Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31

"lost decade"

--Part of the LA Times headline, “Stock market closes the books on a 'lost decade': For the first time since the 1930s, the Dow is ending lower for the period. Some see value in the market now”; image from

"The wasted decade"

--Washington Post headline for an article by E. J. Dionne, “The decade when the U.S. lost its way

"Current Decade Rated Worst in 50 Years"

-- Title of December Pew Research Center survey

“the past decade's sense of sadness”

--What Pew's numbers touched the heart of, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger; image from


Using twitter for Public Diplomacy Los Angeles October 27, 2009 - David Saranga (@DavidSaranga) [there appears to be technical problems with the video]

Sonic Diplomacy: American Jazz in Pakistan - Time; via


In Cuba, Hopeful Tenor Toward Obama Is Ebbing - Marc Lacey, New York Times:

“Mr. Obama, whose election was broadly celebrated by Cuba’s racially diverse population, is now being portrayed by this nation’s leaders as an imperialistic, warmongering Cuba hater. ... 'It’s unfortunate,’ Wayne S. Smith, a former American diplomat in Havana, said of the rising tensions. ... Mr. Smith, now a Cuba analyst at the Center for International Policy who advocates a lifting of the American trade and travel bans on Cuba, was supposed to accompany Barry McCaffrey, a retired American Army general, on a trip to Havana from Jan. 3 to 6 to discuss how the two countries could cooperate on fighting drug trafficking. But General McCaffrey pulled out, incensed by recent criticisms of Mr. Obama by Cuban officials. ‘This type of shallow and vitriolic 1960s public diplomacy also makes Cuban leadership appear to be nonserious, polemical amateurs,’ he said in a letter to Mr. Smith. ‘President Obama is the most thoughtful and nonideological U.S. chief executive that the Cubans have seen in 50 years.’ At the same time, still hopeful that the two countries can put their grudges aside, Mr. Smith said the United States should continue efforts to improve relations by removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, for instance, and by closing Radio Martí and TV Martí, the anti-Castro broadcasts financed by the United States government and sent from American soil to Cuba.” See also. Image from

Antigua – Paul Rockower, Levantine: "We took the bus to El Trebol, where we hopped on a chicken bus to Antigua. By the way, a chicken bus is an old school bus that is brightly colored with designs painted on the side. They ply the inter-city routes with regularity. The bus took us down Avenida Roosevelt, through sprawling traffic of the choked, crowded capital city. On the way out, I spied some EU public diplomacy on the back of a city bus. A large add proclaiming an EU-Guatemala project for social welfare improvement. The advert touted the EU development project aimed at social cohesion and designed to improve the livelihood of society's dispossessed. Good pd, especially well done for knowing how to reach your audience via adept placement. Reminded me of a goog pd campaign done by one of the groups in 504, as trying to conduct PD with Israelis by advertising on buses- something that are in widespread use in Israel. ... PS: Good article about baseball public diplomacy smoothing the way for respect between America and Venezuela through Buddy Baily, an American manager in Chavezland."

Information Operations folks: A new blog is for you - "A big welcome to the new Information Operations Institute (IOI) and its blog,, which debuted today. IOI is run by my friend Joel Harding as a professional trade association for information operations, information warfare, strategic communications and public diplomacy. It's under the wing, so to speak, of the Association of Old Crows (AOC),

otherwise known as the Electronic Warfare and Information Operations Association." Image from article

India's quiet diplomacy turns quieter - United Press International, Asia - ‎ "According to the parlance of political science, diplomacy is the management of international relations and politics through negotiations. But it can get vociferous at times, with coercion being applied by one state over another. On the other hand, quiet diplomacy rests on the tenets of rapprochement – providing space and applying ethics and morality – and shuns the 'realpolitik' or politics based on realism. Quiet diplomacy is distinctly different from 'gunboat diplomacy' that uses force or 'public diplomacy' that uses propaganda. In fact, quiet diplomacy can be interpreted as a subset of 'preventive diplomacy.' The latter is defined in Article 33 of the U.N. Charter and encompasses all possible modes of conflict resolution – negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement and other peaceful means adopted by the parties to the dispute."

Who's been naughty: The attempted Christmas Day attack - Jonathan Schachter, Jerusalem Post:

"Despite the change in administration and the subsequent improvement of America's image around the world, US efforts to combat terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan might be creating more terrorists than they are defeating or dissuading. This is just the latest manifestation of the considerable challenge terrorism presents to governments around the world: How can they use the full spectrum of counterterrorism tools (e.g., legal, public diplomacy, military) to meet this threat without making things worse?" Image from

Lord Ahmed for better government policies for Overseas Pakistanis - Rahman Jahangir, Associated Press of Pakistan: "Leading British Muslim Parliamentarian Lord Nazir Ahmed has urged Islamabad to review its strategy on overseas Pakistanis by giving them a role in the nation building process by acknowledging their contributions and encouraging them to further enhance their support. Lord Ahmed is currently in Dubai as a part of his visit to the Middle East and held a meeting with Pakistan’s Ambassador at Large Javed Malik. ... On his part, Mr. Malik said that he has sent detailed proposals to the Prime Minister as well as the relevant Ministries on how influential and affluent overseas Pakistanis can be given an effective role in dealing with the challenges being faced by Pakistan. He has also sent detailed proposals on public diplomacy on how affluent and influential overseas based Pakistanis can play a role in projecting the positive image of Pakistan at an international level."

Comments by Ken Yates, Senior Vice President Jefferson Waterman International, regarding "Avatar" and Public Diplomacy – John Brown, Notes and Essays. Below image from

[Twitter message] - duniya_ki_beti: "Wow I think James Cameron took a course in public diplomacy while creating #avatar -- Great movie, must see for all PDers!” See also.


Obama to get report on intelligence failures in Abdulmutallab case - Karen DeYoung, Washington Post: In preliminary reports due for delivery to the president Thursday, the State Department will now take responsibility for checking for visas under all names included in every terrorism-connected report it submits through interagency channels.

Afghanistan far deadlier than Iraq for U.S. troops in 2009 - Tom Vande Brook, USA TODAY: More than twice as many U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in 2009 than in Iraq,

U.S. casualty records show, and Afghanistan is likely to become an even deadlier place for American forces as reinforcements are rushed there to battle insurgents. Image from

A Cold-Blooded Foreign Policy: No despot fears the president, and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue - Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal: Under Mr. Obama, we have pulled back from the foreign world.

The decade when the U.S. lost its way - E. J. Dionne Jr, Washington Post: Our current president is more deliberate about the use of U.S. power than his predecessor was, and he is determined to repair America's image with other nations. Obama is committed to fighting terrorism but does not believe that a "war on terror" should define our foreign policy.

Now Yemen – Editorial, New York Times:

It is good news that the Obama administration -- which shockingly missed a series of warnings about the plot -- has been paying close attention to Yemen and, in recent months, has stepped up covert operations against Al Qaeda forces there. Image from

Obama's Security 'Breach': Returning Gitmo's detainees to Yemen defies common sense – Review & Outlook, Wall Street Journal

Obama administration is right to prosecute alleged Detroit bomber in U.S. court - Editorial, Washington Post

Unholy war in cyberspace - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times: Moderate Arab leaders from Morocco in North Africa to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, interviewed by this reporter, invariably come up with the same wet-finger-to-the-wind stats:

No more than 1 percent of their populations are religious extremists, and 10 percent fundamentalist, essentially in sympathy with the extremists' agenda. Extrapolating these figures on the global scale of 1.3 billion Muslims, we get 13 million extremists and 130 million sympathizers. That should provide intelligence and security services and Special Operations decades of derring-do. Image from

In the face of protests, Iran's leaders are at an impasse - Ray Takeyh, Washington Post: The Obama administration should take a cue from Ronald Reagan and persistently challenge the legitimacy of the theocratic state and highlight its human rights abuses.

Mass demonstrations in Iran to counter Western propaganda narratives - Teheran, 30 December – Following the violence stirred up last Sunday by armed groups acting from within anti-government protest demonstrations during the Ashura celebrations, today in all of the country millions took to the streets to counter the anti-government forces. While massive demonstrations were under way, Iran's Coordinating Council for the Propagation of Islam issued a statement condemning the anti-government protests on Ashura. The statement claims that "a limited number of trouble-seekers hostile to the Islamic Revolution, who are against the Iranian nation's security, progress, honour and glory, sought to target the most sacred values of Islam in some streets of Teheran under the leadership of foreign media and with the support of certain domineering powers." Below image from

Islamic Republic enjoys high level stability despite Western propaganda: MP - Xinhua: An Iranian influential lawmaker said Thursday that the nationwide rallies on Dec. 30 indicated the Islamic Republic enjoys high level stability despite Western propaganda, the official IRNA news agency reported. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, also the Head of Parliament (Majlis) Cultural Commission, said that "Wednesday's demonstration in support of the Islamic values and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei have proved that Iran enjoys a high level of stability despite West's propaganda against the country," the report said.


“America's 16 intelligence agencies, employing some 100,000 spies and analysts, with a budget of $50 billion.”

--Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times; image from

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 30

"the decade of self-made celebs. Anyone could become famous."

--USA TODAY's Ann Oldenburg, about the past ten years; image from article: Kim, left, and Kourtney Kardashian, stars of the reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, on the red carpet the Primetime Emmy Awards.

"the depressing 2000s"

-- Marc Cooper, director of Annenberg Digital News at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

"a decade of collapse and exhaustion"

--Again, Marc Cooper

“The Decade Of Tyranny”

--How the blog Zombie America

characterizes our new century at its infancy; image from


Obama’s Impending “Lessons in Disaster”? - Ehsan Ahrari, Strategic Paradigms: “I know, America’s machinery of public diplomacy continues to emphasize that we are not in Afghanistan as an occupying force. What is important to note, however, is that most Pushtoons

(who formulate 42 percent of the population of that country) do not believe that; and they formulate the backbone of support of the Taliban in Afghanistan. So, for a majority of the people there, they are fighting foreign occupation forces led by the United States.” Image: Collage of images representing the Pashtun people.Top Row (left to right): Sher Shah Suri, Ahmad Shah Durrani, Mohammed Nadir Shah. Bottom Row (left to right): Bahadur Yar Jung, Zalmay Khalilzad, Hamid Karzai.

Hybrid Threats Require a Hybrid Government – Matt Armstrong, Budget Insight, A Stimson Center Blog on National Security Spending: “America’s national security requires better coordination of policy planning and execution across executive branch agencies. It also requires better communication between Congress and the agencies as well as improved communication across Congressional committees. Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) have taken the first step in informing House members and committees. They chair the recently created the Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus that, according to Smith and Thornberry, is an ‘informal, bipartisan group of Members dedicated to raising awareness of and strengthening American strategic communication and public diplomacy efforts.’ It will ‘bring together constituencies across all sectors with an interest in successful strategic communication and public diplomacy, and educate other Members on the multifaceted issues related to strategic communication and public diplomacy’ This is a long overdue first step to synchronize efforts in the legislative branch, a demand Congress has had of the executive branch.”

A Note from Deirdre Kline, Director of Communications, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. – John Brown, Notes and Essays: “Response to Zogby's article on Alhurra‏ From: Deirdre Kline ( Sent: Tue 12/29/09 11:38 PM John, I saw that you carried James Zogby’s article on Alhurra in the Dec. 28th Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review and I wanted to send you the comment that we posted online in response to the article.

James Zogby believed six years ago that an American television channel to the Middle East was a bad idea and is intent on proving he is right. However, latest audience surveys, conducted by international research firms such as ACNielsen, show Alhurra with a weekly reach of more than 27 million viewers. ... Alhurra continues to evolve and becomes better and more successful each year.” Image from

Going Mobile Faster: VOA Needs to Do More - Alex Belida, VOA News Blog: Voice of America journalistic standards and editorial decisions are discussed

Mobile phones help bring down North Korean "information wall" (updated) - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

Former US Olympian Michelle Kwan to visit S Korea as diplomacy envoy - Zhang Xiang, Xinhua: "Former American figure skating champion Michelle Kwan will visit South Korea early next month as an American public diplomacy envoy, local media reported Wednesday citing an official at the U.S. State Department. ...

During her planned seven-day stay, Kwan is expected to meet with a group of aspiring South Korean figure skaters and give lectures at universities, local media reported.” Image from

KL to wait for Vienna UN envoy's contract to expire - The Malaysian Insider: ‎‎”The Foreign Ministry will not be taking any further action against Datuk Arshad Hussain, the diplomat who controversially voted against censuring Iran. … The ministry will also ask the ambassador to resign from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) because he is contracted to the IAEA Board of Governors until 2011. … The ministry’s Department of Information and Public Diplomacy (JPDA) also sent a circular to the country’s entire foreign mission that it was conducting a comprehensive report on the international media coverage on the incident. The IAEA vote threatens to put Malaysia in the same category as Venezuela and Cuba, two countries well known to be at odds with Washington.”

Hijo de Radio Moscú: Russia Today (RT) launches Spanish channel - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

Is FP a neocon rag? - Blake Hounshell, Foreign Policy:

COMMENT BY READER PAPICEK: “Foreign good for analysis, good for discerning current thinking, but unimaginative, and frequently the outlet for mere punditry, though I'm talking about foreign policy ‘heavyweights’. … It seems to me that the preponderance of FA's articles touch on US security issues to the detriment of everything else: (trade, globalization, making foreign assistance work or at least lessening its harm, public diplomacy, other multilateral issues like international financal regulation, the effect of the bureaucratic juggernaut in Washington, etc.) I wouldn't even consider asking FA editors to question their fossilized assumptions.” Image from


Jihadism and the Cold War: The West won the Cold War; we can use some of the same tactics to defeat Islamic extremism - Tim Rutten, Many of the most devastating blows struck against Soviet totalitarianism were inflicted by writers and artists who'd lived under the system and then found allies in the West who appreciated their work and, most important, disseminated it. Where now are the critics, Western intellectuals and publishing houses searching out and supporting the Islamic world's voices of tolerance and modernity, whether philosophical or artistic? If we don't find and embrace them and give them a secure platform from which to speak truth to those within their own societies hungry to listen, we're waging this struggle with one arm tied behind our collective back -- and, perhaps, hopelessly. The one Cold War lesson that won't avail in this instance is that of the open society's example as a changer of hearts and minds. One of the chilling things about the jihadis is how many of them have lived and been educated in the West.

In 2010, a world of turmoil
- David Ignatius, Washington Post:

If there's one perverse positive sign out there, consistent over most of the past decade, it's the failure of al-Qaeda's extremist ideology. We have an enemy that makes even more mistakes than we do. Image from

Afghans burn Obama effigy over civilian deaths - Samoon Miakhail, AFP: Protesters took to the streets in Afghanistan on Wednesday, burning an effigy of the US president and shouting "death to Obama" to slam civilian deaths during Western military operations. Extremists rarely claim responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians, instead blaming foreign forces in an increasingly effective propaganda campaign.

Iran's propaganda hits the 'Spinternet' - Evgeny Morozov, CNN: Flooding Twitter with fake and pro-government updates is one way to make Twitter unusable for the Western audiences. How, after all, should we know what updates we can trust, if many of them are written by the government and its loyalists? It turns the Internet into the "Spinternet." That propaganda is displacing censorship as a primary means of controlling the Internet is quite remarkable. In the past, the Iranian government would have simply blocked access to dissenting sites.

But blocking Twitter is impractical: Not only would it be very expensive, but it would also disconnect the Iranian secret police from a valuable channel of gathering intelligence. What many cheerleaders of Iran's Twitter revolution fail to understand is that the easy availability of such information allows the regime to explore how various anti-government activists are connected to each other and to their foreign supporters. All it takes is looking up their Facebook profiles. Morozov image from

As defense agencies hire, other government workers get incentives to retire - Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post: The federal government hired 97,445 people in the first nine months of 2009, mostly for the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, according to the Office of Personnel Management. But just as new faces show up at some offices, seven agencies or departments hope to cut about 37,000 workers with buyouts and early-retirement offers.

A failure to communicate surrounding would-be bomber – Editorial, Washington Post: There was a stunning breakdown in communication among the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the British government that allowed Mr. Abdulmutallab to buy a ticket in the first place.

Christmas day's recycled terrorists: Releases from Gitmo are coming back to haunt us – Editorial, Washington Times:

With reports appearing that former Guantanamo detainees played a role in the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253, President Obama's plan to shutter the facility, putting detainees back on the streets, doesn't look so popular. Nor should it. Every released detainee has the potential for political and literal blowback. Image from

Gao Brothers continue to rile art world with Lenin-Mao sculpture - David Ng, The Gao Brothers, as they are often referred to in the art world, have created something like a brand name in repurposing the images of communism's most prominent historical figures.

Image from article: Gao Brothers pose alongside their sculpture titled "Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head."


EXCLUSIVE: Photos of the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Bomb (ABC NEWS) (from Boing Boing)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29

image from

"A Low, Dishonest Decade"

--Wall Street Journal columnist Thomas Frank, regarding the past ten years

"the noughties."

--A characterization of the 00’s that seems to have caught on in Britain

"what seems destined to remain a nameless decade"

--Columnist Anne Appelbaum, on the early 21st century


If you can think of a name for our nameless decade, why not send a suggestion via the "comments" section of this blog?


Iran on Fire - James Carafano, “Protests against the regime in Tehran and its heavy-handed treatment of dissidents are growing. One of two things is going to happen. The regime is going to collapse or the mullahs are going to clamp down even harder and the government in Tehran is going to become more extremist and more dangerous.

The problem is that the White House is not well-prepared for either outcome. This administration is certainly not ready to engage with the people of Iran and nurture and support their quest for freedom. As Heritage’s expert on public diplomacy Helle Dale pointed out during protests after the national elections President Obama ‘carefully positioned himself on the fence between the alleged winner, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the candidate supported by Iran’s hundreds of thousands of protesters, Hossein Mousavi, the message from the U.S. government has been muted.’ Even if the White House was prepared to act it has done nothing to build the tools to do so. The administration has made virtually no progress in updating the government’s public diplomacy tools and the White House has show no interest in democracy promotion programs for Iran.” Image from

A New Paradigm for Engaging Somalia - Abukar Arman, Newstime Africa: “As was learned from the Iraq war, if you draw the devil in the walls long enough, the devil will eventually appear in person. Claim that Al-Qaida has found a base in Somalia long enough and that will surely become the case in due course; and that could ignite new problems and disasters in Somalia. If there is any wisdom to be gained out of this young 21st century it has to do with the costly lesson that 'hard power' (mainly military, technological, and economic) alone cannot sustain peace or political influence. Any effort intended for effective political problem-solving and conflict-resolution must be made of a mix that includes 'soft power' (public diplomacy, humanitarian and development aid, strategic educational campaigns, political and/or economic pressure). China uses this latter approach to expand its political influence around the world.”

Whether it's AQ or not, nobody in Arab media cares – Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy:

“Al-Qaeda's attempted acts of terrorism simply no longer carry the kind of persuasive political force with mass Arab or Muslim publics which they may have commanded in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Even as the microscopically small radicalized and mobilized base continues to plot and even to thrive in its isolated pockets, it has largely lost its ability to break out into mainstream public appeal. ... [COMMENT BY BLOG READER:] Again, I'm wondering what you are up to with a post which states so much of the obvious? Is this public diplomacy or something? You trying to convince US policy hacks that they need to forget about terrorism and focus on Gaza, or something? That does seem to be the driving force between most of your posts, and it has been for years, but why not just come out and say so? Why set up all these straw men?” Image from

A Classy American Show in New Shanghai – Patricia Kushlis, Whirled View: - Patricia H. Kushlis, Whirled View: When I was in China in October, “I attended a performance by the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem Alumnae Ensemble. ... If this were the Soviet Union when the US government had funds to send its top performing arts groups to Moscow, Leningrad and beyond, it is quite likely that such a trip would have not only had the imprimatur of the State Department or the US Information Agency but also been financed and arranged by it. ...

A follow-on trip which took 14 of the group to four other cities in China including Wuhan and Hubai was, at least, funded – and arranged by – the State Department and the US Mission in China. The Cultural Affairs Officer from the US Consulate General in Shanghai accompanied the singers ... . For a group that was considered high enough quality to perform during President Obama’s inaugural, this, it seems to me, is the minimum the federal government could and should have done. US government sponsored international arts programs – from the ill-named Art in Embassies program that confines paintings by American artists to Ambassadorial drawing rooms and hallways to selection of and funding for traveling American musicians and performers [-] needs to be rethought, redesigned, restructured and ultimately recapitalized.”

Afghanistan: NATO Treads SILK For Cyber Defence - Prakash Joshi, IDN InDepthNews Analysis That Matters: “NATO has been treading safely the Virtual Silk Highway (SILK). Named after the Great Silk Road trading route linking Asia and Europe, the cyber network was initiated in 2002 under the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme that NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division (NATO-PDD) is managing. ’Experts are discussing plans for using the SILK-established networks for applications such as cyber defence and earthquake response,’ says a report posted on NATO website.

A critical role for the purpose has been assigned to VIZADA Networks of Norway and the Turkish Computer Emergency Response Team as well as the Geological Research Centre in Potsdam, Germany. The NATO C3 Agency and the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO have completed the signature process of the Letter of Agreement in support of the ‘SILK-Afghanistan’ project, another NATO report said on Dec. 21. ‘This is a significant step towards expanding broadband Internet connectivity for higher education throughout the provinces in Afghanistan.’ ... An expansion of the SILK network to Afghanistan has brought connectivity to 15 academic and governmental institutions in Kabul and will soon incorporate universities in seven Afghan provinces. NATO has invited IT experts from Afghan universities to participate in discussions on future steps, including the formation of a new supervisory board for the expansion project ‘SILK-Afghanistan’, says the report.NATO-PDD, through its Science for Peace and Security Programme, is assisting the Afghan authorities in paving the way for developing their educational system.” Image from

Cultural Relations Opportunity: A Few Weeks Left to Apply to TN2020 - Joshua S. Fouts, The Imagination Age: "Andrew Kneale just Tweeted that the British Council's Transatlantic 2020 Initiative (known as TN2020) is accepting applications for only another three weeks.

TN2020 a great opportunity for anyone with an interest in cultural relations or cultural diplomacy, not the least of which is an opportunity to be affiliated with the world's premiere cultural relations organization."

Mas gordo en Mexico – Paul Rockower, "While traveling through Mexico, it is hard not to notice the ubuiquity of cola. Signs are everywhere for ‘Tome lo bueno,’ have a coke. In part, soda is so popular because there isn´t always access to clean drinking water. But soda consumption also seems to be part of a socialized norm, albeit an unhealthy one.

Back to the overall problem of obesity in Mexico, the Mexican government has realized it has a problem and has begun carrying out a domestic public diplomacy campaign to get its citizens to lose weight. In 2008, the Calderon government announced the national campaign ‘Vamos por un Million de Kilos,’ Let´s lose a million pounds. ... That Mexico is aware of its weight problem and is carrying out a public diplomacy campaign is a good first step, but it will take some serious work to shed the added kilos and socialize a real lifestyle change.”

Deep in the heart of Mayastan – Paul Rockower, Levantine: “I was leaving Mayabad. Wanting to get off the gringo trail, I opted not to take the gringo shuttle to Coban, but rather via various buses and combis. ... Another 2 hours passed, as we passed sleepy little pueblos and people walking on the side of the highway, carrying baskets on their heads and babies slung to their backs in bright woven fabrics. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and smiled with traveler´s glee as I chatted with la gente and did good public diplomacy work on behalf of the US. You wouldn´t believe what pd a gringo without a gringo accent can do”.

Obama Administration Hangs Rosenthal Out to Dry for Criticism of Oren - Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: " Richard Silverstein says: December 28, 2009 at 2:48 PM George Bush appointed Karen Hughes as a sort of anti Islamophobia czar and called her a public diplomacy officer.

Of course the ploy didn’t work because she had no serious policy to sell, not to mention she was ignorant about the Middle East and Islam.” Image from


USC offers America 101 for foreign students: A special 12-week class helps students from overseas adjust to life and lingo in L.A.

- Larry Gordon, To succeed academically, the theory goes, foreign students must also adjust culturally and socially to their new surroundings. These are some of the topics: What are tailgate parties? What are baby vegetables? To whom should you give Christmas gifts? Is it an insult to call someone a couch potato? When should you call police in emergencies? Image from

Explosive in Detroit terror case could have blown hole in airplane, sources say - Carrie Johnson, Washington Post: Authorities said there was no reason to suspect Nigerian student Umar FaroukAbdulmutallab of dangerous activity until his father visited the embassy in Abuja on Nov. 19. The next day, under a program called Visa Viper, mandated by Congress to ensure all terrorism-related information is promptly reported to Washington, the embassy sent a cable saying the father was "concerned that his son was falling under the influence of religious extremists in Yemen," a State Department official said. The State Department, under existing procedures, passed the Viper information to the National Counterterrorism Center for entry in its terrorism database. Neither the State Department nor the NCTC, officials said Monday, checked to see if Abdulmutallab had ever entered the United States or had a valid entry visa -- information readily available in separate consular and immigration databases. "It's not for us to review that," the State Department official said.

Forecast for repressive regimes in the 'Teens' - Anne Applebaum, Washington Post: Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, the focus of U.S. foreign policy for the past decade, looks more and more like a major nuisance

-- albeit one that keeps coming at us in different forms from different countries -- rather than a coherent threat. Image from

U.S. and allies must detain Afghan prisoners - Max Boot, Washington Post: The United States, Canada and other nations need to overcome their squeamishness about detentions.

Iran’s War on Its People - Editorial, New York Times: President Obama is right to remain open to dialogue with Iran and to continue looking for a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. He is also right to condemn the violence against Iranian civilians and to place the United States on their side, as he did in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and in comments on Monday.

Iran's turning point

Editorial, Washington Post: More than ever, the Obama administration and other Western governments must tailor their policies toward Iran to reflect the centrality of the Green Movement's fight for freedom. While diplomatic contact with the regime need not be broken off entirely, by now it should be obvious that it cannot produce significant results -- and might serve to shore up a tottering dictatorship. Image from

Obama denies crotch bomber conspiracy – Editorial, Washington Times: Terrorists work through highly dispersed, decentralized cell structures that are designed to be difficult to track. Investigators probably won't find an operations order signed by Osama bin Laden directing an attack on Flight 253, but it is easy to connect the dots. Minimizing the threat won't make it go away. As recent history has shown, it may embolden the terrorists to keep trying.

AMERICANA: Weekly World News on Google Books

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 28

“the Big Zero”

--Economist Paul Krugman’s name for the past decade, "in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing”; image "what to call this decade?" from

“the '00s'”

-- Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writer, identifying the first years of the 21st century, an “unmitigated bummer” for the traditional media

“Awful Aughts”

--Kurtz again, characterizing the past ten years we have “lived through”

“Decade from Hell"

--Time Magazine on America since the beginning of the new century


Can U.S. Baseball Diplomacy Get the Save in Nicaragua? - Tim Rogers, Time: "Last month, 56 U.S. softball players traveled to Cuba for a series of goodwill games that probably did more for America's public image on the island than any single political effort over the past 50 years. And in Nicaragua, where political relations with the U.S. have frayed ever since former revolutionary Daniel Ortega came back to power in 2007, U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan

has discovered he can do some of his best work wearing a baseball mitt. ‘I think the State Department is coming to realize, belatedly, that [baseball] can be a very effective tool in public diplomacy,’ Callahan told TIME. In the case of the U.S. and Nicaragua, he said, ‘of all the things that unite us, I think the great sport of baseball is the most important.’ ... Sometimes, of course, baseball and politics don't mix. When U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy Cal Ripken Jr. visited Nicaragua last year, the Hall of Fame shortstop was forced to cut short his baseball clinics due to post-electoral political riots. But that hasn't soured interest in developing baseball here.” Image -- U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan bats during a softball game -- from article

Image from

James Zogby on another year, another $112 million for Alhurra - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: "'The US government-funded TV network Al Hurra was intended to be an important component of American efforts to win hearts and minds in the Arab world. It was a bad idea when it was launched in 2004. It has failed, and yet it won’t die. This month the US Congress approved another $112 million to fund al Hurra in 2010, making the 'bad idea’s' cost to date for American taxpayers more than $650 million. ... [T]here was no US version of the BBC, a respected international brand with a seasoned staff of professionals. The BBC would have an easier time launching an Arabic channel and having it accepted as a serious news operation: that is what it is known for and what it does well. The US, on the other hand, has no such organisation and would therefore be creating one 'out of whole cloth'. And it would no doubt be seen as a propaganda effort – since that, quite simply, was what it was intended to be. ... At one point I was called by staffers from the Senate committee that was holding hearings on launching and funding this 'bad idea'. I said I would be delighted to give my views. A few days later I was contacted again to provide a preview of my take on this venture. I stated my case (the same arguments I have presented here) and suggested that instead of wasting $100 million a year, it might be better to create a fund to encourage public/private co-production arrangements between Arab and US networks and other opportunities for Arab network journalists to work with American counterparts; this would cost less and be of greater benefit. But the committee had already made up its mind to go forward with Al Hurra, and I was not asked to give evidence.' John Zogby, The National (Abu Dhabi), 26 December 2009.

[Elliott comment:] Arabic is an obvious target language for US international broadcasting. And television is the obvious medium to reach that audience. It would be great if CNN had extended its Arabic-language website into television, but they must have looked at the numbers and determined that it couldn't be profitable. And, so, the US Arabic channel must be US government funded. It wasn't created 'out of whole cloth.' The VOA Arabic Service, though never nearly as popular as BBC Arabic, was substantial and contributed some of its talent to Alhurra and to Radio Sawa. Was Alhurra intended 'quite simply' to be a propaganda effort? Early Alhurra management did the channel no favors by talking about objective news in one breath, and about promoting freedom and democracy in the next. But all BBG entities must abide by sound journalistic guidelines which cannot casually be dismissed and, without which, they would have no audience. So far, Alhurra audience numbers have not been bad. (See previous post.) The big question is how well Alhurra will be able to compete with the new BBC Arabic television channel, now that the latter is becoming established." Image from Alhurra Bleeding Viewers, Poll Finds, But Spending is Up by Dafna Linzer, ProPublica (May 29, 2009)

Al Hurra TV fails the propaganda test for Arabs - Ziad Sardawi, Dubai, Letter to the Editor, The National: "In reference to Dr James Zogby’s opinion article A $100m bad idea then, a $650m bad idea now (December 27[)], I think this is exactly what sprung to every Arab’s mind when they first saw the US government-funded TV channel Al Hurra. Why have they wasted their money? The channel screams propaganda that the Arab world does not need at this point and quite frankly has had enough of. If anything, the channel does more harm than good. It belittles Arabs and offends us. If only the American government would start to listen to the right kind of Arab Americans, there would be many benefits to both sides and many tragedies would have been avoided. Al Hurra is a huge failure."

Fox is "suspiciously more informed" about bid to release abducted Israeli soldier" - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: "Alhurra also had an early scoop involving the possible release of Gilad Schalit."

What does this video have to do with Public Diplomacy 2.0? - Wandren PD: "The run-in to the Christmas break has seen the production of numerous pieces about Gov 2.0 and PD 2.0.

As comments on them have got a little long I’ve attached them here rather than have an overly long blog post. Many of these have been hot on the potential of ‘new’ tools but less clear on what they think the ’network’ in social networks might mean and how this would influence the development of strategy. If PD 2.0 is to make serious progress attention will have to be given to understanding the networks with which PD engages, not just the tools through which that engagement takes place. ... Ultimately, understanding different types of networks with which PD 2.0 will engage is an important part of developing strategy and understanding what does ‘many to many’ mean?." Image from Wandren PD homepage heading

First day on the job in Baghdad - cheesetoasters, Where the Wombats Are: "Today was my first official day at work

and I am exhausted and ecstatic! I met most of the staff (though not the Iraqi nationals as today was Ashoura – a Shi’a holiday) and they all seem very bright and friendly. I did a bunch of boring HR stuff, had brief visits with a number of my colleagues, then had meaty meetings with two of my big bosses about the direction of public diplomacy in Iraq and my role in it. They were extremely encouraging – not only because both men are very wise and savvy, but also because I got the impression that there will probably be adequate funding for the things I might think are important, and they both suggested that they didn’t need or want to supervise too closely but that I could really operate very independently." Image from

Nigerian Carver, Fakeye, South African Writer, Brutus, Pass On - Tajudeen Sowole, The Guardian, Nigeria: "The global art community lost two of its eminent members in the past three days. Master carver, Lamidi Olonade Fakeye died on Friday in Ile Ife, Osun State ... . About 48 years after he had a solo show at the British Council in Lagos, Fakeye,

a member of the fifth generation Fakeye carvers dynasty of Ila Orangun had his last solo art exhibition last year in Lagos. ... During the exhibition, Public Diplomacy Officer of the Public Affairs Section of the US, Lagos, Marylou Johnson-Pizarro recalled that she first got in touch with Fakeye's works through the USIS Office in Ibadan where the artist's works, collected by the US mission in Nigeria since the 1960s were mounted. 'I can't remember seeing any of his works at exhibitions in any gallery. But I am very familiar with his works. His works collected then by the USIS in the 1960s, are still in our Ibadan office. Through his works, I have known more about Nigerian, particularly Yoruba culture,' Johnson-Pizarro said." Lamidi Olonade Fakeye image from


Truthers @USArmyAfrica? - Michael Goldfarb, Weekly Standard: We've noticed some fairly bizarre twitterings from the official feed for the U.S. Army's Africa Command. Among them is a tweet sending @USArmyAfrica followers to an article on the website of truther in chief Alex Jones titled "Foiled Terrorist Bombing in Detroit: An Excuse to Expand the Bogus War On Terror." Another tweet this morning sent followers to an article titled "Oil lust or war on terror? Nigerian airplane bomber raises some questions" . ... THE WEEKLY STANDARD has another question: who is updating the US Army Africa twitter feed? Has it been hacked by some crackpot truther [?] ... . Another question we have for Africa Command is what value a Twitter feed has for a continent where more than half the population doesn't even have access to electricity let alone high-speed Internet (the feed has just 2,483 followers) -- and for those Africans who are following the feed, what message does the US Army Africa hope to send them with links to conspiratorial websites that impute the worst possible motives to the American government in general and Africa Command in particular?

Afghanistan: What Could Work- Rory Stewart, New York Review of Books: Obama has acquired leverage over the generals and some support from the public by making it clear that he will not increase troop strength further. He has gained leverage over Karzai by showing that he has options other than investing in Afghanistan. Now he needs to regain leverage over the Taliban by showing them that he is not about to abandon Afghanistan and that their best option is to negotiate. In short, he needs to follow his argument for a call strategy to its conclusion. The date of withdrawal should be recast as a time for reduction to a lighter, more sustainable, and more permanent presence. Below image from

No Chance Obama’s War in Afghanistan Will Succeed - Sherwood Ross, Afghans are dying by the thousands and Pakistanis have become refugees by the millions to ensure Obama’s political survival, the U.S. has lost any vestige of moral authority. Is it thinkable to ask what if the purpose of the war is not “victory” but to keep the engines of the military-industrial complex humming? Via TH.

Spirit of America in Afghanistan: Ordinary citizens can contribute to our victory - Jim Hake, Wall Street Journal: For the past six years, Spirit of America,

the group I head, has supported our troops' humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. With donations from American citizens and businesses, we have provided sewing machines, medical supplies, tools, shoes, blankets, toys and more—all at the request of our troops for the benefit of local people. Image from Spirit of America website

Some Wisdom From Voltaire – Jason Summers Blog: "In our modern day, just a small propaganda campaign can make it look like the other country is the aggressor, and then it’s ok to invade their country, drop bombs on them, and kill hundreds of thousands of their civilians. ... And from what I can tell, the good old boys in Washington are turning the propaganda presses toward Iran, preparing to invade there, to expand the elite’s empire. Though the wars cost trillions, they don’t care. They’re too busy manufacturing fear."


"One of the basic assumptions of capitalism is that anyone paid huge sums of money must be very smart."

--Robert B. Reich; image: Amy Smart topless

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27

“The human is being reconfigured for the machine.”

- Science writer William Saletan, regarding the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as Darpa, a secretive arm of the United States government; image from

“Like many people concerned about 'humanity,' he was contemptuous of actual humans.”

--Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, regarding Arthur Koestler


Pentagon reviewing strategic information operations - Walter Pincus, Washington Post - "Trying to counter information-savvy enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has rapidly spent nearly $1 billion in the past three years on strategic communications. ... [W]hen Congress asked this year what the Defense Department across the services and commands proposed spending for strategic communications -- or information operations as it is often called -- in the fiscal 2010 budget, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates found that no one could say because there was no central coordination. The first answer came back at $1 billion, but that was later changed to $626 million. ... Beginning in Iraq and expanding to Afghanistan, Pentagon officials have awarded multimillion-dollar contracts under the labels of strategic communications or information operations that in the past had been the purview of the State Department's public diplomacy section. 'The department's leadership has only recently become aware of the variety, scope and magnitude of funding associated with these programs across the services and at all levels within the combat commands,'

according to the report of the House-Senate conferees on the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill that passed Congress on Dec. 19. ... 'The Congress has a need for better budget justification and execution documentation for congressional oversight of information operations program funds,' the conferees said in their report. They ordered the Defense Department comptroller to submit a report on strategic communications and information operations 30 days after President Obama submits his budget proposal to Congress in January. The State Department is also stepping up its output, although it does not have the Pentagon's resources. ... [A]s Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in October in discussing her department's public diplomacy activities, particularly in Pakistan: 'This is going to take time.'" Image from

Diplomat's mission is to revive nation - Nick Malawskey, Centre Daily Times: "About five days ago, Danielle Harms was in a gymnasium in Kabul, working with the nation’s fledging Olympic committee, helping orchestrate a basketball program. A native of Lemont, Harms has spent the past five months working in the country as a cultural affairs officer, a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service office. ... During the past six years, she has been stationed in Iceland, Bosnia and Washington, D.C. Afghanistan, being a conflict zone, has been unlike any other posting she has experienced. 'Traditionally, you would be spreading American culture, teaching people about the United States,' she said. 'In Afghanistan, our mission is so much more complicated. ... We’re doing less of the traditional public diplomacy, or public outreach, and we’re doing a lot more of bolstering the Afghan identity.'”

"Avatar" and Public Diplomacy – John Brown, Huffington Post: To expand on Cameron's comic-book plot, the paraplegic Marine Jake Sully --

who gathers intel about the "Na'vi" tribe on the distant moon of Pandora for a company's military unit headed by Colonel Quaritch -- resembles, one could argue, a Public Diplomacy Foreign Service officer (some in the military would say psy-ops officer). Image: Sully's Avatar

A Message From The Kween - Aunt Joyce's Ice Cream Stand: "Without further ado, here is her [skating star Michelle Kwan’s] message courtesy of MKF. I've bolded my favorite classic MK lines. Hi MKF, I hope you’re all ready for the holidays! I finally finished my last minute Christmas shopping for my friends and family. I didn’t have much time to prepare for the holidays since I was busy studying and writing papers for grad school. I didn’t finish my last final until Monday morning! And trust me I was very relieved when I finished my Econ final! I was a studious student and finished my U.S.-East Asia and Public Diplomacy paper early because I knew that the Econ exam would take all the brainpower that I needed to do OK. I absolutely love living in Boston and going to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The Fletcher community consists of people from all walks of life, each contributing their knowledge and experience to our school, and together we try to prepare ourselves to address key issues that we might face in the future…well, at least I think we all hope that we can make the world a better place: ) (Are you dying yet...This woman is incredible. Why isn't she sent to bring peace to the Middle East?)"

VOA as "only source of news" for Burundian refugees - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

Win some, lose some; Turkey looks forward to 2010 - Sunday's Zaman: "The Turkish government unveiled bold initiatives in 2009 in a bid to solve the decades-long problems of the country on the domestic front but has failed to finalize any of them by year’s end amid mounting

opposition in Parliament and growing skepticism among the people. Added to that, government blunders in communicating these initiatives in effective and well-thought-out public diplomacy has weakened the government’s hand." Image from

Media Matters: Cunning like a Fox - Stefanie Garden, Jerusalem Post: "Over the next few weeks, the Turkish government has plans to launch its own Arabic-language satellite TV station in an effort to connect with the Arab world. The decision was facilitated by a recent piece of legislation allowing Turkey to broadcast in languages other than Turkish, which was prohibited until now. As Turkey's bid for entry into the European Union remains a point of contention, this move to play a greater role in the Arab world signals a tactical shift for Turkey's public diplomacy strategy. Prof. Philip Seib, director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and author of New Media and the New Middle East, suggests that, 'by exercising more leadership in this way, Turkey presumably enhances its stature in European eyes, helping its case for EU membership.'"


Boston College McMullen Museum Presents Asian Journeys: Collecting Art in Post-war America - Boston College Chronicle: "Section Two [of 'Asian Journeys' exhibit]: Cultural Diplomacy in Japan and Japanese Taste: Focuses on the work of JDR [John D. Rockefeller] 3rd and Lee in Japan during the post-war years. Working in the Arts and Monuments Division under the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Lee inventoried major Japanese collections of art throughout the country and formed relationships with a number of influential Japanese art historians and art dealers from whom he purchased objects for American collections.

Serving as president of Japan Society, JDR 3rd promoted the loan of exhibitions from Japan to the United States. Section displays a variety of Japanese ceramic objects, a wooden bodhisattva, and other works acquired by Japanese collectors." Image from article: Covered Jar China, Jiangxi Province Ming period (1368–1644), Jiajing era (1522–1566) Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.

Dugway resurgence is a big positive for county - Tooele Transcript-Bulletin: ‎ "Dugway is now one of the most important counterterrorism training facilities in the nation, and it’s not only soldiers who are training there. Municipal police and civilian defense contractors of the sort that have risen to prominence in Iraq receive training at the post. Some of these personnel are from foreign governments counted as U.S. allies. On another front, Dugway has become an important training site for troops being deployed to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, which has become our nation’s main battlefront overseas. The west desert’s vastness and mountainous terrain allow for everything from large-scale armored divisions to constructing mock Taliban compounds to practice cross-cultural diplomacy and village reconstruction. That was illustrated last spring when native Afghans were contracted to help provide a simulation of the type of rural warfare-cum-reconstruction scenarios soldiers are currently facing in the AfPak region." On Dugway, see.

Arthur Koestler, Man of Darkness - Christopher Caldwell [review of Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic by Michael Scammell]: "He became a mainstay of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, founded with C.I.A. help in 1950 to counter Soviet propaganda and cultural influence.

Later discussion of the congress largely concerned whether the intellectuals who started it knew about the source of its financing. Scammell thinks not. Washington, at any rate, would not have helped Koestler. At the time, as Scammell astutely observes, 'the C.I.A. was actually pleading for less overt anti-Communism.'" Image from article: Arthur Koestler in 1931, on a zeppelin expedition to the North Pole.

AR Rahman To Perform At 2010 Sydney Fest - "A R Rahman is all set to rock the stage at Sydney Festival 2010.The Mozart of Madras will perform live at the annual fest. ... Rahman also aims to shed light on the recent attacks on Indian students in Australia. He will also try to encourage cultural diplomacy and friendliness.” See also.

Housewives exhibit artworks - Jakarta Post:

"National Mothers' Day, which falls Dec. 22, was marked Sunday by housewives and artists in Yogyakarta through an exhibition of their artworks at the Aming Prayitno Studio in Murangan, Triharjo, Sleman regency. … Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University cultural diplomacy professor Tulus Warsito, who officially opened the exhibition, said it was not surprising to see a variety of paintings at the exhibition, especially because it featured mostly housewives." Image from


Obama's ambitions outpace his effectiveness: By historical standards, the president's first year wasn't bad. But graded against his own lofty goals, he fell short - Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times: A president who made his name as a gifted speechmaker has fallen into a spectacular failure in communicating. He might have served himself better by making fewer trips to Scandinavia and more to construction sites in Middle America.

Redefining human rights – Editorial, Washington Post: Ms. Clinton's lumping of economic and social "rights" with political and personal freedom was a standard doctrine of the

Soviet Bloc. Judging from Ms. Clinton's own rhetoric, that is the approach the State Department is headed toward in the Arab Middle East. In a major speech last month in Morocco, she said that U.S. engagement with Islamic countries would henceforth focus on education, science and technology, and "entrepreneurship" -- all foundations of "development." She made no mention of democracy. Image from

A year of war -- and progress: Despite ongoing troubles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009 was a moderately successful year for the U.S. in all three theaters of battle - Michael O'Hanlon, Los Angeles Times

AWOL from the battlefield - James Zumwalt, Washington Times:

For Mr. Obama both to impose an 18-month deadline and not provide all the troops needed for a longer timeline as initially envisioned demonstrates lack of commitment to our courageous fighting forces as political concerns outweigh military ones. Image from

Guantanamo at crossroads: Closing the prison isn't enough -- Obama must also end the policy of indefinite detention – Editorial, Los Angeles Times

Peace possibilities - Mohamad Bazzi, Washington Times: The Obama administration has an opportunity to break the current logjam in the Middle East by pushing for renewed Syrian-Israeli negotiations.


"The clothes have no emperor!"

--British author William Cooper, regarding Czech author Milan Kundera; cited in Times Literary Supplement (December 11, 2009), p. 36