Wednesday, May 11, 2016

USIA-State merger: The Danger of Disinformation

Tuesday, May 10th 2016
In a recent Washington Post article, two experienced foreign affairs observers, Anne Applebaum and Edward Lucas, take on the subject of deliberate disinformation. 
They offer what is, In essence, a "gap analysis."  They identify the shortcomings in current State Department operations as regards Russian disinformation and propaganda.
In many ways, this is not new.  For years the Pentagon, Congress and many observers have complained about State's unwillingness or inability to monitor and analyze enemy propaganda -- whether it's emanating from Russia, China, Al Qaeda, or ISIS.  There is no dedicating monitoring, no careful cataloging, no database, or insightful analysis of either the adversarial content or the delivery mechanisms.
In their article Applebaum and Lucas note that the United States today has "no modern equivalent to the U.S. Information Agency, an organization dedicated to coping with Soviet propaganda and disinformation during the Cold War." What they don't point out is that when USIA was merged into the Department of State in 1999, the agency's research and analysis unit, along with its then-3 million dollar annual budget, was swallowed by the State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. INR may do many things, but "coping with propaganda and disinformation" is not one of them.
You can well imagine that no military officer would order troops into combat without having first assessed and analyzed the adversary's capabilities, actions, weaknesses. 
Can we expect our public diplomacy officers to succeed against hostile propaganda and disinformation -- whether from Russia or ISIS -- without an equally vigorous effort to understand and analyze what people around the world are hearing and seeing?
Read the full Applebaum/Lucas article here.

Author: Brian Carlson

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