Public Diplomacy

I’m sure most people have not heard of the term; I certainly hadn’t until recently. Let’s go to Wiki:

“PUBLIC DIPLOMACY refers to government-sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries; its chief instruments are publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, radio and television.”

Which brings us to the tragic case of Anne Smedinghoff who was killed over a week ago in Afghanistan.

Smedinghoff, who was from suburban River Forest, died in an attack that also killed five other Americans more than one week ago.

Early reports said she was in an armed convoy when a suicide bomber detonated explosives, but now, an Afghan television reporter says the group was lost while walking from a book donation event.

The governor of the Afghani province was reportedly to be present at the book donations for the school for girls. So it is likely he was the target, but one cannot rule out Americans being targeted for their public diplomacy’s failure to understand the way Afghans treat women.

An FBI probe into the incident that killed 25-year-old foreign service officer Anne Smedinghoff and the others is still preliminary. … On Thursday, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the group had been walking to the school but could provide no additional details other than identifying the most seriously wounded of three other diplomats injured in the attack. Ventrell said Kelly Hunt, a public diplomacy officer, was being treated at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

(citation omitted)

I understand the engagement of the Afghani people in this ‘public diplomacy’, but sending a unarmed 25 year old girl into a war zone? Doesn’t that raise questions about women in combat? Did the service members protecting her die for public diplomacy? Just how important is this ‘public diplomacy’?

Here’s the troubling part.

Mail received on April 10 at 8:00 pm PST from an FSO:


I knew Anne well. I am sending you this as the Department has been actively recruiting her friends and coworkers to talk to the press or to write about her even while no Department memorial service will be held. Kabul held one, as did Caracas, and I understand the regional bureau did as well. Some posts voluntarily lowered flags to half mast, but no order was sent. I actually understand the flag issue, we don’t lower the flag for every member of the armed forces lost, and Ambassador Stevens, for whom we did lower the flag, was after all the personal representative of the President.

Friends of Anne have been in contact with AFSA to potentially hold a memorial this Friday in their space due to the failure of the Department to provide a time and space. I have to ask why the same Department that actively kept people from talking/writing about Ambassador Stevens even while publicly hailing him is taking this tack now. I and others, have been bothered by what frankly seems like a blatant use of her story for unclear purposes. The fact that the details emerging are now very different from what was originally released, even accounting for the fog of the situation, is also bothersome.

Hoping you can broach the subject. Feel free to email me but I’d appreciate not being named, even by pen name.

Indeed. Why the silence from the administration on Ambassador Stevens?

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