Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28

“I've listened to IO people talk about Strategic Communications, and no one has a clue what it actually means because it actually doesn't mean anything.”

--Jeff, The Bling Cycle; image from


Ideas Matter: Restoring the Content of Public Diplomacy- Robert R. Reilly, Special Report #64, Heritage Foundation: "U.S. public diplomacy is generally acknowledged as a failure--an especially egregious one since 9/11. By all accounts, we have been absent from the battlefield of ideas. … [T]he main reasons for failure stem from intellectual confusion regarding what it is we are defending and against whom we are defending it. … Now we are in [a] struggle … against Muslim radicals who assert a perverted standard of faith as the litmus test for life or death: Share it or die. They serve an angry god who demands human sacrifice, first from other Muslims who do not subscribe to their darkness and then from us. … It is at the level of principle that the United States must first defend itself against the new barbarians.” Image from

Obama's faltering peace drive: The US president is pressing hard to kickstart the Middle East peace process – but can he make change a reality? - Simon Tisdall, guardian.co.uk: "[US envoy George] Mitchell, who has promised an inclusive peace agenda by the end of the summer, is urging them [Arab countries and Palestinians] to make … confidence-building gestures. These could include Israel-Arab overflight agreements, the opening of interest sections, visa and trade relaxations, and cultural exchanges. An unusual piece of public diplomacy published in the Washington Post recently by Bahrain's crown prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, marked one such tentative effort. 'We must stop the small-minded waiting game in which each side refuses to budge until the other side makes the first move,' he wrote. But waiting for someone else to jump first is precisely what key players Saudi Arabia and Syria are doing now, adamant that Netanyahu must give ground, politically and physically, before they move."

Obama’s YouTube Diplomacy Redux - Bruce Etling, Internet & Democracy Blog: "Ben Smith at Politico has followed up on last week’s news that Obama’s Nowruz message to the Iranian people is one of the White House’s most popular YouTube videos. … The timing of the video around Nowruz was also wise since any message directly before - and most certainly after - the election would have been cited by Iranian conservatives as meddling in Iranian politics. As Smith writes in his original post about the video’s popularity: That’s a remarkable success for public diplomacy, and an end-run around state-controlled media." Image from

A Russian Fairy Tale Of A Future Yet To Come - Get a Grip!: "Joe Biden's flap-tongue-without-brain-engaged effort at public diplomacy didn't perturb the Geek alone. Not by a long shot. The Russians were not delighted either. No surprise there. The only slight surprise comes from the dearth of criticism from the Right which seems ever poised to leap on the slightest administration mis-step--provided, apparently, that it is on the domestic front only." On Biden's statements, see below "Related Items."

Human Rights in China: Public Diplomacy - The CIA Memory Hole: "The U.S. government aims to influence the hearts and minds of progressive-minded Chinese educated elites through its public diplomacy programs. According to the Department of State, nearly half of all PRC citizens participating in educationaland cultural exchanges in the United States are engaged in activities related to democracy, human rights, and religious freedom.

Both the Fulbright Scholarship and Humphrey Fellowship exchange programs devote significant resources for rule oflaw studies. The U.S. International Visitor Leadership Program sponsors U.S.speakers to travel to China to discuss rule of law issues and brings PRC counterpartsto the United States. In 2007, 398 U.S. citizens and 552 PRC citizens participatedin U.S. government educational and cultural and exchange programs with China." Image from

The complementary deficiencies of VOA and RFE/RL - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: "Audience research (and I have seen a lot of it) indicates that where audiences for international broadcasting are large, the audience is interested primarily in news about their own country, but also to a large extent in news about the rest of the world, and to a more limited extent in news about the broadcaster's country. The station that provides news in the desired ratio, with the most resources and most credibility, wins. BBC World Service is famous for the news that it provides about its target countries, but also for its global news coverage. Somehow they manage to pack both into the convenience of one station. US international broadcasting, for its budget of 668 million dollars, has an all-media weekly audience of 175 million. The BBC world services, for their budget of 416 million dollars, have an all-media weekly audience of 233 million."

More about CCTV Arabic and the "scarcity of attention" - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: If Alhurra is merely 'part of a public diplomacy campaign,' then it would be in the same category as CCTV Arabic." On CCTV, see. On Alhurra, see.

Khanfar: Obama has opened a window of opportunity - Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: "Americans should not view al-Jazeera simply as a hostile presence in the Arab political arena or or the source of its image problems. Nor should they view it only as a possible vehicle for public diplomacy and spreading American messages, though they should certainly take every opportunity to be on its programs and engage. They should also listen to it, to the raucous talk show arguments and the dominant narrative frames and the voices of the Arab public which it presents. Those arguments won't end, and that's a good thing --- and better to be in that argument rather than pretending it doesn't exist." Image from

Presenting Hip-Hop Artists From Argentina, Lebanon, The Palestinian TerritoriesNews Blaze: "The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts present hip-hop artists from Argentina, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, the Philippines, and Vietnam in a free performance on the Millennium Stage, Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at 6:00 PM. As participants in ECA's Cultural Visitors Program with the Kennedy Center, these artists are concluding a cultural exchange program that included visits to New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC."

Congressional Committees Raise Concerns Over Pentagon's Strategic Communications - Walter Pincus, Washington Post: "The Pentagon spends nearly $1 billion a year on its strategic communications, its contribution to the 'war of ideas' that until recent years had been the sole province of the State Department's public diplomacy effort. … The House Armed Services Committee said 'online strategic communications,' such as Web sites now run by the Defense Department in the Balkans and North Africa, 'are essential tools for the department to effectively counter the violent extremist groups abroad.' It described the Pentagon as 'overly cautious' in its approach, for fear of violating the law that prohibits films and articles produced by the State Department from being circulated in the United States. The committee said the Pentagon should conduct a new legal review of that law, which it said applies only to the State Department, and expand its online media operations even if they can be accessed in the United States by American audiences. Image from

House Appropriations Concerned Pentagon’s Role in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: "[U]ntil the recent year, the leadership at the State Department was out to lunch. From the Secretary of State to the Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy (James K. Glassman excepted), very little effort was made in the areas of a) funding the diplomatic corps, b) enhancing and expanding public diplomacy, and c) embracing the modern information environment. … Only now with President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Under Secretary McHale, Special Advisor Alec Ross, and a host of others is State getting into position to handle the roles and responsibilities required to simply participate let alone win the current and future struggle for minds and wills. But State isn’t ready, not the least of which because McHale is getting the public diplomacy house in order and while Defense has had eight years to transform into a learning organization (as John Nagl, now of CNAS argues), the State Department hasn’t even begun to adapt to modern requirements."

National Security by Spreading Democracy? - Michael S. Rozeff, LewRockwell.com: "Nicholas J. Armstrong of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism has come out with an article that is highly critical of the strategy of spreading democracy as Bush operated it. …

Armstrong mentions several criticisms of others: ‘...the use of aid packages, military force, or even public diplomacy can be costly with no guarantee of long-term success – as exemplified by the $10 billion per month cost of the improving, yet still uncertain democracy promotion efforts in Iraq.’” Image from

Eight Former Sec States Make the Case for More Diplomacy - Globo Diplo: "Read this [an article which appeared on 6/25/09] –a case for more diplomacy as a useful long-term investment, including training, personnel, and public diplomacy–written by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice."

Nixon's Ghost Could Help Obama - O'Dwyer's Blog: Covering PR, public affairs, marketing and the world of communications - "The esteemed National Journal, in a piece penned before the President unwisely plunged head first into the Gates mess (sub req'd), suggests that Obama take a cue from President Nixon. The July 25 cover story doesn’t suggest that Obama secretly invade Cambodia or wiretap the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. NJ just believes an 'injection of Nixonian realism would do the President good.' The article notes that our 37th President was 'ruthless and profane and held few illusions about the world,' while No. 44 seems to be following in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy. JFK was a smooth talker and strong on the public diplomacy front, but failed to leave much of a mark on the international front." Image from

Public Diplomacy: From the Cold War to the Current Era, Part I - Darren Krape blog: "Fifty years ago this month, on a muddy rain-soaked field in Moscow, a glittering pavilion quickly rose and a massive geodesic dome swiftly took shape. After only a few months of hectic construction the 1959 American National Exhibition opened to a curious Soviet public. The exhibit provided a unique window on American life to the millions of people who filed through the event over the next few weeks. The visitors saw examples of contemporary American life, from cars to homes to art. Young American guides, many barely out of college, led the curious Soviet public through both the general American story as well as their own deeply personal stories of life in the United States and, in many cases, how their immigrant families became American citizens." See also.

The Changing Landscape of Business - Global Guru:

"Instead of promoting cutthroat competition, countries from around the world should come together to collaborate, and to make it easier for companies to collaborate across national borders. … [T]he US [should] work on its public diplomacy with India by importing ideas and talent to promote innovation, especially with regards to energy and healthcare." Image from

China's military cautiously tries out new openness - Lucy Hornby, Reuters: "[A] rare media tour of a Beijing military base on Tuesday [was] designed to show the Chinese military's modernity and openness. The People's Liberation Army's new mantra of transparency and public diplomacy is partly meant to reassure outsiders about China's rising military strength. 'The degree of openness is an expression of national confidence,' said security expert Ma Zhengang, president of the China Institute of International Studies."

Tenaru welcomes Taiwanese youths to schoolSolomon Star, Solomon Islands Leading Daily Newspaper: "Students of Saint Joseph Tenaru yesterday welcomed the Taiwanese Youth Ambassadors to their school. The Taiwanese youths will be here for two weeks under a new exchange programme between the two countries. … [School Principal Chris Rabaua] said the youth-oriented public diplomacy programme was initiated by Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou." Image from

Koreans Lack Cultural Confidence - Kang Hyun-kyung, Korea Times: "Foreign travelers staying at five-star hotels in Seoul have fewer opportunities to taste local cuisine than they do in Tokyo with Japanese food, as only four out of 18 luxury hotels here serve Korean cuisine. … Mametkulovs Mansur, a Russian actor who appeared in the MBC drama 'Queen Seonduk,' said Korea's inactive public diplomacy is probably responsible for the obscurity of Korean cultural products in his home country."

Goldberg Returns! - roy edroso, alicublog: "Jonah Goldberg is back from a European vacation, where I imagine he made Clark Griswold look like Bernard Berenson, to bring some life to The Corner with a breathtaking series of inane posts. … Eventually he is made to focus on the current events analysis that has justly made him famous. John J. Miller comes in complaining that from what he's seen, the new G.I, Joe movie doesn't have enough American military uniforms to suit him, not to fulfill Hollywood's historic mission of 'public diplomacy of creating goodwill abroad.' (I should think they'd be grateful to us just for the loud, ugly crap to watch on dates.) You know Goldberg couldn't resist this, and gasses about the commies in Hollywood trying to make our fighting men look bad, and in so doing makes a passing comment about the Bourne movies that spurs a reader to remark that the anti-American content is present in the Bourne novels as well."

Otto Reich’s propaganda factory still churning out the goods - Machetera:

"[T]he Op-Ed that appeared in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal under Roberto Micheletti’s signature was definitely not written by him. … [I]t was written by Otto Reich. … [L]et’s cast a critical eye back to 1985, when Reich was running the Office for Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean … [when he created] the kind of 'white propaganda' that earned Reich a slap on the hand by the Comptroller General of the United States, back in 1987, for violating rules against the use of federal funds for propaganda not authorized by the U.S. Congress." Image from


No Burqa For Clinton - Anne Applebaum, Washington Post: It is largely up to Clinton, not Obama, to determine what kind of secretary of state she will be.

Excerpts: Biden on Eastern Europe:

'What worries me most is they don't understand how to establish democracy’
Wall Street Journal' See also (1)(2). Image from

Britain’s propaganda offensive on behalf of Afghan war- Chris Marsden, World Socialist Website

Pakistan Radio keen on propaganda victories, not solution of problems – ANI, LittleAbout


Robert R. Reilly on moral relativism:

Moral relativism is inimical to the idea of justice, as it removes the epistemological ground for knowing the good. As Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory, wrote, “everything that is relative presupposes the existence of something that is absolute, and is meaningful only when juxtaposed to something absolute.” What happens if the absolute is absent? If what is good is relative to something other than itself, then it is not the good but the expression of some other interest that only claims to be the good. Claims of “good” then become transparent masks for selfinterest. This is the surest path back to barbarism and the brutal doctrine of “right is the rule of the stronger.”

The regression is not accidental.

Relativism inevitably concludes in nihilism, and the ultimate expression of nihilism is the supremacy of the will. Those who promote “multiculturalism,” another form of relativism, have chosen the surest way to the destruction of diversity, the very thing they claim to celebrate. The extent to which America has changed in this way is the extent to which it has lost its moral authority, both at home and abroad. Radical Islam has not done this to us; we have done it to ourselves. This is the real, internal crisis of public diplomacy.

The impact of this crisis on public diplomacy is manifested in the remarks of the publisher of Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, former USIA foreign service officer John Brown:

To seek to define America through certain principles (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”) is all well and good, but to reduce the United States to a fixed set of ideas it “fights for” simplifies the complexity and changeability of the United States. In fact, what perhaps most characterizes the U.S. is that it contains a multitude of differing and evolving ideas, rather than permanent ideas everyone agrees upon. The notion of an American “war of ideas” is, therefore, an attack on ideas in the United States, as it implicitly limits their infinite variety.
The confusion in this statement is almost amusing in its doublethink: Defending ourselves is actually attacking ourselves. It places the American Founding on its head. In other words, we stand for nothing permanent except the idea that there is nothing permanent. This is manifestly absurd because it holds the self-contradictory position that the idea that there is nothing permanent is permanent and inherently worthier than its contrary. This leaves our military in the interesting situation of fighting and dying to defend the idea that there is nothing to defend—no “fixed set of ideas it ‘fights for.’” Image from

Robert E. Brown on Twitter:

One of my earliest posts to this blog about something I called ‘twitter diplomacy’. Last winter, amid the Israeli-Hamas skirmish over Israel’s retalliation over captured soldiers, an item appeared in the New York Times about social media. It seems that Israel’s communication managers were engaging the criticism of the nation’s allegedly “disproportionate” reaction (bombs away; civilians killed) to what Israel saw as Hamas’ aggression.

The very look of tweets — “Is” for Israel and far more bizarre and unintentionally ironic or absurdist verbal truncations to describe the fog of war –struck me as a blend of Orwell and Beckett. It looked like the language of diplomacy had been taken over by adolescents engaged in a game of “Doom” on X-box.

But at the same time I could see the sense of it. After all, it wasn’t what it resembled — tweens texting. The conversation — stacatto ping-pong — may have looked lightweight, but it certainly wasn’t. The back-and-forth was about life and death issues — ancient, modern, complex and profound. But on reflection, there was nothing inherently wrong or wrong-headed about conducting a conversation about those issues in tweets than in paragraphed op eds and communiques. Image from

No comments: