Marc Lynch

I have nothing against Judith McHale!

 I hadn’t been planning to post to the blog from the road.  But since Judith McHale was finally officially announced as the nominee for the position of Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, I’ve been bemused to find myself held up by Jim Glassman and others as the face of the opposition to her appointment.  ...

 I hadn’t been planning to post to the blog from the road.  But since Judith McHale was finally officially announced as the nominee for the position of Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, I’ve been bemused to find myself held up by Jim Glassman and others as the face of the opposition to her appointment.  It’s true that I wrote one post on the blog critical of her rumoured appointment… not a campaign, really, but an easy mistake given the obvious, world-shattering power of FP.com blogs! 

 But more seriously, since everyone is quoting the "terrible, terrible pick" line, I guess it’s worth going back to that post to emphasize that that my objection was not personal.  I have no reason to believe that she’s anything but the smart, tough, and experienced woman that her friends and supporters have described.  My criticism was rooted in one thing: that she had no evident experience or background in what I consider to be a vital part of an effective foreign policy apparatus. Here’s what I wrote:

I don’t know Judith McHale at all, and obviously have nothing against her personally. But the position of Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs should go to someone with experience in and a vision for public diplomacy, and who will be in a position to effectively integrate public diplomacy concerns into the policy-making process…..  Whoever is appointed as Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy needs to be in a position to quickly assert authority over an inter-agency balance currently sharply skewed towards the Pentagon. And that’s not even getting into the enormous challenges facing U.S. public diplomacy out there in the real world.

 I didn’t think it was so controversial to suggest that, say, heart surgery should be done by a heart surgeon and not by a smart guy who used to watch ER.  But clearly not everyone considers public diplomacy to be heart surgery…

So what do I think now that she’s been nominated?   I want her to be confirmed, and quickly. After watching the position stand empty for months, just like so many other important foreign policy positions, we need an Under-Secretary to take the job and get started.   The President and the good folks at the NSC have been exemplary on the public diplomacy front thus far, but they can’t do it alone — they need the kind of sustained, ongoing engagement across all levels which the appropriate State Department agencies can and must provide.

So I hope that McHale is confirmed quickly and can get to work.  And I want her to prove me wrong and emerge as an effective advocate for public diplomacy and serious global engagement.  As for what she might focus upon, I laid out some ideas in this piece for the National a few months ago, and expect to have some more to say about this in a few weeks. 

 I hadn’t been planning to post to the blog from the road.  But since Judith McHale was finally officially announced as the nominee for the position of Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, I’ve been bemused to find myself held up by Jim Glassman and others as the face of the opposition to her appointment.  It’s true that I wrote one post on the blog critical of her rumoured appointment… not a campaign, really, but an easy mistake given the obvious, world-shattering power of FP.com blogs! 

 But more seriously, since everyone is quoting the "terrible, terrible pick" line, I guess it’s worth going back to that post to emphasize that that my objection was not personal.  I have no reason to believe that she’s anything but the smart, tough, and experienced woman that her friends and supporters have described.  My criticism was rooted in one thing: that she had no evident experience or background in what I consider to be a vital part of an effective foreign policy apparatus. Here’s what I wrote:

I don’t know Judith McHale at all, and obviously have nothing against her personally. But the position of Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs should go to someone with experience in and a vision for public diplomacy, and who will be in a position to effectively integrate public diplomacy concerns into the policy-making process…..  Whoever is appointed as Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy needs to be in a position to quickly assert authority over an inter-agency balance currently sharply skewed towards the Pentagon. And that’s not even getting into the enormous challenges facing U.S. public diplomacy out there in the real world.

 I didn’t think it was so controversial to suggest that, say, heart surgery should be done by a heart surgeon and not by a smart guy who used to watch ER.  But clearly not everyone considers public diplomacy to be heart surgery…

So what do I think now that she’s been nominated?   I want her to be confirmed, and quickly. After watching the position stand empty for months, just like so many other important foreign policy positions, we need an Under-Secretary to take the job and get started.   The President and the good folks at the NSC have been exemplary on the public diplomacy front thus far, but they can’t do it alone — they need the kind of sustained, ongoing engagement across all levels which the appropriate State Department agencies can and must provide.

So I hope that McHale is confirmed quickly and can get to work.  And I want her to prove me wrong and emerge as an effective advocate for public diplomacy and serious global engagement.  As for what she might focus upon, I laid out some ideas in this piece for the National a few months ago, and expect to have some more to say about this in a few weeks. 

Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).

He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark

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