BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Coming this fall, the White House will have more control over efforts to shape America's image abroad. The Bush administration announced this week the creation of a permanent office of global communications, expanded from the campaign to counter anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan during the fighting there. The move comes amid rumblings in the White House and Congress for a complete overhaul of the ways America attempts to win over the hearts and minds of foreigners. The Council on Foreign Relations released a well-timed report this week suggesting several reforms in U.S. public diplomacy. Joining us now is David Morey, co-chair of the task force responsible for that report. David, welcome to On the Media.
DAVID MOREY: Thank you. Good to be here.
BOB GARFIELD: I want to get to a number of your recommendations, but first tell me what you found out about how the citizens of other countries view the United States. Some of the adjectives within your report are arrogant, self-indulgent, hypocritical, inattentive, unwilling or unable to engage in cross-cultural dialogue.
DAVID MOREY: You know we have a real challenge. There's an awful lot of mischaracterization of America out in the various parts of the world, but across the board America is perceived to not have empathy. And by the way, it's not just in the Middle East -- it's in other regions in the world. It's even represented by misunderstandings between ourselves and our allies.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. There's the context. What grade would you give America's public diplomacy campaign to date?
DAVID MOREY:It's not a good grade. We began to disassemble public diplomacy throughout the post Cold War period over the last 10 year; in effect de-funded it. You know we really weren't geared up for the new battle that involves information. So I think by any measure public diplomacy is in crisis, or something between crisis and severe challenge. And I think we've got to completely revolutionize the way we look at this.
BOB GARFIELD:Your task force report coincided with the announcement from the Bush White House about the establishment of a permanent office of global communications. Do you think that's a-- important step?
DAVID MOREY: Yeah, I think this office is a good first step in terms of centralizing strategy near the White House. You know if you look at a number of policies that the United States has taken over the last several years, Kyoto, the [...?...] land mine treaty, the International Criminal Court, the comprehensive test band treaty -- agree or disagree with the policies -- I think it's clear we could have done a better job at defining the context of those policy decisions. In the case of Kyoto, it, it positioned the United States as an anti-environmental nation. I think it's much more complicated than that. So we have to be out there aggressively explaining the issues and values behind American policies.
BOB GARFIELD:Well by what mechanisms? It was certainly easy for me to read the administration's rationalizations on Kyoto. Irrespective of whether I agreed, all the information's there for me to make a judgment.
DAVID MOREY: You have access to NPR! For example. I mean a lot of people don't in foreign countries. In Saudi Arabia for example, 50 percent of the population's under 20, and of that 50 percent, those who are exposed to the internet and satellite TV have a 20 percent higher favorability toward the U.S. Look at some ongoing initiatives that make sense. There's the Radio SAWA [sp?], the Middle East Radio Network, which is a 30 million dollar program targeted to youth in the Middle East. That's an excellent example of a program that has been based on research, that has been well thought out strategically, and that will I think be part of on ongoing effort to allocate more funds toward television which is a big part of the battleground here. The idea of putting Secretary Powell on MTV is an excellent idea. That reached into a lot of communities and I think was very effective.
BOB GARFIELD:Part of the report focuses on how U.S. officials treat foreign journalists who I guesses get short shrift in o--in official circles. Is that true? Is there a tendency to dismiss foreign journalists as marginal and unimportant?
DAVID MOREY: The report does conclude that we need to do more to increase the service toward foreign journalists. We even thought of an Islamic press institute that we may want to look at creation thereof, looking at maybe holding a conference for foreign journalists so that you can get a, a systemized set of briefings by high level government officials. We have to do more to provide access and information to foreign journalists because after all they are a critical outlet.
BOB GARFIELD:Let me tell you something that concerns me. If American politicians cannot explain to their own citizens the rationale behind policy decisions without grossly distorting them the way they do in elections, how in the world can the United States be expected to explain its policy to people who are being propagandized, to - in Muslim madrassahs and elsewhere?
DAVID MOREY: Well I think it, you're, you're touching on both the curse and the blessing of the information revolution. You know we have more information than at any time in history which necessarily demands that people get more succinct and more effective in the way they communicate because their attention span is diminished. But I think there's some fundamental facts and arguments that can be gotten out into the international community that are helpful to America. And let me give you some examples. How many moderates in Muslim countries think about and understand the last four military inven--interventions that America partook in?-- involved to some extent pursuing and helping Muslim interests? You know the case of Somalia; before that Kuwait; the liberation of Kuwait. And the case of Bosnia and Kosovo. You know the fact that 500 Muslims died in the World Trade Center? The fact that the FBI recently asked for 200 Arabic speakers and 15,000 volunteers came forward. I mean there's some fundamental facts about Muslim life in America that have to be communicated, and I'm saying we've got to be more creative and, and yes, more strategic. We've got to even be a little revolutionary the way think about getting this message across.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. David Morey, thank you very much.
DAVID MOREY: Thank you, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD:David Morey is the co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Public Diplomacy, the founder and CEO of DMG Incorporated, and an adjunct professor of International Relations at Columbia University.