Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31

“You can always pick it up.”

--Julia Child’s famous statement about a miss-flipped potato pancake; image from


From the Chairman: Strategic Communication: Getting Back to Basics, by Admiral Michael Mullen, Joint Forces Quarterly, issue 55, 4th quarter 2009


Peace will help keep Obama popular - Steven W. Barnes and Nadia Bilbassy, Daily Star: "Achieving gains in the [Middle East] peace process involves overcoming vast historical, diplomatic, and policy challenges, which cannot be swept aside by a PR campaign. But failing to engage in a strategic outreach initiative and conducting effective public diplomacy in the pursuit of policy interests does have consequences for peace." Article also appeared in Jakarta Globe (August 25). Image from

Home truthsThe News, Pakistan: "America seems to be going through a process of awakening, and gaining a more realistic sense of itself and how others perceive it in the process. It is difficult to comprehend the depth of hatred felt by many in Pakistan and across the world for the US. It finds its outlet in all manner of ways from flag burning to open warfare, and it is a hatred that has grown exponentially since 9/11. An early attempt to understand why America is so hated was made with the book titled ‘Why do people hate America’ (Sardar and Davies, 2001) and finds its latest exposition in an article originally written for the official military journal Joint Force Quarterly by none other than the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen. He writes that no amount of public relations exercises will repair the credibility of the US if American behaviour overseas continues to be perceived as ‘arrogant, uncaring or insulting’ — which it not infrequently is, whether it be by design or accident."

Mulling Mullen's Message: Admiral Mullen seems to believe that if America builds trust and delivers, then it will earn respect and admiration - and win its wars. But America’s wars are the problem, notes Nadia HijabMiddle East Online: "Reading about the essay by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I thought, at last! An American official who really gets it -- and the highest-ranking military officer, no less. At a time when the Obama Administration plans to invest heavily in strategic communication as part of 'winning' the war in Afghanistan, Mullen writes that what appear to be communication problems are actually 'policy and execution problems.'” Mullen image from

Top Ten Bloggables – Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: "5. Admiral Mullen’s strategic communication. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs just released a blunt three page article challenging the military’s new conventional wisdom on strategic communications. His bottom line — that words matter less than deeds — is no different from the top-line recommendations of dozens of reports on public diplomacy over the last few years. Everybody says that deeds matter more than words. But words do also matter — nothing speaks for itself, framing matters, and failure to engage in the public rhetorical battles would be disastrous. I suspect that his real target was the 'strategic communications' industry which has grown up remarkably in Pentagon circles over the last half decade. That really does need to be reined in, a I’ve written about often over the last few years and as Obama’s Pentagon and some parts of Congress have already begun to do. I’ll definitely have more to say about this!

6. The Rendon Group screening of journalists. Is anybody surprised by the revelation that the DoD was using a contractor to screen journalists for their coverage? I mean, next thing you’ll say is that they were paying to plant pro-U.S. 'good news' stories in the Iraqi press. I’d guess that this is only the tip of the iceberg. It will be interesting to see how the Obama Pentagon responds to this legacy – on his Twitter feed, the Pentagon’s new strategic communications guy Price Floyd says that screening journalists like this is 'not appropriate and doesn’t happen.' So what is appropriate, and what does happen?" Re the Mullen article, see also John Brown, Strategic Communications and the Graveyard of Empires, Huffington Post. Other related articles at (1) (2) (3) (4); Lynch image from

Iran’s War: who is Iran at war with? Bruce Clarke - "[D]id we miss an opportunity to use public diplomacy to support the recent Iranian protests against the election to create leverage?"

When No Means Yes: What Generation Y Leaders Can Learn From Michelle Kwan - Rosetta Thurman -- promoting next generation leadership for social change:

"Michelle Kwan has effectively given up a career as a figure skating champion to go to grad school and be a public servant. Here she was, a successful Generation Y leader in her field, who decided that she had to give up one passion - skating - in order to pursue her other passion for public diplomacy. She realized that she had to say ‘no’ to figure skating so that she could say ‘yes’ to a career in public service."

Independence, Peace and Economic Growth - Beijing Review: "Over the past 60 years, China's diplomacy has played an important part in upholding the country's sovereignty, security and development interests and in promoting world peace, development and cooperation. China has worked closely with other countries to address various international disputes in a responsible manner. It has vigorously conducted economic, cultural and public diplomacy and achieved fruitful results."

The fasting of a Catholic - Tropical Line/Gulf Investment, Portugal & UAE: "On 28th of August, on the SOL - Portuguese Newspaper - I saw an article with the title 'The fasting of a Catholic'. Ana do Carmo, public diplomacy advisor, started the Ramadan like a Muslim. For that, she asked help to Mr. Omar Suisse[,]teacher of Arabic Studies.

In this article she reported the first six days and all the difficulties. I want to say that I liked very much the article and I think that it is time to understand more about the Arabic culture and Muslim principles. Congratulations Ana do Carmo for your courage." Image from

Safire on Nixon, Khrushchev -- "They Were Deadly Serious..." [video] - Mark Taplin, Global Publicks: "In the second part of his comments about the Nixon-Khrushchev 'Kitchen Debate,' noted columnist and author William Safire talks about the broader context in which the showdown took place, pointing out that it is often forgotten today 'how close a race it was' between the two superpowers, since what now appears as the inevitable victory of capitalism and democracy was by no means so certain 50 years ago. Safire tells his audience at the GWU 'Face-off to Facebook' conference that the most important breakthrough of that Moscow Cold War summer was in fact in the realm of public diplomacy -- namely, that for the first time an American leader was able to speak directly, on television and radio, to the Soviet public." See also.


Lack of translators hurts U.S. war on terror - Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times: U.S. national security agencies remain woefully short of foreign-language speakers and translators nearly eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks resulted in a war on an enemy that often communicates in relatively obscure dialects, current and former officials say.

The necessary cadre of U.S. intelligence personnel capable of reading and speaking targeted regional languages such as Pashto, Dari and Urdu "remains essentially nonexistent," the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wrote in a rare but stark warning in its 2010 budget report. Image from

Diplomacy in the Age of No Secrets: Today's quiet deal could be tomorrow's headline - L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal: Diplomacy was once satirically defined as the patriotic art of lying for one's country. This approach is hard to sustain in a world that demands transparency. For diplomats, there's no negotiating around the fact that confidential deals today could be headlines tomorrow.


Environmental scientist Jennifer Jacquet poses they question, "Are You an Eco-Douchebag? The test is simple: read this sign ["Dear customers: Please be advised that our Bread Slicer is used for both Organic and Conventional items"] (recently photographed at my local Vancouver market, which is owned by Whole Foods) then gauge your response..." From Boing Boing.

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