Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8

"So if we can explain a raindrop, why can't we explain a universe?"

--Cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss; image from


Church's Quran-Burning Pledge Rankles U.S. Diplomatic, Military Officials - PBS NewsHour: GWEN IFILL: "Anti-Muslim rhetoric from the pastor of a small Florida church sparks concern around the world. Cries of 'Death to America' and 'Long live Islam' rang out in Kabul Monday, as protesters burned the American flag and this man is effigy. The figure represents Terry Jones, the previously obscure pastor of a 50-member Florida church. His anti-Islamic pronouncements have now inflamed passions around the globe. ... State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley today called the planned burning un-American and said the potential images could stir old resentments. ... MARC LYNCH: The images become iconic. And you remember what it felt like immediately after 9/11, when you saw images of angry Arabs or Afghans burning American flags.

And those images, they -- they went through our entire national consciousness. And we felt it so deeply. And it's the same thing over there. Abu Ghraib, the scene -- the iconic image from Abu Ghraib, those things, they -- they get into your mind. And they -- they bring everything together and make it coherent. And, so, we have these sophisticated arguments and debates about -- about American public diplomacy, about strategy and the like. And, yet, if the first thing that comes to your mind when an American soldier or diplomat comes and knocks on your door is a man in a hood from Abu Ghraib or a Christian pastor, what appears to be an American Christian, burning Korans, if that's the first image in your mind, you're not going to listen to anything else, especially if it confirms what many people have already been saying for years, when it fits that narrative of the U.S. being at war with Islam." Image from

The Shrinking of Humanitarian Space in Pakistan‎ - Current Intelligence: "Preventing humanitarian diplomacy by neutral agencies with groups to whom the US is politically opposed has drawbacks for the US ... . Under such circumstances, the aid organizations most likely to get access to civilians in those areas will be those funded by non-Western sources. In terms of public diplomacy, or what the US calls 'hearts and minds work,' this risks wasting the opportunity for Western-backed aid groups to provide secular assistance and protection to the Pakistani people. This role is likely to be picked up instead by those elements of the (admittedly diverse) Islamic humanitarian sector who are least dependent on Western funding sources… including elements in Pakistan that may be using humanitarian 'soft power' for very different ends."

State Department Innovator Goes to Google - Christina Larsen, Foreign Policy: "Jared Cohen, a high-profile advocate of the State Department's forays into '21st-century statecraft,' is leaving Foggy Bottom for New York. In an exclusive interview with FP, he talks about his time at State and his new project: building a 'think/do tank' called Google Ideas. ... :Let's talk about your time at the State Department. Could you pick one of the technology delegations you led and just narrate it? We hear a lot about 'technology delegations,' but don't really know what that phrase means. JC: I might as well start with the first one. The first technology delegation [the State Department] did was in April of 2009 to Iraq: It was me and nine techies from the private sector, including representatives from Google and YouTube. We met with senior government officials in and around Baghdad. Then we met with American troops, NGOs, private-sector companies, like cell-phone carriers. We met with professors and academics and academic administrators. We met with tons of students. I led the delegation, and it was staffed by people at the embassy; I was the only person from Washington. I had a very good relationship with the public affairs counselor there, Adam Ereli, who is a really, really smart 'push the envelope' kind of guy, who had pitched an idea to me to get some professors out [to Iraq]. Now, we [at the State Department] often lead delegations of academics and NGOs to countries around the world, but we hadn't led delegations of people with expertise on tools. So, I thought: Why don't we take a delegation of technology executives to Iraq? ... FP: Can you talk about some concrete outcomes? Do you think the trip succeeded? JC: A lot of deliverables that came out of that trip: We created a program called the U.S.-Iraq internship program, for example. We figured that instead of just bringing Iraqi students on exchanges to the United States to study at high schools and universities, let's create internships for them at technology and other start-ups to immerse them in the entrepreneurial 'garage culture.' So now we're bringing young Iraqi engineers to the U.S. to work for Twitter, Howcast, AT&T, etc. After they go back to Iraq, based on the connections they built in the U.S. and based on what they've learned in the U.S., they're now building their own networks -- what they believe will be their version of Silicon Valley for Iraq. They're the pioneers of entrepreneurship in a post-Saddam Iraq.

Also, the Museum Project was really cool. Iraq has this amazing national museum, and it's an incredible source of pride. Sixty to 70 percent of the museum artifacts that were stolen in recent years have been returned, but the museum exists in a part of Iraq that is sufficiently turbulent that it is not open to the public. We figured that if people can't go there, let's create a virtual presence for it. So we partnered with about 10 different companies. Google, for instance, sent engineers out and digitized the entire museum with street-view technology, literally rolling trolleys around the museum, taking images of things, and built this whole virtual platform. We had a company called Blue State Digital, which did the Obama campaign's tech stuff, build it out, and Howcast, an online video company, created accompanying 'how-to' videos -- like how to tell if your Iraqi antiquity is stolen and what to do about it. These things aren't going to change the face of Iraq, but what I was trying to do was show how these technology delegations can lead to deliverables that are funded and driven in part by the private sector. While small in this early piloted stage, maybe this can actually be a methodology that can be scaled up at a later date. ... JC: So here's what frustrates me. There are two common misperceptions about the technology aspect of 21st-century statecraft. The first is that the technology side of 21st-century statecraft is just about State Department officials using Twitter and blogging more -- in other words, that embracing technology is just about more effectively and innovatively communicating and advocating our policy. I think technology is a valuable tool for that, but to me that's public diplomacy 2.0. When I think about 21st century statecraft, I think about technology being used as a tool to empower citizens, to promote greater accountability and transparency, to do capacity building. At its core, what technology does is it connects people to information, which is new media; it connects people to each other, which is social media; and then there's a far more exciting path that we're going down now, which is that technology is a tool to connect people to actual resources -- like mobile banking or mobile money transfers or telemedicine." See also and below Morozov article. Image from

A New Breed of Public Diplomacy - Tori Horton: Exploring public diplomacy, new technology, civil society, education, NGOs, and communication: "I recently published a review of digital diplomacy in the news during summer 2010 in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy News roundup (PDiN). In the article I highlight recent reviews of the Clinton Digital Diplomacy State Department and ultimately push for more long-term visions with new technology just one more player in the U.S. networks. I would really like to see projects that not only have an exciting start, but more importantly an impactful finish that translates to things like better security, education, commerce, or health. Technology can provide these tools, but the U.S. has to be around for the long-term in order to move past problem solving into meaningful results."

Social Media for Social Good: Increasing Awareness and Donations for Pakistan’s Flood Victims - A Dose of Mariam's Thoughts: "Attia decided to let the twittersphere decide how much she would donate. She tweeted: 'Every new follower I get for the month of #Ramadan I will donate $1 to support #PakistanFlood pls RT! (started at: 428).

'Attia has since gained 55 new followers and is avidly seeking a sponsor or organization to match her donations. She will have a final count on Friday September 10th, the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. Since she started her crowdsourcing project, she has received a mixed reaction. ... Attia, 23, is a graduate student at Syracuse University in New York studying Public Diplomacy. As a first generation Pakistani-American, she has not been back to Pakistan in over a decade.'" Image from article: Attia Nasar

Another War Zone: Social Media in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict‎ - press release, ReliefWeb: "In late May 2010, the convoy known as the Freedom Flotilla met off of Cyprus and headed south, carrying humanitarian aid and hundreds of international activists who aimed to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. The organizers used social media extensively . ... Until shortly after its forcible seizure by Israeli commandos in the wee hours of May 31, the flotilla stayed in touch with the outside world despite the Israeli navy's efforts to jam its communications. ... The Israeli state also deployed social media to argue its case for boarding and diverting the aid vessels . ... Many Israeli pundits and journalists lamented, however, that the effort was belated and inadequate, raising more questions than it answered. Amir Mizroch articulated the objections succinctly: 'For a country so technologically advanced, and with such acute public diplomacy challenges, to fail so miserably at preparing a communications offensive over new media is a failure of strategic proportions.' ... Ordinary Israelis ... also ... took to new media outlets to correct what they viewed as the state's public relations failures, while a minority employed these tools in opposition to the state line. ... The aftermath of the flotilla events suggests that the Arab-Israeli conflict will continue to play out in social media."

Two Issues: The War Within Islam + Israel and Islamism‎ - Barry Rubin, Gloria Center: [T]he enemy is not 'Islam' but those particular Muslims and their supporters who want to have a monopoly on defining Islam, kill any Muslims who disagree, impose terrible dictatorships over Muslims, unite Muslims to wage war on everyone else, set back social and economic progress in Muslim majority countries by a century or more, and plunge the world into decades of horror and bloodshed. ... To Jews in Galut ['(exile from Israel) or if you prefer Diaspora (dispersion from Israel)'] hatred in itself is a high level of threat because they cannot defend themselves and are dependent on the good opinion and protection of non-Jewish neighbors. Hate speech is equivalent to a major threat. For Israel, talk is talk.

Or as an Israeli going to go to Morocco on business replied, when asked if she wasn't afraid to go to a country where people hate Israel, shrugged and said nonchalantly, 'They hate us everywhere. So what?' You should not get from that a disinterest in public diplomacy or hasbara (though Israelis are definitely less obsessed with that than Galut Jews and they should be), but an understanding that in any discussion between material reality and words the former must have the greater weight. Or as Gold Meir put it, 'Better a bad press than a good epitaph.'" Image from

Israeli President met the Pope in Italy - Jerusalem and Religions [September 5]: "After the meeting [with the Pope] the President will be traveling to a diplomatic and economic conference taking place in Northern Italy (Como) focusing on the diplomatic, security and economic aspects of the Middle East, Europe, and worldwide trends. The President will hold a series of meetings with leaders and senior ministers participating in the Conference and will also hold extensive media interviews with the international press as part of Israel’s public diplomacy efforts."

Dealing with a changing world‎ - Rajiv Bhatia, Daily Pioneer: "In July 2010, the Ministry of External Affairs sent its first ‘tweet’ through its official Twitter account, thus pulling India into the age of digital diplomacy. Despite being an information technology powerhouse, India is a late entrant in using tools of e-diplomacy. ... ‘Public diplomacy’ is the new buzzword, although much of what passes under its rubric has been practiced by our diplomats for long. Cultivating media; promoting art, music and culture; and projecting India’s ‘soft power’ have been the forte of our Ambassadors.

The idea that a diplomat does not merely represent his Government but also his people has gained ground. He, therefore, has to be pro-active in presenting and promoting India’s culture, values and ethos. The Ministry of External Affairs has displayed remarkable ingenuity in utilising the pool of retired Ambassadors to sensitise youth at our universities about India’s external relations. It should impress on our serving Ambassadors to reach out more to the youth and others in their host countries in order to convey the story of modern India in its entire splendour." Image from

World Service Cuts Hit the Front Page - Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: "The Guardian website is leading this morning with a story about possible cuts to the services of the BBC World Service including broadcasts to Burma and Russia. ... I would read The Guardian report as part of the usual pre-spending round bargaining. I there will be cuts in public diplomacy spending but they may not be where they are being reported now."

Programme of events: The Future Defence Review: The Armed Forces and The British People - What Needs to be Done - Royal United Service Institute (RUSI):

"08:15, 22 Sep 2010 RUSI, Whitehall, London . ... About the event: If the Strategic Security and Defence Review (SDSR) and subsequent reforms are to deliver real change as promised, the implications for the men and women of the Armed Forces, their families and the people they serve are huge. The timelines for the review are so short that there is little opportunity for public discussion. Key issues to be addressed in this conference [include]: ... How can the British people be properly engaged in the commitment of their armed forces to violence and danger and what does this mean for the Government’s war powers and for public diplomacy [.]" Image from


Clinton finds her 'groove' - Laura Rozen, Politico: In many ways, when Clinton gives a foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, it will be coming as she seems to have hit her stride in her partnership with President Barack Obama. Clinton’s political strength is such that foreign affairs columnists frequently float the possibility of her running as Obama’s running mate in 2012. Via LB

The 20th century roots of 21st century statecraft - Evgeny Morozov, Foreign Policy: The problems that plagued U.S. foreign policy in previous decades would not only be perpetuated, they would actually be aggravated in cyberspace.

Why so? Because few people treat the Internet as political and subject it to the level of scrutiny that any policy initiatives connected to, say, energy or nuclear weapons would deserve. The reality is that the Internet is driven by dynamics that are far more explosive and unpredictable than even oil. Morozov image from

Muslim Propaganda Is Taking an Ugly Turn - H. Lee Sarokin, Huffington Post: "Worst to me is the airtime given to outright bigots like the pastor who intends to have the mass book burning of the Koran. General Petraeus today has warned that this incident will inflame Muslims everywhere and endanger our troops abroad. But the pastor continues to be a frequent guest on mainstream media and, rather than boycott the event, no doubt his hate stunt will receive widespread coverage. If we are unwilling to stop these practices in the name of religious freedom and tolerance, we, at least, should recognize the propaganda, recruitment and consequences that result from our bigotry. If the Constitution does not carry the day, maybe national security and concern for our armed forces will."

Sept. 11 a time to promote interfaith dialogue - Amer Araim, San Francisco Chronicle: After all the efforts of American Muslims and non-Muslims to heal the wounds and scars of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is appalling that a church in Florida has been planning to burn the Quran on Saturday.

The Quran is a book of revelations and does not condone attacks against civilian targets. In addition to offending millions of Americans Muslims and non-Muslims, the burning of the Quran by one church would provide a propaganda piece to the terrorists that America is against Islam, which we know is absolutely false. Image from

Pat Tillman story explores issue of government propaganda - Loren King, Provincetown Banner: What most people know about Pat Tillman is that he was the football star who turned down a multi-million-dollar deal from the Cardinals to join the Army Rangers with his younger brother, Kevin, in the wake of 9/11, and that he was killed in combat in 2004 in Afghanistan. Narrated by Josh Brolin, Amir Bar-Lev's eloquent, nuanced film (“The Tillman Story”) also brings to light the extent to which the military used first Tillman’s enlistment and later his death as propaganda to counter an unpopular war.

Western Propaganda - In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger traces the history of propaganda to Edward Bernays, the American nephew of Sigmund Freud, who invented the term "public relations". Pilger: "The American tobacco industry hired Bernays to convince women they should smoke in public. By associating smoking with women’s liberation, he made cigarettes 'torches of freedom'."

Image from


Carnivorous plants losing ground in the U.S.: Scientists are on the trail of the little-understood meat-eaters like the California cobra lily and Venus' flytrap, in decline amid rampant poaching and other human encroachment - Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times. Image from article: UC Davis botanist Barry Rice with a population of Darlingtonia californica, the meat-eating cobra lily, in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Quincy, Calif.

1 comment: said...

The chap is definitely just, and there is no doubt.