While looking for more articles on the subject today, I came across this piece by Helena Finn, published 10 years ago in Foreign Affairs: "The Case for Cultural Diplomacy: Engaging Foreign Audiences". Here's, then, the quote du jour:
During the 1990s, an isolationist Congress, its understanding of the world singularly unsuited to the new realities of American power, challenged the idea that the United States should disseminate information through educational and cultural exchange. Foreign Service positions were cut, leaving many embassies with skeletal public-diplomacy staffs. American Centers, crucial organs of local outreach, shut their doors. The general sentiment in Washington was that the United States could afford to get out of the business of person-to-person interaction: in an age of mass electronic communication, so the thinking went, technology could do it all. ‘What do we need diplomats for?’ asked Ross Perot. ‘Just send a fax.’
10 years ago! Now, it would be a tweet. Or even better -- a drone!
So much has changed since, especially in terms of the American understanding of the importance of public diplomacy... or has it? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...