The US doesn’t do diplomacy. Diplomacy is seen as a sign of weakness. Understanding your enemy is viewed as treasonous. Moreover, American foreign policy relies on force, either economic or military to achieve its aims. Because of this reality much of the rest of the world has come to view the US as not agreement capable.
The US proxy war in Ukraine against Russia has brought all of this into focus. The US refused to negotiate with Russia to alleviate Moscow’s justifiable security concerns about Ukrainian membership in NATO and since then has actively sabotaged any and all negotiations to end the fighting. Indeed, the US provoked this war and sabotaged peace at every opportunity
Instead, the US engages in “public diplomacy” aka–propaganda, to sell the proxy war against Russia to the American public, chiefly liberals, who were already primed to despise Russia thanks the national security state depicting Trump as a Russian spy the entirety of his presidency.
Public diplomacy was developed during the Reagan Administration to sell a skeptical public on war with Nicaragua. It was first exposed during the Iran-Contra hearings but received very little attention.
As the Washington media grew bored with the Iran-contra story, articles focused on the celebrity of Lt. Col. Oliver North and narrow questions, such as who authorized a diversion of Iran arms sales profits to the Nicaraguan contra rebels. Yet, the “public diplomacy” campaign was a dramatic tale, too. It was the story of how the top level of the CIA had circumvented law and manipulated U.S. public opinion in support of CIA covert operations in Central America.
Public diplomacy is basically perception management, with the perception of war being the product that needs to be managed. Remember when Andrew Card, George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff admitted that war was a product that you don’t introduce in August?
Public diplomacy exists to influence the opinions of the American people as well citizens of foreign countries, as we can see since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Europe, in particular has been targeted by a vast public diplomacy campaign by outfits like the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). The Atlantic Council is a NATO narrative management firm that is funded by NATO, the US government, the UK government, various other US-aligned states, the arms industry, and numerous billionaires. CEPA’s donor list looks similar to the Atlantic Council’s and includes US arms manufacturers and the US government through both the US State Department and the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy. Both are used to promote the information interests of the US-centralized power alliance in Europe and North America.
And now the US Congress is toying with the idea of declaring Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” when it is Washington-ally Ukraine that is in fact using terror and the US has a long history of employing terrorists to carry out its foreign policies.
But this brings us back to the depressing reality of US foreign policy. Being diplomatic, realist and or conciliatory are problems when every issue is framed through the lens of domestic politics. Moreover, the strongest domestic actor for bellicose foreign policies are the weapons industries, shilled for by the neocons, who have a financial interest in endless war. And when it comes to Russia, the neocon hawks are both bipartisan and firmly in control.
Ambassadors are nominated by incoming administrations for their fundraising prowess, while the State Department and the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy spend their waking hours fomenting coups and whipping up “public diplomacy”. That “public diplomacy” is predicted on American exceptionalism where we are noble while Russia and China are evil is simple-minded and extraordinarily dangerous. We must believe we are the Good Guys because to think otherwise–when we elect our rulers–would make us directly responsible for the suffering of others. It is an attempt to manipulate public opinion, not to deal with very real and pressing diplomacy.
US security strategy is not the work of any single US president but of an continuous national security state, which is largely autonomous, and operates behind a wall of secrecy.
And, it’s not just Russia but China that the US seems bound and determined to enter into conflict with. Lately we’ve had a Congressional trifecta of hubris-laced ignorance, which saw the dispatch of three consecutive delegations that threaten to propel China down the path toward a war with Taiwan it doesn’t want to wage, climaxed by the visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
At the core of all of this is the US attempt to remain the world’s hegemonic power, by augmenting military alliances around the world to contain or defeat China and Russia. It’s crazy dangerous with the district possibility of ending life on earth. However, the neocons, since Reagan Administration, when the term “public diplomacy” came into being, have understood the need to salve the public’s conscience, and the apparent willingness of the citizenry to collude in the deception. Indeed, it’s only because of this ongoing “public diplomacy’ that the American people are not demanding that the US cease its provocations that have the potential for life ending nuclear war and engage in diplomacy, de-escalation and detente with Russia and China.
Instead, our rulers tell us they have our interests at heart at home, and that they are protecting us from terrorists or communists or the Chinese and or Russians. Domestic politics both reassures us of the establishment’s benevolence or encourages us to become bickering partisans, pitted against each. Meanwhile, we are kept in a state of constant alarm over scary attacks on US interests in foreign lands. And if we want change, we are told, we can always vote for team blue or team red, even if in practice nothing fundamentally alters whichever party is in power.
Meanwhile, the US remains the world’s dominant power. No other country maintains hundreds of military bases scattered throughout the world. The US has spent the 21st century killing people by the millions in wars of aggression. Presently the US is starving entire populations with economic sanctions, military blockades and brazen theft. No other country has been interfering in foreign elections anywhere near as often, while terrorizing populations around the world with wars, covert ops, drone strikes, proxy conflicts, and staged coups and uprisings.
But, thanks to decades of “public diplomacy”, this state of affairs is depicted as mainstream or centrist, not extremist like the icky Trump and his band of MAGA marauders and both political parties are down with it. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that massive amounts of narrative management have gone into creating that consensus. The fact that the social engineers of the oligarchic empire have poured vast fortunes into making sure Americans consent to capitalism, corruption, militarism and murder is the only reason those perspectives are so mainstream that they can be labeled “moderate” or “centrist”.
Unfortunately, all of this lack of real diplomacy and emphasis on “public diplomacy” was manageable when the US was a unipolar power. But the times, as they say, are changing with Russia and China creating a multipolar world that opposes US hegemony.
Reality, to paraphrase Game of Thrones, is coming and promises to be just as brutal as the coldest winter.