At the annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum last Saturday, President Obama announced that Rashad Hussain, deputy associate White House counsel, “will serve as a special U.S. envoy to the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference.” An administration official remarked that “[a]ppointing a special envoy to the OIC is an important part of the president’s commitment to engaging Muslims around the world based on mutual respect and mutual interest,” Politico reported.
President Obama’s commitment in Shanghai to “dramatically expand” the number of American students studying in China to 100,000 will take place over a period of four years, according to a U.S.-China Joint Statement issued in Beijing on Tuesday:
“The two countries noted the importance of people-to-people and cultural exchanges in fostering closer U.S.-China bilateral relations and therefore agreed in principle to establish a new bilateral mechanism to facilitate these exchanges. The two sides are pleased to note the continued increase in the number of students studying in each other’s country in recent years.
At a town hall meeting with future Chinese leaders in Shanghai today, President Obama announced his administration’s intention to “dramatically expand” the number of American students studying in China to 100,000:
“We know that more is to be gained when great powers cooperate than when they collide. That is a lesson that human beings have learned time and again, and that is the example of the history between our nations. And I believe strongly that cooperation must go beyond our government. It must be rooted in our people -- in the studies we share, the business that we do, the knowledge that we gain, and even in the sports that we play. And these bridges must be built by young men and women just like you and your counterparts in America.
The Senate added provisions to the FY 2010 Homeland Security appropriations bill on Wednesday that would mandate federal contractor use of E-Verify, CQ.com reports:
The amendment requiring government contractors to use the E-Verify system was adopted by voice vote after a motion to table it failed, 44-53, despite a surprise announcement from the Department of Homeland Security announcing its commitment to take a similar action.
At the same time the House goes to the floor today to pass its version of the State-Foreign Operations spending bill (in which educational and cultural exchanges are funded at $600 million, $33 million less than the Obama administration’s request but a $62 million increase over current levels), the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin work on its own State-Foreign Operations bill. Senators will seek to increase funding for diplomacy and the Foreign Service, “even as overall funding for foreign affairs takes a hit,” reports CQ.com:
President Obama’s trip to Russia this week was an important public diplomacy opportunity, a chance to strengthen a bilateral relationship that has faltered in recent years, and is initially being judged a success, the Washington Post reported:
Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said Obama's visit was more successful than most in Russia had expected. Obama "made all the right sounds in a very respectful way" and did much to reduce mistrust in Moscow, he said.
"It's not only a change in tone. It was a change in substance," he added. "The new agenda is much broader than ever."
The International Relations and Security Network (ISN) reports on the Obama Administration’s attempt to utilize web 2.0 technologies and blend them with public diplomacy to create a new kind of engagement termed “21st century statecraft”:
These 21st-century technologies are not being deployed for their own sake, but to advance a State Department initiative called “21st-century statecraft.”
“The goal is to move beyond just government-to-government relationships and enhance government-to-people and people-to-people relationships around the world,” Alec Ross, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told ISN Security Watch.
Eight former U.S. Secretaries of State jointly penned an op-ed in yesterday’s Politico calling for a drastic increase in U.S. global engagement:
We, former secretaries of state of different administrations and different political parties, and with differing views on many other issues, are nevertheless of one mind on this issue of critical importance to our country’s national security. We call on Congress to act accordingly and fund this critical need.
In a brief profile published today, CQ.com noted the strong support State and Foreign Operations subcommittee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) has long shown for diplomacy and foreign aid:
Emphasizing the need for strong international relationships and increased person-to-person engagement, Judith McHale delivered her first speech as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs yesterday at an event sponsored by the Center for a New American Security. McHale outlined her vision of an American public diplomacy that consists of two principal functions: communication (“the air game, the radio and TV broadcasts…websites and media outreach”) and engagement (“the ground game of direct people-to-people exchanges”).