Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29

"When the French keep their mouths shut, everyone loves them! (Comme quoi, quand les [F]rançais ferment leurs gueules, tout le monde les apprécie!)"

--Belgian-born commentator regarding the fact that "'The Artist,' a silent film from France, gets 10 Oscar nominations, and actually wins both best film - a first for a French film - and best actor"; image from


(a) China's International Outreach: Soft Power and the Soft Use of Power - Gary Rawnsley

(b) Guantanamo detainees get new $750,000 soccer field, compliments of the U.S. Taxpayers

(c) "Check out The Challenge of Ideas, a curious example of Cold War propaganda produced by the United States Army Pictorial Center and the Department of Defense during the Kennedy administration ... The film features the iconic Edward R. Murrow (late of CBS News and participation in Operation Mockingbird), the head of the United States Information Agency" -


U.S. Policy and Engagement in the Americas; Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 4:15 pm Press Release: US State Department - "Remarks Wendy Sherman Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks to the Council of the Americas and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Washington, DC February 28, 2012 ... I appreciate the invitation and welcome the opportunity to share some impressions from my trip to Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil earlier this month.

These countries are key regional and global players, and genuine partners, and we work closely with them in virtually every area of policy. ... [In Brazil,] Pernambuco’s Governor Eduardo Campos, is spearheading investment ... in education. We signed an education MOU with Pernambuco state to strengthen cooperation in education and professional qualification, particularly in the area of English language training. This is a great example of new partnership at local and state levels that is having an immediate impact on people’s lives. This is, if I may say so, part of the modern face of our public diplomacy in the region. We are building linkages at the grass roots level that will help nurture and sustain the quickly growing ties between our societies." Image from

Afghanistan: Quran Burning and Language Training - Roxanne Bauer, Exchange, The Journal of Public Diplomacy: "Afghans and, indeed, Muslims throughout the world are protesting for a sixth day the recent and unintentional burning of Qur’an at the US’ largest base in Afghanistan. ... In a war that seemingly has no end and relies heavily on endearing positive popular opinion, this incident may prove to be pivotal. ... Eventually, the protests will stop. However, one wonders how long the Afghans will remember that foreign troops desecrated their holy book. In the battle over perceptions, the US needs to start living by the standards it professes to engender the kind of goodwill it hopes for. This could start with more serious language and culture courses for troops.

It seems obvious to say, but the whole mess could have been avoided if just one NATO troop had been able to read the words 'Qur’an' in Arabic and remove the books from the pile. ... [T]he Army’s requirement that all troops ordered to Afghanistan take a 4-6 hour training program for language and culture and the Marine’s requirement of a two-day course for troops ordered to Afghanistan are insufficient and not undertaken with the seriousness required to produce troops that fully understand the gravity and import of language and culture in the region. Sadly, this latest incident and the military’s inability to cope only prove how crucial public diplomacy is and will continue to be. Language, and all the gifts that it provides, is as crucial a tool as artillery or armor. Language skills also need to be complemented with cultural sensitivity courses that impart the thoughtfulness that US and NATO troops should exercise in their activities." Image from article

Immorality of nuclear weapons - Gabe Kish, Pacific Grove, letter to the editor, "Let's assume that Iran is aiming for the Japanese solution on nuclear weapons, that is not actually producing them but having the threshold of technology to do so if needed urgently for self-defense. After all, their supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa back in 2005 forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons as 'un-Islamic.' A regime that has built its legitimacy on Islamic values could be challenged publicly by the West to adhere to its own professed moral standards. Such a public diplomacy of words could well be more productive than escalation with economic sanctions and the not-so-Christian threat of a military attack."

Public Diplomacy Takes On Social Media: 21st Century Statecraft - "What is 21st Century Statecraft? It is a key initiative started by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work with traditional foreign policy tools. The idea is to fully leverage the networks, technologies, and demographics of our interconnected world.

In other words, it’s the State Department acknowledging the power and usefulness of social media as a necessary part of their diplomatic toolkit. Yet the department is doing more than just talking the talk; it’s also walking the walk. ... If you want to see a complete list of all the embassies, consulates and other State Departments in social media with links to their sites, please visit the U.S. Department of State Facebook page." Image from article, with caption: Public diplomacy takes on social media

Broadcasting Board of Governors Should Show Some Humanity - Edite Lynch, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "For decades America and America’s people, her virtues, her values, her free market economy, her many freedoms provided direction, focus and a bright light to those living behind the Iron Curtain or under other intolerable dictatorships. It appealed to their humanity and VOA gave them that sense of humanity that they did not receive under their own systems of government. To stop any of these VOA programs would be similar to pulling the rug right out from under them and leaving them to die from a sense of isolation, despair that no cares about their lives, and their humanity will cease to exist for them and why would the BBG do such a thing to millions who rely on American compassion, empathy and sympathy for those less fortunate."

My Take On “Crovitz: How the U.S. Is Losing the Information War” - "The main problem at the VoA is not funding, but the lack of acceptance by it’s [sic] managers and staff that they are ... to communicate effectively ... US Public Diplomacy and are to communicate the values of this country to people around the world.

Most of the time, the news and commentary coming out of the VOA is closer to what one would hear from Al-Jazeera and MSNBC. The most notorious of the offenders is the VOA Persian Service which is more often than not sounds like the Voice of the Islamic Republic than Voice of America. VOA does not need more money, what it needs are people who are unapologetic about the values of this country and professional in the way they communicate it to the outside world." Image from

BBC says its audience in Iran "has nearly doubled," and sets global audience target of 250 million - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

The World Service at 80: The Ambivalence of International Broadcasting - Robin, Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: "February 29, 2012 The BBC World Service is celebrating its 80th anniversary today. I was wondering what to say about this when I heard the Director of the Service, Peter Horrocks being interviewed on the domestic service Radio 4. In commenting on the continuing relevance of the service he pointed to the Iranian government’s jamming of the service and harassment of the families of Persian service staff ’…it’s because the Iranian government sees it as such a threat. And in a report from the Iranian government, it described it as so dangerous because it’s impartial not because it’s propagandist or oppositionist but because it tells the truth as it is.’ This is simultaneously an impeccable statement of a liberal theory of journalism and a state funded broadcaster boasting about upsetting a foreign government that he’s been pointed towards by the Foreign Office. This sums up the history of the World Service in a couple of lines. Happy Birthday! You can listen to the whole interview here."

US and undercurrents of Baloch Unrest - Momin Iftikhar, "The 8th February presentations on Balochistan, sponsored by Oversight and Investigation House Committee on Foreign Affairs at the Raymond House, Washington D.C has finally let out what had been cooking up for quite some time in the subterranean world of strategy formulating circles of State Department and the CIA. The ‘hearing’ was conducted under the chair of Congressman Donna Rohrbacher . ... The majority of speakers in the witness box were Americans rather than Balochis, some of whom are well known for their outlandish ideas, reflecting a wishful mindset in the US establishment; doggedly promoting the pernicious idea of a free Balochistan. ... The onerous responsibility of presenting the ‘Baloch cause’ was resting on the shoulders of Dr. M. Hosseinbor, a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, who had earlier authored a book Iran and Its Nationalities: The Case of Baloch nationalism. Of Iranian descent and a well known figure in the US public diplomacy circles including CNN and BBC, the presence of Dr. Bor

as a witness should be sufficient in understanding why the hearing was termed as a political stunt by Christain Fair; another member of the witness panel. T. Kumar, the Advocacy Director for International Issues for Amnesty International USA, of Sri Lankan origins, who called on the US to 'apply the Leahy Amendment without waivers to all Pakistani military units in Balochistan' is another active member of the US public diplomacy team who has been active in projecting US hidden agenda in Bosnia, Haiti, Guatemala and now in Pakistan." Image from

China-Taiwan PD Milestone Goes Unnoticed in U.S. Media - Adam Clayton Powell III, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "While the latest aircraft carrier movements and military maneuvers here are chronicled closely in U.S. media, significant public diplomacy initiatives go largely unreported. This past week provided a prime example: Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong’s

week-long visit to Taipei has been front-page news in this region, in newspapers from Korea to Singapore. For his first-ever visit, the mayor led a 500-person delegation – yes, five hundred people – including party officials, business leaders and Chinese celebrities. Guo ended his visit on Wednesday by announcing a major cultural exchange between China and Taiwan, signaling a major advance in cross-Straits relations, building on the increases in trade and tourism between China and Taiwan. If you haven’t heard about the visit, it is because it went unnoticed in U.S. media." Guo Jinlong image from

China Talk Tune in for a live webcast on China's public diplomacy on March 1, 2012 - " will host a live webcast interview on China's public diplomacy at 9:30 am, Beijing time, Thursday, March 1, 2012. Guests include Chen Mingming and Zhang Yuanyuan, former Chinese ambassadors and Director-Generals of the Dept. of Translation and Interpretation at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Young Israelis on mission to improve their country's image - Alison Healy, "A group of eight young Israeli people have come to Ireland to tell their stories in a bid to improve their country’s image. The 'Faces of Israel' group includes a Muslim policewoman, a journalist who is an Ethiopian Jew, an actor and a former soldier from a secular immigrant background. The Ireland-Israel Friendship League is supporting the group, which arrived last Friday and will travel to Belfast today. ... The tour is timed to coincide with Israeli Apartheid Week – an annual international series of events with the stated aim of educating people about the nature of what is called Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people. ... As a member of a Haredi family, Sari Diskind comes from an ultra-Orthodox tradition. She said her life, as a divorced mother who worked outside the home, was an example of the many diverse strands that reflected the Israeli-Jewish narrative. The tour was organised by the Israeli ministry of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs. However, she said, the group was not told what to say. 'They are not telling me what to say. I can say everything I want.'” Below image from

Minister says calls to boycott cultural visit are 'absurd' - Deaglán De Bréadún, "There had been a 'slight improvement' in relations between Ireland and Israel in the past year, said Israel’s minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs Yuli Edelstein in Dublin yesterday. He said Israel disagreed with various countries on many issues but this should not be an obstacle to a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship."

'Putin's election to do good to Karabakh settlement' - News.Az:  "News.Az interviews member of the Russian Academy of Political Science, doctor of political science, professor Andrei Baranov. ... [Baranov:] As is known, Dmitriy Medvedev organized the tenth meeting of the heads of Azerbaijan and Armenia in January of this year. This meeting can be rated as moderate positive. In their joint statement of 23 January of this year, the heads of all the three states, voiced readiness to accelerate the agreement on main principles of the Karabakh conflict.

All participants to the negotiations admitted that an achievement has been made in coordination of these main principles. The mediation of Russia, United States and France, as the Minsk Group co-chairs was assessed positively. All the same, the political scientists and journalists of the countries involved in the conflict give skeptical assessments to the proposed measures of settlement. The potential of public diplomacy in accelerating the fair resolution of the conflict is also assessed skeptically in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. In addition, Medvedev’s term is close to completion and the reduced activeness of diplomatic efforts before inauguration of the new head of the Russian state is quite natural. Image from

Essays European Union: How have the relative policy-making influence of the European Commission, What was the initial purpose of European integration? How has the European Parliament been transformed since its original designation as an assembly custom essay - "BEWARE OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY/BIAS OF EU website (if it’s used) and the dates of the Treaties (some might have expired)"


The Storytellers of Empire: Captivated by an image of an atom bomb falling on Japan, Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie asks American writers why, “Your soldiers will come to our lands, but your novelists won’t” - Kamila Shamsie, “I came to America as an undergraduate and realized that with a few honorable exceptions, all of America looked at America with one eye shut. I don’t mean Americans looked at America uncritically. I mean they looked at it merely in domestic terms. ... The stories of America in the World rather than the World in America stubbornly remain the domain of nonfiction.

Your soldiers will come to our lands, but your novelists won’t. The unmanned drone hovering over Pakistan, controlled by someone in Langley, is an apt metaphor for America’s imaginative engagement with my nation." Via AB on Facebook. Image from article

U.S. ‘info ops’ programs dubious, costly - Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker, As the Pentagon has sought to sell wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations there, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns that military leaders like to call “information operations,” the modern equivalent of psychological warfare. From 2005 to 2009, such spending rose from $9 million to $580 million a year mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon and congressional records show. Last year, spending dropped to $202 million as the Iraq War wrapped up.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on dozens of interviews and a series of internal military reports, shows that Pentagon officials have little proof the programs work and they won’t make public where the money goes. In Iraq alone, more than $173 million was paid to what were identified only as “miscellaneous foreign contractors.” “What we do as I.O. is almost gimmicky,” says Army Col. Paul Yingling, who served three tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, including as an information operations specialist. “Doing posters, fliers or radio ads. These things are unserious.” Image from

The Conservative Case for Foreign Aid: Reagan knew that diplomacy and development policy neutralize threats before they become crises - John Kerry, Wall Street Journal [subscription]

Despite the deepening crisis, the Afghan strategy is worth saving - Editorial Board, Washington Post: The only secure and honorable means of exit is to finish the work of creating an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country from the Taliban and other extremists, with backup from U.S. special forces and air power. Achieving that goal by the end of 2014, the current NATO timetable, will be hard enough, as the events of the past week vividly show. If the Obama administration chooses to accelerate the timetable or significantly reduce the funding -- and thus the size -- of Afghan forces, it will become nearly impossible.

Afghans Don't Hate America: They also don't want a return of the Taliban, despite the recent protests over the burning of Qurans - Max Boot, Wall Street Journal [subscription]

There Be Dragons - Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: "The Arab/Muslim awakening phase

is over. Now we are deep into the counter-revolutionary phase, as the dead hands of the past try to strangle the future. I am ready to consider any ideas of how we in the West can help the forces of democracy and decency win. But, ultimately, this is their fight. They have to own it, and I just hope it doesn’t end with extremists going all the way and the moderates just going away." Image from

Consider this: Iran, film, nukes and spin - The Post-Standard Editorial Board The Post-Standard, For a brief moment, art triumphed over politics at the 84th Academy Awards Sunday in Los Angeles — and then the propaganda machine cranked up.“A Separation,” a film made in Iran, won the Oscar for best foreign film. Director Asghar Farhadi, speaking in English, made an eloquent speech. Alas, what looked like a moment of cultural understanding between Iran and the United States became an opportunity for Iran to widen the, uh, separation between us. The hard-line Fars News Agency fabricated a reference to nuclear tensions and inserted it into Farhadi’s speech, only to remove it once English-speaking Iranians pointed it out. The Iranian government official in charge of the film industry crowed, “American judgment bowed for Iranian culture,” and boasted that Iran’s entry had beaten one from the “Zionist regime,” Israel.

This Is Not a Film: The Filmmaker Who Isn't: There's a reason for the title of Jafar Panahi's urgent new movie - Karina Longworth, Village Voice: In 2010, the internationally celebrated Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was arrested at his home.

A neorealist who has been a vocal opponent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime, Panahi was accused of participating "in a gathering and carrying out propaganda against the system," sentenced to six years in prison, and banned from leaving Iran, giving press interviews, and writing and directing films for 20 years. This Is Not a Film, made in March 2011 while Panahi was under house arrest awaiting the result of an appeal, is billed as "an effort by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb." This dispatch from Panahi's life behind closed doors was shot entirely on the grounds of his Tehran apartment. Image from article, with caption: Jaar Panahi, not working on a film


Mitt Romney stay's alive with Michigan win - CBS News (6:44 AM, February 29); image from

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