Isolate or Engage
Adversarial States, US Foreign Policy, and Public Diplomacy
Geoffrey Wiseman


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Introduction
chapter abstract

The Introduction explains how the book addresses the policy puzzle of how—in the absence or limited presence of official diplomatic relations—the United States goes about seeking to influence or engage an adversarial state's public so that it will influence its own government to adopt less hostile views of US foreign policies and of American society. The Introduction describes the "adversarial state" concept, lists the criteria used in choosing the nine cases, justifies the choice of multidisciplinary experts to write the case studies, lists the framing questions that set the broad parameters for the cases, and addresses key definitional issues. It also describes a three-part definitional framework for public diplomacy, and concludes with a brief description of the nine cases. It suggests that the cases are especially hard ones that potentially contribute to three fields of study: international security studies, diplomatic studies, and public diplomacy.

1 USSR/RUSSIA: US Diplomacy with the Russian "Adversary"
chapter abstract

Drawing on the epoch-spanning experience of three distinguished Princeton scholar-diplomats—George Kennan, Robert Tucker, and Jack Matlock—this chapter examines US diplomacy with Russia from the time of Lenin's 1917 Revolution to Putin's Russia of today. The chapter endorses the importance of active, multifaceted diplomatic engagement even in periods, and with regimes, of greatest hostility. A lack of such engagement leads to stereotypes and ignorance—and lost opportunities—while its presence contributed much to the Cold War's end. An underappreciated facet of that engagement has been public diplomacy. Regrettably, at the outset of relations with post-Soviet Russia, public diplomacy fared poorly: partly from clumsy "salesmanship," but even more because the "product" proved disappointing.

2 CHINA: American Public Diplomacy and US-China Relations, 1949–2012
chapter abstract

US-China relations since 1949 have been characterized by periodic swings between enmity (1949–1973), cooperation (1973–1989), and traditional Great Power competition (post-1989). The chapter assesses the impact of US public diplomacy on post-1949 US-China relations. It addresses whether the absence or presence of American public diplomacy has affected the degree of US-China conflict and cooperation. The chapter examines public diplomacy from two perspectives. First, for each post-1949 period it considers the influence of the US diplomatic presence in China and US-China ambassadorial relations on cooperation and conflict. Second, for each period it also examines the role of less formal and less direct US government efforts to shape US-China relations, including government outreach programs such as the Voice of America (VOA) and cultural programs.

3 NORTH KOREA: Engaging a Hermit Adversarial State
chapter abstract

The opportunity for effective public diplomacy in the US-DPRK relationship has been limited. The ongoing hostility (and lack of diplomatic representation) between the two sides is an obstacle to expanded public diplomacy toward North Korea, and North Korea's own domestic political constraints suggest that the prospects for fashioning an effective message that can reach the North Korean people remain dim. The nuclear issue overall has been a dampening factor on the development of official relations as well as on public diplomacy efforts to facilitate negotiations, despite the public roles of skillful nonresident envoys. For improvement to occur, US-DPRK relations need to be improved in tandem with progress in inter-Korean reconciliation. US diplomacy toward North Korea must consider its ally in the South and its key regional partner Japan. Hopes that new leader Kim Jong Un would herald public diplomacy opportunities for the United States have proven premature.

4 VIETNAM: American and Vietnamese Public Diplomacy, 1945–2010
chapter abstract

This case suggests that in attempting to understand American efforts to influence its Vietnamese adversary, via what might loosely be called "public diplomacy," it is necessary to analyze a broad range of actors. Traditional government units (the State Department and its embassies in Saigon during the war and in Hanoi after normalization) and the military's wartime public communication activities, along with nongovernmental actors funded or facilitated by the US government, have all played a role in US-Vietnamese public diplomacy. However, the authors have also included civil society actors with little or no direct connection to the government (some of whom oppose government policy). This chapter also gives weight to Vietnamese public diplomacy, signaling that public diplomacy among adversaries is a highly interactive, dialogic practice.

5 LIBYA: The United States and the Libyan Jamahiriyya: From Isolation to Regional Ally, 1969–2011
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes US diplomacy and its public manifestations toward Libya during the period when Libya was ruled by the Muammar Qadhafi regime—from the 1969 military coup until the country's 2011 uprising against the Libyan dictator. After flouting international norms for many years, the Qadhafi regime eventually adhered to many of those norms, renouncing WMDs, the most powerful bargaining chip at its disposal. Libya's changing behavior represented the outcome of a long process of coordinated, behind-the-scenes diplomatic actions by the United States, Great Britain, and, eventually, the international community.

6 IRAN: Public Diplomacy in a Vacuum
chapter abstract

US public diplomacy toward Iran—rhetoric, messaging, and direct engagement with the Iranian people—constitute critical tools for advancing American interests vis-à-vis Iran, assuming the role that traditional diplomacy serves elsewhere. The Iran case highlights pitfalls of a diplomatic approach that is overly dependent on public diplomacy instruments. They can inflame the suspicions of the intended recipients and are inadequate for promoting vital security interests such as nuclear nonproliferation. Resolving the most urgent disputes between Washington and Tehran will require a reversion to the traditional tools of formal diplomacy, especially formal diplomatic engagement involving the reciprocal exchange of embassies.

7 American Public Diplomacy in Syria: Overcoming Obstacles
chapter abstract

The Syrian case shows that a crucial element in the US public diplomacy effort is the existence of a functioning US embassy, and private organizations play only a minor role. When the embassy was open, public diplomacy personnel showed creativity by using English-language teaching, cultural programming, and careful personal contacts effectively to work around Syrian governmental restrictions. It shows also that domestic pressures hampered the public diplomacy effort when Congress tried to prevent Ambassador Robert Ford's return to Damascus. Ford enhanced public diplomacy by his visible presence and his creative use of social media. But when the deteriorating security situation forced his withdrawal and the embassy's closure, US public diplomacy was reduced to an offshore effort by radio and television, and a new virtual embassy managed in Washington.

8 CUBA: Public Diplomacy as a Battle of Ideas
chapter abstract

The history of US public diplomacy toward Cuba suggested little hope that government-organized and -targeted initiatives were likely to be effective. Covert efforts designed to undercut Fidel Castro's popular support and overthrow his government not only failed but, worse, helped Castro mobilize nationalist sentiment. Offshore broadcasting programs had no noticeable impact. The biggest impact in Cuba came not from public diplomacy efforts orchestrated by government, but instead from instances where the government got out of the way to allow open, authentic people-to-people contact. Under Raúl Castro, Cuba hinted that it would prefer to have more normal relations with the United States. With the December 2014 announcement that both countries would move toward normalization, the United States is now better positioned than any other country to influence Cuba's future trajectory through engagement.

9 The United States and Venezuela: Managing a Schizophrenic Relationship
chapter abstract

Hugo Chávez's fourteen-year rule in Venezuela from 1999 to 2013 was distinguished by a notably adversarial posture toward the United States. The case offers a number of insights: The role of a mercurial personality, with a lot of money to spend, leading a weaker state that attempts to employ public diplomacy to throw its more powerful adversary off balance. The case suggests that while necessary in the Venezuela case to consider traditional "State Department public diplomacy" activities, they are not sufficient to prevent bilateral relations from getting out of controlprevent bilateral relations from getting out of control. It is also crucial to consider "whole-of-government diplomacy" involving many government agencies, plus the often-neglected role of corporate and other key nonstate "new public diplomacy" actors.

chapter abstract

The Conclusion summarizes the findings of the nine case studies and suggests that the United States will need to judiciously balance all three public diplomacy approaches outlined in the Introduction: (1) the narrow "traditional government to foreign public" approach; (2) the middle-ground "whole of government to foreign public" approach; and (3) the broadened approach of a "new public diplomacy," one that is conducted by a wide range of governmental and, especially, nongovernmental actors. However, there is a fourth conceptual possibility that public diplomacy is best left almost entirely to publics dealing directly with other publics.