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Sonenshine on past failures of American public diplomacy

When American public diplomacy fails and the lessons to take into the future of public diplomacy. Fmr. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs of the US 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 so where has American public diplomacy not worked and what can we learn from that American diplomacy has gotten itself in trouble when it's not authentic and credible and clear about who's behind it any time we have tried to use what are called cut outs or other military operations that are below what we would call the public line we've gotten down a slippery slope so one is if we've lost our way on being very up front that it's us that has confused things we've lost our way when we've moved the boxes around public diplomacy out of government into government high-end important slow and importance we've gotten ourselves a little entangled in the bureaucracy of public diplomacy we have not yet penetrated certain closed places like North Korea where we have put ourselves out too far in Somalia in which we then had to look at our own imagery of soldiers being paraded through the streets and that was a counter image to what we would have light so we've often tipped too far in one direction or the other but its greatest challenge or failing is not being tightly woven into the overarching American policy story and when we've lagged too far behind we've lost our way so in some ways it makes sense that diplomats would think that diplomacy at the formal level would be the main instrument but today everybody recognizes that we have a world of information abundance that the role of NGOs and publix is more and more important that our enemies are no longer the state but networks and non-state actors so do you see a change in the higher levels of government today than you saw an earlier time I see a change coming from the bottom up I see more young people who want to be trained in look diplomacy who go in either to the Foreign Service or the military or outside the government who come in already understanding the power of messaging I see more and more people coming in eager about information technology eager to be part of the information system I see certain new figures in the upper echelons of government embracing this I see more ambassadors trained in how to do videos in how to tweet I see more embassies putting up facebook pages that are going to appeal to more people so it's happening in a spotty uneven way ultimately I think we will have no choice in this new period but to embrace the role of publix the intersection of foreign policy media policy information technology is coming to our door literally so I think we will have no choice but to adapt and just as we had no choice but to embrace earlier technologies we will have to embrace this technology what I hope is that we won't divorce the information technology from the policy and therein lies the hardest challenge is the integration of all of this public diplomacy with public policy if we can get that piece right we may have a chance at moving people in a positive direction by engaging them not winning their hearts and minds we won't win but we may engage them in the conversation