Title page for ETD etd-11192007-141127

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Botes, Marina
URN etd-11192007-141127
Document Title The public diplomacy of the United States of America in the “war on terror”
Degree M (Diplomatic Studies)
Department Political Sciences
Advisor Name Title
Prof A du Plessis
  • target audience
  • educational and cultural activities
  • information activities
  • foreign policy
  • international relations
  • propaganda
  • public diplomacy
  • public diplomacy agent
  • diplomacy
Date 2007-09-05
Availability unrestricted
As a theme of study, public diplomacy has been at the margins of International Relations and Diplomatic Studies, despite recent increased academic interest. However, studies largely remain descriptive and within the rationalist/realist approach, creating theoretical shortcomings. Furthermore, in practice, new manifestations referred to as public diplomacy, have entered the field. A recent manifestation, the case of US public diplomacy in the ‘war on terror’ is viewed as being propaganda. This campaign has thus challenged existing ideas on public diplomacy. This study postulates that due to the political and academic dominance of the US, this case will have far-reaching theoretical and practical implications.

These theoretical shortcomings and new manifestations pose the main research question: What is public diplomacy? Two sub-questions inform this question: How does the US practice public diplomacy? How does US public diplomacy manifest in the ‘war on terror’? A three-step analysis addresses these questions: firstly, a theoretical analysis of the concept public diplomacy with propaganda serving as a counter-reference; secondly, an empirical analysis of US public diplomacy; and, thirdly, a case study of US public diplomacy in the ‘war on terror’. The case study follows two steps, applying a critical approach to reach beyond rationalist premises. The case study has been restricted to information activities of the principal public diplomacy agents and institutions.

The theoretical analysis of public diplomacy indicates that, despite the fact that both practices are foreign policy instruments, and that they have common roots and common dimensions that create a public diplomacy-propaganda nexus, public diplomacy is clearly distinguished from propaganda by its diplomatic essence. The analysis has identified criteria distinguishing public diplomacy and propaganda respectively. The empirical analysis of US public diplomacy indicates that it conforms to the theoretical model. However, US public diplomacy is distinguished by its macro level foreign policy projection of exceptionalism and reliance on military power. The first step of the case study, applying criteria for public diplomacy, has revealed that US public diplomacy in the ‘war on terror’ only partially constitutes public diplomacy. The second step, applying criteria for propaganda, has revealed significant evidence of a propaganda campaign. This study therefore concludes that the information activities in the ‘war on terror’ constitute propaganda more accurately.

In the light of the negative socio- and geo-political effects of the ‘war on terror’ in the Middle East, this study proposes that academic analysis clearly demarcates public diplomacy from propaganda by means of the principles of diplomacy, and also that policy makers refrain from propagandistic practices in public diplomacy.

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