Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24

"'Creative' is by a very wide margin the most boring, most generic and most predictable of all place positionings in the world today…”

--Simon Anholt, an adviser to various governments on nation branding and an editor of the journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy; image from

“Have you read ‘The Audacity of Hope’?” someone might ask you. “Why, no, but I’ll download it now!”

--David Pogue, “The Kindle: Good Before, Better Now,” New York Times


Just Words Who Cares What Hillary Clinton Says To China's Leaders About Human Rights? - Anne Applebaum, Slate: “Many nations overthrow dictatorships, and many become more democratic, or at least more open, as a result. In the past, we have sometimes helped this process along. The Obama administration, if it starts now, can do so again—though it needn't start by lecturing the foreign minister of China. Certainly, we can help by using small, even tiny, amounts of money directed at the people who promote debate, not armed rebellion, inside repressive countries.

One can argue that the pennies we spent funding Radio Free Europe or anti-Communist magazines like now-defunct Encounter during the Cold War were far more effective than the billions we spent on military equipment. … We can also use traditional tools of public diplomacy to greater effect. Instead of appointing cronies and fundraisers to ambassadorships, Obama could, over the next few months, appoint people with the talent to act as real spokesmen for U.S. policy—on local television, speaking the local language, writing in the local press. For that matter, Obama himself could directly address the Chinese or the North Koreans, if not on local television then on CNN and the BBC. It might indeed be pointless to bargain over human rights with the Chinese government, but public statements about democracy and human rights—of the sort Clinton herself made in Indonesia last week—will be heard, if not by all then by some.” Image from

Clinton's winning road trip – Editorial, Los Angeles Times: ”Clinton used President Obama's popularity and the force of her personality to try to restore America's standing abroad.”

Public Diplomacy – From Dvorak To The Beatles – Tom Plate, Pacific Perspective: “There’s a relatively new fad in the academic and diplomatic world. They call it 'public diplomacy.' On the whole, it is a good thing. It is no substitute for a solid, well-thought-out, well-executed foreign policy, of course. But it can be a considerable help to a country’s national interest and international understanding. … Two first-class examples of public diplomacy that we should mention could even be nominated for some kind of award. In fact, one of them did receive a nice award – just last week in Los Angeles. It went to a phenomenon named Loren Maazel, the first-class music director of the New York Philharmonic. He flew to Los Angeles to accept a 'Building Bridges' award. The distinction cited Maazel for heading up the unprecedented visit of the New York Philharmonic to play an amazing concert last year to Pyongyang, the capital of extremely troubled, largely isolated and semi-dangerous North Korea. The day before the Pyongyang performance, when he guest-conducted the North Korean state orchestra in a run-though of some Tchaikovsky, he told the L.A. audience at the awards dinner that the heretofore hardened collective personality of the musicians completely melted when they dove into the deeply romantic 'Romeo and Juliet' ballet suite. … The audience clearly bought into the honest persona of the great artist, as – from all reports – did audiences in Asia just last week to the public performance of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Unapologetic about candid remarks about possible impending political instability in North Korea, she emphasized the personal as well as the political, commenting on her musical preferences (the Beatles and the Rolling Stones), her thoughts on the Islamic world, the difficulty women face in balancing a career and a family, and how playing baseball 'with a lot of boys' helped her prepare for her career. … No apologies are necessary for relating to other people with respect, even when – as in China or North Korea – fundamental differences with their governments cannot be papered over, especially with traditional diplomacy. That’s when, in fact, public diplomacy is all the more important.” Clinton image from

State clarifies Venezuela policy: Oops!Caracas Gringo: “So what, exactly, is the US government’s policy towards Venezuela? If it’s not 'watch what Chavez does, not what he says' anymore, then what? Soft containment? Before he was Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Thomas Shanon spoke of 'soft containment,' i.e. effective regional public diplomacy.”

The limits of likeability - Joe Tobacco, Cadillac Tight: “Interesting article in FP today, pointing out that public diplomacy and 'soft power' are not ends in and of themselves, but should serve as one of several means to an end.”

Public Diplomacy in the Digital Age, Part 1Mark Hanna, MediaShift: "’What is public diplomacy?’ was the first question that Ted Koppel posed at the recent Media as a Global Diplomat conference attended largely by public diplomacy professionals. ... Public diplomacy is a practice that is poorly understood and poorly funded -- but it's of considerable consequence, especially in the digital age.” Contains a comment by former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman. Image from

PD20.org – Matt Armstrong, Mountain Runner: “There’s a new kid coming to the block: Public Diplomacy 2.0, or PD20.org for short. According to the website, Public Diplomacy 2.0 seeks to 'document the use of web 2.0 and social media technologies in the practice of public diplomacy. PD 2.0.org will represent opinions and present examples from a wide range of public and private institutions from around the world. Through interviews with practitioners and thought leaders, analysis of examples in practice, how-to articles, press digests and other sourced and original content, PD 2.0.org's goal is to become a central source for information on Public Diplomacy 2.0.'”

White House Announced Internet Team - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: “President Obama announced the 'White House Internet Team' on Monday…. I doubt they’ll have the same limited agility as State's various 'Internet teams', from America.gov to DipNote to Digital Outreach and beyond. Speaking of agility, it would be nice to have State’s R, the public diplomacy bureau, not alternating between sitting with palms down on the desk and chasing their tails while wondering if they have a future and if so, what that future will be.“ Image from

Worthwhile: Public Diplomacy reading - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: “The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars at the University of Southern California last week launched their twice-yearly magazine. Titled simply 'PD', the website is http://publicdiplomacymagazine.com/, it is edited by graduate students and published with the support of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and the USC School for International Relations. … Calling it a magazine is a bit of stretch considering its publishing schedule, but I know from when we tried to launch the same thing a couple of years ago at USC, there was significant (fatal) resistance to calling it a journal (and we were pushing for 3-4 times a year with classifieds, event calendar, etc.).”

The Challenge Of Terrorism,28 to 29 March 2009 Kolkata, West Bengal, IndiaConference Alert:

The two day Conference is Sponsored by The Public Diplomacy Division, Government of India. Venue: Jadavpur University.

Murrow, Refracted - Fawda Munathema: “Marc Lynch posted highlights on his blog of his long piece in The National (an Emirati newspaper) on what should be on the Obama administration's public diplomacy agenda. This is of particular interest to me as someone who is taking the Foreign Service exam for to become a Public Affairs Officer--if I get the job (in sha' allah), I'll be on the front lines for implementing whatever changes are made to public diplomacy. I'm torn about Lynch's recommendations, though.”


The Cool Presidency: An inquiry into Obama's hipness - Michelle Cottle, New Republic:

Somehow, this nerd-in-chief has ascended to a level of global cool uninhabited by any of his political forebears. The opening spread of a recent Entertainment Weekly cover story, titled "President Rock Star," neatly summarized the situation: "He's bigger than Brangelina, bigger than Beyonc e: See how our new president has become the biggest celebrity in the world." Image from

The "Smart Power" List - Rachel Sklar, Daily Beast: The reigning philosophy in Washington is Smart Power -- a subtle combination of brains and the wisdom to use them to get things done. Hillary Clinton embodies Smart Power.

Transparency at the Pentagon – Editorial, Boston Globe:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has the emphasis right when he says it's time to review the ban on press photographs of flag-draped coffins of soldiers returning to Dover Air Force Base and other military facilities. Image from

Another Problem for Obama: Our Allies - William Fisher, The World According to Bill Fisher: The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama must take a leadership position in championing human rights in the Middle East and North Africa by using U.S. economic and trade leverage and confronting the growing global threat of authoritarianism being promoted by Arab regimes. This is the view of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), whose recent annual report concludes that the region has witnessed a “grave deterioration of human rights while reform faces a dead end,” fuelled by increasingly repressive actions by many Arab countries acting in concert with the Arab League. Image from

Free the Uighurs: It's time to untie the legal knot keeping 17 Chinese Muslim dissidents at Guantanamo – Editorial, International Herald Tribune: As the clock runs down, the United States is shifting responsibility for counterinsurgency to Iraqis, replacing Americans with recent enemies as the vanguard of pacification.

Afghan-Pakistan War Council - Robert Dreyfuss, Nation: What's troubling so far about the administration's signals on Afghanistan and Pakistan is that it's all tilted toward war and "counterinsurgency," and there's precious little being said about negotiations, deal-making with the Taliban, and diplomacy. Image: Indian war council

What Obama's Risking in Afghanistan - John Bruhns, Philadelphia Daily News/Common Dreams: Americans are fed up with war. History shows that no war can be won without the support of the people. And the economy is so dire it's hard to understand why Obama would allow such an expensive military commitment.

Obama's Bananastan - Jeff Huber, Antiwar.com: Obama should stop listening to whoever told him to commit 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, it's deadly at the top: Rather than perpetuating a love-hate-kill relationship with their leaders, Afghans need to develop respect for the laws and institutions of their new democracy - Cheryl Benard, A violent history repeated in Pakistan - H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe: Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan are slipping steadily into Islamic hands, and there is no coherent policy to prevent it.

Pakistan's extremist triumph: The government has caved in to the Taliban in the Swat Valley to avert more violence - Ahmed Rashid, Los Angeles Times: For Pakistan, the U.S. and its allies have far fewer policy options. Large injections of money are desperately needed to give the government and the army the time and space to reestablish the writ of the state. Nevertheless, the question being asked in Washington and other capitals, as well as by millions of Pakistanis, is whether the government and the army have the will and the capability to do so.

Obama's goad to Damascus: As more US officials visit Syria, the president must be careful with any concessions - Editorial Board, Christian Science Monitor: Candidate Barack Obama pledged during the campaign to engage Syria in contrast to President Bush's attempt to isolate it. Now a limited engagement has begun and it's time to ask what President Obama will give up as he tiptoes toward the likelihood of bazaar-like haggling with Damascus.

Whose Israel Shall It Be? - Richard Cohen, Washington Post: It is clear that the world has grown weary of Israel. Its problems seem intractable, insoluble. Its solicitous critics suggest it imbibe the hemlock of proportionality -- a missile for a missile, a rocket for a rocket. To do otherwise amounts to "state terrorism," in the felicitous phrase of Bill Moyers. It turns out winning isn't everything; losing gracefully is. Image from

Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy - Jim Lobe, Antiwar.com: Monday's call by Sen. Richard Lugar for a major reassessment of Washington's nearly half-century effort to isolate Cuba increases the likelihood that U.S. President Barack Obama will make substantial changes in policy toward Havana beyond those he promised during his election campaign, according to experts.

A Look at American Artists Wrestling With Asian Ideas - Lee Lawrence, Wall Street Journal: Not so much an art exhibition as a dissertation illustrated with artworks, "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989," on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum through April 19, presents a new art-historical construct aimed at upending the view that American artists forged the idioms of modern art in dialogue exclusively with Europe.

Was Pasternak's Path To The Nobel Prize Paved By The CIA? Did the CIA fund a Russian-language publication of Boris Pasternak's "Doctor Zhivago" in order to help the dissident author win the Nobel Prize? Ivan Tolstoi, a literary historian and correspondent with RFE/RL's Russian Service, has spent the better part of two decades trying to find out. Tolstoi's research has resulted in a book, "The Laundered Novel: Doctor Zhivago, Between the KGB and the CIA,” which was recently published in Russia. In this first-person account, Tolstoi describes his pursuit of the truth behind "Zhivago's" first appearance in Russian - Ivan Tolstoi, RFE/RL:

“By December 2006, I felt I had collected enough evidence to support my suspicions: that the first Russian edition of 'Doctor Zhivago' had been published by the CIA.”