Beyond Benghazi: U.S. Public Diplomacy in Troubled Times.

Author:Earle, Renee
Position:Commentary and Analysis - Interview

October 2016

Interview: Ambassador Thomas Pickering at George Washington University 12/2013

Intro: Despite a VERY rough transcript, this interview with one of the State Department's greats is well worth the slog. Better yet, listen to the audio. Thomas Pickering is as informed as anyone today about the policy and operations of U.S. foreign affairs. Although the piece is titled "Public Diplomacy," the interview goes well beyond the function of PD to give a tour d'horizon of critical issues that continue to occupy a front burner today, including the events in Benghazi and the examination and report that Pickering was asked to produce. He terms much of the media coverage of that event as "qualified for a peculiar Pulitzer Prize of creative fiction."

The interview is informal, largely devoid of political slant, and gives the audience clear-eyed assessments and rare glimpses of behind-the-scenes questions, recommendations--taken and not--, and lessons learned in the conduct of our foreign policy. Pickering addresses the challenges of diplomacy today, operational decision-making in a world of instant information. He discusses Russia, Iran, and regional consequences of the Syrian conflict.

With respect to PD, Pickering reveals his ignored recommendation for how best to structure and utilize Public Diplomacy within the State Department after the United States Information Agency was dissolved in 1999. He and former State Department spokesperson, P.J. Crowley, discuss the importance of considering the broad public dimensions of political decisions. What, at first glance, might seem simple and inconsequential--and a great buzz word--can have unanticipated consequences. Such has been the case with the unfortunate choice of the word "pivot"...

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