The whole time I was reading this article, I so wished to have to opportunity to say to Karen Hughes, "Pot, meet kettle." There's something about this position in general and the way that Karen Hughes sees her job specifically that sets my teeth on edge. Maybe it's because her ironically-titled "Listening Tour" in 2005 did everything but. I can't help but think that with Karen 'waging peace' (another cringeworthy phrase), it may be a very long time before we see anything like that.
As under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Karen Hughes leads efforts to promote American values and combat ideological support for terrorism around the world.
Her portfolio includes cultural programs, public affairs and international information. Hughes, a transplanted Texan who came to Washington with President George W. Bush, formerly managed the White House press and speechwriting offices.
She talked about her new role - what she calls "waging peace" - and how religion can be used to help sell the U.S. image abroad. Following are excerpts:
Q: What does your mission with the State Department entail?
A: I view my job as "waging peace," reaching out to the world in a spirit of respect and partnership.
We've found one of the most effective ways to interact with people is through exchange programs. And because of the presence of religion in the ideological struggle against terrorism, we sponsor exchanges of clerics.
We brought clerics from Saudi Arabia and Jordan to America, and got reports that after their visits, their sermons, which had been very negative, became more positive in regard to America and Americans.
There's also "diplomacy of deeds" - things we do as government and private American citizens to help people around the world have better lives. Some Americans are motivated by faith to travel to help make a positive difference. Others go just because they care.
Q: How important is religion in your mission?
A: Religion is especially important as we confront ideological support for terrorism. We have to recognize we are up against a group of violent extremists who pervert religion to justify their acts of mass murder.
When I took this job, President Bush encouraged me to encourage interfaith dialogue, because all major world faiths teach that life is precious and taking innocent life is wrong. Yet, around the world every day, extremists are taking the lives of innocents. Unfortunately there seems to be no safe or sacred place.