Bob Pastor’s most recent work, The North American Idea, explores how identity influences policy and provides an innovative vision of an integrated future for Mexico, Canada, and the United States. The author argues that the problems plaguing the continent—drugs, energy, immigration—are transnational and can only be solved or at least more efficiently managed by all three countries through the adoption of a continental mindset. Pastor’s theory offers an opportunity for public diplomacy to re-consider the ways in which practitioners in the field leverage identity to influence opinion.
In considering the future of public diplomacy, it is crucial to outline potential innovations in approach and method; moving ahead in any field requires re-assessment and re-equilibration. Pastor distinctly provides a thorough outline of the past, problems, and potential of the North American region. He warns his U.S. audience, “as a nation, we cannot see ourselves the way the world sees us, and until we do, we cannot lead the world through the new challenges that await us.” It is to be concluded that the author’s vision requires a new approach towards U.S. public and foreign policy and presents a great opportunity for public diplomacy.
The author promotes innovations in the ways that Mexico, Canada and the United States relate to each other and explains that the benefit lies in an improved standing in world politics. The book confronts sensitive issues such as free trade and the weak Canada-Mexico relationship with a keen mind and provides educated solutions to each problem currently facing the continent. The result of dissolving unilateral relations throughout the region is presented as shared prosperity and increased continental security.
Pastor paints a picture that seems within reach: new initiatives, increased communication, and constant partnership. Public diplomacy techniques are apparent throughout the book, mainly in the tactics suggested to influence outcomes. For example, Pastor advocates that the post-9/11 response to terrorism would have been much stronger and more effective had it come from all three countries’ leaders, collectively giving a speech and implementing campaigns together. The basic idea of increased solidarity across the continent would send stronger, more coherent messages to foreign publics, changing the dynamics of international relations and spotlighting the value of a new and integrated, North American identity.
Throughout, Pastor continues to suggest we look at the continent in a different way and let it influence policy decisions. His argument is divided between seven chapters, the first of which provides detail on why North America has historically been a “piñata” for politicians and pundits, explains the evolution of NAFTA, and emphasizes the importance of sovereignty in recovering the promise of a united continent. The second chapter presents the “genetic code of North America” throughout history and finds common threads between all three countries and their contemporary codes. The third chapter discusses the values, identities, and conflicts between the nations of the continent.
The fourth and fifth chapters are devoted to transcending borders under the theme of “speed bumps, potholes and roadblocks on the North American Superhighway.” The author goes into detail in regards to the hottest topics currently debated within the region; topics that have the potential to be strategic in constructing a regional community. These include: climate change, infrastructure, illicit markets, virtual borders, and new transcontinental identities. Finally, the last two chapters are presented under the theme of “The North American Advantage”, outlining a vision for a North American community and a blueprint for new policies in the twenty-first century.
The North American Idea is a bright one: a future full of hard work, new opportunities, and increased prosperity for the continent but public diplomacy is necessary and true action is vital to the survival of Pastor’s vision of a cooperative continent.