Monday, February 21, 2011

Public Diplomacy or Bombs Away?

To start off, I'm looking forward to seeing how events in Libya play out, particularly in the PD sphere (not looking forward to seeing how they play out when I have to put gas in my car, but that's a whole other story).

But I'm not going to talk about that in this post, I think that may be something for next week. This week I'm going to take a look at some public diplomacy developments in the United Kingdom, as this article in the Guardian caught my eye. I've previously spent quite a bit of time and research on the UK's foreign policy under the Blair and Brown governments, so I was immediately intrigued by this piece. To summarize the article, shadow defense secretary Jim Murphy (Labour) has called for increased "responsibility beyond the UK's borders," which fell into question after the Iraq War. He notes that while Iraq inspired a great deal of anger and controversy, the UK under Labour has successfully intervened militarily in other campaigns, such as Kosovo. How does this relate to public diplomacy? Murphy is presenting a speech next week at the Royal United Services Institute in which he will "emphasize the need for greater public diplomacy ahead of interventions abroad."

At first this seems like a bit of a contradiction, military action vs. public diplomacy. What I think Murphy is trying to accomplish is to promote the concept that sometimes hard power is necessary, but that the UK has a responsibility to utilize its soft power as much as possible, in hopes of gaining enough influence to avoid military entanglements.

Murphy actually used the phrase "public diplomacy," which I think is rather refreshing coming directly from a politician, especially one in his position. I worry whether that part of his message will go unheeded next week, and be overshadowed by the use of force aspect. But maybe it won't be. I'll be looking forward to keeping an eye on what David Cameron's government decides to do about increasing the country's soft power abroad through public diplomacy efforts.

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