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August 10, 2006

Karen Hughes is at Summer Camp
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Shadi asks such a good question -- Where is Karen Hughes -- that I thought I'd try to answer it.  And indeed, it wasn't hard.  Just last week, she sat down for an interview with the Dallas News which included this gem of a public diplomacy priority:

summer camps to teach English.

Now, it would actually be a cheap shot to contrast that proposal with the depth of disaster that is our Middle East policy. 

But I can't resist it.  Let's see -- maybe one in Ramallah; one in the Lebanese mountains -- so beautiful; and one each for Iraq's Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites!

Seriously, in places like Indonesia, Turkey, parts of Africa, I think that might be a reasonable idea.  But what it does highlight is the long-term, slow-moving nature of public diplomacy -- and the utter foolishness, or cynicism, of presenting Ms. Hughes' work as the solution to the problem of our terrible image in large parts of the world.

It's like your mama used to tell you about your reputation -- takes a long time to build it up but only a short time to lose it.

(Another reason Ms. Hughes might want to disappear -- release of this study showing that attitudes toward the US actually worsened among Arab students who took in the two US-funded networks, Radio Sawa and Alhurra tv.) 


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Summer English camps? Come off it. Has the Idea Queen, fresh out of real thoughts, now resorted to the out-of-touch senior careerists who think that exchanges solve all? I suppose when your quiver is empty, and there's no poicy behind it to begin with, you go cutesy.

What's the problem from a real PD angle, rather than the 7th floor of State? Summer English Camps sound a lot like Summer Re-Education Camps to much of the world. Why not use Guantanamo for the location as well? We've added blindness to simple-minded tone deafness.

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