WASHINGTON: The PRSA gathered a handful of foreign-policy experts at the National Press Club October 31 to ponder the causes and effects of rising anti-American sentiment abroad.
Keynote speaker Jim Hoge, editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, suggested that America made a grave miscalculation after the Cold War ended when it began diverting funds and personnel away from public-diplomacy efforts.
"It was assumed that the world would be more peaceful, conflicts would be less, and America's involvement reduced," he said. "Having triumphed, democracy and market economics would spread around the globe. Their value would be self-evident, and thus the need for persuasion would be minimal."
He was also quick to point out, however, that public diplomacy has its limits. Foreigners are predisposed to disliking the US based solely on its superpower status, he suggested, and hence the US shouldn't over-expend itself trying to make others agree with our policies.
Hoge, who collected several Pulitzers during his time at the New York Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times, is also chairman of the International Center for Foreign Journalists.
Also on hand were John McWethy, national security correspondent for ABC News; Lee Hamilton, former congressman and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; and Denise Gray-Felder, VP for Communications at the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.
According to Jessie Hackes, head of the PRSA's International Committee from 1992-1993 and one of the event's organizers, the symposium was held partially to help the PRSA augment its presence in the nation's capital.
"It's about time for the PRSA to really begin to get its feet wet in playing with the big kids," she said. "The PRSA really needed to have a presence here in Washington, and in order to do this we needed to show that we have a great deal of strength and are going after some very large issues."