A lot has been made of the claim that electing Barack Obama, a black man raised overseas, would be enough to change the world's perception of America. Clinton supporters justifiably dismiss this as a flimsy argument. But Marc Lynch does a great job of analyzing the two candidates' positions on public diplomacy to the Arab world--a crucial component in improving our image abroad. Contrary to Obama's stereotype of being full of meaningless rhetoric, Lynch highlights his substantive and on-target policies in this arena, such as his commitment to hold a summit with leaders of the Muslim world in the first 100 days of his administration and launching an "America's Voice Initiative" modeled after the Peace Corps. Lynch turned up empty-handed when searching for similar public diplomacy initiatives on Clinton's platform, a surprise for the self-proclaimed super-wonk:
Her Foreign Affairs essay says not a single word about public diplomacy or the war of ideas, or even hints at the notion that there might be a vast, complicated Muslim world out there beyond al-Qaeda impatient for real dialogue with a post-Bush America. When she talks about engagement, she seems to mean either talking to friendly leaders or working within institutions. I searched her campaign web site in vain for her ideas on the subject: the term "public diplomacy" turns up only one, unrelated hit on her campaign site, "war of ideas" none, "dialogue and Islam" none. Even her big foreign policy address last week at GWU - right across the street from where I was teaching at the time - began by proposing to restore America's moral authority but never offered a single word about public diplomacy or international dialogue or the internal debates in the Muslim world. Even when the address closed by reciting all the "tools" which she would use, public diplomacy didn't make the laundry list. In a foreign policy community saturated with recommendations on public diplomacy and the war of ideas, this absence has to be intentional. Combine the silence on public diplomacy with her decision to highlight at every opportunity her Bush-like refusal to talk to problematic foreign leaders as her main point of disagreement with Obama, and you get something which looks... well, all too familiar (no wonder those bastions of liberal foreign policy Powerline and Commentary have got her back).
So while Hillary may be ready to man the "red phone" at 3 a.m. while your children are sleeping, what is she going to be doing the 99.9% rest of the time to heal our relationship with the Muslim world?