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“A Smarter, M…

by on May 14, 2012

“A Smarter, More Secure America”

This review will critically evaluate the report “A smarter, more secure America” written by Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Smart Power. Since America’s image and influence are in decline, the report advocates for a smarter strategy from the new American administration. The paper argues that the United States should focus in five critical areas: alliances, partnerships, and institutions; global development; public diplomacy; economic integration; and technology and innovation. However, this paper will critically assess only the critical area of public diplomacy which the authors focus on citizen diplomacy.

Initially, the authors enhance the importance to revise public diplomacy in the United States. The American debate regarding this issue disagrees in the allocation of resources and institutional provisions. Also, since decision-makers have undermined public diplomacy as mere propaganda, it had proposed the creation of an independent agency but not the reviving of the United States Information Agency which was the agency responsible for . Also, the authors argue an “effective public diplomacy approach must include exchange of ideas, peoples and information through person-to-person educational and cultural exchanges” (Armitage and Nye 2007:49). Citizen diplomacy has proved to be very effective over the years and it promotes cultural understanding across the globe. Therefore, the report suggests a reinforcement and expansion of America’s study abroad programs and an increase of international students coming to the United States for study or research.

The proposal to create a new independent agency would positively benefit the American public diplomacy. An independent agency would distance public diplomacy from propaganda. In contrast, the creation of governmental institution would mean reviving USIA, which is often called the “Cold War agency” (Cull 2008:483). Therefore, it would be negatively associated with the Cold War and propaganda. In order for this agency to be successful and escape the negative connotation of propaganda, it requires independency from the government. Plus, this status would bring legitimacy and credibility to the institution. This would facilitate its work to promote the American values and ideals abroad since citizens do not consider suspicious information from autonomous organizations as they do from a governmental source (Leonard, Stead and Swewing 2002:56). This way, the establishment of an independent organization to undertake public diplomacy would facilitate and provide freedom to spread the American “message” to foreign audiences due to the separation from the its  administration. 

The report defends a growth in study programs abroad and an increase in international students coming to study or research in the US. Nonetheless, the authors did not develop the argument concerning the integration of international students in the campus life. Since there has been a growing sentiment of repulsion against America, some oppose their culture others oppose their policies, students from other countries should receive some support to avoid a cultural shock (Nye 2004:39). For instance, in 2009 a Nigerian man, previous student at an English University, attempted to explode a bomb while in a flight to the United States (Carter 2009). The student was “radicalised” while at University because he could not adjust to the Western culture (Rayner 2009). For this reason, he felt as an outsider and attempted to explode a bomb in an airplane about to land. Integration of a student in the campus environment might prevent this type of initiatives in the future. Furthermore, the Commission mentions the importance of programs to study abroad programs to foster mutual understanding between different cultures. American isolation in the past decade provoked an anti-America sentiment in different regions, particularly in the Middle East. The anti-America sentiment can be addressed if the country builds bridges with the foreign public (Zaharna 2010:167). This initiative of sending students to study abroad or the other around will build the necessary bridges specifically within or among the younger generation which will lead the world in the future.



Armitage, R. and Nye J., (2007) A Smarter, More Secure America: Report of the CSIS Commission on Smart Power.

Washignton D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Carter, H. (2009) Terror attack on US flight to Detroit investigated in London. [online] The Guardian. Available from: <; Accessed on the 25th of April 2012

Cull, N. (2008) The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American propaganda and public diplomacy, 1945-1989

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Nye, J. (2004) Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics

New York: Public Affairs

Leonard, M., Stead, C. and Swewing, C. (2002) Public diplomacy 

London: Foreign Policy Centre

Rayner, G. (2009). Detroit terror attack: British university ‘complicit’ in radicalisation. The Telegraph [online]. [Accessed 21st April 2012]. Available from: <;.

Zaharna, R. (2010) Battles to bridges: U.S. strategic communication and public diplomacy after 9/11

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan


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