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Engaging Intensely Adversarial States

PI: Geoffrey Wiseman, University of Southern California

Year selected for award: 2011

Engaging Intensely Adversarial States: The Strategic Limits and Potential of Public Diplomacy in U.S. National Security Policy

Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Wiseman, University of Southern California

Year of Award: 2010-2016

Managing Service Agency: National Science Foundation

Project Description:

This comparative and cross-regional project systematically examines the challenge (limits) and opportunities (potential) of U.S. public diplomacy under conditions of restricted U.S. diplomatic relations with ten intensely hostile states- Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, USSR/Russia, Syria, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The cases review the costs and benefits of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the publics of these adversarial states as a way to influence their governments. “Adversarial states” are defined as states where the situation is short of conventional war and where the U.S. maintains limited or no formal diplomatic relations with the government. In such circumstances, “public diplomacy” – the means by which a country communicates and engages with citizens in other countries through both official and private institutions and individuals – becomes extremely important for shaping the context within which the adversarial government makes important decisions affecting U.S. national security interests. The cases examine the role of both traditional and public diplomacy with adversarial states.

The main theoretical claim being examined is that the absence of full diplomatic relations with adversarial states weakens U.S. public diplomacy and hence U.S. national security. While there is considerable prima facie evidence that conditions of less than full or no official diplomatic relations seriously weakens the U.S.’s capacity to influence publics in adversarial countries, the aim is to assess systematically the evidence via the ten case studies.