A Case for Congressional Funding: International Exchanges & Public Diplomacy

 

For centuries the United States has been at the forefront of the international community. The nation’s international leadership is evident through its economic, military, and political sphere of influence. To invest in international exchange and public diplomacy is to indirectly invest in these components of leadership. Long term benefits of increased funding for international exchange include economic opportunities, military and political allies in the face of foreign aggressors that compromise democratic practice, and cooperation in the face of international crises. Failure to fund international public diplomacy results in failure to support long term foreign relations by hindering preexisting relationships and stagnating the development of new ones, ultimately compromising national security.

 
United States diplomats bear the responsibility of representing the values of the United States while overseas. In exchanging cultural practices, these diplomats acquire regional specific knowledge while permeating U.S interests into foreign communities. Such exchanges are crucial for establishing the foundation for successful economic partnerships, planting the seed for open markets and promoting economic reform where necessary. While economic success may seem independent of political cooperation, international trade often immediately suffers in the wake of political turmoil. Where diplomacy can be an effective soft power tool, funding it can prevent coercion resulting in military escalations.

 

The United States’ military is an effective source of hard power that preserves national security through international intervention. Foreign countries often misinterpret the United States as a militaristic bully. While intervening in wars and providing military support to foreign entities, it is never the United States’ intention to declare martial law nor promote a stratocracy abroad. This is where international public diplomacy as soft power aides in expressing the United States’ intentions. Funding International exchange allows the opportunity to defy such misconceptions. In further relation to the military, advocacy for international exchange is crucial in creating international allies to contend with terrorist organizations. For the sake of national security as well as the preservation of democratic nations abroad, international diplomacy ensures involvement of the international community in combating such global threats and resolving international crises.

 

Some of the most threatening crises that the international community faces cannot be resolved by economic or militant initiatives. Epidemics such as Ebola and Zika or natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes force citizens to relocate and even leave thousands displaced. Providing aid to countries in desperate need exemplifies the United States’ leadership in the international community. Tragic as it is, countries in need of humanitarian and health aid allow an opportunity for the United States to further maximize its sphere of influence. Organizations such as USAID rely on congressional funding in order to coordinate with foreign countries. Investing in such international exchange not only ensures that diplomats accurately serve the United States overseas; it supports a positive representation of the United States in the eyes of foreigners. Admittedly, the benefits to the United States in providing such aid are not immediate. However, establishing these foreign relations make countries more likely to comply and reciprocate in the future when needed.

 

To increase funds for international exchange and public diplomacy is to invest in the future of the United States. While the effects are long term, the eventual benefits ensure national security and promote international peace. Whether effective in boosting the economy, combating terrorists, preserving democracies, or fighting humanitarian and health crises, public diplomacy indirectly supports each initiative through time and continual funding. International public diplomacy is not finite, continuous funding is critical in order to maximize its potential. Allocating funds elsewhere may bring about short term, tangible results but the costs should never compromise the foreign relations established thus far and those that need to be developed.

 

 

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