Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March 11

"We don't define our relationship through the exchange of gifts.”

--A British diplomat, commenting on the out-of-sync offerings of PM Gordon Brown giving President Obama a pen holder carved from the timber of an anti-slave ship and getting a DVD box set in return, which included the film Psycho; image from

“Don't they read the ‘Iliad’ anymore in the Ivy League? Check that out for the all-important ritual of gift giving, which has cemented alliances around the world for 5,000 years

--Commentator Camille Paglia, on “the fiasco of the ham-handed White House reception for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which was evidently lacking the most basic elements of ceremony and protocol."

“That was more than I was expecting.”

-- The Octomon, as referred to by talk-show host David Letterman, while acknowledging applause from his audience; cited in Political News From The Editors of US News & World Report and BulletinNews‏ (no link); image from


The Public Diplomacy Collaborative; via


Obama's Diplomatic Offensive and the Reality of Geopolitics – Makamba, Politics, Society & Things: “At the Geneva NATO summit, Clinton upped the offer to the Russians when she signaled that the United States might even be willing to throw in a halt to NATO expansion. … This gesture will set the stage for Obama’s upcoming trip to Russia to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, but the Russians will be watching closely to see if such gestures are being made for the sake of public diplomacy or if the United States really intends to get down to business.” Image from

Can a Bad Gift Affect International Relations? - Julian Ku, Opinio Juris: “If the Obamas just don’t get along with the Browns, this could plausibly impact US-UK relations as much as any US public diplomacy campaign. This doesn’t seem to make sense, given that nations have interests that seem more important than a crappy thoughtless gift that the President gave the PM. But clearly it has some effect. How much is hard to tell.”

Young Greens "Deconstruct" ObamaLandorCOM: "[Communications analyst] Francois Heinderyckx underscored the enormous, almost 'grotesque' expectations accompanying Obama's election, and described a communications strategy that not only has to manage expectations but has to manage inevitable disappointment. For a campaign that stressed openness and solicited input from voters, right up through the Transition (''), the Obama Administration's first month has shown a rather sparse "controlled transparency" (the '13 Questions' press conference). Finally, Heinderyckx expressed reservations about ‘Public Diplomacy 2.0’ degenerating into a kind of ‘Propaganda 2.0.’"

From 10.3% to 2.5% to O.2% in Just One YearVoice of America Audience in Russia Obliterated by a Decision of U.S. Government Officials – Ted Lipien, & Free Media Online Blog: "According to an independent study commissioned by a government agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasts, the total annual audience reach in Russia for the Voice of America (VOA) Russian-language radio, TV, and Internet dropped from 10.3 percent in 2007 to 2.5% in 2008. It is believed to be the greatest audience loss in the history of international broadcasting in a one year period for a major media outlet which maintains its market presence. … [T]he Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the agency in charge of VOA, is to blame for causing a 98% loss of audience in just one year.”

Commentaries mention Radio Free Afghanistan - Kim Andrew Elliott Discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: “RFE/RL has an audience because of its very good news service. It is not merely a convenient vehicle for promoting the favored causes of ambassadors, present or former.”

Representative from India YES program - Nancy Wainwright, Alaska World Affairs Council: “YES (Youth Exchange and Study) Program is an innovative high school exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State's Burearu of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program has been described as follows: ‘This public diplomacy initiative builds bridges of international understanding, especially between Americans and people in countries with significant Muslim populations.’ There are currently YES students in Alaska, and AFS Alaska (the foreign exchange program) expects to sponsor three students in the upcoming school year.” Image from

Foreign Workers Banned From Wall Street - Jake Berliner, NDN log: “Bad public diplomacy and bad economics all in one. Really a very impressive accomplishment that is probably even worse than than ‘Buy American.’"

George Shultz, International Terrorist, Part One - Alex Constantine's Blacklist: “[I]t is incumbent upon concerned residents of this great democracy to take stock of reality (elusive in this age of public diplomacy) and not forget the dope - the financial core of black operations waged by the intelligence sector's world-dominating ‘elite.’"

Kurdish War: PKK Goes To War With Itself, Strategy Page: “March 11, 2009: Public diplomacy between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming, well, increasingly public. Turkish diplomats are visiting Irbil and the grapevine says Turkey is considering opening a consulate in that Iraqi Kurdish city. That makes a lot of sense. Turkish media estimates that 1200 Turkish companies are operating in Iraqi Kurdistan and doing around seven billion dollars a year in business. Iraqi Kurds know Turkey wants them to shut down the PKK – at the least continue to marginalize the PKK politically and ideally help Turkey arrest senior PKK leaders.”


A Sham Engagement: The U.S. participates in a human-rights travesty - Anne Bayefsky, National Review: The membership of the world’s greatest democracy ought not to be taken for granted by the U.N. -- it should be earned. If the current form of “engagement” sloganeering takes precedence, however, all genuine human-rights victims will lose. Above image from

The emerging Obama doctrine: The president’s pragmatic worldview is likely to temper military engagement overseas - Gordon Lubold, Christian Science Monitor

The U.S. must reengage with the International Criminal Court: The U.S. risks being left without any influence on major international legal issues - David Kaye, Los Angeles Times

The Risk to U.S. Supply Lines: Washington's reliance on the unstable former Soviet republics in Central Asia shows how few options it has in this war - Paul Quinn-Judge, Wall Street Journal Europe: U.S. engagement in Central Asia may well make geopolitical and logistical sense. But facts on the ground could destroy this logic and leave Washington with more problems than solutions.

Lakhdar Brahimi: Afghanistan's Future - Barbara Crossette, Nation: The Obama administration wants to convene an international conference on the future of Afghanistan and is suggesting that it may be time to bring some elements of the Taliban into the discussion, a break with the policies of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, during whose presidency Al Qaeda established its foothold there in the late 1990s. Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations official who led the 2001 Bonn conference that created the current Afghan government, says new talks, while a welcome first step, may be at least six years too late. Brahimi photo from

What direction next for America? - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times: Much as he would like to extricate the United States from the Afghan quagmire, President Obama knows anything perceived as a U.S. defeat would be widely interpreted as a victory for al Qaeda - and a defeat for the United States and NATO. Conversely, no peace treaty would mean much if neighboring states were not involved, including Iran. Hence, the U.S. idea of a U.N.-sponsored conference on Afghanistan March 31 with "key regional and strategic countries," as well NATO members.

Meet the accidental guerrillas: Ex-Petraeus advisor David Kilcullen warns that if Western forces aren't willing to stick around in Iraq and Afghanistan, extremists will continue turning the locals into weapons - Laura Miller, Salon

A Falcon of Peace: Who Wants to Be a Dove? (They Always Lose.) - Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch: Isn't it time to suggest that there can be no national interest when it comes to military action in Iraq or Afghanistan, only an imperial interest?

Obama's Middle East Chess Game: Obama's early Middle East diplomacy is about generating options - Ilan Goldenberg, American Prospect: The Obama team's longer-term strategy will be influenced by factors such as the Syrian, Iranian, and Russian reactions to early overtures; the type of governing coalition that forms in Israel; how the Palestinian split between Gaza and the West Bank is resolved; and whether things hold together in Iraq. Still, it has been a strong opening. America's choices today are far greater than they were only 50 days ago. Image from

Iran's nuclear deception - William H. Tobey, Boston Globe: Iran has learned that it can mislead the IAEA about the amount of material it has produced for a matter of months, but not indefinitely. The Obama administration, and our European negotiating partners to exercise great caution in considering proposals that would depend on intricate and foolproof verification schemes.

US begins to reach out to Iran, but slowly and cautiously: Iran's nuclear program prompts Israel to signal possible action in 2010. More sanctions could become an option - Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor

The weight of being the bulwark of civilization - Brendan O’Neill, American Conservative: Worst of all, the “enlightened” pro-Israel lobby now presents the threat to Western values as a purely external one, emanating from the slums of Gaza or the towns of southern Lebanon or the radical mosques of Iran when, in truth, the Enlightenment is being corroded from within the West itself.

India: America's indispensable ally: Washington will need New Delhi's cooperation on a host of critical issues, so the Obama administration must not risk neglecting the relationship - Xenia Dormandy, Christian Science Monitor. Image from

Inside Obama's War Room - Leslie H. Gelb, Daily Beast: The president rules his National Security Council meetings with an iron fist, making rapid-fire decisions. But the team’s frenzied pace reveals a worrisome lack of strategy. Below image from

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