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Does Bush really care about America's image?

The Economist this week takes a look at the United States' official head marketer, Charlotte Beers. Beers is the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. It's her job to improve America's image overseas.

Beers faces some real challenges — she may not even understand her audience particularly well, it seems — and the recent uproar over the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence hardly helps. But one gets the sense, lately, that the Bush administration (with few exceptions) doesn't so much care about America's image overseas, as its strength. Even Rumsfeld's announcement that the Office of Strategic Influence is being reconsidered was accompanied by a remark that its effectiveness had already been limited by the outspoken response it engendered. It seems the announcement was made for entirely pragmatic (i.e., not principled) reasons. [Update: Rumsfeld, announcing the office has now been closed, confirms this.]

"September 11th turned the job of improving America's image into a highly sensitive political post, requiring diplomacy and knowledge, particularly of the Middle East," the Economist writes. America's actions, however, will speak far louder than our words. Diplomacy and knowledge will hardly be enough, in the hands of an undersecretary — to be effective, they would need to be displayed by our president and commander-in-chief. The Bush administration has made it clear that that is not likely to happen. And if it doesn't, the Middle East's — and possibly the world's — view of America isn't going to improve until well after President Bush has left office, no matter how great a job Beers does.

February 26, 2002 12:49 AM

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