Can Culture Be Good (Or Effective) Diplomacy?

A conference mounted by the National Arts Journal Program at Columbia University considers the role of American culture in diplomacy. “Would we, for example, be breeding goodwill toward the American way of life by spawning a generation of Iraqi rappers? Or how about appointing as cultural ambassador the documentary director Michael Moore, who used his Oscar moment to pillory the president, thereby making himself a poster boy for freedom of speech? Do we stick to commercial fare and disseminate movies in which American action heroes gun down large numbers of anonymous villains? Or should we funnel funds to an independent American cultural center in Baghdad, whose director might misjudge the local sensitivity to sexually suggestive images and curate a show of, say, the pornographic sculptures of Jeff Koons?”