INTERNATIONAL NEWS: US public diplomacy head hits back at Beers'critics

WASHINGTON: In an exclusive interview with PRWeek, Harold Pachios, chairman of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, praised the work of undersecretary Charlotte Beers. But he also warned that public diplomacy does not have the power to stop a repeat of the September 11 attacks.

WASHINGTON: In an exclusive interview with PRWeek, Harold Pachios, chairman of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, praised the work of undersecretary Charlotte Beers. But he also warned that public diplomacy does not have the power to stop a repeat of the September 11 attacks.

Pachios, who performed public affairs duties in both the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, and is now a partner in the law firm of Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, said that Beers has brought "a new and fresh perspective

to America's diplomacy efforts. "She is not simply repeating everything that has been done in the past, but taking a fresh look at everything. She's very smart,

he said.

Pachios cited Beers' lack of government experience as one of her greatest assets. "I think the administration did a very smart thing in reaching outside politics and outside government to get somebody who has had a good deal of experience at influencing large numbers of people in the private sector."

Before being appointed undersecretary of state for public diplomacy in October 2001, Beers was one of Madison Avenue's most respected and powerful ad executives.

Beers has, however, been the target of widespread criticism during her short tenure, mainly for her inability to produce any tangible change in Arab attitudes toward the US. Pachios dismissed such criticism, explaining that public diplomacy is a slow-moving process. "Charlotte's been there six months,

he said. "Are you going to change the attitudes of people throughout the world in six months? I don't think so."

He further cautioned against expecting too much from public diplomacy efforts in general, saying all the communication in the world wouldn't have stopped what happened on September 11.

"I think that you're bound to have terrorists,

he explained. "We had 19 people board airplanes kill 3,000 people. They're fanatics. They're haters. I don't think you're going to change people like that. What you can change is the number of people who think they may not have done such a bad thing."

Pachios was also careful not to suggest that government could accomplish all its public diplomacy goals on its own. "The private sector should play a much bigger role,

he said. "The State Department is a very large, rather inflexible bureaucracy. It has been doing the same business the same way for decades. Therefore, it is very hard for public diplomacy in the State Department to be as flexible or as innovative as it needs to be.

"There are a lot of bureaucratic obstacles to what Charlotte Beers wants to achieve,

he concluded. "The best way, it seems to me - and I think this happens to be her view as well - is to begin, at least in some limited degree, to contract out some of that function to the private sector."

Created by Congress in 1948, the Commission provides oversight of US efforts to communicate with and influence foreign audiences. Pachios was appointed in 1994 by President Clinton, who then elevated him to chairman in 1999.

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