As we draw near the eighth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I found Gary Weaver's A Personal Reflection of the development of International Communication very pertinent. As an undergrad, I was very focused on International Relations and never considered the importance or impact of communication about International Relations. It was not until I took a course in Intercultural Communication that I realized the role of Communication in International Relations.
Many researchers have attempted to explain why Islamic extremists hate American culture with such a passion. It is not hard to see why: Americans thrive in a culture that defies the ordinary: success can be gained through hard work, determination, and straight up will to succeed. How we communicate that with the rest of the world is what causes problems and issues in regards to foreign policy and decision making. Many argue that the Bush Administration took it a step to far in the wrong direction, focusing on demonstrating the strength of the American culture through military might and other means (which in turn reminds me of President Teddy Roosevelt sending the Great White Fleet around the world to showcase America's naval superiority). However, I can argue that the Obama Administration has hurt our standing in the world just as much. While giving a speech to the Muslim World in Egypt is a good idea in hindsight, it has given the wrong impression to many. As Americans, we are proud of our hard work, determination, and success and feel that a president apologizing for all of our past actions does not correctly communicate the importance of our standing in the world. It is a sketchy line when it comes to International Communication...do we "beef" up our branding of ourselves in the world, or do we diminish it to make us appear "more like everyone else"? Should we be proud of our culture, success, and the differences that make us stand out, or should we shy away from pointing them out to other countries as though we should apologize for being great? This is a line that all Presidential administrations attempt to define in their own way along their own ideological terms. Is their a right way or wrong way to communicate American culture in terms of achieving foreign policy goals? While our democracy is enriched through the differences and the direct participation of the people, I almost feel that in order to accomplish foreign policy goals it is necessary to have a streamlined, non-changing approach to foreign policy, and not one that changes every four to eight years.
I grasp the fact the International Relations is a dynamic, changing discipline and the approach taken to it is based upon current events, I just wonder if it would benefit our standing in the world and take out the uncertainties present if our government settled on specific International Communication strategies to convey our foreign policy agenda more consistently. Right now, the Obama administration has opened a can of worms in a probe regarding terrorists interrogations used under the Bush Administration. Ignoring our own political leanings, whatever they may be, what message does that communicate to our foreign policy allies and foes? If the next administration investigates the Obama's administration's techniques, we change our message in the international arena again. This appears to be an unsolvable question to an unsolvable problem, but once nonetheless that should be considered and evaluated. I do not have the answers, I do not even know where to begin about discovering such answers. I do however feel that such a conversation should be taking place among the International Relations and International Communication scholars in the United States foreign policy arena, especially as we look back on the attacks of September 11th in just a few short days.