“I have a duty, and I execute the duty.”
--Drone operator US Col. D. Scott Brenton; image from
Rainmakers? - Donna Oglesby, Winnowing Fan: "It has been clear for some time that the average Afghan has no idea why our troops have been in their country for more than a decade. ... As one who practiced public diplomacy and believes cultural understanding alone is hard enough to achieve, I find [the] confidence that -- done right -- influence operations can change human behavior abroad optimistic. ... I ... do not share the view that behavioral modification abroad is doable when informing and persuading is [sic] not. ... [O]ur own motivations to war in the aftermath of 9/11 could have been driven by a desire to restore our honor and eliminate our fear. Had we faced that, instead of fabricating an image that then obligated us to implement policies wasting years, lives and a fortune on failed nation building, we would now be capable of speaking the truth. In leaving
Afghanistan we would only have to say, ‘honor has been served, we are keeping our word.’ We might even be believed.”
Oh Danny Boy – The impact of the Olympic Opening Ceremony - howtoattractpublicsandinfluencestates.wordpress.com: "Seven years after the awarding of the 2012 Olympic Games, and over five years of preparation, the thirtieth (30th) Olympiad is finally underway, for sixteen days of top sporting action. However, as the profile of the Games has exponentially increased over the years, the Games is no longer seen purely as a celebration of the best of sport, but also a celebration of the host country, a communication exercise intended to increase a country’s ‘soft power’ and relative standing within the international arena. Invariably they are public relations instruments; tools used in ‘public diplomacy’. They are occasions on which to improve the image of a country, to communicate old and new values, traditions, history and goals. ... However, while Britain’s hosting was meant to be a celebration; an exercise in ‘public diplomacy’ of how 'Great' Britain actually is, the weeks prior to the start of the Games there were fears that it would not quite go to plan as Britain’s hosting was widely derided and beset with ‘public diplomacy’ 'gaffes'. From the US Presidential Mitt Romney doubting Britain’s appetite for hosting such an event, to the security scandal surrounding G4S, questions over the £9 billion cost to the British public purse and doubts creeping in over Sebastian Coe’s legacy proposals it looked at points that hosting would backfire’ that it would lead to negative perceptions and diminish rather than advance British ‘soft power’. By the time the opening ceremony ended, the plan to utilise the Olympics as a giant ‘public diplomacy’ and communication exercise was back on track. The pre-Olympic 'gaffes' have now been consigned to history and the talk of the city and indeed the world is Danny Boyle’s extravagant ceremony, which truly celebrated the best of Britain.
The opening ceremony to some is seen as the 'apothesis of Olympic public diplomacy', as the Olympic tradition represents a 'concentration of features, qualities and messages' which are culturally specific and universal. It is a spectacle that aims to 'challenge, educate and entertain audiences'. With its worldwide audience – the 2012 opening ceremony was expected to draw an audience of 1 billion – it represents a significant moment in a country’s hosting of the Olympics to 'showcase to the world' its magnificence; a huge platform on which to communicate with the rest of the world. ... Overall, the ceremony was quirky, it has its wow moments, it was educating and a celebration, but above all it was 'weirdly British'. ... It was a showcase to show everyone what Britain is about. A great tribute; a great celebration and in some assertions a more powerful statement than Beijing as it exuded ‘self-confidence and soft power’, as it celebrated culture rather than hard power as in China." Olympics opening ceremony image from
‘Small’ Georgia Takes on ‘Big’ Russia with New Media - Andrey Tselikov, isnblog:
"Georgia is your typical small state: it has a tiny population, a developing economy, and territorial disputes with its largest neighbor Russia. In August 2008 when, Russia briefly invaded the tiny country, no one was particularly surprised that Georgia was unable to counter this show of force. A small state by definition cannot project sufficient military or economic power to meet a security threat. Since such 'hard power' options are unavailable to them, small states are often left with 'soft power' as an only means of influencing their adversaries. Soft power comes in many flavors, including public diplomacy and propaganda, traditionally costly endeavors.
Fortunately for Georgia, soft power is easier to exercise in an age of global communications. For a politically hostile state (it wants to join NATO and has long opposed Russia’s entry into the WTO), Georgia enjoys surpringly good standing among the Russian public. This is partly because of Russia’s historical relationship with the country, and Russian affinity for Georgian food and wine. Another reason, however, is Georgian use of online communities to project soft power. ... Although the Georgian government seems to be following a conscious strategy of co-opting the Russian public through smart use of new media, it’s unclear if it will soon see results. After all, public diplomacy works best under a functioning democracy." Image from entry
Oil and Murder (again) - Caroline Jaine, dawn.com: "I had been visiting the Foreign AND Commonwealth Office, taking a group of Russian students on a tour. 'And in this very room, we were recently delighted to welcome, Aung San Suu Kyi', a British diplomat told us. I remembered the massive public diplomacy campaign around the Nobel Prize winner’s release that the British government had invested in during my time working there. Huge images of Aung San Suu Kyi had been projected onto the EU Parliament building. I also remembered that the remarkable lady had been on a world tour of late – thanking the 'West' for their support during the time of her imprisonment."
Ed Miliband’s Post-New Labour Foreign Policy - Progressive Internationalism: "A new Fabian Society pamphlet that maps out Labour’s policy direction under Ed Miliband has successfully set the centre-left all-a-flutter this month. As ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ landed on doorsteps, the prospect of a clear post-New Labour policy agenda has justifiably excited many people who crave more detail on Ed Miliband’s policy priorities for government.
Alongside chapters on the welfare state, education and the economy, the pamphlet also covers Ed Miliband’s foreign and defence policy. ... Ed Miliband has proved that he can connect with people on some key issues, such as the need to fundamentally reform our banking institutions. It’s true that connecting with the public is the job of politicians, and that is no different on foreign affairs than it is on the economy. The coalition have given Labour plenty of opportunities to publicly challenge their approach to foreign affairs, and so Ed should be comfortable in using public diplomacy to make political arguments. Miliband image from
The Geopolitical Spotlight on Poland 1980-81: Pragmatic Efficiency of Public Diplomacy - Joanna Diane Caytas, foreignpolicyjournal.com: "It is an axiomatic fact of realpolitik that public diplomacy carries neither a presumption of truth and accuracy nor of completeness and objectivity. It behooves us never to forget that it is first and foremost an instrument of advocacy, a means to an end. Its purpose lies in the state actor’s preference for low-level engagement as opposed to the cost, on various levels, of having to employ means more expensive by multiple criteria. Among the tools employed, use of information reported by ostensibly independent media to the extent of creating factual disinformation figures prominently. It happened over and over in modern history that the creation of a smokescreen, a distraction, permitted a power player to conduct or justify in
its shadow policies that would have been far more difficult to rationalize for public acceptance by other means. It is a strategy the U.S. does – and is still well-advised to – employ in a multitude of confrontations that have not passed the threshold of direct international military engagement. ... The imposition of martial law in Poland represented the optimal solution for the Soviet Union: although it did nothing to resolve the underlying causes of social unrest provoked by the country’s economic difficulties and lack of civil liberties, it did preserve the dictatorial rule of the communist party for several more years, until the final dissolution of the Eastern Bloc itself started again in Poland in 1989. ... Jaruzelski’s scare of a Soviet invasion can be characterized as yet another propaganda move of many that were so popular throughout the Cold War period: its exaggerated threat ended in an anticlimactic domestic disciplinarian move that convinced both the American and the Polish public with a sentiment of shivers that, luckily, the worst had been averted yet again. In reality, and by the standards of historic consequences, the imposition of martial law in Poland had turned out to be little more than a self-serving public relations gambit of this only lifelong professional soldier that ever became the leader of a ruling European Communist Party and subsequently rose to head of state." Image from article, with caption: Strike in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. 1980
Exploring St. Petersburg's History, People and Culture - The Sholk Road Adventures: "The journey began at 9:30 on Tuesday evening, when the group met at the Vladimir train station to take an overnight train to St. Petersburg. Now, I LOVE Soviet-trains. The train is a great opportunity to interact with Russians, engage in cultural diplomacy and gain insights into Russian (and Kazakh) culture. It is also great fun. ... I was in a bottom bunk perpendicular to a Grandma and Grandpa who were from Murmansk and traveling with their 12-year old grandson.
They had spent several weeks in the countryside and were returning home. When they saw 28 young and energetic Americans board the train, they were beyond excited. The grandson was so excited to practice English. I spent the first few hours on the train engaged in conversation with the grandparents and the grandson, during which they shared photos of their summer vacation and the grandson showed me his coin collection. He gave me some old Soviet coins minted in 1992 and 1989 as a gift. I of course gave him a quarter and some other American coins to add to his international collection. As hospitable Russians, the grandparents offered us caramels and I gave them two peaches I purchased earlier in the day for the purpose of sharing. This, my friends, is 'people to people' interactions -- the highest form of public diplomacy." Image from article, with caption: Fellow CLS participants and I with our new Russian friend on the train
The Dark Knight - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "I went to see the latest Batman last night at Tysons Corner mall. Truth be told, the mall scares me far more than Iraq. But I am working on learning on how to stop worrying and love the mall, if only because it is one of the places in America where American diversity is on full display. Anywho, I saw the flick with my friend Matt Wallin. He is a pd colleague from USC who is laying the foundations for solid public diplomacy work at the American Security Project. It was nice to catch up on the pd work he has been doing over the summer, and how he is learning the DC ropes. ... I loved the public diplomacy side of Batman. The constant reoccurring theme of symbols, and how to communicate ideas to the people, and give them something to believe in, be it hope or fear. The underlying pd narrative of Batman relates to the communication of emotions, and which visceral emotions will rule Gotham. I also liked the interplay on building heroes upon the backs of lies. If the foundations are shaky, can the edifice really stand?"
Former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani Rejoins Hudson Institute - press release, PR Newswire: "His [Haqqani] areas of expertise include public diplomacy, Muslim political movements, international journalism, intercultural relations, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle-East, and U.S.-Pakistan relations."
‘sup, Diplomacy? – World Edition - Nika Ankouexchangediplomacy.com: "Written by Nika Ankou, master’s candidate in the Public Diplomacy Program at Syracuse University. ... [M]y training in public diplomacy gives me unrestricted
career opportunities in any field at any location on the globe." Image from
U.S. Fund to Rebuild Afghanistan Is Criticized - Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times: The Pentagon and State Department secured $400 million from Congress for what was christened the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund and drew up plans for seven projects, five of them aimed at increasing the electricity supply in southern
As a result, a program that was intended to bring soldiers and civilians together to buttress the Obama administration’s counterinsurgency strategy could end up undercutting it, according to the report, which is to be released Monday. The difficulties the report describes provide insight into why the results of the surge have appeared ambiguous and the broader American-led reconstruction effort in
Retiring Envoy to Afghanistan Exhorts U.S to Heed Its Past - Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times: The American diplomat most associated with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan says that American policy makers need to learn the lessons of the recent past as they weigh military options for the future, including for Syria and Iran: ¶ Remember the law of unintended consequences. ¶ Recognize the limits of the United States’ actual capabilities. ¶ Understand that getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict. Via LJB.
Coming Soon: The Big Trade-Off - Thomas Friedman, New York Times: Good luck, world! It’s been fun hanging with you, but we can’t pay for it anymore — not with all of us baby boomers about to retire with no savings. We have a new strategic doctrine coming: “U.S. foreign policy in the age of Alzheimer’s.” We’ll do what we can afford and forget the rest. Nursing homes, nursery schools or nursing Afghanistan — these are the trade-offs we’ll have to make in this decade, unless we have a real growth spurt.
U.S. audit: $200M wasted on Iraqi police training - Lara Jakes, Washington Times:
was wasted on a program to train Iraqi police that
When the government kills: The Constitution's guarantee of due process means the president can't act as judge, jury and executioner of suspected terrorists, especially when they are U.S. citizens - Editorial, latimes.com: If the United States is going to continue down the troubling road of state-sponsored assassination, Congress should, at the very least, require that a court play some role, as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court does with the electronic surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists.
Even minimal judicial oversight might make the president and his advisors think twice about whether an American citizen poses such an "imminent" danger that he must be executed without a trial. Image from article, with caption: Protesters demonstrate outside the White House alongside a model of an unmanned flying vehicle. Drones have become controversial in their growing military use for surveillance and attack missions.
A Syrian standoff: Shared interests must pull the United States, China and Russia together - Rajan Menon, latimes.com: It is true that even under the best of conditions, the prospects are bleak that a coordinated major-power strategy can engineer the voluntary transfer of power from Assad to a transitional government, pending elections. Yet this much is certain: If China, Russia and the United States don't try, the chances will be zero. That won't be good for Syrians, or for them.
Syria After the Fall - Vali Nasr, New York Times: The United States and its allies must enlist the cooperation of Mr. Assad’s allies — Russia and, especially, Iran — to find a power-sharing arrangement for a post-Assad Syria that all sides can support, however difficult that may be to achieve.
War, Syrian Style? Has Assad Ordered Mass Rapes? - Russ Baker, whowhatwhy.com: A growing refrain out of Syria is that widespread rape is taking place—and sanctioned by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
But when WhoWhatWhy examined the allegations, it found that well-intentioned women’s groups trying to document and prevent such abuses may be falling victim to a deliberate disinformation campaign intent on rallying public support for toppling Assad. Image from entry
Iran Sanctions Test: How Congress can close the loopholes that Tehran is exploiting - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: Nearly everyone in Congress agrees that crippling sanctions ought to be imposed on Iran. Or at least they claim to agree. We're about to find out who means it. House and Senate conferees are now working to reconcile two new Iran sanctions bills before the August Congressional recess. The bills seek to close various loopholes by expanding the list of Iranian entities subject to sanctions. They also call on the Obama Administration to impose penalties on foreign companies doing business with Iranian energy and financial companies. Unfortunately for this approach, the Iranians are pros when it comes to creating hundreds of new front companies to replace those on the sanctions' list. The Administration will resist these stiffer penalties, as it has consistently resisted previous Congressional attempts to impose the harshest possible sanctions. But that's all the more reason for the conferees to present the President with the toughest bill possible, and see where he really stands.
The Russia Trade Pile-Up: Congress balks as Obama abandons his own proposal - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: So how can legislation supported by business groups, democracy activists, Senate Democrats, House Republicans and the Obama Administration be in danger of failing? Answer: Only in Washington. That's where things stand with a bill to normalize trade with Russia that includes a provision to sanction gross abusers of human rights. Early last week all looked good. Then on Monday every House Member received a letter from the United Steelworkers and the Communication Workers of America. The unions called the bill "woefully deficient" in enforcing Russian compliance with World Trade Organization rules. Meanwhile, the Administration has been missing in action.
Consign Bush's 'torture memos' to history: How should we mark the 10th anniversary of the effort by the Bush administration to justify torture? By ensuring it never happens again - Morris D. Davis, latimes.com: The Senate Intelligence Committee has undertaken an investigation into the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques. It is essential that its findings be released to the public so that the American people can know the truth about what was done in their name.
And we should mark the 10th anniversary of the effort by the Bush administration to justify torture, remembering that as a nation founded on religious and moral values, we must work to ensure that U.S. government-sponsored torture never occurs again. Image from article, with caption: As the Bush administration developed its interrogation policies, it concealed various forms of torture under the moniker "enhanced interrogation techniques." Above: Military police guard cells at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay.
Rescuing Salvadoran Democracy: The U.S. should withhold aid to a government trampling on its constitution - Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal: Should the U.S. pour nearly a half-billion dollars in development aid into El Salvador, even though the government in San Salvador has been trampling the rule of law? The answer is obvious. Without a reliable legal framework, development is unlikely. Uncle Sam would only be wasting taxpayer resources.
ONE MORE QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"England is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions."
--From Mitt Romney’s 2010 book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness; cited at; via PR; image from