Photo by Yael Swerdlow
This post grew out of the recent Smith-Mundt Symposium, though since the conference was about a month ago, it is a bit late to the party. Several individuals have already written good summaries of the day’s discussion, so I direct you to those first.
That being said, there are a few points relating to the general conversation on Smith-Mundt and public diplomacy/strategic communications that are worth making (or reiterating).
First my general read-out of the event is that the issue remains quite contentious and with little overall agreement. Many argue the law should be kept, or even strengthened (and its remit expanded to the entire U.S. government) while others argue it should be completely repealed. A third group feel the argument is pointless since the law is out-dated and should be ignored, which can be done since, in the end, there are no “Smith-Mundt police” to arrest anyone for violating the law.
Smith-Mundt is a multi-faceted piece of legislation, dealing with the structure of public diplomacy, creating cultural exchanges, as well as the much argued ban on domestic distribution. Since the latter restriction has become the most contentious part of the act, I will focus my summary and comments here.