Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19

“[I]t's a dead end.”

--Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, regarding the Moon; image from

"You know, I'm relatively new to my job, so can I answer that in a couple more weeks?"

–-Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, during a White House press briefing, as cited in Politico's "Politi-quotes: The week in one-liners"


Breaking the Diplomatic Ties That Bind Design - By Philip Kennicott, Washington Post: "[T]he generic U.S. embassy is unpleasant, off-putting and marooned in a huge, arid compound. … When it comes to this country's highest-profile embassies, in major cities, serving old and close allies, there is still some concern for architectural excellence. It's the rest of the world -- where public diplomacy matters most -- that gets the short shrift." Image from

Embassy Design, continued - Philip Kennicott Blog: “The Post gave me considerable space in Sunday’s paper to look at a new report issued by the American Institute of Architects. The document is a nuts-and-bolts thing, incremental in its recommendations and it hardly glances at the real problem–crippling security dictates–that may make it impossible to build inspiring embassy architecture again. But it proves that there’s momentum to acknowledge the ugly embassies we’ve built and their impact on our public diplomacy agenda. Many architects believe that a workable compromise between security and aesthetics can be achieved through innovative and inspired design. I hope so.”

Romanian president visits RFE/RL, recalls "radio revolution" - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

The Undersecretary of Defense for Policy takes on StratComm - Gail Fisher, Mendstate Health: Defense, Diplomacy and Development: "The Defense News reported last week ( that Flournoy [the new Undersecretary of Defense, Michele Flournoy]

was going to put together a small team to shape communications both to Congress and to other US Govt agencies. The team will replace an office within USD(P) that used to be called 'Support to Public Diplomacy'. Flournoy disbanded the Support to Public Diplomacy office this year, seeking a fresh start to Strategic Communications efforts after the Support to Public Diplomacy office became embroiled in an internal conflict over it's [sic] issuances. (Apparently it was issuing 'propagandistic' information that soldiers in Afghanistan refused to use about casualty rates). While this all sounds rather archaic, it's not. The goal of the team is to coordinate Strategic Communications across DoD." Flournoy image from article.

Muslims Declare Jihad in Chicago; Obama, Lawmakers Prefer Targeting Americans - Jim Kouri, borderfirereport: "According to reports, the State Department and USAID are carrying out efforts to counter the global propagation of Islamic extremism, with State's efforts focused primarily on traditional diplomacy, counterterrorism, and public diplomacy and USAID's efforts focused on development programs to diminish underlying conditions of extremism." Image from

Iraqi teens get up-close look at US - John Curran, Associated Press, "36 Iraqi teenagers participating in a 'citizen diplomacy' program underwritten by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in which they're trained in leadership, cross-cultural communication and community-building. … The State Department bars publication of the Iraqi teenagers' names, citing concerns for their security once they return home. 'The Iraq Young Leaders' Exchange Program exposes talented young Iraqis - we do programs for secondary school and university students - to the United States,' said Baghdad Embassy cultural affairs officer Helen LaFave, in an e-mail message."

Public Diplomacy Russian Style: Medvedev Video Blogging - The Negotiator: "Not exactly by the edge of your seat material, the body language and voice overs make it worth it though. It seems President Medvedev is a somewhat regular video blogger, a year after his election, the major points of his first address to parliament, and recently, a personal tour of his alma mater." Medvedev image from


Take Notes: NY Philharmonic Eyes Cuba Trip - Claudine Zap, Buzz Log: "President Obama talks a lot about the importance of discussion with hostile countries like Iran and North Korea.

But the sound of music can breach divisions beyond language. That's the idea behind the invitation extended to the New York Philharmonic to visit Cuba, a country just 90 miles from Florida but with no diplomatic ties to the U.S. (The U.S. government has given the orchestra special permission to travel to the Communist country.)" See also. Image from

Leading article: Diplomatic danceThe Independent: "It see[m]ed for a while that the end of the Cold War and the rise of the internet had made the concept of cultural diplomacy into something of an anachronism. But the Royal Ballet's tour of Cuba is generating some of the same excitement as those great cultural exchanges of yesteryear."

Cultural events mark Thang Long-Hanoi’s millennial celebrationsVOV News: "The Hanoi Chapter of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations on July 17 announced a number of key activities for the remaining months of the year that will mark Thang Long-Hanoi’s millennial celebrations. A symposium on 'the 2009 year of cultural diplomacy' and measures to enhance diplomatic activities in conjunction with cultural activities were also announced." See also.


The Big Decisions to Come - David Ignatius, Washington Post: The world is relieved to hear a new American voice, and Obama has raised expectations that he can fix tough problems. But there's a big "bubble" payment ahead, when America and its partners have to make costly decisions. And here, there may be insufficient resources to pay off Obama's obligations. Image from

Foreign Policy by Deadline - Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: If there is a danger with Obama’s foreign policy, it is that he is bunching too many decisive moments together and not leaving himself room to work with unexpected events.

Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No - Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: The “war on terrorism” is the war of ideas within Islam — a war between religious zealots who glorify martyrdom and want to keep Islam untouched by modernity and isolated from other faiths, with its women disempowered, and those who want to embrace modernity, open Islam to new ideas and empower Muslim women as much as men. America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were, in part, an effort to create the space for the Muslim progressives to fight and win so that the real engine of change, something that takes nine months and 21 years to produce -- a new generation -- can be educated and raised differently.

A Letter From Europe: U.S. leadership in the post-Soviet age is needed to face new challenges - Editorial, Washington Post:

An impressive collection of former presidents and ministers from the first two decades of post-communism warn, in a letter released last week, that “[a]ll is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship." Nations clamoring for a stronger U.S relationship, built on the ideals of freedom and alliance, are not so numerous that Washington can afford to take them for granted. For text of letter, see. Image from

The war of private news has just begun: facebook vs. twitter - Mercedes Bunz – Carta: Facebook is like meeting your friends at the bus station. You show up, drop some lines and leave after a little while. An elegant organisation to keep up with your friends and acquaintances in a more and more complex and flexible world. It is about communication to a private public and less about #issues you want to follow - even though facebook is eagerly working on a search engine for its activity stream. Compared to the small creek of updates on facebook the chaotic twitter stream is much more used to propose some news, themes, issues or personal views. It is basically organized by timeline and #keywords. Communication between each other is possible, but not the most important thing. Re-tweeting for example is more important than replying. It is an ongoing news stream you can hook up to or drop out whenever you want to, because it is a flow of personal news and views and links that people and institutions are posting which you choose to follow. Via

The Power of the Brand as Verb - Noam Cohen, New York Times: The speed at which reputations are made and destroyed in the Internet age has changed the thinking about the danger of brand names’ becoming verbs. Better to get the market share when you can and worry later, when the brand becomes part of the popular vernacular and less distinctive in the process. Image from


--Burk Uzzle's photos of Woodstock, Boing Boing

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