Further on JK Glassman and public diplomacy

This hasn't happened in a while, but after taking a few hours to to think it over, I've changed my mind and regret something I posted very recently. This is the glory and the curse of real-time reactions via the internet. The curse is saying something in "public" I would have simply eliminated as an early draft in "real" writing. The corrective (rather than glory) is being able to say quickly: I didn't quite mean that, "that" being this post about Jim Glassman as a successor to Karen Hughes as leader of America's "public diplomacy" efforts.

In four years of reporting on Iraq-war policy and anti-terrorism efforts in general, followed now by a year and a half of living overseas, I have grown increasingly exasperated about the way America's story has been mishandled and debased by those in charge of telling it. The idea of America, in its authentic version, should be attractive and inspiring to people around the world. No, this doesn't mean they will all want to be Americans. It does mean that they can respect us for what we're trying to do. The Atlantic just devoted a whole issue to this very topic.

If the world doesn't feel that way right now, it's largely though not entirely our own fault. Partly it's because of choices we've made. For instance: the process of getting into America legally, as a graduate student or a tourist, has become so insulting and off-putting that fewer people bother to try. But partly the U.S. has suffered because of the way it has tried -- really, hasn't tried -- to understand and address world concerns.

I'm still exasperated at the damage done to my country's reputation and name, and I have very low expectations of what Karen Hughes's successor, whoever it might be, will be able to accomplish. That person will have barely a year to operate; Guantanamo will still be running; there will still be a large U.S. troop presence in Iraq; the current president and vice president will still be in office. But it is possible that the verve, energy, and ingenuity Jim Glassman has shown through his career could be just the traits the person in that situation needs. As I think about him more, and more about the sources of my exasperation, I say: let's see what he can do in this next year.

But I still shouldn't coach the Redskins.