"At the State Department history is just one damn thing after another."
--Ambassador Laurence Pope; image from
Interview: Ambassador Laurence Pope on the State Department, the Foreign Service, and Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century - Donald Bishop, Public Diplomacy Council: "The Demilitarization of American Diplomacy: Two Cheers for Striped Pants by Ambassador Laurence Pope has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. He was Ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996 and Charge d’Affaires to Libya in the aftermath of Benghazi. At other times during his career, he was Director for Northern Gulf Affairs, Associate Director for Counter-Terrorism, and Political Advisor to General Zinni at Central Command. He now lives in Maine. The book is fresh, direct and uncommonly blunt. I posed some questions. ... Q: The Department has embraced the social media to re-shape public diplomacy and transform American diplomacy. What contribution can it make? POPE: There is nothing wrong with the use of Twitter and Facebook and Zillow and Youtube and all the rest of it, but diplomacy requires speech on behalf of the state, and social media are individual expressions by definition. This can easily create confusion —think for example of Susan Rice tweeting about the need to bomb Syria while the President was changing his mind about that.
I don’t know how many Facebook pages and Twitter accounts there are at the State Department —hundreds if not thousands. When individuals speak through them, one of two things are true: either they are expressing American policy, in which case 140 characters is unlikely to be a useful way of doing so, or they aren’t, in which case their views may be interesting, but there is a risk of confusion. Broadly, the State Department’s fascination with social media reflects a view that its job is to speak over the heads of governments, or under their heads, or something. That is a dangerous illusion. With Ambassador McFaul tweeting away in Russia as we were trying to reset the relationship, we saw some of the problems with digital diplomacy. The Youtube videos newly minted ambassadors make are downright embarrassing. They give an impression of proconsular self-regard which is in bad taste. Diplomacy is premised on a world of sovereign states. The State Department’s fascination with social media suggests that it no longer thinks that is the world we live in, a strange notion for a foreign ministry. ... POPE: Public diplomacy is an ancient art. ... When I was consulting at the Defense Department they loved to talk about strategic information, a term which has infiltrated the civilian world along with much else, and I used to remind them that information is the air we breathe, not a weapons system. In the age of Louis XIV, a carefully placed article could have an impact, given the limited number of European decision-makers. Even then it was hard to explain away the bombing of Genoa by a French fleet to outraged Italians. Today’s information technology makes that even harder, and official statements can easily be drowned out by the din of the news cycle. What matters in the end is what we do, not what we say, as Charlotte Beers and her successors discovered. ... Are there new ways to measure foreign opinion? What metrics can be extracted from Big Data? What are people in the Crimea thinking this morning, on the eve of a possible confrontation with Russian forces? Twitter is a new tool, obviously, I follow the feeds of a number of folks at #Libya, but we need to be careful about drawing conclusions from small samples. Techniques for measuring foreign opinion aside, for public diplomacy as for diplomacy tout court, the place to start is not the world we would like to live in, but the world as it is. We Americans are much given to utopian fantasies, and that is not a harmless occupation. Reality has a way of taking revenge." Pope image from entry
US: Operational Failure – We Knew 7 – 10 Days Out - toinformistoinfluence.com: "The use of information, Public Diplomacy, diplomacy, military shows of force, starting economic measures – all elements of national power that the United States had at its disposal – none were used in advance of Russian moves to intimidate Ukraine and sieze [sic] Crimea. As a leader, Mr. President, you failed to elicit or seek the proper advice from your key advisors in time to prevent a crisis. Perhaps your team is trying to insulate you from blame. Perhaps your team has their priorities mixed up. Perhaps your team is composed of the wrong people. Perhaps your team isn’t good enough. This was not an intelligence failure. Mr. President, you failed."
Department of State Public Schedule Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - posted at rockycoastnews.blogspot.com: "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS RICHARD STENGEL
Under Secretary Stengel participates in the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference, at the Department of State." Image from
Speakers Program in India Focuses on Variety of Opportune Topics - blog.meridian.org: "Meridian International Center, in conjunction with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi (NDPAS), has created the U.S. Speaker and Specialist Program in India. The program, which started in November of 2013, has already sent eight representatives from the United States to different locations around India to speak on various policy-related topics. To ensure topics were discussed as competently
and fully as possible, speakers chosen are US citizens with the best expertise and qualifications in their respective fields. The program was organized by Meridian Program Officer Bogdan Banu and Program Associate Tai Ford, and will include two additional speakers in the next month. Topics covered during the Speaker and Specialist Program were chosen not only for their timeliness, but also their pertinence and significance for both countries." Image from entry, with caption: Speakers Program In India
Intelligence and Public Diplomacy: The Changing Tide - Jonathan Pinkus, scholarcommons.usf.edu: "This article argues that the executive branches of governments will need to change the way that they employ intelligence for public diplomacy in the context of military action. Intelligence assessments that have been 'politicized' through distortion and/or omission have led to poor decision-making and a decline in public trust. These propositions are demonstrated using the American and British public diplomacy that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a case study. This case is then compared to a second case study, the American and British public appeals for a strike on Syria following the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack. The article concludes by reflecting on what changes are still needed and how the strategy of using intelligence for public diplomacy is likely to evolve in the future."
Interview: James Thomas Snyder on Public Diplomacy, seen from NATO - Donald Bishop, Public Diplomacy Council: "After some years working on Capitol Hill, James Thomas Snyder became an information officer in the NATO Public Diplomacy staff in Brussels from 2005 to 2011. Explaining NATO’s policies in the Balkans, Kosovo, and Afghanistan was part of his job, so he was naturally in touch with American public diplomacy. His new book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, The United States and the Challenge of Public Diplomacy, is 'about how the United States can communicate better with the world.' I posed some questions. ... SNYDER [:] Public diplomacy for an international organization is very different from the same work done for a country.
NATO is a constituent body of the Allies. It’s more abstract. We had fewer resources to work with than probably any individual Allied nation. So getting acceptance from foreign audiences for NATO was a unique challenge. ... If we give more and show a concerted effort to protect and preserve more art, it will go far to overturn the foreign perception of Americans as cultural Neanderthals, which is untrue to begin with. ...
Twiplo-blunders: they’re fun, and necessary - petecranston, diplomacy.edu: "Sebastian Pinera, the President of Chile (for four more days!) was an early adopter of Twitter in 2008 and regularly provides good copy for journalists, through spelling mistakes and his famous, 'Looking at Tierra del Fuego....' tweet. And it's a fine line between vigorous engagement in the public space, typified perhaps by the online turmoil around
ex US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and being seen to be openly partisan about opposition figures, as the US Embassy in Cairo experienced last year. But it's no accident that these examples come from US and
Imperial arrogance: Voice of America executives pay little attention to foreign leaders Obama calls about Ukraine - BBG Watcher, BBG Watch: "VOA executives are responsible here for a double loss: a loss of important objective news for foreign audiences generated from Washington from a U.S. perspective by American-trained news reporters, and a public diplomacy loss abroad when foreign leaders and foreign audiences begin to realize that a phone call from President Obama to leaders of China, Spain and Kazakhstan means very little to those who are in charge of Voice of America. They see foreign leaders and foreign audiences the same way they see VOA reporters and other employees — with imperial arrogance."
Opinion: Safeguards and Public Diplomacy - "Treaties are verified because people and nations are not necessarily trustworthy, especially when they act in the interests of power and wealth. The verification tool keeping watch over the world’s deadliest potential arsenal is called Safeguards. Just as the seeds of the European Union are found in counting steel that could be used for cannons, IAEA Safeguards keep track of nuclear-bomb material at proliferation risk. The base value of every gram of transmogrified uranium on Earth may be seen as the cost to deploy the people and machines needed to count it. ... Last week’s Reuters story about a suppressed report alleging new evidence against
It took the IAEA 24-hours to deny that the watchdog even considered barking. That was long-enough for the (apparently false) news to be amplified by capitals. It surely put IAEA officials in an awkward position. Confirmation would have shown that despite the new information-security restrictions, people were still recklessly divulging confidential safeguards information. Denial may have cast doubt on the quality of information that it was provided. ... If the Agency really wants to answer questions about the possible military dimensions allegedly concealed in Iran’s nuclear past, it may start by recognizing public diplomacy’s value and make sure people are getting facts straight and on time. ... Post submitted by Strontium-90, a professional writer and long-time IAEA observer. With a background in network analysis, Sr90 maintains a soft spot for journalism." Image from entry, with caption: IAEA headquarters in Vienna
China, Amano, and Japan’s Plutonium - hibbs.armscontrolwonk.com: "IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on March 3 had this to say about recently-voiced Chinese concerns about Japan’s plutonium inventory: ['] We have drawn (the) conclusion that all nuclear materials in Japan stay in peaceful purposes… Therefore, I do not have (a) reason to have concern that this (material) … will be diverted. ['] ... When Amano this week brushed aside Chinese concerns about the plutonium, the
Could the Flight MH370 Rescue Bring China and Japan Closer Together? If Japan had volunteered to join the search for Flight 370, could that help thaw tensions between Tokyo and Beijing? - Jin Kai, The Sino-Japanese bilateral relationship has reached a deadlock and there seems to be no panacea for this conundrum in the near future. Under these circumstances, more indirect approaches might help to make some changes, if not outright diplomatic achievements. Such indirect actions could simply serve to send intended messages, especially at a time when high-level inter-governmental channels have basically failed.
One such notable case, reported by media from both countries, took place in mid-November 2013, when the Japanese government recognized a Chinese student for saving a Japanese boy from drowning. Unfortunately, that moment was just a flash in the pan, and reconciliation between these two neighbors is still nowhere to be seen. According to Xinhua (Chinese), on February 28,
No need to fear Chinese media in Africa - bdlive.co.za: "Many have worried that the present entry of Chinese media into Africa poses threats to the practice of journalism in democracies. Analysts have looked at state-party media control systems in China and concluded that these would be exported to Africa. Fears of an ideological co-option are mostly misplaced if one cares to analyse content in recent Chinese entrants, such as China Daily and CCTV. There is hardly a bent towards a communist persuasion even in the opinion and commentary slots of these Chinese media. Rather, one sees Chinese media on a public diplomacy mission, angling stories to show the benefits of China-Africa relations while avoiding narratives that cast China in a negative light. Once in a while, Xinhua News Agency — the sole Chinese news agency — is compelled to counter articles or statements from western media and politicians vociferously. But this is often in the context of responses to US and European elites’ framing of China as a neocolonial predator in Africa. In the case of CCTV Africa, the broadcaster may indeed be advancing the cause of pan-African coverage, seeing as it is the only TV station that airs a 90-minute daily news programme exclusively focused on Africa. Indeed, CCTV Africa has challenged BBC’s Focus Africa and Reuters’ Africa Journal with a suite of programmes such as Faces of Africa, a weekly features programme, and Talk Africa, a talk show often dominated by African thought leaders. In these respects, CCTV Africa may be doing what broadcasters such as the SABC and the Union of National Radio and Television Organisations of Africa tried to do in the past, but whose goals of going continental largely faltered. Knowing that CCTV Africa is on a public diplomacy mission would perhaps spur pan-African entities — the African Union for example — to roll out a similar effort."
RT is bleeding... anchors - Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: "RT - despite being in the business of public diplomacy, that is international and cross-cultural communication - chooses to stay in its own informational universe (call it a 'balloon', if you will), just like many in the Russian government do these days."
Netanyahu's message on Iran arms ship: It's the world against Israel -- As PM rebukes the world for abandoning Israel to Iran, U.S. reminds who steps up to Israel’s defense time and again - Amos Harel, haaretz.com: "If the Prime Minister’s Office and Israel’s public diplomacy apparatus doesn’t understand that quite yet, at least the army does."
Image from article, with caption: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, holding a bullet and standing next to missiles seized on the Klos C
Did Australia really 'scuttle' New Zealand's nuclear-weapons diplomacy? - lowyinterpreter.org: "The nuclear-free antennae worn by many New Zealanders have been bristling at news of a counter-campaign by Australian diplomats at the UN. At the core of the Kiwi-led statement is the line that 'It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.'
(Clearly wanting to have a bet each way,
Twiplomacy gets Kevin Pietersen Indian visa - Shubhajit Roy, indianexpress.com: "Twitter diplomacy — or, Twiplomacy — came to the rescue of star English cricketer Kevin Pietersen, as he got an Indian visa within hours of him complaining about the lack of one on the micro-blogging site. Pietersen, who tweets from the handle @KP24, wrote on his twitter page that his passport is lying with the Indian embassy in the UK for the past 10 days for a job that he claimed requires barely 24 hours, and subsequently requested the MEA to help him in this regard. ... While the @MEAIndia is the twitter handle of official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, the @IndianDiplomacy is the handle for the Public Diplomacy division — also headed by Akbaruddin. Pietersen’s tweet was re-tweeted over 100 times, and the MEA official spokesperson swung into action. It is learnt that Akbaruddin immediately sent a DM (direct message) to Pietersen, and asked him for the visa application details and contact number. Upon getting the required details, the MEA spokesperson asked the Indian High Commission in London to look into the matter. ... The Indian High Commission in UK worked the phones, and by about 7pm IST, the official clearance was granted. And Pietersen was contacted and informed about the visa approval."
Young Diplomats Forum 2014, London - armacad.blogspot.com: "The Young Diplomats Forum (YDF) is set up to recognise, enhance and develop the next generation of diplomats. This community of exceptionally bright and accomplished future leaders will gain further insight, tools and opportunities to engage with key stakeholders at a crucial time in their careers and broaden their connections to influence global leaders.
The YDF will play host to an exceptional elite of young diplomats from across the world in a weeklong event that develops their skills and knowledge in areas around international affairs. The forum includes exciting field trips, interactive workshops, simulations, case studies, presentations and speeches from leaders from the diplomatic world. The event will excel in facilitating exchange of ideas and fostering international relationships. ... Our 2014 programme is varied from foreign policy, to sport and public diplomacy, to energy security and other topics." Image from entry
Shaikh Mohammed Al Sabah lectures on sustainable development governance - bna.bh: "Shaikh Mohammed, holder of a Ph.D. degree in economics from Harvard University, is a member of the High-Level Informal Advisory Panel for the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
He has a long governmental, academic and diplomatic service career and was awarded the R & J B Award for Public Diplomacy from the World Leadership Institute in recognition of his diplomatic career and lectures at several international universities and institutes." Uncaptioned image from entry
Kerry in Kiev - Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal: Kerry’s trip to Kiev and statements had a tactical purpose within an emerging overall strategy: to isolate Russia diplomatically and politically in what used to be called the court of world opinion. It is something between daring and cheeky to go into a potential foreign war zone and address the aggressor from there. But Kerry’s words were sober, and the trip seemed a success. Throughout this crisis Mr. Kerry has been more impressive than his president. His words have commanded more serious attention.
A Russian Test for Obama: The White House must forge a strong and united international response to Putin's grab in Ukraine - William A Galston, Wall Street Journal: Mr. Obama must remind the Russian president in the firmest terms of an agreement that Russia signed in 1994. In exchange for Ukraine's decision to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited during
the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia affirmed that it would respect Ukraine's "independence and sovereignty and the existing borders," recognize that "border changes can be made only by peaceful and consensual means," and refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine's "territorial integrity or political independence." Image from
How About Aiding Freedom Instead of Autocrats? The U.S. has given more than $1 billion to dictator-ruled Tajikistan, one of many nations in the aid blind spot - William Easterly, Wall Street Journal: Democracy cannot be imposed by force from outside, nor induced or micromanaged by Western experts. Aid from Western governments or international organizations should support homegrown transitions toward freedom like Ukraine's and not go to governments that repress and abuse their citizens.
Ukraine’s ultra-nationalists present a need for U.S. caution - Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Ukrainian far-right parties have long championed Ukrainian-only laws that ban the use of the Russian language in official business. They have ideas about rewriting history books and celebrating Ukrainian — as opposed to Russian or Jewish — ethnic heritage. Obama should anticipate that if far-right figures shape the policies of the new government, tensions between the eastern and western parts of the country will get worse, not better.
ONE MORE QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
“'grand strategy,' I think I know what it means, but more important I think I know what it is not……….it is NOT training someone with some 'methodology,' it is not 'war games' on machines or otherwise………it is really thinking
about your vital goals and values, all real options and all consequences and not least second and third order and beyond consequences, and getting your facts right, having a moral universe, and knowing the art of the possible and the impossible. The rest is crap!"
--Harry C. Blaney III, Senior Fellow Center for International Policy, via email; image from
AND YET ONE MORE QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"Sharing their feelings is what U.S. diplomats now think is necessary to convey real engagement and sincerity: I’m so upset, my heart is exploding and will soon deposit clumps of tissue all over your unmarked uniform.
They should cut it out. They should also stop tweeting their emotional reactions to events. They’re diplomats. They’re supposed to be grownups. They’re supposed to be mature.
I suspect they do it because they believe they are talking to an ignorant and emotional world. (It is also possible they do it because they are themselves ignorant and emotional.) But what they do only encourages ignorance and emotionalism. And in any case their audience is the informed and aware, some of whom are capable of critical thinking.
All of this is a reflection of the age of narcissism: My feelings, my emotions—me, me, me. Do they think the world is impressed? Or is the world, full of people who every day use a dozen platforms to share the urgency of their feelings, secretly impressed by intelligence, knowledge and logic? Discuss, but not emotionally."
--Columnist Peggy Noonan; image from