that we are not an ally, and what's more: we never really were one, if you think about it... Tell you what: When in a couple of years the next US president decides to bomb some country, and perchance Germany happens to have a Chancellor that wants us to be on board - then Germany all over sudden will be a great ally again, and American commenters will tell us that Germany actually always has been a great ally, if you think about it. That's all there is to it.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Don "Joerg, I think Germany's problem is less a matter of capacity than it is of willingness. Or perhaps both - if you lack willingness you will inevitably find youself unable to do almost anything." Sure, if Germany had started to spend more on the military right after unification, then the Bundeswehr would have a bigger capacity now. But a) in the early 90s there was some concern among our neigbors about remilitarization of Germany. b) Unification, and the planned EU enlargement were expensiv enough c) How shall German politicians justify a higher defense spending to the voters, if unemployment is so huge and welfare spending has already been cut a lot??? Why should the Bundeswehr spend billions trying in vain to spread democracy in the Middle East, while millions of Germans are unemployed, hundreds of thousands are homeless? Many Americans think that the US is spending too much on the military and on questionable international missions, which do not increase US security. The US spends huge amounts of money on defense without having more security: International Institute for Strategic Studies - Feb 16th - - Anti-War - More Defense Spending, Less Security "According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in 2003 total United States defense expenditures ($404.9 billion in current year dollars) exceeded the combined defense expenditures of the next 13 countries and was more than double the combined defense spending of the remaining 158 countries in the world." http://www.iiss.org/whats-new/iiss-in-the-press/press-coverage-2006/february-2006/more-defense-spending-less-security And in general Americans, don't expect as much from the government in terms of welfare than the Germans, thus it is difficult in Germany to justify higher defense spending. Iraq was not considered a threat to Germany requiring an invasion. Likewise, Afghanistan: The NATO mission does not make the US safe. Al Qaeda does not need Afghanistan to plan the next 9/11 type attack against the US or Europe. NATO has already spend billions of dollars and euros in Afghanistan without making us any safer. Quite the contrary, the civilian casualties increase hatred of the West and increase the risk of terrorist attacks, etc. "A question for you Joerg: Has the German government solved the transport aircraft problem" I am not familiar with the Tsunami problem you mentioned. Airbus is working on military transport aircraft: "11 April 2007 First complete wing set delivered to A400M Final Assembly Line" [url]http://www.airbusmilitary.com/press.html[/url]

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Why is the US spending soooo much on defense? Because of effective lobby work? Can you imagine some kind of backlash among voters leading to a reductions of defense spending in the next ten years? Voters could say: Let's help Detroit rather than Bagdad. Let's fight the war on drugs in LA (and give the kids some jobs) rather than fight in Colombia. Let's protect our borders and harbors rather than have troops stationed in Germany. Let's have free health care rather than missile shield bases in Poland. Let's have more teachers rather than another aircraft carrier. While you wonder why Germany spends so little on defense and does not contribute to international invasions and occupations, I wonder why the US spends so much on defense and on internantional invasions and occupations, which are supposed to liberate Iraqis and Afghans etc. Why not help American citizens first?

Bill L on :

"Let's help Detroit rather than Bagdad." Why are you implying that we don't help Detroit? This reduces your credibility. You are painting a false picture of America as a country that does not help the poor. Rubbish. You have studied here? I don't believe you can have lived here and not know better. But we do know that you can addict poor people to handouts you then later can buy their votes for. No matter the harm to the economy or the poors' self respect. Ah, such great love for the poor = keep them poor and forever in need of your handouts/bribes. In fact, Democrats have said something like that. In appealing to the greed of those wanting ever more government handouts, Senator Kerry called for building fire stations in the US, not Baghdad. Like we haven't enough fire stations. And like the Iraqi people weren't in desperate need of them. So, no fire stations for Bagdad. People were hungry there, not here. People were without medical treatment there, not here. They were without electicity and water there, not here. But you, the humanitarian, say why not spend that money here instead? What we spend on defense is our business and none of yours. Mind your own. We don't care whether you approve. Your opinion is irrelevant and awfully presumptuous. As for Germany's spending, fine. Germany's choice. All it means to us is that Germany is no NATO ally, just a parasite. I dearly wish we had all our troops (and their dollars) out of Germany. The sooner the better. I think the day is coming sooner than you think.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Bill L Calm down. I was talking about US defense spending in response to Don's comments on Germany's small defense spending. He criticized Germany for not contributing more to US led missions. Please read everything I wrote in that context. "They were without electicity and water there, not here." Wasn't there more electricity in Bagdad under Saddam than today? Honest question, not rhetorical. Anybody know of a comparison of power outages before and after the latest Iraq war? "Why are you implying that we don't help Detroit?" I am explaining why Germany prefers to help the homeless and jobless in Germany rather than trying to "liberate" Iraqis.

Don S on :

Hmmm, it seems we may be able to come to a concensus here. Joerg prefers to "prefers to help the homeless and jobless in Germany" David's party leader circa 2004 (Senator Kerry) asked why the US was building fire houses in Bagdhad instead of the US. I ask why the US is defending Germany (and France, Spain, et al) via NATO instead of spending the money in the US or making other good uses of it (tax cuts, shoring up Social Security, etc)? My proposed concensus is that Germany helps the German homeless and jobless by enlisting them in the German army where they will be needed because the US brings its forces home from Iraq and Central Europe. Everyone is happy.... No? ;)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Don, I primarily wanted to stress that it is difficult for German politicians to support a huge increase in defence spending, if there are millions of unemployed and homeless, while the threats to Germany are not as big as during Cold War. German voters want politicians to spend money in Germany rather than bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. German voters don't think the US led "war on terror" is worth it to risk our soldiers lives much more and risking the accidental killing of Afghan civilians, which would increase Anti-German feelings and increase the threats of terror attacks in Germany. I think this is a fair assessment of the situation in Germany. It does not matter what I think personally. If you and the majority (?) of Americans think that you are making progress in Afghanistan and that the reports about collateral damage are exaggerated and that it is worth risking the lives of US soldiers, because the Afghanistan misssion is increasing US security, then so be it. Then it makes sense for you to support this mission. The assessment in Germany is different. And I think more and more Americans agree with the German perspective.

David on :

@joerg, That's what happens when you link to Medienkritik - you get right-wing American readers. You need to figure out a way of attracting more mainstream Americans to your site, instead of the delusional Bush apologists and war supporters (now a small extremist fringe).

RayD on :

That right Joerg. Don't link to anyone the far left attack bloggers would not approve of - otherwise it might attract people with a different point of view. How awful! After all: You could be following the "echo chamber" model pioneered on the "Dialog" site.

Pat Patterson on :

I can say two things in defense of Germany foreign policy that I think could contribute and will continue to contribute some hard feelings on behalf of many Americans. The first, in that Germany does indeed spend more of, for want of a better word, on social welfare than the US as both a percentage of the budget(70%) and on a per capita basis. But the German budget is almost 50% to total GDP and unless the Germans turn into flat tax fiends or supply-siders overnight the government simply will not be able to spend any more on defense. There would have to be a huge jump in GDP and then subsequent tax revenues that would allow the government to spend less as a percentage of social programs but the same or more on a per capita basis. For example, 70% of the current $1.344 trillion budget is not the same as say 60% of say $2 trillion. But since this unlikely and the government is convinced that voters want more social spending and are generally hostile to defense spending except for economic reasons, then the hopes of the US for a more robust German presence in the world is simply delusional. And unfortunately this tends to create the kind of friction that damages relations between two countries that have the same strategic and idelistic goals in common. The second, is that Germany is simply not strategically important any more as it no longer represents a forward frontier vs. hostile powers, ie., the old Warsaw Pact and even the tactically enfeebled Russia(Mexico with missiles I believe was one description). It, Germany, does not possess any geographic chokeholds that are currently important and it has absolutely no sustainable global physical presence, ie., overseas bases, strategic weapons, strategic air power or a blue water fleet. Germany is being asked by the US, at least publicly, to be a global power yet in all reality does not have the economic capability and doesn't really see itself in any real danger. At least the kind of danger that can't be dealt with either through law enforcement or short over the horizon expeditionary forces. Germany needs to figure out how to proceed, to have a foreign policy that reflects its economic clout and asperations, as well as satisfying it still current treaty obligations. I believe Zyme(if not my apologies) has argued that NATO is a relic and should be disbanded. I think that Poland, Estonia, Romania and other East European nations are proceeding as if that is a fact and our signing or want to sign individual pacts with the US in addition to their NATO obligations. I fear that these nations do not trust or think that NATO has that capability any more and are essentially joining up with the biggest kid on the block(or for some, the bully on the block) for protection.

Consul-At-Arms on :

BTW, I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/06/re-medienkritik-on-how-to-improve-us.html

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
CAPTCHA

Form options