Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 1-2

"Dead eunuchs may explain long lives"

--Front-page headline of article by Gisela Telis, Washington Post (AM, October 2, online edition); image from


U.S. Public Opinion Toward Arabs and Islam: How "The Video Incident" May Affect U.S.-Muslim Relations - "A provocatively offensive film and violent demonstrations protesting it have once again roiled the relationships between Americans, Arabs and Muslims. In both the United States and the volatile transition states of North Africa, popular reactions have been swift, severe and complicated by domestic politics. ... On October 8, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings will host a discussion on these questions and unveil a new University of Maryland public opinion poll examining attitudes just days before violence erupted in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East."


U.S. Public Diplomacy: Legislative Proposals to Amend Prohibitions on Disseminating Materials to Domestic Audiences - Matthew C. Weed, Analyst in Foreign Policy Legislation, September 21, 2012, Congressional Research Service. Image from


Why Arabs are so Easily Offended - Ron Jared, faithfreedom.org: "In effect, American foreign policy towards the Middle East since Obama came to power has been characterized by a public relations practice called 'public diplomacy' a nebulous term meant to hide the true intention: 'soft power'. The cornerstone of this policy was the statement: 'America is not at war with Islam.' In June 2009, newly elected President Obama went to Egypt and made a pronouncement that raised false expectations in the Arab world: 'I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. This stunning pronouncement flies in the face of the First Amendment and by committing to protect the image of a specific religion and political philosophy [.] Obama gave the Muslim world the false impression that he could control media content in America — like [sic] dictators control the media in the Arab-Islamic countries. Unfortunately Obama’s natural inclination to go overboard with a destructive need to self- blame and take responsibility when it is wholly unwarranted has resulted in the opposite result. This mix of a Western tendency to being overly forgiving in response to Muslim self-pity and blame is the psychological crowbar that has opened the West to invite escalating Muslim violence against what we know in the West as 'the other'. ... The writer, a 25-year veteran

of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer." Image from

Post-Mortem on the Muhammad Protests - "As Muslim crowds dissipate and American diplomatic missions return to normal activities, here are ...  thoughts on the riots that began this Sept. 11 and killed about thirty: The movie really did matter: The Obama administration dishonestly skirted responsibility for the murder of four Americans in Libya by claiming that the attack was a protest that got unpredictably out of hand against the 'Innocence of Muslims' video. In response, leading analysts have concluded that the video hardly mattered anywhere. Barry Rubin scorns the video as a 'phony excuse for the demonstration' in EgyptMichael Ledeen upbraids the administration for claiming 'that attacks against Americans aren't attacks against Americans at all, but attacks against a video.' 'It is not about a video,' writes Andrew McCarthy, 'any more than similar episodes in recent years have been about cartoons, teddy-bears, accidental Koran burnings, etc.' Hussein Haqqani dismisses the protests as a 'function of politics, not religion.' For Victor Davis Hanson, the video and similar incidents 'are no more than crude pretexts to direct fury among their ignorant and impoverished masses at opportune times against the United States, and thereby gain power.' Lee Smith speculates that 'blaming the video is part of some complex public diplomacy campaign.' Cliff Kinkaid flatly calls the video 'a diversion intended to save Obama's presidency.' I respect and learn from all these writers, but disagree about the video. Yes, individuals, organizations, and governments goaded the mobs – indeed, there always needs to be some instigator who mobilizes Muslims against an offending statement, text, drawing, or video. But it would be a mistake to see the mob as but a tool of clashing interests (such as Salafis vs. Muslim Brothers in Egypt) or American political imperatives. Rage directed at the video was heartfelt, real, and persistent. The person of Muhammad has acquired a saint-like quality among Muslims and may not be criticized."

The Archetype Public Diplomat - "[Murdered US Ambassador to Lybia] Chris Stevens was the archetype of the successful public diplomat, with his casual, breezy, blue jeans style, interest in meeting with the Libyan people, and his reluctance to sit in his office and wait for visitors. The death of Stevens is a priceless loss to the goals of American public diplomacy in Libya. He felt safe and at home in a country and region he grew to love.

There were Libyans who attacked the U.S. compound and there were Libyans who tried to save the Ambassador’s life. We must never forget that." Stevens image from article; see also John Brown, "Ambassador Stevens as a Public Diplomacy Envoy," Notes and Essays

Virtual relations - afridigital.blogspot.com: "Foreign ministries are getting the hang of social media - "Minutes after last week’s violent attacks on America’s missions in the Middle East, the country’s embassy in Cairo was already on Twitter. It tweeted an emergency number for American citizens. It criticised Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood for supporting the protests on their Arabic feed. And it thanked fellow tweeters for their condolences on the murder of the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. Welcome to the new world of e-diplomacy, also called, more pretentiously, '21st-century-statecraft'. Historically, governments left diplomacy to the cagey and the discreet, who mostly met behind closed doors. Now they are also using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and local social-media services such as China’s microblogging site, Sina Weibo. Much of this online activity is 'public diplomacy', meaning governments communicating directly with the citizens of another country. But e-diplomacy is an easy and cheap tool for other purposes, too: responding to disasters, gathering information and managing relationships. Some diplomats also use Twitter to communicate among themselves (many don’t read their own e-mail). Predictably, America is leading the pack. Since Hillary Clinton, the country’s secretary of state, launched her own 21st-century-statecraft programme in 2009, her ministry has spawned 194 Twitter accounts and 200 Facebook pages with millions of 'followers' (subscribers). The State Department in effect operates a 'global media empire', in the words of Fergus Hanson, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington, DC, and the author of a study of e-diplomacy. Most other countries lag far behind. About 20 British ambassadors are now on Twitter (perhaps some were inspired by William Hague, the country’s tweeting foreign minister). Russia’s foreign ministry is said to have more than 40 Twitter accounts. Israel has announced it will make more use of e-diplomacy. Even China, which heavily censors social media at home, is interested in using them as a diplomatic tool abroad. ... Some argue that social media improves diplomatic preparedness. The State Department monitors social media in five languages and flags, for instance, influential figures in a country whom envoys ought to befriend. With such information, diplomats should be more able to predict events and react to them. 'Would we have been better prepared for the Arab spring if we had discovered the hashtag #tahrir earlier?' asks Tom Fletcher, the British ambassador (and twiplomat) in Lebanon. Yet e-diplomacy also has its critics. They say that by pushing social media and internet freedom, America has persuaded many abroad that the network is just another Trojan horse for American imperialism. 'The internet is far too valuable to become an agent of Washington’s digital diplomats,' argues Evgeny Morozov, a noted blogger. Others say that social media do not reinvent diplomacy, but merely add to it: world leaders and their minions still have to meet face-to-face. ... Source: The Economist (Technology Quarterly)"

The United Kingdom and the Rise of Digital Public Diplomacy - Gleb Mytko, exchangediplomacy.com: "The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to conduct digital public diplomacy and has developed a strategy that works particularly well. Its approach is structured and flexible, efficient and effective, and sophisticated and wide-ranging. Through examining the UK’s activities, scholars can learn about multiple aspects of digital public diplomacy, including motivating factors, structure, and training.

Such an examination will also help identify the advantages, understand the challenges, and explore measures of success. The case of the United Kingdom is valuable because it offers a variety of insights about effective strategies. ... While digital public diplomacy has numerous advantages over traditional public diplomacy, it can never completely replace its counterpart. Simply put, there are some things it cannot do effectively such as targeting the political class in a foreign country. There are also a number of challenges associated with digital diplomacy. Most importantly, not all people have access to new communication technologies or use the same types of social media. ... To be truly effective, however, digital public diplomacy must complement traditional public diplomacy. These two activities are deeply interconnected and must be approached with this in mind." Image from article, with caption: By Colearn (Own work)

US Embassy Bahamas Hosts Party for Local Journalists and Media Professionals - Azaleta Ishmael-Newry, The Bahamas Weekly News: "The Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy recently held a reception in honour of the Bahamian media on Friday, September 28, 2012 at Frankie’s Gone Banana’s at Arawak Cay, Nassau, Bahamas. Media professionals from various media houses, consultants as well as freelancers turned out to enjoy an evening of fellowship. They were also given the opportunity to meet with Erica Thibault, public affairs officer and Lisa Moxey, media specialist at the US Embassy. ... One of the initiatives of the Public Affairs Section is to liaise with the local press. As stated on the US Embassy Bahamas’ website, 'The Public Affairs Section of the Embassy of the United States of America to The Bahamas seeks to engage local communities through public diplomacy outreach.

The section works to strengthen U.S. relations in the region by: Explaining U.S. policies, as well as the context for policy by presenting American society in all its complexity[;] Supporting U.S. policy through support for bilateral and regional programs [;] Increasing cooperation between the peoples of the United States and The Bahamas through educational and cultural exchange programs[.] The Embassy accomplishes these goals through a variety of means such as interacting with local press, providing information via the Embassy’s website and social media pages, and organizing cultural, educational, and exchange programs directly with the citizens of The Bahamas.” Image from article, with caption: Various journalists gathered at the US Embassy’s media part that was organized by the Public Affairs Unit.

Finding what you need, but not what you want... - Molly Sisson, Public Diplomacy and Student Exchanges: Possibly the first study of the Fulbright Program to be conducted by someone who isn't affiliated with it in any way... - "For ages, I'd been looking for the records of the Fulbright Program in the 1970's. It seemed like it was a lost decade--the National Archives had plenty of 40's-60's material, and seemed to pick it up again in the 80's and 90's, and I'd found quite a bit of post-2000 records elsewhere. At the National Archives, when I found folders with 70's dates on them, I was disappointed to see that they were just notes--just correspondence about the Annual Report, for instance, but without actually including a copy of the Annual Report.

It was so frustrating. At the Munich conference, another American PhD student had asked if I'd been to the archives at University of Arkansas. I didn't know anything about them--I just knew about the Fulbright Papers Special Collection, and assumed the University's archives would be more useful for a biography of the Senator himself. I didn't really think anything of it until I was talking about the missing 1970's reports with Richard yesterday. Sure enough, they're at the University of Arkansas--it turns out the other student was asking about the CU special collection. It was transferred there in 1983, so it has all of these 1970's records, reports, etc. that I've been needing. I'm kicking myself now, but I suppose I hadn't really had a chance to make a trip out there before now anyway." Image from article

Opinions: Should Alhurra or Al Jazeera be the voice of moderates in the Arab world? - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Gandhi, Public Diplomat - Sarah Ellen Graham, PD News – CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "Initially framed as 'sadagraha,' a portmanteau of the Gujarati words sad (truth) and agraha (firmness), Gandhi slightly modified the term to satyagraha: satya meant both truth/soul and love. ... In noting this truth-telling element of satyagraha, we can look at Mahatma Gandhi in a new way, as a significant figure in both the history and theory of public diplomacy. As an innovator of public diplomacy practice, Gandhi’s attachment to truth force and his awareness that favorable coverage in the global media of his time, particularly the relatively new medium of photojournalism, shows his sense of the significant role that public opinion could play in the decision-making of target nations. ... Gandhi’s engagement of American ex-missionaries who had proselytized in India and with American clergy who had not visited India but sympathized with its freedom struggle was a particularly important part of his public diplomacy strategy in the U.S. ... [T]he cultivation of American religious leaders was also an inspired public diplomacy strategy."

Australia in the Asian Century: Challenges and Opportunities - apo.org.au: "Can Australia avoid a zero-sum game in our ties with the United States, as our strongest ally, and China, as our biggest trading partner? Are our relationships with critical players such as India and Indonesia sufficiently robust? And finally, as a middle power at the centre of economic gravity, what role should Australia play in major regional and international forums in the 21st century? To discuss these matters and other issues, the Institute

is delighted to welcome Professor Kenneth Chern. ... Professor Kenneth Chern ... is currently Professor of Asian Policy and Executive Director of the Swinburne Leadership Institute. ... Earlier he worked at the State Department’s China Desk, the Japan Desk, and the Australia/New Zealand Desk and served in the White House as Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. He has won three individual Superior Honor Awards for his work in counterterrorism, human rights, and public diplomacy." Image from entry


U.S. Abandoning Hopes for Taliban Peace Deal - Matthew Rosenberg and Rod Norland: With the surge of American troops over and the Taliban still a potent threat, American generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written off what was once one of the cornerstones of their strategy to end the war here: battering the Taliban into a peace deal.

The once ambitious American plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart, and to ensure Pakistan is on board with any eventual settlement. Image from

How Karzai Could Make Himself a Hero - Jim Marshall, New York Times: Afghans feel strongly that the United States should already be pressing the government and the international community for a final plan for fair elections; it should also provide the necessary support to guarantee its execution.

The propaganda of Israel and weakness of America - Ray Hanania, english.alarabiya.net: If nuclear weaponry wasn’t such a threat to humanity, the rhetorical battle between Israel and Iran would be comical and laughable. But nuclear weapons are a threat to all mankind, not just to the arrogant who believe they and they alone count on this planet that we call Earth. The irony is that Israel has 250 armed nuclear warheads that can be fired at any time to destroy its Arab and Muslim neighbors, including Iran.

Yet, it screams at every opportunity afforded it by the biased mainstream Western media attacking Iran and declaring that Israel will prevent Iran from developing nuclear technology. Let’s get something straight in this hypocritical rhetorical battle of hyperbole and public relations spin: Only one country in the Middle East region has nuclear weapons and that is Israel. Not Iran. Not the Arab countries. Just Israel. Israel, not Iran, is the country that threatens the region. It has taken, and continues to take, lands owned by Arabs. Israel, not Iran, has killed civilians. Israel is the country that continues to call for military strikes against another foreign country while Americans ignore justice, law and principle to mindlessly soak in the Israeli propaganda. Image from

Iran court convicts Reuters bureau chief on propaganda-related offenses - fsrn.org: The bureau chief in Tehran for the news agency Reuters is facing a court sentence this week over so-called propaganda-related offenses for a headline posted earlier this year. According to the AP, Parisa Hafezi, who is an Iranian citizen, was convicted Sunday by a special media court in Iran.

At issue is a headline for a video Reuters posted in February that initially described a group of women in martial arts training as “assassins.” After the story, the Iranian government suspended the Reuters bureau in Tehran and most of the staff left the country. But Hafezi was not allowed to leave, according to the AP. Hafezi image from

What if we're wrong on Iran? In weighing an attack on Tehran's nuclear sites, it pays to remember the WMDs that weren't - Roger Z. George, latimes.com: So what can be done to avert another military strike based on devastatingly wrong intelligence estimates? How can we avoid terrible mistakes, followed by commission investigations and finger-pointing? First, we must set extremely high standards for evidence. Second, the U.S. must not over-rely on information gathered and supplied by foreign governments. Third, U.S. intelligence personnel should be kept at arm's length from policy discussions, particularly those involving military options. Fourth, the intelligence community should never be called on to make the case for intervention. Finally, the intelligence community should immediately, if it has not already done so, prepare candid assessments of the effect military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities could have on both Iranian politics and regional stability.

When intel meets the political debate - Michael V. Hayden, Washington Post: Even in the best of times, the burden on intelligence is heavy, as it is the intelligence professional’s task to get into the heads of policymakers and deepen the officials’ understanding. That must be done without breaking the linkage to his fact-based, dark, inductive, world-as-it-is roots. Often this means making life more difficult and more complicated for the policymaking consumer.

Muffling the drums of war with Iran - Richard Cohen, Washington Post: For almost a year, Israeli PM Netanyahu has been hinting that he will strike Iran’s nuclear installations. The consensus in the U.S. intelligence community is that Israel can do some damage and possibly delay the program; it cannot end it. The consensus in the Israeli intelligence community is the same. In contrast to the silence of the U.S. intelligence community (including retired military men) as Bush was preparing to rid Iraq of weapons it did not have, Israel’s retired intelligence chiefs have been leaking and shouting their disagreement with Netanyahu. An airstrike someday, maybe — but not now. The din has been striking.

Benghazi Was Obama's 3 a.m. Call: Libya was a failure of policy and worldview, not intelligence - Bret Stephens: What happened in Benghazi was not a failure of intelligence. It was a failure of policy, stemming from a flawed worldview and the political needs of an election season.

Mr. Obama flubbed it. Image from article, with caption: The U.S. consulate [sic] in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 11.

Goldberg: Obama's foreign policy follies: The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya is only the latest failure of the president's kick-the-can approach - Jonah Goldberg, latimes.com: The Libya follies are merely the most visible flashpoint of the larger unraveling of the Obama administration's foreign policy. The U.S.-Israel relationship has become a bad soap opera. Afghanistan is slipping away, as our troops are being killed by the men they're supposed to be training for the handover. Egypt is now run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Russia casually mocks and defies us. China is rapidly replacing us as an Asian hegemon and rattling sabers at our ally Japan. Most troubling, as Fred and Kimberly Kagan document in the current issue of National Review, Iraq is rapidly becoming an Iranian vassal state. Even after Bin Laden's death, when Obama started to tout foreign policy to compensate for a sputtering economy, the message was that under Obama, there's no drama.

Obama and the Power of Propaganda - Michael Widlanski, algemeiner.com: Those who study propaganda know that propagandists cannot dictate what we think, but they can strongly influence what we think about. In other words, propagandists can get you to think about baseball or golf rather than about health care or the economy, but they cannot really alter your views about baseball, golf, health care or the economy. When President Obama fails in his predictions and forecasts on the economy or on foreign affairs, good propagandists can get us to focus instead on Obama’s picks for the NCAA basketball tournament or his appearance on a late-night comedy show. Obama’s foreign record is as bad as his economic one. He bet he would find common ground with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, selling out U.S. friends in Georgia, Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic. Maybe the propaganda will distract us long enough for Obama to get re-elected, but then again, maybe not.

The Foreign Policy Divide - Roger Cohen, New York Times: In the vision of President Barack Obama, America is now in the status-management business: being realistic about its power the better to exercise and preserve it. As for Mitt Romney, he belongs to Putin’s school of foreign policy. The status quo he believes in is that of three decades ago. In this regard he is a closet Russian even as he denounces Moscow. Obama has extracted the United States from a costly war (Iraq); set a date for departure from Afghanistan; adopted a low-cost means to kill terrorists (drone attacks); rid America of the specter of Osama bin Laden; restrained Israel from attacking Iran and so starting a disastrous third Western war in a Muslim country in a decade; sought ways to work with Russia and China; put European allies in lead roles in Libya; and generally looked not to hard power but the American soft power represented most visibly by Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple.

Ottoman-America - Michael Vlahos, Huffington Post: The Ottomans were nothing like cartoon narratives "The Terrible Turk" pushed by Catholic-Hapsburg propaganda. Historian Karen Barkey calls the Ottoman state a "hybrid Byzantine-Turkish" enterprise: Half Orthodox Christian, half Sunni Muslim. In its first 200 years, of 47 Grand Viziers (the prime ministers who really ran the empire), only five were Turkish.

The rest were from Christian households. Converts yes, but they remained rooted in their own culture and very often their family communities. Moreover, the shock troops of the Ottoman army -- and their most capable administrators -- were from the Janissary corps, which was all from Christian households, mostly Greek and Serbian. The Ottoman state was a balanced blend of Byzantine and Turkish cultures, and in the first two imperial centuries, weighted Byzantine. The United States has managed Saudi, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states from the mid-1970s to now. We have failed miserably only in Palestine and Iraq (maybe Yemen). Now we too are getting out. We tried, like the British, to be good Ottomans -- and we too failed. In a mere eight years, not 70, we not only failed as Ottomans -- we managed to unleash an Arab-wide rebellion against the sway of outsider power. Image from

Syria Accuses U.S. of Chemical Weapons Propaganda - nasdaq.com: The U.S. wants to oust the Syrian regime by raising fears over its chemical weapons stockpiles, creating a scenario similar to that which led to the invasion of Iraq, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in an interview broadcast Monday. "This issue [chemical weapons] is an invention of the American administration," Muallem told Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast in full later Monday. But Muallem remained vague on whether President Bashar al-Assad's regime possesses chemical weapons, despite Syria acknowledging in July that it has such stockpiles.

Advice for State Department Entry Level Officers: Gangnam Style - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: “Here are some points for you young’uns to raise with your State Department mentors: – Clinton’s personal spokesperson, Philippe Reines, called a major media reporter an ‘unmitigated asshole’ and told him to ‘fuck off’

in writing. Given the varied needs of diplomacy, under what specific circumstances are State Department personnel allowed to use such terms without punishment? For example, I was charged by State with ‘unprofessional conduct’ for far less offensive speech on this blog. Bonus: Is there such a thing as a ‘mitigated asshole’? Discuss. – It was less than a year ago that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was videotaped gleefully laughing at the brutal death of then-Libyan leader Qaddafi. ‘We came, we saw, he died!’ giggled the Secretary of State. Under what specific circumstances are officers allowed to act gleeful in the face of the death of world leaders? Putin? Assad? Ahmadinejad? The Gangnam-Style guy? –When the Secretary talks about them killing us it is ‘terrorism.’ When we kill them it is legitimate self-defense. At what point in a State Department career do these things actually start to make sense? Bonus: Is there something in the water at State Department HQ? Should I be drinking more of it or less of it? – Alec Ross, State Department social media guru, called Hillary Clinton the ‘most innovative Secretary of State since Ben Franklin.’ Should you Tweet that your own boss is the most innovative boss since Benjamin Franklin as part of your mandatory self-promotional ‘managing up’ strategy? If so, should you use an official State Department social media account to do so as Ross did, or a personal account? What is your play if you only have access to a MySpace account due to local conditions overseas?” Image from 

Swiss Charge 2 Brothers With Terror Propaganda - abcnews.go.com: Two Iraq-born men have been charged in Switzerland with membership in a criminal organization and promoting terrorism, Swiss federal prosecutors said Monday. The unidentified brothers, who are Kurdish refugees, were involved with a group set up by a Norway-based Islamist cleric, Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad, also known as Mullah Krekar. Prosecutors said in a statement that Krekar's group — which also wasn't identified — was part of the al-Qaida network and dedicated to establishing worldwide Islamic rule. "The newly-founded terrorist organization is alleged to pursue a multileveled strategy to attract new members and supporters, and by this means to strengthen the existing organizations of the al-Qaida network," the statement said.

North Korea drops propaganda leaflets over border: North Korea has dropped thousands of propaganda leaflets attacking South Korea across their heavily militarised border for the second time this year, the South's defence ministry said on Tuesday - telegraph.co.uk: South Korean soldiers have collected

about 17,000 leaflets, which were floated by balloon over the frontier on Saturday, a ministry spokesman said. "They were found scattered in western border areas," a spokesman said. Image from article


Almost 2,400 people in millionaire homes received unemployment benefits in 2009 - Frank Bass, Washington Post: Almost 2,400 people who received unemployment insurance in 2009 lived in households with annual incomes of $1 million or more, according to the Congressional Research Service. The report was released after about 1.1 million people exhausted their jobless benefits during the second quarter of 2012, when more than 4.6 million filed initial unemployment claims.

No comments: