US Muslim diplomacy bid is ‘absurdly underfunded’

WASHINGTON DC: America’s attempts to bolster its image in Muslim countries by public diplomacy are ‘absurdly and dangerously underfunded’, according to a government-appointed panel.

Convoluted bureaucracy and a near-total absence of research and measurability are also undermining US attempts to bolster its image, according to a report released last week by the Advisory Group on Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World.

‘The entire system of public diplomacy urgently requires a broad and deep transformation,’ read part of the 81-page report, which was compiled by experts chosen by President George Bush from across the political spectrum.

Recommendations include the creation of a Cabinet-level public-diplomacy adviser to the President, whose office would direct strategy on all US diplomatic activities; a vast increase in funding for PR activities in the Arab and Muslim world; and a renewed commitment to metrics and research.

Congress ordered the creation of the advisory panel this June in response to polls suggesting a plunge in the US’s popularity in the Middle East. That drop came despite heavily increased US public diplomacy efforts over the past two years in the region.

Those efforts, known collectively as the Shared Values campaign, also came under review. While the panel approved of conducting diplomacy via TV advertisements, it criticised the initiative for taking too long to go from research to execution.

Former Middle East ambassador Edward Djerejian headed the 14-member panel. The report is non-binding; its recommendations are now under consideration by Congress and the State Department.

The report said ‘much of the resentment toward America stems from our policies’ – hence the recommendation that the President have a permanent diplomatic adviser who would have ‘access to the formulation of foreign policy in order to advise on methods of presentation and likely responses in other countries’.

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