Karen Hughes Named Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy

Karen Hughes, George W. Bush’s longtime political adviser, has been named Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. She will, in essence, be marketing the U.S. brand worldwide.

Bush aide named to key diplomacy post (Boston Globe)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday named Karen P. Hughes, one of President Bush’s closest and most powerful advisers, as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy in a move that officials said is meant to aggressively tackle the plummeting image of the United States abroad, particularly in the Arab world. The appointment of Hughes, a confidante since Bush was governor of Texas, is part of a major effort to revamp the apparatus of US public diplomacy, which studies say has languished over the past decade under poor leadership and inadequate funding.

In speeches yesterday at the State Department, both Rice and Hughes made reference to the failure of the US government to effectively counter negative perceptions of the United States and to the importance of winning hearts and minds abroad to prevent terrorism against Americans. ”Sadly, too few in the world today know about the goodness and compassion and generosity of the American people,” Rice said. ”Too few know, too, that American lives have been lost so that others, including Muslims, might live in freedom and that others might have a future of their own making.”

If confirmed, Hughes would be the third woman to serve in one of six powerful undersecretary posts under Rice. Yesterday, Rice also named Dina Powell, an Egyptian-born former White House assistant to the president, as the next assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs, working under Hughes.


Update (1313): Cori Dauber thinks this was a “blown call.”

When part of the problem is that the Arab world thinks we view them as one great, big, market, and don’t acknowledge them as peers but only as consumers for our stuff, you don’t insult them by bringing in someone who wants to market to them. (And they were right: her comments aside, the United States and her values are not a “brand” to be marketed.)

I disagree. To the extent Arabs think the United States is anti-Muslim, we have a marketing problem. The essence of marketing is communication: getting the audience to understand the value of the thing you’re offering to them.

I’m not sure whether Hughes, who has no diplomatic background, is the right person for the job. But that’s the job.

FILED UNDER: United Nations
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Stephanie Lefevers says:

    In her book “Ten Minutes from Normal”, Karen Hughes states: “To win the war against terror, our country must do a better job of communicating and extending our values–liberty, tolerance and respect for others, dignity for life–but not just with our words or even with our weapons, as important as our military strength is to keeping the peace. Ultimately, the best way to maintain the fine line between good and evil, right and wrong, civilization and chaos, is to do our best to maintain it in each of our own lives.” I believe she’s exactly the right person to “market” our values.