Monday, February 9, 2009

February 9

"The two egos danced all night."

--Robert Frasure, a seasoned State Department official killed in Bosnia in 1995, regarding the first encounter between then Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic

"You know I love you; otherwise I wouldn't scream at you.''

--Richard Holbrooke, to one of Washington's most prominent women


Repairing American public diplomacy - William A. Rugh, Arab Media and Society: “Recommendations: Public diplomacy professionals and other officials ought to engage actively with all Arab media that they have access to. … Radio Sawa and al-Hurra television should be substantially reformed in several ways. … Funding for international broadcasting should be increased to allow important services such as worldwide English and key language services to be maintained even as targeted broadcasting to priority areas like the Middle East continues. … The State Department’s primacy in public diplomacy should be restored, with the Pentagon information function confined to its traditional role in wartime psyops and information for American audiences. Within the Department, most of the officers in the public diplomacy career track should be staffed to public diplomacy departments, not scattered around the organization. And the department should draw on this strengthened cadre of public diplomacy professionals to fill most of the public affairs and public diplomacy positions abroad.” SEE ALSO. PHOTO: Ambassador William Rugh

Public diplomacy and the Obama administration - Guy W. Farmer, Nevada Appeal: "When President Obama granted his first foreign media interview to the popular al-Arabiya TV network late last month, he signaled that the United States is back in the public diplomacy business, which is good news for those who are concerned about America’s battered international image. …. Shortly before the al-Arabiya interview, the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on public diplomacy, labeling it as the fifth most important item on a list of 13 priority issues facing the Obama administration…. As a veteran of the public diplomacy wars, I endorse the GAO’s conclusions and urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to implement its recommendations…. [P]ublic diplomacy isn’t advertising or public relations; it’s diplomacy. I hope the Obama administration learns that lesson sooner rather than later.”

The Next Step - Nina, Perspectives on Public Diplomacy: “At the security forum in Munich, Germany last week, we saw one next step in this direction. As already mentioned in YuanYuan’s post 'We will engage. We will listen. We will consult.' -- Joe Biden, Vice President Joe Biden not only attended the conference in Munich on behalf of the new U.S. Administration, he also gave a keynote speech, emphasizing the new perspectives of the U.S. public diplomacy, the ways to improve relations between NATO and Russia, nuclear proliferation, and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.”

Art in the Age of Obama: A new era may be dawning in which artists, strongly supported by the president, will transcend starry-eyed campaign pictures and develop new forms of enduring art - Sharon L. Butler, American Prospect:

"The [Obama Arts Policy] Committee [chaired by Broadway producer Margo Lion and American Film Institute founder George Stevens Jr.] suggests that today's artists should be tapped as an instrument of American ‘soft power’ to counter Islamic extremism and other forms of illiberalism by fostering international cultural and artistic exchange. During the Bush administration, many artists saw U.S. cultural outreach programs as propaganda operations for Bush's failed policy and refused to participate in them. But perhaps artists will be more inclined to serve as informal ambassadors under Obama.”

Food For Peace: Eisenhower's Unsung Initiative Can Be Obama's Most Powerful Tool for Peace - William Lambers, History News Network: “As President Obama tackles enormous foreign policy challenges, he would be well-advised to extract good ideas from past administrations and carry forward this ‘better part of history.’ … Fighting hunger was a part of the Eisenhower administration strategy right from the get-go. … Eisenhower signed Public Law 480, known today as Food for Peace. This became the mechanism for sending U.S. surplus food abroad to fight hunger. But Food for Peace was not well-known, making it harder to gain public support and input, not to mention showcasing it as America's best public diplomacy tool. … While the young Food for Peace program was unsung during Ike's day, there is no reason for that oversight today. Obama and the technological organization that won his election can also bring world hunger issues to the very forefront of America's agenda. Like Ike, Obama can give a Food for Peace address to highlight the current global hunger menace, its threat to American security, and America's tools to fight it.”

Funding for ‘soft power’ R&D needed now - Steve Hammons, Joint Recon Study Group: “In a recent open letter to President Obama, an official of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Pedro L. Rustan, told the president that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) could be helpful in renewing our economy and optimizing ‘human capital.’ … Although the focus is sometimes on devices and technologies, it has also become apparent that ‘soft power’ resources can be as valuable, or sometimes even more valuable, than ‘hard power’ technologies and weapons. User of soft power can also be merged with and enhance hard power elements. Soft power approaches generally refer to diplomacy (including public diplomacy), persuasion, information and communication, economic pressures and incentives, psychological operations, public relations and similar activities. … Newer research has included indications that the human mind has capabilities and potential to perceive more, and in different ways, than we previously understood. … How do we take this new understanding and deploy it for American society, U.S. national interests, our public diplomacy and our international activities?”


United States of Propaganda – Mark Rose, PR Blog News:

The question is -- should the U.S. government maintain a huge propaganda apparatus to spin U.S. citizens? My question back -- How can they resist? Public relations is so ingrained in all government, political and corporate operations. Why should the military be exempt? With the Internet and the free flow of information the other side of any argument is always available and widely disseminated.

Overseas challenges cascade on Obama - Eli Lake and Jon Ward, Washington Times

Give Us Netanyahu. Please - Steve Clemons, Huffington Post: the Likud Party and its chief, Benjamin Netanyahu, look like they are about to be given a stronger hand in the coming elections. Netanyahu re-ascension will help Americans realize that the false choice approach the Bush administration had been taking in Israel-Palestine affairs was flawed -- and that Obama's team must change the game or face a serious rebuke from Middle East watchers in the US and around the world.

A Promise of War - Jackson Diehl, Washington Post: Tomorrow, for the first time in decades, Israelis may choose a prime minister -- Benjamin Netanyahu -- who is promising to wage war. In short, just at the moment that a new U.S. administration launches a policy aimed at addressing the multiple conflicts of the Middle East with intensive diplomacy, it may find itself with an Israeli partner that rejects negotiations with its neighbors and does its best to push the United States toward military confrontation with Iran and its proxies.

Iraqis Back in Charge? – Alan Bock, The longer it appears U.S. forces are staying, the more Iraqis are likely to postpone taking the kind of full responsibility the U.S. has said it wants them to take.

A visit to a U.S. ally, but an increasingly wary one - Jane Perlez, International Herald Tribune: To overcome qualms in Pakistan about the United States, the envoy Richard Holbrooke is likely to emphasize Washington's plans for a drastic increase in aid to the country's educational, health and judicial systems, all areas that the United States has supported in the past, but to little effect because of deep corruption.

Ballots over Baghdad – Patrick Coburn, The National: The improvement in security has been exaggerated, particularly in America, but the situation has indeed improved.

Launching dialogue with Iran – Editorial, Boston Globe:
Obama must now weigh the wisdom of undertaking negotiations with Iran before the June presidential election there. To avoid strengthening the hand of the belligerent incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama might be wise to declare his intention to begin high-level talks in the summer. He could then affirm that he is ready to transform relations with Iran. And he should open a US interests section in Tehran as a token of his willingness to reestablish full diplomatic relations.

Mr. Obama and Iran - Editorial, New York Times: Under President Obama, U.S. policy toward Iran should be rooted in convincing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, that the price of engagement is not extinction.

The Folly of Attacking Iran: Lessons From

Moscow Welcomes 'Reset' of U.S. Ties

- Nikolaus von Twickel, Moscow Times

Russian Muscle in Central Asia - Robert Dreyfuss, Nation: Russia is flexing its muscle in central Asia, and the Obama administration had better pay attention. Obama ought to be paying attention not only because Russia can make or break US efforts to negotiate a deal in Afghanistan, but also because Obama needs Russia to help persuade Iran to find a solution to the conflict over Tehran's nuclear program.

The Battle for the Great Bear - Richard Lourie, Moscow Times: What the U.S.A really needs is an energy policy as comprehensive as Russia's. So far, its energy independence rhetoric has soared with the price of gas, and it has fallen with it. The United States should be grateful to Russia for a challenge that makes it get real.

Kremlin trumps NATO - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times: Vice President Joe Biden, accompanied by National Security Adviser James L. Jones, CentCom commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, and Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, flew to Germany this weekend for the annual Munich Security Conference. Top-tier Russian and Iranian delegations were also in attendance. Offline topside conversations provided an opportunity to defuse the return of East-West tensions.

Obama's Missile Test: The Administration wavers on defenses in Europe – Review & Outlook, Wall Street Journal: Mr. Obama made the nurturing of U.S. alliances a major campaign theme, and, along with trade, the missile defense pact with Europe is the first test of whether he meant it.

A Missile for Mr. Obama -- North Korea is calling, Mr. President – Editorial, Washington Post: If there's one lesson to be learned from the past decade, it's that rewarding the North's provocations will only ensure more of them -- and that while that strategy works, the regime will not take genuine steps toward disarmament.

Clearing the air with China: A summit and partnership on global warming could allow the U.S. and Be ijing to get past the blame game - Editorial, Los Angeles Times

The West's next move in Zimbabwe: Short of lifting sanctions, it can offer targeted help to boost Mugabe's rival - Editorial Board, Christian Science Monitor

Jerry Doesn't Miss Condi: The world is a better place today because Condoleezza Rice has retired from American public service, and my water turtle Jerry has found a new home with friends in Beirut - Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online, UK : When Condoleezza Rice finally left public office last month, and the Obama administration quickly launched a new era of diplomacy with the appointment of Middle East special envoy George Mitchell, change has started.


Photo from The Atlantic

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