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Research Report

The Geopolitics of ‘Hearts and Minds’: American Public Diplomacy in the War on Terrorism

Anja Sletteland
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2008
Pages: 124

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 2-4)
  2. (pp. 5-6)
  3. (pp. 7-7)
  4. (pp. 8-8)
  5. (pp. 9-12)

    “Why do they hate us?” President George W. Bush’s question in his address to the Congress on 20 September 2001 reflected the broad post-9/11 discourse of shock and incomprehension. Accompanied by a reinvigoration of public diplomacy to counter the hostility against the US, particularly in Arab and Muslim countries, the phrase has in international media become a symbol of American ignorance. Critical proclamations such as the ironic suggestion that “it’s not the policy that’s the problem, it’s just that we’re misunderstood” have branded public diplomacy as an arrogant strategy for manipulating foreign audiences.

    Out in the field and behind the...

  6. (pp. 13-28)

    The term ‘public diplomacy’ was first used in 1965 with the establishment of the Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy. Until then, the concept was known as ‘propaganda’¹, for which the term public diplomacy originated as a euphemism. However, this definition is somewhat dated, as the current trend of public diplomacy involves much more and sensitive practitioners reject the use of propaganda in favour of cross-cultural learning and dialogue. Since the beginning of the Cold War, public diplomacy has been a central tool for promoting the US and American interests abroad. Following the terrorist attacks on World Trade Center...

  7. (pp. 29-46)

    The analytical purpose of this thesis is to find out how geopolitical reasoning direct public diplomacy practices and messages in the war on terrorism era. Such an analysis is about how meaning is produced, reproduced and changed, and not to assess the legitimacy or truthfulness of any claims of reality. Discourse analysis is suited for this purpose because it seeks to find the systems through which the world appears as meaningful to subjects. This thesis draws from the terms and concepts from different discourse theories. A moot point among discourse theorists relates to whether different approaches with diverging methodological foundations...

  8. (pp. 47-58)

    A typical identity marker that distinguishes the discourse analysis from other analytical strategies in the social sciences is its approach to ontology and epistemology. Ontology is the study of the existence and seeks to describe the basic categories of being, and epistemology is the study of the nature and scope of knowledge. Contrary to other social scientists that mainly focus on ontology, a discourse analyst is less interested in the being than the becoming – how and why objects have come to appear the way they do (Neumann 2001). The object of analysis in this thesis has been defined through...

  9. (pp. 59-82)

    The concept of ‘geopolitical rationale’ of American public diplomacy requires differentiation; as a singular rationale representing the practice does not exist. It is rather subject to discursive struggle, advocated by different agents. In this chapter, the geopolitical rationale will be analysed through a classification of discourses that struggle for the definition of the geopolitical situation, so-called geopolitical discourses. These discourses constitute an order of discourse described as “public diplomacy in the war on terrorism era” (PDWTE). Although the current public diplomacy era involves more than can be related to the war on terrorism, this geopolitical situation has such a structuring...

  10. (pp. 83-100)

    The advertising campaign Shared Values Initiative from 2002 is without doubt the most debated public diplomacy effort in the war on terrorism era. Although the campaign is an early representative of this era, its continuing controversy reveals the rules and boundaries for the State Department public diplomacy discourse and makes it particularly interesting as a case. It has both politicizing and marketizing elements, and evolves in interplay with securitizing discourses. As an advertising campaign, the strategic nature of the message also highlights the geopolitics of the discourse.

    The campaign was the brainchild of then Under Secretary for public diplomacy and...

  11. (pp. 101-104)

    The subject of this thesis is the geopolitical rationale of American public diplomacy in the war on terrorism era. A ‘geopolitical rationale’ is a theoretical concept that refers to spatialpolitical networks of power embedded in reasoning and practices. As the thesis shows, American public diplomacy is not a uniform concept, but has developed through competing geopolitical discourses, and this observation explains some of the confusion concerning its purpose and practice. The discourses represent diverging, and often contradictory, public diplomacy practices in the war on terrorism. I have labelled these discourses securitized, marketized and politicized in accordance with how they construe...

  12. (pp. 105-108)