Private Universities, the State and Soft Power: the. American University of Beirut and the Université Saint- Joseph de Beyrouth - PDF

Private Universities, the State and Soft Power: the American University of Beirut and the Université Saint- Joseph de Beyrouth Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen, Aalborg Universitet, Abstract

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Private Universities, the State and Soft Power: the American University of Beirut and the Université Saint- Joseph de Beyrouth Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen, Aalborg Universitet, Abstract This paper contributes to the understanding of the soft power of private foreign-affiliated universities and the interaction between such universities and the state for university soft power and national soft power. The analysis shows university soft power in the Middle East host society and its basis of academic excellence and biculturalism. Historically, university soft power has been limited first by proselytizing and later by unpopular American and French foreign policies. These universities have previously undescribed reverse university soft power in the West on behalf of the Middle East: advocating Middle East interests and raising moral, political and financial support for education, healthcare and development in the region. France has since the 1880s pursued national soft power through the Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth (USJ). The USA has pursued national soft power through the American University of Beirut (AUB) since the 1950s. University soft power has been furthered by state financial and academic assistance to academic excellence, while too close association with the state has threatened university soft power. The universities have contributed to the national soft power of the USA and France concerning milieu goals of attraction to education, language and liberal norms among elites. The universities have not contributed to national soft power regarding 1 acceptance of unpopular foreign policies in the Middle East, which was also not a university or government goal. Introduction: Soft Power of Transnational Actors The American University of Beirut (established 1866) and the Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth (1875) as private American- and French-affiliated universities in the Middle East have received much policy attention from the USA (since the 1950s) and France (from the 1880s) for soft power purposes. The universities continue to receive such attention, and the AUB play a central role in, for instance, the Tomorrow s Leaders Scholarship Program of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, which is an important part of current US soft power policy in the Middle East. The French state continues to support the USJ for soft power reasons. This long-running policy interest has not been matched by corresponding scholarly attention concerning the soft power of these universities and their contributions to the soft power of the USA and France. This lack of attention reflects gaps in the literature regarding explaining the soft power of transnational and other non-state actors, historical developments of soft power, and universities as transnational actors in world politics, which this paper seeks to address. The literature on soft power states that the soft power at the disposal of states is often highly dependent on the soft power resources of non-state actors beyond the control of the state (Nye 2004, Lord 2006, Hocking 2005, Riordan 2005). Accordingly, there is a growing awareness of the importance of such non-state resources and networks for states pursuing soft power. However, these questions are not addressed adequately even by Nye himself (Zahran, Ramos 2 2010) or in the literature which ends up focusing on the narrow soft power of the state pursued through public diplomacy. In the volume on The New Public Diplomacy (Melissen 2005b), Brian Hocking (Hocking 2005) and Shaun Riordan (Riordan 2005) outline a development from a hierarchic state-centered oneway public diplomacy to a network based public diplomacy created in the interface between the state, civil society organizations, educational institutions and business among others. Such networks engage its members and audiences in dialogue where legitimacy is a crucial currency and information moves in many directions. However, this awareness is not coupled with adequate analysis and explanation of non-state actor soft power and its relation with the national soft power at the disposal of states. The war on terror and the USA s difficult relations with the Middle East have spurned interest in the role of soft power and public diplomacy for this difficult relationship. Carnes Lord (2006) in his study of soft power in the war on terror acknowledges the importance of non-state actors such as business, diasporas and education, but has great issues with the uncontrollability of non-state actors and in the end focuses overwhelmingly on US government policies and resources. William Rugh (2006) gives an overview of US public diplomacy in the Middle East, but limits himself to the efforts of the US government. In the edited volume on the US and Japan as soft power superpowers (Watanabe, McConnell 2008), there is characteristically for de-militarized Japan significant attention to education (Altbach, Peterson 2008, Akiyoshi 2008, Mashiko, Miki 2008), popular culture (Allison 2008, Yoshiko 2008, Tsutomu 2008, Fraser 2008), sports (Guthrie-Shimizu 2008) and civil society (Repeta 2008, Katsuji, Kaori 2008), but again 3 insufficient analysis of the basis and extent of non-state actor soft power and in the end emphasis on state public diplomacy policy (Seiichi 2008, Crowell 2008, Naoyuki 2008). This inadequate analysis of non-state actors soft power and focus on state public diplomacy is also the case concerning other countries soft power, such as Canada (Potter 2009) or China (Guo 2008, Li 2009). The observations of the importance of non-state actor resources and networks raise a number of current and historical questions concerning: What is the extent and basis of the soft power of non-state actors toward different state and non-state actors? How is such non-state actor soft power affected by relations with the state and public policy? Does non-state actor soft power contribute to national soft power? Can the state pursue national soft power through non-state actors? These are the questions addressed in this paper. Education and international educational exchanges receives significant scholarly and policy attention for American soft power and public diplomacy purposes (Nye 2004, Nye, Owens 1996, Williams 2004, Rice 2006, US White House 2006, Phillips, Brooks 2008, Center for Strategic & International Studies 2009, Atkinson 2010, Geiger 2010). This attention has, however, mainly been focused on foreign civilian or military students coming to the USA (Altbach, Peterson 2008, Atkinson 2010, Wilson, Bonilla 1955, Watson, Lippitt 1958, Selltiz et al. 1963, Richmond 2003) and not private American- or other foreign-affiliated universities abroad. Soft power is a recent concept in IR, but an old phenomenon in international politics. This historical pedigree is illustrated, for instance, by France, which at least since the court of Louis XIV through its various republican regimes has been extremely conscious of its message 4 conveyed abroad (Olins 2005) and use of cultural diplomacy (Sretenovic 2009). Yet, there is little analysis of historical cases or long-term historical developments of soft power or soft power policies. US Cold War policy has received some attention (Geiger 2010, Parmar 2010, Krige 2010). A rare example on early soft power is Sheng Ding s (2008) discussion of the historical soft power of classical Chinese culture. This paper analyses the development of the soft power of transnational actors, private foreign-affiliated universities, throughout their histories from their founding in 1866 and Universities are overlooked in the IR literature on transnational actors, even though, they often historically have been and continue to be heavily involved in Nye s and Keohane s global interactions of moving information, money and people across state boundaries (Nye, Keohane 1971, Bertelsen, Møller 2010, Bertelsen 2009). This role is clear from the historical literature on the two universities in this study and is acknowledged in the literature on private higher education in the Global South in educational studies (Altbach, Levy 2005, Altbach 1999), but absent in the IR literature on transnational actors. Research on transnational actors in IR also does not give sufficient attention to historical developments, which Fred Halliday quoting Martin Wight terms presentism, the exaggeration of the novelty of the present (Halliday 2001: 27-28). This paper follows the development of important transnational actors, private foreign-affiliated universities, from their founding in the late 1800s. Nye defines soft power as when others adapt desired behavior through attraction or cooptation. Soft power is at work, when persuasion is achieved without threats or exchanges. According to Nye (Nye 2004) the soft power of a state relies on three resources: culture (if it is 5 attractive to others), political values (when they are being observed at home and abroad), and foreign policy (when seen as legitimate and with moral authority) (Nye 2004). Power is always contextual (Baldwin 1979), and soft power particularly so due to its dependence on the reception by interpreters and audiences (Nye 2004). This dependence dictates that soft power is rather with than over somebody. How this attraction works deserves close attention, and Steven Lukes (2007) and Janice Bially Mattern (2007) raise the question of attraction through manipulation or coercion. Power is always contextual (Baldwin 1979), and soft power particularly so due to its dependence on the reception by interpreters and audiences (Nye 2004). Therefore, it is potentially problematic to use terms as governments exercising or wielding soft power for two reasons highlighted here: the non-state basis of much soft power beyond government control and the dependency on acceptance by the receiving audience (Nye 2004). This dependence dictates that soft power is rather with than over somebody, and it is clearer to talk about having or holding soft power than exercising or wielding it. These observations contribute to understanding the soft power of the two universities here as transnational actors and the relationship with the soft power of the US and French state. These universities as transnational universities held and hold significant soft power in their own right. It is important to keep in mind that non-state actors can hold soft power of their own separate of the state (Nye 2004). This soft power of the universities has contributed to the soft power the US and French state hold in the Middle East. The US and French state understand this contribution and support the universities materially to augment their national soft power. On 6 the contrary, US and French Middle East policy has been detrimental to university soft power. It is, thus, not a question of the US or French government exercising soft power through these universities, or the soft power of the universities being an extension of the soft power of the state. The soft power of the private foreign-affiliated universities here is termed university soft power. University soft power is here operationalized as behavior by outsiders to the universities, which is desired by the universities and based on attraction or co-optation. It is, thus, a behavior- and not a resource-based operationalization. Desired behavior is first and foremost embracing the mission of the university, whether proselytizing in former times or later secular education according to American or French traditions. Acceptance of the universities, and moral, political and financial support from a wide range of private and public actors in the Middle East, the USA and France are other important desired behavior. Such support reveals support for the mission of the universities. The motivations for desired behavior show the basis of the soft power of these universities. The absence of university soft power is displayed through rejection of the mission of the university, denial of support or political or violent attacks on them. This university soft power is distinct from the national soft power, which is defined here as the public- and privately-based soft power at the disposal of the state. University soft power with students, their families and the host state is analyzed in University Soft Power with Middle Eastern Students and Host States. This paper also introduces the term of reverse university soft power: the soft power of this American- and French-affiliated university vis-à-vis American and French society and state. Reverse university soft power with 7 academia, philanthropy and business in the USA and France are analyzed in Reverse University Soft Power in the American and French Societies of Origin. The relations between the universities and the US state concerning the reverse soft power of the universities vis-à-vis the US and French state, the interaction with US and French public policy, and contributions to US and French national soft power are analyzed in The Universities and the US and French. Soft power is usually more effective in achieving, what Arnold Wolfers (1962) called milieu goals than possession goals (Nye 2004, see also Melissen 2005a). This difference is at the core of this university soft power, its relations to the state and contribution to national soft power. According to then AUB President John Waterbury, graduates of the AUB may continue to resent U.S. policies and criticize U.S. leadership, but they want to import its institutional successes in governance, legal arrangements, and business organization (2003: 67). Methodology: Structured, Focused Comparison of University Soft Power The analysis of university soft power vis-à-vis different actors is conducted as a structured, focused comparison (George, Bennett 2005) between the two universities of: (i) university soft power with Middle Eastern students and the host state; (ii) reverse university soft power in the American or French society of origin; (iii) relations with the US and French state and public policy; and (iv) contribution to US and French national soft power. This comparison tests actual and not potential soft power behavior and examines the status of the universities in practice, because of the analysis of relations between universities and outside actors and of the actual behavior of these actors. 8 This structured, focused comparison is based on historical literature on the universities and 60 interviews with board members, presidents and senior administrators, faculty from all disciplines, local and foreign students, US and French diplomats, lobbyists in Washington DC, US congressional staffers and US civil servants. The broad range of interview persons ensures an all-round view of the relations of the universities with their Lebanese host society and their societies of origin in the West. Individual interviews are not referenced as promised to interviewees. The method of structured, focused comparison overcomes the lack of opinion data from students or the public on these universities and steers the analysis clear of unstructured anecdotal evidence. The analysis does not focus on illustrious alumni. Such evidence is anecdotal and unsystematic in the absence of large datasets and relies on assumptions of university socialization of students with effects on later behavior. The AUB and USJ as private foreign-affiliated universities are a subclass of transnational actors (George, Bennett 2005). They are transnational actors since they are private universities founded and originally funded by American and French missionaries with the aim of providing explicitly American- or French-style education in Middle Eastern societies. They continue to have important transnational characteristics since they are strongly characterized by what Nye and Keohane termed global interactions: the movement of information, people and money across state boundaries (Nye, Keohane 1971, Wolfers 1962, Josselin, Wallace 2001, Kaiser 1969). AUB is incorporated and accredited in the USA, has American presidents and a predominantly American Board of Trustees based in New York and continue to benefit from American public and private financial support. Much of the faculty is American educated. The USJ is part of the Jesuit order, which together with the Roman Catholic Church are important 9 examples of transnational actors (Ryall 2001, Vallier 1971). USJ has had predominantly French presidents, is served by a global Francophone Strategic Council and has and continues to enjoy close financial and academic relations with the French state and Francophone universities. American- and French-origin higher education in the Middle East provides particularly suitable material for the study of transnational actor soft power, their interaction with the state and their contribution to national soft power. American- and French-origin education is widespread and well-known in the Middle East, and the two universities here are among the leading universities in the region. They are, therefore, crucial cases (George, Bennett 2005) for observing transnational actor soft power and contributions to national soft power. As crucial cases, these universities have to have soft power to render transnational actor soft power and contributions to national soft power probable. According to Waterbury, American higher education has more attraction (soft power) and familiarity to Middle Easterners than any other American institution: the word American is to education, what Swiss is to watches (Waterbury 2003: 66, see also Ghabra, Arnold 2007). The comparison of an American- and a French-origin university in Lebanon allows the comparison of the soft power aims and strategies of American and French private and public actors. It allows comparison of the interaction of the Middle East with the USA and France respectively and the soft power of two distinct university systems working predominantly in either English or French. 10 University Soft Power with Middle Eastern Students and Host States The analysis shows that these private, foreign-affiliated universities in the Middle East as transnational actors held and hold soft power in their Middle Eastern host society. The soft power is clear from their popularity among students and their acceptance by the host state and other actors. However, this soft power has also been limited and taken unintended turns in nature and direction. The host society has rejected the core historical missions of these universities and attacked them violently or threatened their survival politically. Students and the state in the host society are the most interesting interlocutors for understanding the extent and limits of university soft power. A detailed look at acceptance and rejection of these universities reveals the basis of their soft power. The basis of soft power has remained stable in the Middle Eastern host society. Middle Eastern students and their families have continued to demand and embrace quality education and especially English skills offering better life chances. However, American liberal arts education is less understood by students families, who look for professional education for securing employment and income. Also the successful and respectful merger of Arab and Western culture in these institutions and their integration into local society has been crucial for their attractiveness. The responses of the Ottoman Empire, independent Lebanon and other regional states to the universities have been characterized by cautious acceptance. University soft power was originally limited by the proselytizing nature of the universities, which was rejected by students and society. Unpopular American or French Middle East policies and too close an association with the US or French governments later limited university soft 11 power. The analysis of university soft power, therefore, focuses first on limitations from proselytizing and then from US/French-Middle E
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