USC Annenberg Policy Briefing on AFRICOM given as a part of the Annenberg Washington Series at the University of Southern California Washington, DC office, where CPD Faculty Fellow Philip Seib and USC Annenberg Associate Dean Carola Weil and conference participants reflected on the lessons of AFRICOM.

Officials of the Defense and State departments cite a commitment to public diplomacy as an essential element of AFRICOM, the U.S. military command for Africa created in 2007. Questions remain, however, about whether a military command can and should engage in public diplomacy. This was the central issue at the conference about AFRICOM held at the University of Southern California in February 2008.

Practitioners of public diplomacy—the broader category into which cultural diplomacy falls—have often been criticized for acting as agents of propaganda. However, at the heart of the following paper is the ability of art to explore complex questions in a powerful and creative format, and to act as a driver for dialogue around contentious issues. War, racism, consumerism—all are topics which have been addressed admirably through the medium of theatre in both Britain and America.

Those interested in public diplomacy often to describe public opinion polls as an index of how well people throughout the world regard a country. But people in the public diplomacy community rarely meet with those who conduct such polls in an effort to determine how people are developing their views, in what countries, and why. Nor do they use polls as a way of understanding how public diplomacy or national decision making might be.