So how’s the public diplomacy thing going?
Karen Hughes, the under secretary for public diplomacy, is in the middle of a “listening tour” of the Middle East. Guy Dinmore reports in the Financial Times on how it’s going. The stop in Saudi Arabia was apparently quite an eye-opener: Indignant Saudi women on Tuesday turned the tables on Karen Hughes, the US under ...
Karen Hughes, the under secretary for public diplomacy, is in the middle of a "listening tour" of the Middle East. Guy Dinmore reports in the Financial Times on how it's going. The stop in Saudi Arabia was apparently quite an eye-opener:
Karen Hughes, the under secretary for public diplomacy, is in the middle of a “listening tour” of the Middle East. Guy Dinmore reports in the Financial Times on how it’s going. The stop in Saudi Arabia was apparently quite an eye-opener:
Indignant Saudi women on Tuesday turned the tables on Karen Hughes, the US under secretary for public diplomacy, rejecting her analogy of them as the ?broken wing? of a bird that the US will help fly…. Mrs Hughes, better known as the long-time communications guru for President George W. Bush, began the ?open dialogue? before several hundred women at Dar al-Hekma university by introducing herself as a ?working mom?. She went on to talk about the importance the US attaches to freedom and welcomed a new Saudi labour law that is supposed to open up more job opportunities for women…. Students and teachers lined up at the microphones to express in perfect English their indignance at the stereo-typing of Saudi women as living in a closed society, unable to work or drive or vote. They also slammed the US media for spreading such an image, notably one Oprah Winfrey show that they said presented a Saudi woman beaten by her husband together with the message that theirs was a country to be avoided. ?We are happy, not just content, but happy,? one student objected. Mrs Hughes quickly replied that she thought Arab women were strong and intelligent, but stuck to her guns, saying that Americans ?take their freedom very seriously?, and that means speech, religion, voting and driving ? for work and shopping.
Doesn’t sound great — but read this section, and consider the possible sample bias:
Afterwards, the young women ? many from wealthy families who spend their summers in the west ? were eager to give interviews, explaining why driving was not such a big deal for them, and that the right to vote would come eventually. ?We don?t want the US to force us to bring change,? said one teacher. ?They did not allow the blacks to vote before, and now they are forcing the world to accept their views.? Students described Mrs Hughes as ?very kind? and ?friendly?, but begged to differ on her views. ?I go out with my driver. I go to the beach. I don?t feel caged in,? said one student. ?People think we go on camels and live in tents.? When pressed, they admitted that they would like the right to drive and vote but insisted that reform would come at Saudi Arabia?s pace and choosing. Some complimented King Abdullah for his gradual reform efforts, saying he wanted women to drive but that many conservatives in Saudi society did not.
UPDATE: If this Josh Marshall post is accurate, then the FT has downgraded Hughes from Minister of Propaganda to her actual title.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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