Ryan J. Suto's Blog

25 October 2011

Humanitarian Aid as a Strategic Obligation to the People of Libya

This is another short post gearing up for the APDS Symposium. You can read this one here. Thanks.

Over the past few days the world has witnessed horrible images and stories of the death of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi at the hands of Libyan rebels. I will not describe this below. The biggest fear now must be that this act of lawlessness may be foreshadowing the future chaos to come. The world cannot afford this to happen.

Protests against the regime—and the regime’s reaction—began months before military intervention. However, Gaddafi’s fall was likely accelerated by that military intervention by US-led NATO forces, best characterized by strategic bombings. Now, the oil-rich nation with no recent history of meaningful political process or participation is left with a power vacuum and infrastructure reconstruction. In order to prevent the nation from falling into the hands of another dictator like Gaddafi—and perhaps worse—NATO and the US have an obligation to provide humanitarian aid to the people it had just bombed.

After bombing began, President Obama citied humanitarian concerns for intervening in Libya. He stated a desire to protect the protestors from the brutal hands of a dictator known to have a low tolerance for political dissent. While the US domestic political climate will not tolerate another Iraq—US troops occupying and rebuilding a foreign nation on the ground—our reasons for entering will be compromised if our foreign policy ignores Libya. The state may fall into the hands of a new regime looking to capitalize on the nation’s oil wealth and continue to ignore  the concerns of the Libyan people.

As such, I call on the US and NATO to provide humanitarian relief in the form of medicine, food, water, and other basic supplies much like the Chinese have begun doing. The US should also emphasize other programs such as financial and technical support for rule of law initiates, security, civil society, and governance programs. In short, we need to win “hearts and minds” of the Libyan people.

While this is partly a moral obligation, it is also a strategic obligation. In the coming months and years the people of Libya will be faced with choices—such as their views of the US and whether they wish to be an ally in the fight to bring democracy to the Middle East and North Africa. How we treat the people of Libya—indeed, our public diplomacy in that nation—may determine foreign policy choices of the next Libyan government. While it cannot be said that the future of Libya hinges on US public diplomacy and humanitarian aid, we can play an important role in the outcome of Libya, especial at this most critical hour. Whether the US is seen as liberators or evil-doers, it is imperative that we show the people of Libya that in the end we did not care about killing Gaddafi or access to oil, but that we cared about helping the people of Libya.

24 October 2011

The Deliberate Use of Art Diplomacy

It's a very short post, but I wrote a quick entry drumming up support for the upcoming APDS Symposium. You can read it here. Thanks.

Later this month our Symposium, Building Bridges: The Tools of Public Diplomacy, will feature a panel discussing art as a tool of public diplomacy. It must be noted, however, that such public diplomacy must be used carefully.
        The main goal of art as a tool of public diplomacy is to create a common experience among those of different cultures. Art diplomacy doesn’t often have the feel of an imposition of a policy, and often its lack of an explicit governmental message is its selling point. Such a tool can be used to express similar values in those cultures or even as a simple piece over which to have a conversation.
        However, what art we transmit as ‘American’ must be deliberate. If we as a nation transmit caricatures of our culture abroad, such images will be viewed as accurate. Of all the art that originates from America much of it creates caricatures of American life, often for the goal of parody or comedy. However, this may be lost on international consumers who experience such art decontextualized. Sometimes such art portrays Americans as rich, wasteful, spoiled, racist, xenophobic, lazy, or any other negative characteristic.
        What, then, do we do? Should the U.S. government, through media such as Al Hurra, Voice of America, etc., show the world all our art, and hope they draw the conclusions we support? Or, should the government regulate what American art the world sees, and thus censor and control our own image? If the government picks and chooses, should we export high art or popular art?
        In the end, ethical public diplomacy requires us to be honest in our message and reciprocal in our tactics. Art must be no different. Hopefully on October 27th our questions will be answered.

13 October 2011

My American Values: Introduction

I would like to introduce my new blog series: My American Values. In public diplomacy we often discuss ‘American values’ as a national strength and among our nation’s greatest exports. However, I have occasioned surprisingly little ink spilled on the topic. If such a concept is so important, is it not worth critical investigation, or at least description?

So, for each post I will identify a value of mine from my American perspective. The point of the title and series is not to suggest that these values are exclusive. On the contrary, I think these values are transcendental, and as such deserve to be espoused upon. I use the term ‘American’ to simply denote from where it is that I have received such values. Could these blogs be considered an act of public diplomacy? Probably not, but the explanation and understanding of the American point of view is essential to U.S. public diplomacy.

America is said to be a nation of laws, not men. So, I will generally base such claims of values in legal doctrine and the aspirational language of the founding documents. I generally won’t be arguing history, past practice, foreign influences, pragmatism, culture or partisan stances. While all of these topics are very important to the formation of the values of a people, such topics will merely complicate and the analysis beyond my modest abilities.

For example, while explicit legal American values currently reject racism, American history (and present reality) is marred with and, at times, driven by, racism. But just because this is our reality and our past does not mean that such things are our values. The relationship between an individual’s values and actions are complicated, not to mention that same relationship regarding of a whole nation. Lastly, I don’t propose to identify every American value, just ones which I personally identify and the ones I can tackle in such a format.

I hope you all enjoy reading, and feel free to suggest topics and critiques in the comments below. Keep an eye out for the first post of the series!

List of Series Posts:

06 October 2011

The New World

Information has broadened
More people are able to access information than ever before. The internet, social media and cell phones have distributed information wider and faster than imaginable only twenty years ago. Information and news about any incident on any part of the Earth can travel to your hand or home instantly. While many in the world remain without access or ability to receive such media, the Arab Spring has shown that around the globe, the people increasingly control messaging.
No longer must we rely on the ‘gatekeepers’ to tell us what is important and what is interesting. Websites like Reddit, Twitter, Digg, and more allow we the people to decide for ourselves.

Power has democratized
According to Freedom House In the early 1970s, there were around 40 democracies. Presently, there are over 120, with more on the way. Increasingly, people are making decisions which effect governance and foreign relations. Periods like decolonalization, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Arab Spring show a clear march toward self-determination and democracy. Increasingly, regular people will be able to have a voice in the direction of their government. Governments around the world must listen to their people.
No longer must we rely on elites to communicate our policies and values abroad. We can communicate directly to foreign publics, unmediated and unadulterated, to express our interests and sentiments abroad regarding international concerns. Speaking directly to power now means speaking directly to the people.

Governance has opened
WikiLeaks and Anonymous have shown that now anyone can publish mountains of uncensored data available for the whole world to see. Julian Assange published his leaked information for the world’s publics to see without gatekeeper censorship. If governments do not open themselves by passing Open Government laws and declassifying non-essential material, people like Assange, Bradley Manning, and groups like Anonymous will do it for them.
During the Vietnam War-era, the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times shined the light on the actions of the U.S. Government in Southeast Asia. No longer must we rely on the institutional press to disseminate this information. If we the people wish to know the working of our governments, we have the right, the will, and the power to find out.

Resistance has crowdsourced
The Green Revolution, the Arab Spring, and Wisconsin's protests and #OccupyWallStreet have shown that leader-less protest, resistance, and revolution are all possible and successful. We now can simply crowdsource to define our grievances, goals, desires and needs. Top-down structures are anachronistic and are un-democratic ways to resist the halls of power. Indeed, the present paradigm of such power does not know how to approach a truly egalitarian movement, and thus renders the structure impotent to change in the face of a new global structure.
In the past, revolutions mirrored states: they had a hierarchical structure of authority. No longer must we hope for a Washington, Jefferson, or Madison to come along and lead our movement; we lead the movement ourselves, collectively.

The new world
In the old world, governments, media, military, and economic power was held by elites, influenced and benefitted by each other. Elections and commercial choices were limited and often illusory. However, the changes above are upon us. All of these changes have supported and furthered each other. The combination of all of them has shown to us a new world paradigm of power approaches. We must take this opportunity. We must assert our rights by making our grievances known through this new egalitarian paradigm of power and compel power structures to return to the hands of the people. If we do this we will bring forth a world where real power exists in the hands of all of us, and structures are created to benefit the masses. If we stand up and assert our grievances, we can work together to create the new world.