- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday pledged to increase the role of public diplomacy in all aspects of U.S. foreign policy and urged American diplomats around the world not to neglect the public side of their work.

Miss Rice also said that Washington does not sufficiently understand some of the foreign audiences that are the targets of its public diplomacy efforts.

“We need to expand the concept of public diplomacy to be an integral part of everything that we do when we are in the field,” she said during a hearing before the House Appropriations science, State, Justice and Commerce and related agencies subcommittee.

“I believe that part of our goal is going to have to make public diplomacy the job not just of professional people who do public diplomacy, but of an entire embassy,” Miss Rice said.

“Many of our ambassadors do a lot of public diplomacy. Some of them, I think, believe that they could do more if they were properly supported,” she said.

In a rare self-criticism, Miss Rice conceded that the Bush administration was not successful in explaining its policies to foreign audiences during its first term. She said the administration’s messages were not always tailored to a specific country and “appropriate to the audiences that we are trying to reach.”

“I’m not certain that we do enough in the way of really understanding the audiences that we are trying to reach — in many cases, very young audiences in a lot of the Muslim countries in particular,” the secretary said.

“It comes down to having the proper platform for communicating those messages,” she said.

Dozens of U.S. diplomats around the world who specialize in public diplomacy complained to The Washington Times last year that the materials Washington sends them to place in local media are often “one size fits all.”

Embassies headed by strong ambassadors who can afford not to follow every White House instruction usually ignore those materials or adapt them to reflect the characteristics and needs of the country to which they are posted.

Miss Rice also addressed the problems for the United States created by the tightened entry-visa process since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I would hope that through work with Homeland Security — recognizing that we have to keep ourselves secure — that we can remove the sense out there … that we are not as welcoming of foreign students as we once were,” she said.

She noted that the numbers of foreign students in the United States “are declining,” although “the delays have come down a lot in being able to process visas and being able to have students come back and forth.”

“That’s another thing to worry about,” she said.

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