January 30, 2011

Re: Obama’s Missed Public Diplomacy Opportunity in Egypt

With all of the events that have happened in Egypt in the past week, there is a great opportunity for the U.S. to reach out to the Egyptian public in a Public Diplomacy effort. In his blog post, “Obama’s Missed Public Diplomacy Opportunity in Egypt,” Philip Seib talks about such an opportunity he believes slipped out of President Obama’s hands. Seib said that the President could have come out and made a statement for the peaceful transition from current Egyptian President Mubarak and shown the Egyptian public [not to mention the entire world] that the U.S. will no longer promote, “bought-and-paid-for dictators.”

While reading this blog I thought about the Cowan and Arsenault article, “Moving from Monologue to Dialogue to Collaboration: The Three Layers of Public Diplomacy”. In this situation, Seib is clearly and advocate of the monologic layer of P.D. Seib said that a clear, one-way message from the United States that this type of government will no longer be tolerated and we were on the side of the people would help our P.D. efforts in Egypt. I would agree that a clear and concise message from the U.S. about our stance (a stance that is sans Mubarak) would be a benefit to our image in Egypt.

But could any of the other layers of P.D. be applied to this situation? For a dialogue, perhaps a U.S. high ranking official listening the plights and arguments of Egyptian citizens and taking an active role in looking for short and long term solutions. Maybe a collaborative approach could involve the U.S. embassy in Egypt actively helping to create a new government with the people? I don’t know if these options are logistically possible or if we would consider them, so I would have to say that I agree with Seib. In a situation as precarious as the one in Egypt, there is no time for the U.S. to have a play-it-safe approach. The time for monitoring the situation has long passed and there are people’s lives that are hanging in the balance. The words of the president of the United States would go a long way in helping to facilitate the transition to new leadership in Egypt and we should not let any more opportunities (if we are afforded them) pass us by.


Philip Seib, "Obama’s Missed Public Diplomacy Opportunity in Egypt." Jan 30, 2011

Geoffret Cowan and Amelia Arsenault, "Moving from Monologue to Dialogue to Collaborations: The layers of Public Diplomacy."


  1. UPDATE:
    Just read in the Washington Post that the Obama administration has indeed moved its stance to one of peaceful transition and Secretary of State Clinton went on several morning shows to convey the administrations stance and there have been talks between top U.S. and Egyptian and regional advisers about a transition.

  2. At the collaboration level, what can the US really do??? It seems that historically, when we try to 'work with' another country it is really just viewed as the US trying to play puppet master and make sure everything turns out in a manner that will most benefit us. Then again, when we do 'nothing' it looks just as bad. It's a paradox... perhaps the US should just focus on sustaining current public diplomacy efforts and send out the message that we support what is going on without directly telling Mubarak to step down.