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Sonenshine on the American diplomatic toolbox and public diplomacy

Defining public diplomacy as an honest, authentic delivery of information that will shape and explain and educate without propagandizing and without propagating false notions.  Fmr. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs of the US Dept. of State, Tara Sonenshine in conversation with Charlie Firestone of the Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Charlie Firestone with the Aspen Institute here with Tara Sun and shine former Under Secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs of the u.s. Department of State today we're discussing the toolbox of American diplomacy and specifically public diplomacy secretary sunshine what is public diplomacy and why is it important public diplomacy is one tool in a nation's national security tool box let me explain every nation has a story every nation has a set of values interests principles policies and the goal often is to explain those policies particularly to people living overseas you want people outside your borders to understand your values your foreign policy your priorities so public diplomacy is really what it says it's the diplomacy instead of being government to government or official to official is really the diplomacy of explaining yourself to a foreign public so in many ways it is a way you build support for policy and it's a way you explain who you are what you are what you stand for so this is from the government to other public's there are other elements that are brought in to the concept of public diplomacy sometimes like cultural diplomacy educational diplomacy business diplomacy citizen diplomacy you can do you consider all those part of public diplomacy or they distinguished just as public diplomacy is a tool of national security within public diplomacy you have lots of tools public diplomacy is its own toolbox and in that toolbox you might pull out a variety of techniques for how you are going to explain who you are you might turn to film and culture art and music you might turn to edge national exchanges and people-to-people diplomacy you might use new information tools you might use traditional television radio you might use social media or mobile phones so within the box of public diplomacy you have soft power tools and we can talk about what soft power and hard power mean but you have lots of hammers and nails that you can pull out of your public diplomacy shed in order to direct and target your public diplomacy to the specific audience you're trying to reach now this sounds somewhat like propaganda how what's the distinction between propaganda and public diplomacy or is their propaganda has always been the dirty word the negative we've often thought and I think rightly so that propaganda is spin in which there's a notion of deceit in there that you are trying to convey something that's not quite what it is whereas we hope that public diplomacy is an honest authentic delivery of information that will shape and explain and educate and of course we've always had white noise black noise grey noise so there are levels at which sophisticated people might manipulate the message I think of public diplomacy as the very overt very transparent use by the US government in this case and its mechanism of picking its tools to explain itself without propagandizing and without propagating false notions