Engaging the Muslim World
November 18, 2013
Public diplomacy supports the interests of the United States by advancing American goals outside the traditional arena of government-to-government relations. Since 9/11, with the rise of al Qaeda and other violent organizations that virulently oppose the United States, public diplomacy in Muslim-majority countries has become an instrument to blunt or isolate popular support for these organizations. Efforts in this direction complement traditional public diplomacy that explains American policies and society to foreign publics. Public diplomacy must take many paths to accomplish its goals in the Arab Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the geographic focus of this study. Their populations are not monolithic. In fact, they are extremely varied within states and across regions. The best public diplomacy is tailored to these differences, with multiple approaches to strategically important segments in each country.
This report identifies six areas of primary concern. The first is a larger strategic issue; the other five are directed at the on-the-ground implementation of public diplomacy: (1) Define the goals; (2) Listen; (3) Measure success; (4) Reach the target audience; (5) Exchange people and ideas; (6) Get outside the bubble. There is no one path to success. Public diplomacy must be consistent, multifaceted, and localized to advance American goals in Muslim-majority countries. This report sketches a way forward to accomplish these goals.
Walter Douglas was the 2011–2012 senior visiting State Department fellow at CSIS. He is currently minister-counselor for public affairs at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, India.