Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 26

“Ask yourself, who leads the United States Foreign Service?”

--E. Wayne Merry, a career Foreign Service Officer and now a senior associate at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.; image from

"When Danish wrestlers meet Iranian colleagues, I’m sure that this will help strengthen the relationship between Denmark and Iran.”

--Ambassador of Public Diplomacy in the Foreign Ministry of Denmark Klaus A. Holm

"To his credit, Wurzelbacher is hip to the audacity of hype."

--Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, about "Joe the Plumber's" book promotion, attended by 11 people in a downtown DC Border's bookstore; phrase cited in Princess Sparkle Pony Photoblog; image from


Democracy in the Middle East - Kevin Drum, Mother Jones: “Improved public diplomacy from Obama — including his still unscheduled big speech in a Muslim capital — will be valuable, but only if it's accompanied by policy changes as well. Getting out of Iraq will help. Seriously engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will help. And supporting democracy more consistently will help. But … it's going to be a long, hard slog.

There's a helluva lot of ground to be made up.” Image from

Study: Terror fight must include battle of ideas - Lolita C. Baldor, AP: “A task force of Middle East experts is urging the Obama administration to work within Muslim communities in the United States to counter extremism and prevent Islamic militant groups from gathering new recruits. In a study due out later this week, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy argues that the U.S. must not only defeat terrorists, but also mute the influence of radical groups that spread extremist ideologies and can eventually lead to violence. … The study, obtained by The Associated Press, suggests that instead of using goodwill ambassadors and other public relations campaigns to bolster opinions of the U.S. in Muslim countries, officials should build support for mainstream Muslim groups or activists to use their own voices to discount extremist discussions.”

Diplomacy and communication key to solving world conflicts: Former ambassador to numerous nations spoke on diplomatic relations - Tony Gorder, SDSUC “Diplomatic resources are currently lacking, making diplomacy abroad more and more difficult to achieve, according to William Caldwell Harrop, former United States ambassador to Guinea, Seychelles, Kenya, Congo and Israel … . [Among the functions of diplomacy], said Harrod, … is public diplomacy, which is the face of the U.S. It is when the U.S. explains what it is doing and why. ‘Public diplomacy is a big issue,’ said Harrop. ‘Public diplomacy staff is way down, budgets are down, and this is certainly attributed to the international policies of the Bush administration.’”

Traveling to Cuba is like going back in time - Peter Coyote, San Francisco Chronicle: “Mafiosi of Miami … receive millions in make-work grants for the totally ineffectual Radio Marti, our government's propaganda radio station that is jammed by the Cuban government so no one hears it.”

Dod Considers Way Ahead on Named Info Ops to Combat Terrorism - InsideDefense (subscription only, not affordable to the PDPBR compiler) -

‎From Google entry: “They tap the Internet; radio programs; military information support teams that travel to US embassies supporting public diplomacy efforts; and training to ...” Image from

Building a 21st Century Workforce raises new questions - Molly Lewis in Briefing: “Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, hosted a hearing this morning to address State and USAID personnel reform. Former Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Prudence Bushnell testified, as well as former USAID officer James Kunder. … Thomas Pickering ... called for an improvement in public diplomacy initiatives, including American Cultural Centers. When pressed for a price tag, Pickering estimated $3.286 billion on top of the baseline. Read his full testimony here.” Photo: Thomas Pickering

Someone Tell Congress That Charity Begins At Home – JohnQPublic, Smoke Break:You want some brie with that whine?: “Congress is now hard at work on the Omnibus Spending Bill. A $410 billion dollar lump of lard to be tossed onto that pork pile affectionately referred to as bullshit. Errr…the stimulus bill.

… But the big kicker, included here in its entirety for your reading pleasure, is the section that includes the monies we send to other countries. … Educational and Cultural Exchanges: $538 million, $37 million above 2008, to fund educational, cultural and professional exchange programs worldwide. Broadcasting: $709 million, $40 million above 2008, for radio programs critical to the nation’s overall public diplomacy efforts. Peace Corps: $340 million, $9 million above 2008, for the program which has over 7,800 volunteers in 70 posts serving 76 countries. Democracy Fund: $116 million to the Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and to the USAID, Office of Democracy and Governance to promote democracy, including support for human rights, media, and the rule of law.” Image from

Facebook Diplomacy: Washington wants to use the Web 2.0 to win hearts and minds. Trouble is, the tyrants got there first - Evgeny Morozov, Newsweek: “Clinton is right to be enthusiastic about Web 2.0 tools. They offer the promise of promoting democracy in countries that currently give the United States big geopolitical headaches—particularly Iran, China and Russia. But it's not going to be easy. Tehran, Beijing and Moscow already have a presence on the Internet and in recent months have stepped up their campaigns to manipulate public opinion at home.” Right image from

Diplo-Blogosphere: Ranking the French, Germans and Brits - Steve Clemons blog: “On the British front, I have been very impressed with David Miliband's commitment to blogging and to using the net as a way to engage in high quality public diplomacy.”

The Semantics of Terror – Andrew, Perspectives on Public Diplomacy: “To think that the success or failure of U.S. public diplomacy can sometimes hinge on something as little--and as much--as a word is not a comforting thought. But it is the reality of the U.S. message in the modern Middle East. …

Although the U.S. may readily reject the notion that using ‘terrorist’ as an adjective for at least the violent armed wings of popularly-elected political parties like Hamas and Hezbollah is tantamount to propaganda, recognizing that the message is oft received in this way in the Arab world may be the first step towards bridging the linguistically-loaded divide.” Image from

Do Ethics Trump Foreign Policy Goals in Public Diplomacy? - Craig Hayden, Intermap: “The double-bind of being ethical in PD means trying to cultivate credibility with communication that many feel is a priori a cynical attempt at perception management.”

Host a Foreign Exchange Student From the U. S. Department of State - Sher Christian, Academic Coordinator, Cultural Homestay International - County Writers’ Guide Update: “Secondary School Student exchange programs have been part of U. S. public diplomacy efforts since 1949. These programs promote mutual understanding by providing foreign students the opportunity to study in American high schools while living with an American host family.

Not only are the students themselves transformed by these experiences, so, too, are their families, friends, and teachers back home. Americans, such as the host families, students, and sponsor representatives whose lives intersect with these students benefit as well. The long-term success of the current model is based on the relationship between the participant and the host family, the success of which is the result of an act of generosity and citizenship.” Image: Host family profile from

RAND Report: Whither Strategic Communication - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: “RAND’s Chris Paul just published must read report on strategic communication and public diplomacy, Whither Strategic Communication? A Survey of Current Proposals and Recommendations. There is a lot to cite in this report, but I’ll just copy from the summary: ‘U.S. strategic communication and public diplomacy have been the targets of scathing criticism and proposals for overhaul since shortly after September 11, 2001. Proposals and recommendations abound, but many reform efforts have stumbled or have been plagued by false starts. Further contributing to this problem are the differences in terminology and approaches between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense, the two agencies with primary responsibility in this area. With the need for reform persisting and interest in this area continuing to grow, RAND elected to conduct a survey of existing reform and improvement proposals. The subsequent literature review and interviews with subject-matter experts exposed four core themes in these recommendations: a call for 'leadership,' demand for increased resources for strategic communication and public diplomacy, a call for a clear definition of an overall strategy, and the need for better coordination and organizational changes (or additions). The survey also includes a detailed discussion of several frequently appearing recommendations, including revised legislation, leveraging the private sector, the adoption of enterprise-level or whole-of-government solutions, better use of research, a greater focus on measurement, increased use of technology, training and education improvements, a quadrennial review of strategic communication and public diplomacy, and a review of international broadcasting.’

Food Security Cooperation Among D-8 Members ImportantBernama: “Kuala Lumpur -- Institutional development, capacity building, marketing and public diplomacy for food security cooperation are important for the Developing Eight (D-8) Organisation for Economic Cooperation member countries.”

Wrestling diplomacy - Copenhagen Post: "International relations with Iran and Egypt are expected to improve by using head locks, slams and a lot of sweat: The national wrestling team is touring Iran and Egypt in an effort to strengthen ties in the wrestling world in the run up to the World Championships, to be held in Denmark later this year. In a similar move to the American wrestling team’s visit to Iran 11 years ago, the Danes are hoping the trip will promote better understanding of their different cultures. The Ambassador of Public Diplomacy in the Foreign Ministry Klaus A. Holm, said that the trip was first and foremost be about wrestling, but that the visiting Danes could also act as informal ambassadors.” Image from

Remember the House Bank — James Glassman, The American, A Magazine of Ideas: “James K. Glassman was editor of Roll Call from 1988 to 1993. The former

under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs, he is now president of the World Growth Institute.”

A historical nit-pic in today's account - E-Mail from Fred A. Coffey, Jr. FSO - Ret., no link: “COLD BOT WORLD [see, cited in PDPBR February 25]. It wasn't Carter who first kept CIA from entering USIA ranks. It was Edward R. Murrow circa 1962. The expose of a CIA officer in the USIS activity in Burma didn't help USIA. CIA approached me as BPAO in Surabaya and asked me to accept one of their people as an 'Asst. Motion Picture Officer.' The PAO in Jakarta passed it on to Washington. Back came a strong reply by Murrow. 'There will be no CIA people in USIS-Indonesia nor in Washington. Any USI officer abridging this order will be dismissed' an order with which I fully agreed. Best Fred." Image from

In failing economy, Foreign Service test attracts record numbers - Scott Olster, Columbia News Service: “Forget about a career in investment banking. Hedge funds, schmedge funds. For many these days, diplomacy is where it’s at. Late last month, the State Department announced that the February administration of its Foreign Service officer test had reached the agency’s 'worldwide scheduling limit,' reflecting a surge in applicants from previous years. … 'People are getting more excited about foreign policy,' said Erica Tun, a 24-year old public relations specialist from Fort Wayne, Ind., who is registered to take the exam in February. 'There is a president who is interested in making the nation more global.' Tun, who has applied for a position in the public diplomacy track, which focuses on defining America’s image abroad, first considered the Foreign Service just a few months ago when she found an online job posting as the presidential election reached a fever pitch. “It piqued my curiosity,” she said. 'I always had the interest, but didn’t have a way to focus my energy.'”


On The White House: Diplomatic Windfall as Goodwill for Obama Lingers - Helene Cooper, New York Times:

The honeymoon period between President Obama and Congress may be running its course in Washington. But on the world stage, the romantic flame is still flickering. But the question of how much of the early good will translates into real policy changes remains. Image from

Europe's off-again, on-again crush on Obama: Europe wants a strong US lead – as long as it's in the 'right' direction - Elizabeth Pond, Christian Science Monitor

Clinton's missed opportunity in China - Merle Goldman, Boston Globe:

The Obama administration should give more attention to human rights issues in China and support those who advocate peaceful political reforms. Clinton's trip to China was a missed opportunity.

At Last, Accepting Some Clues From Across the Pond - Joe Conason, Truthdig: At the brink of global ruin, many Americans suddenly seem willing to consider sensible ideas that were always deemed unthinkable, and to reject foolish notions that were once deemed brilliant. Soon we may be mature enough to observe how other developed countries address problems that have baffled us for generations.

Gates OKs war dead photos, with conditions, at baseUSA Today

Viewpoint: Obama finds his inner Bush - Jonah Goldberg, Baltimore Sun: Recall that during the primaries, Mr. Obama was probably second only to Dennis Kucinich as an anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush candidate. But he has kept George W. Bush's defense secretary and appointed a secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who voted for the war. His vice president, Joe Biden, also voted for the war. Mr. Obama himself seems to be in less of a hurry to leave Iraq than we might have expected from listening to him over the last couple of years. Image from

Why No More 9/11s? Part 2 Is al-Qaida too preoccupied with Pakistan and Afghanistan to attack the United States?- Timothy Noah, Slate

Al-Marri Indictment Today? – Jane Mayer, New Yorker: Human-rights groups and civil-liberties lawyers are watching whether the Obama Adminstration will support the Bush Administration’s aggressive claims to executive detention powers in the war on terror.

Warning to the US: Beware Treating Afghanistan like Iraq: It's a mistake to think that 'failed states' won't put up strong resistance - Patrick Cockburn, Independent/UK/ Common Dreams

A Strategy for Afghanistan - Henry A. Kissinger, Washington Post:

The truism that the war is, in effect, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan population is valid enough in concept. In the end, the fundamental issue is not so much how the war will be conducted but how it will be ended. Image from

"For This I Blame America": Afghanistan: Chaos Central - Chris Sands, CounterPunch: After all these years, there are no firm ideas about the way forward.

Iraq’s Year of Living Dangerously - Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack – New York Times: American interests argue strongly for using all the leverage we have gained among Iraqis during six years of intense partnership to help Iraq through its “year of transitions” -- then we can bring our troops home quickly, but responsibly.

The New Reality In Iraq: Why a timeline for troop withdrawal is no longer only Washington's decision - Michael Wahid Hanna, New Republic

On Iran, an Apostle of Patience - David Ignatius, Washington Post: “If you ask White House officials whom President Obama listens to about Iran, they mention an interesting name -- Lee Hamilton, the former congressman from Indiana who co-chaired the 2006 Iraq Study Group that urged engagement with the Iranian regime.”

On the road to Damascus - Matthew Brodsky, Washington Times: If the Obama administration is interested in truly bringing the world's last Ba'athist state back into the fold, it will need an approach that ties the loosening of international penalties to concrete Syrian actions - rather than one that simply rewards its ruler in hopes that he will come to the negotiating table.

Some advice for Ambassador Rice - Richard Grenell, Washington Times:

The reality of how the U.N. works is not what some people on the right and the left would have you believe. As Susan Rice begins her tenure representing America at the U.N., she will find an institution in great need of change. Iamge from

Africa’s ‘Obama’ School - Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times: The Obama administration is undertaking a review of the policy on Darfur, and it’s being conducted by Samantha Power, among others. She is a White House aide whose superb book, “A Problem From Hell,” catalogs all the ways that American politicians have found excuses to avoid confronting past genocides. Photo: Samantha Power

Foreign Service leadership gap? - E. Wayne Merry, Washington Times: In most developed countries, the diplomatic service enjoys a stature sorely lacking here. In part this is because the Foreign Service does not engage the American public, press and Congress.

Chas Freeman for NIC: Lots at Stake - Robert Dreyfuss, Nation: A thunderous, coordinated assault against one of President Obama's intelligence picks is now underway. It started in a few right-wing blogs, migrated to semi-official mouthpieces like the Jewish Telegraph Agency, and today it reached the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, in the form of the scurrilous piece by Gabriel Schoenfeld, a resident scholar at some outfit called "the Witherspoon Institute." The target is Charles ("Chas") Freeman, the former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, former top Defense Department official during the Reagan administration, and president of the Middle East Policy Council, whose wide-ranging experience stretches from the Middle East to China. Freeman is slated to become chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC),

Gideon Levy's view on Waltz With BashirPalestine Think Tank : “That Waltz With Bashir is propaganda (slick, financed by Israel, used for didactic purposes with a million dollar investment in a Viewer's Guide) was no secret… When the Director was brought here to promote it, during the heat of the Gaza War, he had not a word to say about that war. It was shocking coming from someone who claimed to be making a statement.”

McDonald's Plans to Open 40 New Stores in 2009
- Courtney Weaver, Moscow Times:

McDonald's will invest $120 million to open 40 new Russian restaurants this year, Khamzat Khasbulatov, the company's president for Russia and Eastern Europe, said Thursday.

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