Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28

"In many ways, human beings behave like flocks of birds or schools of fish."

--Nicholas Christakis, a physician and Harvard University sociologist who is co-author of a new book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives; image from


Has the US turned its back on democracy? - Stephen McInerney, The Daily Star, Lebanon: "Overall, the Obama administration has made some strong first steps toward renewing US relations with the Middle East, but its approach to supporting Arab reform is as of yet less clear.

On the one hand, the administration could be following a careful, thoughtful approach in which support for democratic reformers will follow progress on public diplomacy and other diplomatic priorities. Here, restored relationships with Arab governments will pave the way for cooperation on reform. On the other hand, we could instead be witnessing a longer-term downgrading of support for democracy, which would have dire consequences for citizens of Arab states. While the administration’s public rhetoric and its annual budget each offer some potential signs of support for Arab democracy, fears that the United States has abandoned the cause of Arab reformers will persist until US engagement spurs its autocratic allies to undertake visible, substantive steps toward reform." Image from

Let’s Get Real - Art Woodrow, Blogger News Network: "After World War II, the United States became the world policeman and benefactor. These roles have become counterproductive. Let’s get real; it’s time for other nations to take their proportionate share of these responsibilities. … $395 million Influence Foreign Opinion through Public Diplomacy $522 million Engage and Educate through Exchange Programs. … In spite of these huge expenditures, the United States is unloved."

American willingness to engage - The Slovak Spectator:

"The Slovak Spectator spoke to the Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Bratislava [Keith Eddins] not only about press freedom but also about the recently announced change in the US missile defence plans, foreign aid and its outcomes, visa-free travel, and the widely discussed fee for US-bound travellers that the US is considering. [Eddins:] [N]o public anywhere in the world has sufficient understanding of foreign aid. The American public is notorious in having an impression that we spend 25 or even 30 percent of our government budget on foreign aid, when we spend a fraction of that. Governments need to explain through public diplomacy that foreign aid is an important tool to support stability in regions in need." Engagement ring image from

New report recommends improved ties with Cuba - Tracey Eaton, Along the Malecón: "The author of the CSIS report is Peter DeShazo, former director of the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs."

Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations [Review of Daryl Copeland, Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009] - Peter R. Beckman, American Diplomacy: "As for GD or guerrilla diplomacy--that turns out to be PD [public diplomacy] kicked up a notch, a 'sharper, faster, lighter' version of PD. … [W]hat Copeland’s analysis

really needs is a presentation of PD and GD at work, with extensive case studies--or if those are too sensitive (or unavailable), then with extensive fictional illustrations of what PD and GD might look like on the ground and how the results might feed into policy formulation and implementation, or into building a persuasive brand." Copeland image from

MDC-T trying to re-write history - Nyasha Marunda, The Zimbabwe Guardian: "The art of public diplomacy goes back a long way, as the old expression 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' shows us. Disguise something bad or give it a cuddly name and by the time people find out it has fangs, it may be too late."


Borat vs. Murat - Mitchell Polman, Mediaite: "It’s time for those who care about America, especially those who produce documentaries, to turn their talents to making it possible for private sector initiatives to educate and inform overseas audiences about who we really are as a people.

We speak a great deal in this country about the need for people to not always rely on our government. We should not be relying on the American government to do the job of telling our country’s story." Image from

Rank appeasement? 'Diplomatic engagement' is the tack - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times: Poland and the Czech Republic, some pundits say, feel abandoned by the United States as a result of Mr. Obama's decision. Wrong. Both Prague and Warsaw had been expecting Mr. Obama's decision since he won the presidency. Mr. Obama has opted for diplomatic engagement, so-called smart power, or a blend of soft and hard power. But the ranks of his detractors grow daily.

Obama the Gambler: Betting That Machismo Is Not Foreign Policy - Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post:

Obama's outreach to the world is an experiment, and not merely to see if the world will respond. He wants to demonstrate at home that engagement does not make America weak. Image from

Obama can't downsize to success in Afghanistan: The president appears to be dragging his feet on more troops for the struggle, but that's what an effective counterinsurgency strategy requires - Max Boot, We do not have to create 'Jeffersonian democracy' in Afghanistan. But we do have to keep it from becoming a terrorist haven. The only way to achieve that minimal objective is with a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy.

How to win: Classic counterinsurgency - Oliver North, Washington Times: Here's the bottom line, based on months in the field with U.S. and NATO troops and Afghanistan's fledgling security forces: This is a fight we can - and must - win. It is a classical counterinsurgency campaign - not rocket science.

Testing Afghanistan Assumptions: The lesson of Vietnam is don't commit troops without a clear strategy - John Kerry, Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Obama promises not to send more troops to Afghanistan until he has absolute clarity on what the strategy will be. He is right to take the time he needs to define the mission. We should all follow his lead and debate all of the options. Image from

A War President? - Ross Douthat, New York Times: If Obama takes us deeper into a conflict for which he doesn’t really have the stomach, then the outcome will almost certainly be tragic — for him, for us, and for Afghanistan.

Keeping Iran honest: Iran's secret nuclear plant will spark a new round of IAEA inspections and lead to a period of even greater transparency - Scott Ritter, When Obama announced that 'Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow', he is technically and legally wrong.

There Are Only Two Choices Left on Iran: An Israeli or U.S. military strike now, or a nuclear Tehran soon - Eliot A. Cohen, Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. government has hoped for a middle course of sanctions, negotiations and bargaining that would remove the problem without the ugly consequences. This is self-delusion. It is in the American interest to break with past policy and actively seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Not by invasion, which this administration would not contemplate and could not execute, but through every instrument of U.S. power, soft more than hard. Image from

The U.S.-Iranian Triangle - Roger Cohen, New York Times: Isolated, nuclear negotiations will fail. Integrated, they may not. Iran’s sense of humiliation is rooted in its America complex; its nuclear program is above all about the restoration of pride. Settle the complex to contain the program. Triangulate. Think broad. Think E.U., not Versailles.

Propaganda campaign meant to marginalize Iran ahead of nuclear talk - Tehran Times: TEHRAN -- Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani says that the new propaganda campaign about Iran’s nuclear activities was launched by the West to help them impose their will on the Islamic Republic during the upcoming talks between Iran and the 5+1 group.

Burma Review: A new Obama administration policy is promising but incomplete – Editorial, Washington Post

What We Can't Conquer, We Buy - Siv O'Neall, OpEdNews: The policies of the United States from the very beginning of the colonial days down through the centuries of heedless murder and takeover of lands belonging to foreign countries and to native Americans have always been greedy, callous and self-righteous.

The people in power decide that their country has to go to war for conquest and increased power, wars to dominate, to oppress, to minimize people who are different from us. And the ‘enemy', the people who are sacrificed on the altar of greed, are always depicted as inferior, as barely human. The propaganda machine gets turned on and the ‘Gooks', the ‘terrorists' or whatever name they may have been labeled with, are now seen as not really worth humane treatment. The death of a ‘Gook' or the suffering of a ‘terrorist' is of no importance. The term ‘collateral damage' for the deaths of civilians in the enemy country is a clear sign that those uncivilized people are of no importance. Image from

The El Paso Museum of Art announces Recycle/Reuse: WWII Propaganda Prints - Newspaper Tree: Recycle / Reuse: WWII Propaganda Prints examines the vintage concept of recycling as depicted in World War II posters. This exhibition is open to the public September 27, 2009 through March 2, 2010 in the Gateway Gallery at the El Paso Museum of Art. This exhibition is free to the public. Related merchandise is available for purchase in the Museum Store.


“Per person, the world's leading potato eaters are in Belarus.”

-- Associated Press, “International Research Team Cracks Potato Genome,” New York Times; image from


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