Monday, March 9, 2009

March 9

Cartoon from

"[I]n diplomacy the micro-detail is often key to understanding the bigger picture."

--Iain Martin, writing in the Daily Telegraph


Clinton's gaffes and gains on tour: Hillary Clinton is back in Washington after another whirlwind, five-country foreign trip that provided a further glimpse into her style as Secretary of State and details of the Obama administration's foreign policy - Kim Ghattas, BBC News: “[S]elling America abroad also remained a high priority and Mrs Clinton's public diplomacy, which she started in Asia, continued throughout this trip, as she held events with women and young people in the Middle East and Europe. … But her approach to public diplomacy also raised eyebrows. One Arab leader in private confided he was puzzled by Mrs Clinton's reaching out and shaking hands with everyone she met on her way into her meeting with him - including, apparently, the doorman. … And then there were the gaffes - goodwill gestures lost in translations, arrogant statements and mispronounced names, which seemed an odd throwback to the days of President George W Bush and his struggle with foreign names. … Still, the goodwill that surrounded her visit, and the star appeal she has as a former First Lady, New York senator and presidential hopeful, meant that overall both she and her hosts felt the trip was a clear success.” See also; image from

Turkey warms to Clinton's candor: Was it TV magic or intelligent diplomacy? A month before Obama's visit, Hillary charms Turkey in a talk- show stop - Yigal Schleifer, Christian Science Monitor: “The Turkish people were ready for the dose of warmth and candor offered by Clinton, says Huseyin Bagci, a professor of international relations at Ankara's Middle East Technical University. ‘This is good for American public diplomacy. Whoever planned this did it well,’ he says. 'She is reducing the damage to the American image here in Turkey. I think Turks are ready to take a different look at America.' Still, some observers warn that television appearances alone will not be enough to sway Turkish public opinion.” Image from

Talking with the Taliban?Perspectives on Public Diplomacy: “While these potential talks [with the Taliban] may be considered traditional diplomatic efforts, one can't help but see the strategic public diplomacy angle behind this announcement. By having the President cautiously discuss this potential option with reporters, the Obama administration is now prepared to gather public opinion and feedback on this new foreign policy effort. Additionally, Obama continued to prove his own credibility, using a strategy never accepted by George W. Bush, by bluntly commenting on the military's current presence in Afghanistan.” Image from

After The Stimulus: It’s Time for a New Foundation
- Liam.Snell, Express Marketing: “An international commission headed by Nobel economists Joe Stiglitz of Columbia and Amartya Sen of Harvard is reviewing alternative economic indicators, and looking at how to devise better ways to assess quality of life–new measures of economic, social and environmental status. The report is due this April. President Obama could embrace the report by inviting Stiglitz and Sen to the White House to discuss their findings, An added benefit is that the commission was championed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, so the meeting could also make for good public diplomacy.”

Thinking Public Diplomacy - Patricia H. Kushlis, Whirled View: “Sometimes interesting ideas come from the unlikeliest of places.

That’s how I read the 2004 RAND Occasional Paper ‘Public Diplomacy: How to Think About and Improve It’ by Charles Wolf, Jr. and Brian Rosen that recently came to my attention. ... By far the most interesting idea that I found in ‘Public Diplomacy: How to Think About and Improve It’ was the need to reframe the US government’s messages so as to attract, not repel, foreigners." Image from

Are you a blogger interested in foreign affairs? Want a job?
- Matt Armstrong, Mountain Runner: “It’s good to see expansion into the social media realm … as the U.S. Government realizes engaging social media is not a surge exercise but a core mission to be staffed by foreign service officers and civilian employees rather than contractors.”

The Recession and Geopolitics – Dhruva, Polaris: “In a recent speech, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, Shyam Saran, makes ... significant arguments which should provide a sound basis for broader Indian strategy in the coming years. … Saran urges that India guard against a tendency to further regulate its economy and retreat into the safety of its shell, as most other states move in those directions. … [H]e notes the lapses in leveraging India’s comparative economic advantages through inadequate public diplomacy … . ‘As a sound, credit-worthy and growing economy, with relatively less exposure to the buffeting of the global crisis, we are still a good bet, a low-risk and a potentially high-return economy. We need to communicate these strengths more effectively to the rest of the world than we have so far.’” Image from


Nigeria: Akunyili and the 'Re-Branding' of Country - The Limits of Propaganda - Mohammad Haruna, “The recent announcement by the Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, that she has initiated a campaign to ‘re-brand’ Nigeria has, predictably, generated intense controversy. ... Akunyili - and her principals - would do better than use our meagre resources in these terribly hard times in pursuit of empty, if not fraudulent, sloganeering.”

Brushing off Mr. Brown - Mark Steyn, Washington Times: “I would make a modest prediction that in 2012, after four years of the man who was supposed to heal America's relations with a world sick of all that swaggering cowboy unilateralism, those relations will be much worse. From Canada to India, the implications of the Obama ascendancy are becoming painfully clear.”

Signs of Progress - And danger – Justin Raimondo, The Obama administration illustrates the principle that foreign policy, far from being formulated with the solving of actual problems in mind, is almost entirely driven by domestic political concerns. Right image from

In Defense Of Democracy Promotion - Zeyno Baran, RFE/RL: America needs to be true to its values and principles. The United States should not be promoting "moderate Islam," but liberal democracy.

Reset with Russia - Katrina vanden Heuvel, Nation: Resetting the relationship with Russia -- as both President Obama and Vice President Biden have indicated a desire to do -- demands an end to the triumphalist thinking that has defined the US mindset and strut since the end of the Cold War.

The road to Tehran: Obama's team has made its first moves toward a dialogue with Iran. The challenge is to communicate – Editorial, Los Angeles Times: We think the administration is right to pursue dialogue with Tehran. We disagree with the adage that familiarity breeds contempt, and would say instead that communication builds confidence.

The right way to talk to Iran: The first step is for Obama to reach out to Iranian Americans - Joshua Gross, Christian Science Monitor: Nowruz, the Persian New Year, will be celebrated later this month. Obama should take advantage of this unique moment to travel to California and hold a town-hall meeting with the Iranian diaspora. In the context of a major speech to this community, Obama will be able to address the Iranian people and the Iranian government indirectly, without the political fallout of stalled direct negotiations. Image from

Obama's diplomacy test: A U.N. conference on racism is putting a spotlight on the president's promise to engage even with unfriendly countries. So far, the administration's actions haven't been encouraging - Editorial, Los Angeles Times

A Silver Lining for Mitteleuropa: Despite a week of disappointments, Central and Eastern Europe might not be in such bad shape after all - James Gibney, Atlantic: Beyond just helping to reverse the global economic meltdown, the United States does have a strong strategic interest in pushing international institutions to give Eastern and Central European countries the financial help they need.

Justice for Darfur – Editorial, Boston Globe:

The international Criminal Court affirmed its reason for being when it issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with crimes against humanity in Darfur. There is also a chance that the court's arrest warrant for Bashir could have a transforming political effect. The Obama administration should exert its influence in the United Nations Security Council and with African nations to help bring about this outcome. Image from

Continuing leadership in world AIDS fight- Joia Mukherjee, Boston Globe: Congress and Obama made a promise to expand the US commitment by reauthorizing PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) in 2008. Fulfilling this significant commitment to the health and development of the world will go a long way toward promoting economic stability and good will for the United States.

Propaganda and art - Kathz's Blog: “As its title suggests, Windows on War: Soviet War Posters 1943-45 looks at the development of a particular kind of propaganda poster in a narrow but significant period…. I've never worried that artists of all kinds create work that is labelled 'propaganda.' Every work of art is propaganda for something, whether the work is loudly and ostentatiously political or quietly insists that art itself matters. All artistic creators have views, beliefs and prejudices - not necessarily comfortable ones - and these inevitably leak into their work.”

“Propaganda” - Bernie Latham, The Brittle Hum of the Republic: The totalitarian regimes of the last century instructed us as to how destructive propaganda can be to the general good when it is applied in the political sphere.

Still, propaganda can be put to good uses. It can be used to inform and to encourage people to do positive things in their communities even if those people aren’t fully cognizant of how or why they’ve just become encouraged. Image from

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