- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

The United States could do a better job of getting its message across to the international community, participants told a symposium on public diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Studies have shown the U.S. government has ineffectively communicated American principles to foreign populations since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Helle Dale, a specialist in U.S. foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation.

The U.S. government agencies have been hampered in their efforts by a lack of coordination and by lack of a vision and leadership from the highest levels,” said Mrs. Dale, who moderated the panel discussion on public diplomacy.

She added that the government has sometimes underestimated the power of getting its message out to foreign audiences.

The panel discussion Wednesday marked the first Heritage event this year about the state of U.S. public diplomacy to foreign audiences and how to improve it in preparation for the next president.

Ineffective U.S. public diplomacy has led to low approval numbers of the United States in foreign countries and hurt the war on terrorism, Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner said.

“Today, as has been the case throughout our history, America has a peaceful message, yet we are doing some harm to the nation and to our own credibility by not effectively advocating for ourselves. This manifests itself in many ways, but especially concerning the war on terror,” he said.

Mr. Feulner cited the September 11 commission that America’s enemies in the war on terrorism will describe the purposes of the United States to Muslim nations if the U.S. effort is weak.

In countries such as Germany and Turkey, support for the United States has decreased in recent years. From 2002 to 2006, America’s favorable rating in Germany fell from 61 percent to 37 percent and in Turkey from 30 percent to 12 percent, according to a 2006 study from the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The news at the panel discussion was not all bad for U.S. public diplomacy under the Bush administration, which has improved in at least the past two years with “intensified” efforts, said Mrs. Dale, who also writes a weekly column for The Washington Times.

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