Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has struggled to establish a credible, effective message suitable for competing in modern times. By 9/11, the United States recognized a major deficiency in the ability of its message to combat foreign skepticism, and sought to improve its ability to communicate abroad. That deficiency still exists.
America’s soft power—its attractiveness—is a major and under-nurtured element of America’s influence overseas. If the U.S. wants to inspire others to act in support of its policies—whether that comes in the form of personal, political, or economic action—it cannot accomplish this through hard power sources like military might and financial prowess alone. Instead, image matters. The idea of America is undeniably powerful and is exemplified in the values underlying the very premise of the country. Yet today, America is facing a credibility crisis exacerbated by a mismatch between the message and the reality.
This paper discusses the problems in America’s current message and recommends behaviors to improve its public diplomacy and its credibility overseas.
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