27 February 2010

Public Diplomacy FAIL

(H/T the ever-awesome Jason Sigger)

This week, the international community mocked the US State Department's plan to build a massive Borg Cube in the middle of downtown London. Not surprisingly, commentators, such as Foreign Policy Online's Stephen Walt and The NY Times' Nicolai Ouroussof have decried the new design. Both claim that the design sends the wrong message to the world, as the embassy looks more like a fortress than anything else.

Quoth Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University:

So we have to build embassies that resemble fortresses, and that convey an image of America that is at odds with our interests and our own self-image, and especially with the image that we would like to convey to foreign peoples. We like to think of our country as friendly and welcoming, as open to new ideas, and as a strong, diverse and confident society built on a heritage of pluck and grit. You know, we're supposed to be a society built by generations of immigrants, pioneers, and other determined folk who faced adversity and risk with a smile and a bit of a swagger. Yet the "Fortress America" approach to embassy design presents a public face that is an odd combination of power and paranoia.

Who would have thought we'd be sending a mixed message to the world with the design of fortress-like embassies? Certainly not this particularly snarky captain.

1 comment:

Madhurjya Kotoky said...

Interesting. The US embassy in India does look like a fortress...forget about the design but simply in its inaccessibility and towering high walls and layers of special forces cordon all around. I had written about this sometime back in my site. It does convey a sense of power but also looks lonesome in a beautiful neighborhood with other embassies that look less intimidating.

-- Thanks,

Madhurjya Kotoky