Marc Lynch

America’s Extended Hand

Yesterday afternoon CNAS released another of the papers which has been keeping me away from the blog:   America’s Extended Hand:  An Assessment of the Obama Administration’s Global Engagement Strategy, written with my former Elliott School colleague and current CNAS Vice President Kristin Lord. This report started out with a meeting I convened in September with ...

Yesterday afternoon CNAS released another of the papers which has been keeping me away from the blog:   America’s Extended Hand:  An Assessment of the Obama Administration’s Global Engagement Strategy, written with my former Elliott School colleague and current CNAS Vice President Kristin Lord. This report started out with a meeting I convened in September with a group of high-level administration officials to talk about the follow-up to Cairo and the overall approach to public diplomacy.   Kristin and I originally planned to do a 5 page policy brief, but then it began to grow. We ended up talking to around 50 current and former government officials involved with public diplomacy and strategic communications, and greatly expanding the scope of the analysis. America’s Extended Hand presents a comprehensive overview of how the Obama administration thinks about public engagement, how it has attempted to reorganize the government to deliver on that vision, and how it has performed across a number of crucial issues (including Muslim engagement, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran, China, democracy promotion, and combating violent extremism).  

We argue that the administration has succeeded in its initial goal of “re-starting” America’s relations with global publics, taking advantage of the fresh start offered by the Presidential transition, and has effectively used President Obama’s particular gifts to focus attention and global debate on issues which he has identified as key American priorities. The administration has been less successful, however, at executing engagement campaigns in support of specific tactical objectives, at adapting to changing circumstances and at meeting the high expectations generated by those speeches. With a palpable sense of the Obama bubble deflating, and a pernicious consensus emerging of a “say-do” gap in which the U.S. fails to deliver on its highly public promises, we urge the administration to do more to prepare the ground and to follow through on its engagement.  

America’s Extended Hand goes into considerable detail about the administration’s philosophy, its efforts to reshape the inter-agency process and individual government agencies (from the Defense Department and State Department to the NSC and the BBG), and its efforts across a range of issue areas.  And it makes a number of specific recommendations for how to adapt to the emerging second phase of the administration’s foreign policy.  I’m not going to rehearse all of that detail here — if you’re interested in America’s public diplomacy and strategic communications, download the paper here from the CNAS website.   This report has been a long time in the making — I look forward to feedback and debate! 

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