Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30

“CONSUL, n. In American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country.”

--Ambrose Bierce (left), The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

"We should be happy that Hillary Clinton

is apparently going to be secretary of state. On the down side, she does have a tendency toward disaster.”

--Gail Collins, New York Times

“Even before I discovered feminism, I admired the way ant colonies were organized: Everybody answers to a queen.”

--M.G. Lord, reviewing The Superorganism by Bert Hölldobler and E. O. Wilson


Obama’s Challenge: Curbing the Pentagon - Giles Scott-Smith, Enduring America: “Areas previously reserved for the State Department and related agencies, in particular public diplomacy, have increasingly been drawn within the military’s responsibility. In November 2007 Robert Gates, the successor to Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, declared that the civilian tools of government needed to be upgraded so that the US could once again explain clearly to the world ‘what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and out goals’. It is highly likely that Obama will keep Gates on as Secretary, even as the Secretary of Defense continues to oversee his Department’s outreach into new administrative territory. In December 2006 Gates appointed Michael Doran as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy, with the task of upgrading the Department’s contribution to US information programmes. Significantly, in September 2008 the White House nominated Doran for the position of Assistant Secretary of State for International Information Programs in the State Department. … In many regions the Pentagon is at the forefront in engaging with foreign public opinion, even though this remains, officially, the job of the State Department. During 2008 the military’s lead in developing a ‘whole of government’ approach to stability and security issues around the world will probably only increase the subordination of other departments to the Pentagon’s agenda.”

Information Warfare Matters: We need to confront the jihadist ideology directly - Christian Whiton and Kristofer Harrison, Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. government needs to resurrect the nonviolent practice of 'political warfare' and create an agency to manage it. The Bush administration started this process by providing more resources for public diplomacy and appointing prominent officials to oversee the task. But efforts to explain America's values and ideals to Muslims need to be supplemented with measures that confront directly the jihadist ideology. Mr. Obama's administration could use as a model the British Political Warfare Executive, which rallied support for the Allied cause behind enemy lines during World War II, or the U.S. Information Agency, which helped network opponents of communism and undermine Moscow's intellectual appeal during the Cold War. … Mr. Obama may be tempted to create such an agency under the auspices of the State Department, but political warfare is not a core competency of Foggy Bottom or allied foreign ministries. Diplomats specialize in communicating with other nation-states, and are often ill at ease and ill-equipped to work with those who may upset relations with other governments.”

Persuasion, not popularity, should be Obama’s goal - Examiner Newspapers: “As Barack Obama works to shape his new foreign policy team and its guiding principles, he ought to avoid the trap of treating American popularity abroad as an end in itself. Indeed, too slavish a pursuit of popularity for its own sake might actually get in the way of achieving far worthier, broader objectives. The Ethics and Public Policy Center (a conservative think tank) held a forum last week on the subject of ‘public diplomacy,’ which is how a country’s government communicates not with other governments, but with the citizenry in other nations. Far from mere ‘propaganda,’ public diplomacy is a strategic effort to understand and engage foreign populations and to help them appreciate how U.S. policies would help advance their own interests, too. Jeffrey Gedmin is president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which directs communications efforts in 28 languages. He explained to the EPPC audience the proper goal of public diplomacy. ‘It is not for the United States to be popular,’ he said. ‘[The goal should be] to advance American interests consummate with American values.’ Kenneth Pollack, director of research on Middle East policy at the Brookings Institution, agreed. Good public diplomacy recognizes, he said, that ‘there is not a quick fix’ for low popularity, and that the success (or failure) of actions speak far louder than any words can. But he added this important caveat: ‘Words must accompany the actions. We’re not selling anything, not advertising.’ What we are doing, he said, is patiently explaining how American interests are beneficent.”

Hans N. Tuch’s Arias, Cabalettas, and Foreign Affairs – A Book Review Essay - Patricia H. Kushlis, Whirled View: “In my view, not only is the practice of public diplomacy learned in the field and the trenches but it is far more fun and instructive to read the stories of former public diplomacy officers than wade through the prose of authors theorizing about a field they have principally viewed from afar. … Tuch was the US Embassy Bonn’s Public Affairs Counselor when I worked as German Program Officer in the International Youth Exchange Office in the mid-1980s. He was then in a very senior position that capped a long and illustrious public diplomacy career. … [W]hat makes [Tuch’s] book a particularly important contribution to the literature of public diplomacy and US foreign relations is Tuch's eye-witness accounts of earth-shattering historical events. … What also makes this book a valuable resource for those in the new administration and new Congress is Tuck’s emphasis on the importance of American culture throughout his career – not just Hollywood’s blockbuster action and techno-crazed movies - in the projection of the US image abroad – something lost during the post Cold War years.” PHOTO (left): Elīna Garanča canta Bellini

Adaptive Argumentation for Mediated Publics - Craig Hayden, Complex Terrain Laboratory: “A recent Pew study examined the news consumption habits for Americans. It revealed some interesting trends about where people get their news, and which sources were deemed legitimate. I found one aspect of the study in particular to be relevant for those interested in the study of public diplomacy and strategic communication. Basically, depending on how you get your news reflects how you best understand and comprehend the material.”

Moscow’s Mistakes in Georgia Strengthened Saakashvili, Tbilisi Analyst Says - Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia: “In an article posted on this week, Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, an expert at Tbilisi’s Center for Public Diplomacy, argues that Moscow failed to develop ties with the many Georgians who were sympathetic to Russia or to worry about the Kremlin’s image there and in other post-Soviet republics.”


Crystal ball for world affairs – Editorial, Boston Globe: According to "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World," there will be an accelerated "diffusion of authority and power" on the world stage in coming years. In 2025, the international system will be more fragmented and multipolar. Ascending powers such as China, India, Russia, and Brazil are projected to enjoy ever-greater influence. To adapt America to the international order that is coming into being, the next administration will need to build alliances and cooperative initiatives with diverse groups of countries.

I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq - Matthew Alexander, Washington Post: “I'm actually quite optimistic these days, in no small measure because President-elect Barack Obama has promised to outlaw the practice of torture throughout our government. But until we renounce the sorts of abuses that have stained our national honor, al-Qaeda will be winning. Zarqawi is dead, but he has still forced us to show the world that we do not adhere to the principles we say we cherish.” Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006.

How to Close Guantanamo - Jack Cloonan and Sarah Mendelson, Washington Post: In his inaugural address, President Obama should announce a date for closure of Guantanamo as a detention facility and introduce a blue-ribbon panel of eminent Americans tapped to review all detainees' files. Never again, if our country is attacked, should we frantically engage in techniques that our enemies have used against our military personnel in wartime.

Playing games at Gitmo - Michelle Malkin, Washington Times: Some top legal advisers and supporters of Barack Obama, whose name detainees chanted on Election Night, are now rethinking the president-elect's absolutist campaign position on shutting the center down and flooding our mainland courts with every last enemy combatant designee. Yes, reality bites. Now, at long last, some liberals have realized that the sacred goal of "regaining America's moral stature in the world," as Mr. Obama put it, may be less important than ensuring that al Qaeda killers don't strike on American ground again. PHOTO: Michelle Malkin.

Ahead for Obama: How to Define Terror - Jonathan Mahler, New York Times: Going forward, the fight against terrorism will have to be something of a hybrid. This is a novel idea, as the Constitution lays out only two distinct options: the country is at war, or it is not. Such a strategy may require building new legal systems and institutions for detaining, interrogating and trying detainees.

Preemptive Pardons: Mr. Bush should resist any temptation to clear officials who devised his anti-terrorism strategy – Editorial, Washington Post

My Husband Was a Blackwater Hero - Marybeth Laguna, Washington Post: Just like soldiers, security contractors based in Iraq face daily threats to their lives. Rather than demonizing these men and women, we should be thanking them for the essential service they provide.

Big Boy Rules: America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq [review of 'Big Boy Rules' by Steve Fainaru] - J. Ford Huffman, San Francisco Chronicle: If Jeremy Scahill's provocative "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" (Nation Books; 2007) is an eye-opener about the political ties and big finances of one contractor, then "Big Boy Rules" is another eye-opener -- and in the end a tear-inducer -- about the loose ties and loose management of contractors' employees.

Obama’s Iraq Inheritance - Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: A decent outcome may still be possible in Iraq, especially now that the Parliament has endorsed the U.S.-Iraqi plan for a 2011 withdrawal of American troops.

Road Map in Iraq: When Mr. Obama takes office, a sovereign Iraqi government and a U.S. withdrawal timetable will be in place - Editorial, Washington Post: Having all but destroyed his presidency through mismanagement of the war, Mr. Bush can now fairly argue as he leaves office that his successor will inherit an Iraqi mission that has been stabilized both militarily and politically. There is now a workable road map for winding down the U.S. troop presence in the country and for consolidating the new political system.

Olmert to Obama: Think again – Roger Cohen, International Herald Tribune: “I think Olmert's words should be emblazoned on the wall of Hillary Clinton's eighth-floor State Department office: ‘We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians, meaning a withdrawal from nearly all, if not all, of the territories. Some percentage of these territories would remain in our hands, but we must give the Palestinians the same percentage elsewhere - without this, there will be no peace.’"

Afghanistan in Crisis - Robert Fisk, Truthdig: Partition is the one option that no one will discuss -- giving the southern part of Afghanistan to the Taliban and keeping the rest -- but that will only open another crisis with Pakistan because the Pashtuns, who form most of the Taliban, would want all of what they regard as “Pashtunistan”; and that would have to include much of Pakistan’s own tribal territories.

Fighting the Last War? - Noah Feldman, New York Times: Offering a degree of autonomy to the Pashtun-dominated areas of southeastern Afghanistan may be the one carrot that could draw ordinary Pashtuns away from the Taliban or induce the Taliban to begin a process of internal ideological change

Fallout From Mumbai: A Risk to Progress in Pakistan - Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: Financial aid to Pakistan must now be channeled multilaterally, ideally through nongovernmental organizations that practice strict accountability.

Obama has chance to improve relations with Latin America - Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle

How to Repair Our Relationship With Europe - Matthew Yglesias, American Prospect: Most Americans don't realize the sheer volume of petty bullshit (no other word is adequate) to which European governments and publics have been subjected over the past eight years. A new administration and a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq would clear the air. And steps to show that Europe's high hopes for Obama in terms of basic human rights, diplomatic courtesy, and engagement with issues like climate change would allow Obama to make his case to Europe's people and turn public opinion around.

NATO's First Line of Defense? It Shouldn't Be Here -
Charles King, Washington Post: NATO should remain an option for any country in the Euro-Atlantic area that has internalized the habits of restraint, consensus and prudence that have made it one of history's most meaningful alliances. But building a new line of watchtowers on Europe's eastern frontier is a poor substitute for learning to get along with your neighbors.

The Case for a Really Long Engagement - Washington Post: How should the Obama administration handle these delicate ties? In the run-up to a Dec. 5 conference on "China and the Next Administration," sponsored by Outlook and CNA, a non-partisan think tank, we posed that question to four specialists.

What's the Bush Legacy Worth? I'd Say 20 Years - Avuncular American: An expatriate view of America and the world from Europe by former diplomat Gerald Loftus - Twenty years... That's about as long as it will take for the United States to dig out from the mess Bush has created. Twenty long years of hard labor - starting with an Obama Administration - to build up the nation's moral standing in the world, after the blustering buffoons squandered the country's ability to lead.

India: Please Don't Go Down the Bush-Cheney Road – Juan Cole, Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion: The American public, traumatized by 9/11 and misled by propaganda from corporate media, swung right. Instead of rebuking Bush and Cheney for their sins against the Republic, for their illegal war on Iraq, for their gutting of the Bill of Rights, for their Orwellian techniques of governance, the public gave them another 4 years in 2004. This Himalayan error of judgment allowed Bush and Cheney to go on, like giant termites, undermining the economic and legal foundations of American values and prosperity.

Thinking Globally: America’s Rise to Dominance, With Slips Along the Way [review of “From Colony to Superpower” by George C. Herring] - Howard W. French, New York Times: “From Colony to Superpower” rejects the widely accepted notion that the United States has often been an isolationist power.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

November 29

“Never Deploy Military Means in Pursuit of Indeterminate Ends.”

-- The title summarizing the all-­important decisions by President Johnson that turned Vietnam irrevocably into an American war in 1965 (from the book, Lessons In Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam by Gordon M. Goldstein)

“The Smartest Man in the Room Is Not Always Right.”

--Former United States ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, regarding McGeorge Bundy


3 Streaming Live: James Glassman on Public Diplomacy 2.0, Helene Cooper on her Memoir of a Lost African Childhood, and Barton Gellman on Richard "The Angler" Cheney – Steve Clemons, Washington Note: "Monday and Tuesday this next week, I have three events I am chairing at the New America Foundation . … The first features Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy James K. Glassman who will be speaking on the subject, ‘Public Diplomacy 2.0.’ Glassman will be sharing his thoughts on how new technology, including social networking, is changing the face of public diplomacy - specifically, how new technology fits Glassman's new approach to engaging with foreign audiences by convening and facilitating rather than preaching and directing. Glassman recently spoke at the New America Foundation after assuming his responsibilities (his talk can be viewed here) and made the sensible but not heard enough statement that a chief goal of American public diplomacy should not be trying to get the world to love America -- but rather to help those with grievances and those who want to protest their situation to find non-violent ways to do so. That was a lot more sensible than much of what I heard from either Glassman's predecessor, Karen Hughes, or from the Cheney wing of the Bush White House. Glassman's event will stream live at The Washington Note from 10:00 am til 11:30 am EST on Monday, 1 December.”

Internet Killed the Terrorist Star – Troy, Man Bites Dog: [See Special Briefing To Announce the Alliance of Youth Movement, James K. Glassman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Jared Cohen, Policy Planning Staff, State Department] "Now, I'm not going to criticize strategies that have had effectiveness against groups like FARC, but the situation in Colombia is light years away from the situation here in America. Starting a facebook group called 'Terrorism Sucks!' and getting a bunch of people to join it isn't exactly winning the War on Islamic Fundamental Militancy. Google bombing Osama Bin Laden doesn't have the same effectiveness as actually bombing him. MTV has never been cool. This is a pointless exercise in media warfare where it isn't going to have much effect. But whatever. If you want to ostracize Al Qaeda online, be my guest. I just can't help but think that there might be more intelligent uses of that counter terrorism cash.”

Big Brother Coming For Your Kids...Now! U.S. government taps Facebook, Google, MTV to "Fight Terrorism" - Another Voice (Rev. 18:4): “Recruiting the youth through 'online youth groups' in order to begin programming them to be mindless but obedient new world order junior-zombies. That's a fact and this Big Brother U.S. government-Google-Facebook partnership shows just how big and powerful this next phase of 'population mind control' is to be.”

The Obama/Clinton State Department: Diplomatic Strength is Essential - Gregory Hilton, Armed Forces Radio Network, posted at The DC World Affairs Blog: “President Bush will leave his successor with a strong military but a lack of strength in diplomacy. The American cause is misunderstood in many parts of the world, and our efforts in recent years to appeal to global hearts and minds have not been successful. Our communication failure is especially ironic, because America invented both Hollywood and Madison Avenue. … America’s message is not getting across largely because there is little coordination of overall strategy. I hope the Obama Administration will name an individual who will not confine themselves to the State Department corridors but act as a public diplomacy czar in coordinating many divergent programs. At present, there is too much overlap and many vital outreach efforts are ignored.”

How Should Obama Confront Terror? – J. P. Green, Democratic Strategist: “The policies of the Bush Administration have exponentially increased the number of terrorists, particularly impressionable young people, who are willing to do harm to America and its citizens. Bush's policies have been so disastrous in this regard that it would be hard for the Obama Administration not to improve America's image in the communities where terrorists thrive. The Bush Administration long ago abandoned any sincere effort to meet this challenge, as collateral damage of his ill-conceived military occupation of Iraq. … President Obama could make a tremendous contribution to both U.S. national security and better relations with the rest of the world by providing the leadership needed and the necessary investment to enhance 'public diplomacy' as a higher priority of our international relations.”

Fate of the war on terror: some modest advice for the Obama administration - Ibrahim Kalin, Today’s Zaman, posted at Narrator: “Over the last seven years, the war on terror has been fought more on ideological and political than military grounds. Despite the assurances of the early Bush administration that the war on terror is not a war on Islam and the Muslim world, it has been perceived as just that. This cannot be brushed aside as an issue of misperception or bad public diplomacy. The policies implemented under the name of the war, including the disastrous management of Afghanistan and Iraq after their invasions, have turned the war on terror into a new adventure of nation-building.”

New administration must undue RFE/RL's anti-diplomacy abroad, 11-29-08 - Lev Roitman, Herald News: “Not always… is U.S. public money spent by RFE/RL in the best interests of the radio nor, accordingly, U.S. public image. Under Jeffrey Gedmin, RFE/RL is embroiled in ugly lawsuits with its former employees who, contrary to the strict requirements of Czech labor law, were fired without any reason given to them and with no warning whatsoever.”

Women and Islamic resistance - Maria Holt, “The testimonies of … many … women in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories, formed the starting point for a conference on women and Islamic resistance which took place at the University of Westminster on November 7. … The discussion then moved to Lina Khatib’s presentation on women 'as public diplomacy tools'. Dr Khatib, who is based at Royal Holloway, examined the work of the Museum of Martyrs in Tehran and suggested that the Iranian regime uses women, including Lebanese and Palestinian women, as public diplomacy tools to promote a positive image of itself as an Islamic democracy.” PHOTO: Section of the Museum of Martyrs.

Influential Diplomats, Lawmakers and S&T Leaders Explore Promise—and Challenge—of Science Diplomacy – News, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): “Despite critical unresolved questions over the financing and organization of science diplomacy, the time is ripe for renewed efforts by U.S. scientists and engineers to reach out to colleagues overseas for capacity-building initiatives and collaborations on issues such as climate change, public health, and energy.” Courtesy Alan Kotok.

"On-call" Scientists: AAAS Initiative Connects Scientists with Human Rights Organizations - News, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Courtesy Alan Kotok.

Jet lag a drag on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd - Steve Lewis, Herald Sun: “[A] defensive-sounding spokesman for the Indonesian Government explained the [Bali Democracy] [F]orum was about promoting the virtue of democratic reform. ‘This is not a forum among democracies, this is a forum about democracies,’ said Umar Hadi, director of public diplomacy in Indonesia's Foreign Ministry. ‘The objective is to strengthen and promote regional co-operation on democracy.’"

Registration is now open plus other announcements - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: “Registration for the Smith-Mundt Symposium – A Discourse to Shape America’s Discourse – is now open. Registration is free, open to the public, and required to attend the event on Tuesday, January 13, 2009. The Symposium will be held at the Reserve Officer’s Association across the street from the Senate and House office buildings in Washington, D.C. For details on this event, see”

Tyranny of the Majority: Israel-Bashing as Spectator Sport at Turtle Bay - David Brumer, Brumspeak: David Brumer: “Media analyst, writer, and consultant on Middle Eastern affairs. In 2005 he received ‘Congressional Recognition for Excellence in Public Diplomacy in Support of Israel’ on behalf of his work with The Israel Project. David works as a geriatric social worker and psychotherapist."


Press and "Psy Ops" to merge at NATO Afghan HQ: sources - By Jon Hemming, Reuters - The U.S. general commanding NATO forces in Afghanistan has ordered a merger of the office that releases news with "Psy Ops," which deals with propaganda, a move that goes against the alliance's policy, three officials said. U.S. General David McKiernan, the commander of 50,000 troops from more than 40 nations in NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), ordered the combination of the Public Affairs Office (PAO), Information Operations and Psy Ops (Psychological Operations) from December 1, said a NATO official with detailed knowledge of the move.

Don't expect 'change' to change much - Bishop Council Nedd II, Washington Times: “Several months ago, I joined another friend at a coffee shop in Cairo, Egypt. She told me that the minute Mr. Obama was elected president, the entire world would view America differently (with the implication of positive change). If none of the other very high expectations of Mr. Obama's supporters are met, I at least hope she is right with that one prediction.”

Obama Can End Iraq War 'Responsibly' - Peter Dyer, Perhaps the most profound and far-reaching way for the U.S. to assume full responsibility for the war in Iraq would be for President Obama, as chief executive, to order the arrest and trial of those who incited and initiated the unprovoked, illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The battle for Iran - John Tirman, Boston Globe: History suggests that the more belligerent the United States is, the more rigid Iran will be. More coercion is not only demonstrably ineffective, but likely spurs the sorts of reactions in Tehran that the international community abhors.

Iran Shaping Up As Key Foreign Policy Challenge For Obama: Will the Obama administration change Washington's approach to Tehran? - Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL: For nearly three decades, Iran and the United States have traded accusations and threats. But when Barack Obama is inaugurated as U.S. president on January 20, that long-standing status quo could finally begin to change.

A Latin America blueprint: Obama might find useful a report that recommends the U.S. overhaul its relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean – Editorial, Los Angeles Times: A Brookings Institution report released Monday that urges an overhaul of U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Heed Russia's Warnings About Further NATO Expansion – Ivan Eland, The Russian-Georgian war ever, should have made both Ukraine and Georgia leery of depending entirely on a faraway nation for security, given the reality of Russia's local conventional military superiority and nuclear deterrent. Ultimately, if it came down to sacrificing US cities in a nuclear war with Russia to save these two non-strategic countries, the United States would most assuredly balk.

Samantha Power Working On Obama's State Department Transition Team - Matthew Lee, Huffington Post: An adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign who was forced to resign earlier this year after calling Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a "monster" is now working on the transition team for the agency Clinton is expected to lead. State Department officials said Friday that Samantha Power is among a group of foreign policy experts that the president-elect's office selected to help the incoming administration prepare for Clinton's anticipated nomination as secretary of state.

National Security Pick: From a Marine to a Mediator - Helene Cooper, New York Times: The selection of General Jones will elevate another foreign policy moderate to a team that will include Robert M. Gates, a carry-over from the Bush administration, as defense secretary and Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. By bringing a military man to the White House, Mr. Obama may be trying to cement an early bond with military leaders who regard him with some uneasiness, particularly over his call for rapid troop reductions in Iraq.


Shoppers on "Black Friday"; from BagnewsNotes

Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death - Robert D. McFadden and Angela Macropoulos, New York Times:

"The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. At 3:30 a.m., the Nassau County police had to be called in for crowd control, and an officer with a bullhorn pleaded for order.

Tension grew as the 5 a.m. opening neared. Someone taped up a crude poster: 'Blitz Line Starts Here.'

By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said."
Video of event at

Friday, November 28, 2008

November 28

Leif Gabrielsen, part of "Whatever Happened to Sex in Scandinavia?" in Oslo. (Office for Contemporary Art)


November 24, 2008 C-SPAN: State Dept Briefing: Public Diplomacy & Online Activist Groups: State Department Under Secretary James Glassman opened the daily press briefing to discuss the Alliance for Youth Movements Summit, to be held in New York City December 3-5, 2008.


US State Department Chooses April 6th Movement to Take Part in Anti-Extremism Conference - Fathia al-Dakhakhni, U.S. Copts Association: “The US State Department said the April 6th Movement will take part in an international conference in New York on December 3-5. The conference is organized by the US State Department in cooperation with a number of its allies in the private sector under the title: The Alliance of Youth Movements. The US department described the Egyptian movement as the ‘largest’ youth movement in Egypt and said that its support to such movements resulted in disputes with some regimes. … US Assistant Secretary of State James Glassman said the April 6th, among 17 international organizations on the Internet, would take part in the conference that would be held at Col[u]mbia University in New York. He described the movement as Egypt’s largest pro-democracy youth group.”

Brookings Institution Report, Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st CenturyDarren Krape blog: “What’s unique about the Brookings report is the proposal to create a new independent, non-profit, organization, similar to RAND or the British Council, which would work in service of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. Importantly, existing responsibility for public diplomacy in the U.S. government would remain unchanged. This is a key distinction, since other reports (such as this one from Heritage) have suggested consolidating all public diplomacy and strategic communication activities in a new agency (such as a reconstituted USIA).”

Wanted: a National Endowment for Public Diplomacy – Michael Allen, Democracy Digest: "A new agency, modeled on the National Endowment for Democracy, should be established to restore U.S. standing in the world, a new report on public diplomacy concludes. Like the NED, the USA-World Trust would be governed by a non-partisan board of directors, including members of Congress from both major political parties and representatives of key interests in American society."

The Delay-Sayers’ Mistake - Gershom Gorenberg, South Jerusalem “The job of anyone planning a diplomatic initiative includes public diplomacy: Efforts to alter the mood.”

Change From the Top - Kathleen Parker, Washington Post: “Obama may be the change he promised. He is uniquely positioned to change the world on multiple levels. As Jeff Gedmin, president of Radio Free Europe, recently put it: Obama is a weapon of mass attraction. That attractiveness isn't just physical, but is a matter of style. … The change we've been waiting for may not be immediately quantifiable, but personal responsibility, educational ambition and smart public diplomacy -- all by example rather than exhortation -- could go a long way toward curing what ails us.”

Helsinki Commission Urges Baku To Reconsider Moves Against RFE/RL, VOARFE/RL: “The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) has sent a letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, expressing its concern over the impending termination of radio broadcasts by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA) on local frequencies.”

This show's diplomacy is for real - and it's worth a hundred Milibands: The V&A exhibition takes Syrians seriously in their own capital, unlike the hectoring - Simon Jenkins, “London's V&A museum has brought to Syria the first star-quality loan exhibition ever seen in the city. It is of 116 ceramic pieces from the finest collection in the world, plus a dozen added from the National Museum of Damascus. … Cultural diplomacy recognises that relations between states can be difficult, even hostile, without being engulfed in mutual abuse. They can continue through trade, tourism and academic exchange as well as through sport and the arts. Such ‘soft’ elements can inform the harder ones, or have no bearing on them. They rarely do harm. … Politics has always trumped culture in Britain's foreign relations. In more than half the world's countries, cultural diplomacy should be taking the lead over politics.”

New Zealand to Hold Cultural Presentation in Seoul Next Year
Korea Times: “Preparation was under way last week for New Zealand to share its cuisine, music, art and movies next April in Seoul. As part of the New Zealand Cultural Diplomacy International Program, the three-day cultural presentation will be the first and largest New Zealand event in Korea.”

Pakistan's Sufis Preach Faith and Ecstasy: The believers in Islamic mysticism embrace a personal approach to their faith and a different outlook on how to run their country’s government - Nicholas Schmidle, Smithsonian magazine: “Sufism is not a sect, like Shiism or Sunnism, but rather the mystical side of Islam—a personal, experiential approach to Allah, which contrasts with the prescriptive, doctrinal approach of fundamentalists like the Taliban. … Sufis represent the strongest indigenous force against Islamic fundamentalism. Yet Western countries have tended to underestimate their importance even as the West has spent, since 2001, millions of dollars on interfaith dialogues, public diplomacy campaigns and other initiatives to counter extremism. Sufis are particularly significant in Pakistan, where Taliban-inspired gangs threaten the prevailing social, political and religious order.”

APEC and Obama's message – Editorial, Jakarta Post, Indonesia: “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made several speeches and press statements where he took the opportunity to boast of his successes -- including his reduction of the poverty rate -- during his recent 13-day overseas trip which ended Tuesday night, to Washington and Peru, where he attended the G-20 Summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, respectively. … The President's trips should be fruitful not just in terms of public diplomacy and his own personal satisfaction, but also in more concrete economic terms for the country.”

Ethiopia, India still have enormous potential to expand tie; Minister Sufian Ahmed said - Walta Information Center, Ethiopia: “Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Gurjit Singh also said his country aims to diversify range of cooperation with Ethiopia in a way that can benefit next generation of the two nations. ‘Issues like alternative energy sources, cultural diplomacy, bridging the digital divide… and climate change… will bring out other issues on which India and Ethiopia can have important perspectives,’ the Ambassador said.”

Newly Elected US Congresswoman from Nevada Dina Titus Establishes her Writ in Democratic Congressional Caucus - Daya Gamage, Asian Tribune: “Professor Titus who declared at the September dialogue with the Sri Lankan community that, referring to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, ‘once you recognize an organization as a terrorist organization it should be treated as a terrorist organization and that such an organization cannot be brought to the negotiating table, was elected to the US Congress to represent the State of Nevada at the November 4 general election. … The gathering in early September that proved to have gained opening to have access to many US Congressmen through Dina Titus to establish a public diplomacy campaign to explain Sri Lankan’s battle against Tamil Tiger terrorism was organized by Sri Lankan political activist Sanje Sedera who chairs the Asian American Democratic Caucus in Las Vegas, a chartered organization by the State of Nevada Democratic Party, and Douglas Perera, a well known Sri Lankan social worker who is the deputy chairman of Sri Lanka America Association of Nevada. This writer was the other in that triumvirate.” PHOTO: Roman Emperor Titus.


Kafka and Uighurs at Guantánamo - Ray McGovern, We can be thankful for Barack Obama's pledge to close the Guantánamo prison, and for the fact that we are free to keep pressing him to proclaim liberty to captives and set free the oppressed -- including, of course, Uighurs and others in similar circumstances.

Don't Repackage Gitmo! - Michael Ratner & Jules Lobel, Nation: Not much will have been accomplished if Guantánamo is shuttered while the practices that underlie it continue.

Conflict Zone: Will James Jones and Hillary Clinton butt heads over Middle East policy? - Eli Lake, New Republic: With domestic policy looming so large in the coming year, few people expect Obama to immediately dive into Middle Eastern diplomacy. Even devoted peace processors have little hope of progress, given the looming Hamas-Fatah civil war.

Planet Obama: Global euphoria is better than the disrepute of the Bush years, but so far our new president’s appeal is entirely symbolic
- Theodore Dalrymple, American Conservative: For all his transcendent appeal, Obama cannot overcome the harsh realities of a troubled world.

Deter Iran Using carrots and sticks - Louis Rene Beres, Thomas Mcinerney and Paul E. Vallely, Washington Times: We have elected a new president. To back up deterrence warnings, he will require a compelling infrastructure of sanctions and rewards.

Tutu, Obama and the Middle East - Amy Goodman, Truthdig: As President-elect Barack Obama focuses on the meltdown of the U.S. economy, another fire is burning: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About Latin America – Editorial, New York Times – Editorial, New York Times: The Bush administration is leaving behind so much turmoil and resentment around the world that President-elect Barack Obama might be tempted to put off dealing with the nation’s extremely sour relations with Latin America. That would be shortsighted. There is a unique opportunity to improve ties with a region that shares key interests and values with the United States.

U.S. faces cyber threat from China
– Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle

A Return to Liberal Warmongering? Peace Advocates Must Continue the Battle – Doug Bandow, The president-elect's rush to embrace the liberal interventionist establishment in choosing his foreign policy staff suggests that the next four years will be a lot like the last eight in substance if not tone, and a lot like the previous eight years in both substance and tone.

The Fall of Triumphalism - Michael T. Klare, Nation:
Not only will the United States be weaker in 2025 because of the hubris of Bush and Cheney; it will face a world of multiplied dangers, emboldened challengers and a paucity of reliable allies.

Obama Chooses An Unlikely Team of Hawks - Peter Beinart, Time: In Gates, Jones and Clinton, Obama's found people who can do more than sell his foreign policy to Iranians, Iraqis and Israelis; they can sell it to Americans too.

Hillary Clinton as diplomat: Obama's bold choice for his secretary of State shows the two can be partners on the world stage - Editorial, Los Angeles Times

Hillary of State : How much will this cost the Obama administration? – Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal: The price of neutralizing Mrs. Clinton as an outside rival, by bringing her inside, could make today's bailouts look cheap.

Clinton Cabinet: The politics of change look surprisingly familiar - Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, American Conservative: Obama is where he is today because he convinced voters that Hillary was yesterday’s news. Only time will tell if she and her old war-room buddies will get the last word.

The Tricks of Translating Thanksgiving -
Michele A. Berdy, Moscow Times

IMAGE (Ms. Clinton in her youth)

See also: On the Matter of Size: The inexact science of penis measurement - Kent Sepkowitz, Slate

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November 27

by Mr. Fish


A leader on fighting terrorism - James K. Glassman, Miami Herald: “The U.S. State Department has joined a public-private group, including tech firms like Facebook, Howcast and Google, that will bring Colombia's anti-FARC organizers together with about 15 other global anti-violence groups in New York in a few weeks to discuss best online practices. Perhaps we'll soon see masses of young people mobilizing against the mindless violence of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorists in places like Kabul, Islamabad, London, Bali, New Delhi and Mexico City. There's no more important cause, and Colombia is leading the way.” James K. Glassman is the under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the Department of State. See also.

"What does Mr. Kissinger propose"? - Saudi Arabia United States Relations, Information Service: "Today we present the remarks of former Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki al Faisal. … In his remarks Prince Turki's challenges statements made by … James Glassman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.”

Building on the Momentum of Global Goodwill - Jeff Weintraub, So It Goes: “By public diplomacy, I mean ‘civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development,’ as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for. Comes now a new prescription for our public diplomacy needs via a just-released report by Brookings Institution scholar Kristin Lord. The report, which was based in part on consultations Lord had with more than 300 people from a wide range of sectors in U.S. society, calls for (and this is from the report's executive summary): 'the creation of a nimble and entrepreneurial new non-profit organization, the USA-World Trust, to complement and support U.S. government efforts' as well as private-sector actions.”

From the American People: Why the Story That U.S. Foreign Assistance Is Working Must be Told Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid: Among the report's recommendations: “We recommend that USAID adopt a more strategic, coherent and multi-year set of communications and outreach goals by identifying resources, key audiences and messages, and the most effective tools and products for partnership opportunities. This needs to be done in close coordination with development partners, the U.S. State Department and other govern-ment departments with foreign assistance responsibilities. … We recommend that USAID should execute and maintain consistent opinion polling and focus groups in an effort to design more contextualized strategies for U.S. domestic awareness campaigns. In campaigns targeted to foreign audiences, the U.S. embassy's political buy-in, particularly in high-profile countries, is essential. Establishing and maintaining coordination between the U.S. embassy and USAID, particularly involving the DOC and Public Affairs Officer (PAO) will greatly contribute to an effective communications process.” See also.

A Thanksgiving Present and Reality Check — Ted Kaufman’s Appointment to the U.S. Senate Seat from Delaware – Ted Lipien, & Free Media Online Blog: “Voice of America journalists and other employees who broadcast American news to the world are thankful for the pre-Thanksgiving Day news that Ted Kaufman (Edward E. Kaufman) was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat from Delaware vacated by his former boss, Vice President elect Joe Biden.”

VOA on Facebook and Twitter (but not yet for sale on eBay) - Kim Andrew Elliott Discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

Turkish Ambassador Admonishes Pres. Obama On Armenian Issues: Harut Sassounian, Huffington Post: “Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish Ambassador to Washington, recently wrote a lengthy ‘Open Letter’ to Pres.-elect Obama, consisting of 23 points, touching upon various aspects of U.S.-Turkish relations. … Amb. Logoglu's letter, written in a patronizing tone, repeatedly tells Pres. Obama what to do once in office. In point 6 of his letter, the Ambassador demands that Pres. Obama, as one of the first tasks of his administration, ‘implement a broad public diplomacy strategy to win the hearts of the Turkish public,’ in view of the fact that ‘surveys consistently indicate a very unfavorable opinion of the U.S. in Turkey.’ In Logoglu's twisted logic, since most Turks hate Americans, it is Pres. Obama's solemn obligation to take immediate steps to make Turks like Americans!”

Historical Issues Overshadow Japan’s Nation Branding
- Kang Hyun-kyung, Korea Times: “Policy instruments to bolster Korea's soft power include public diplomacy, tourism, foreign investment promotion and cultural goods, and the nation branding strategy is one that encompasses all aspects, [Korea Foundation President Yim Sung-joon] said.”

A Coastie's Guide to the Instruments of Power - Jim Dolbow, An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog: “Diplomacy is defined by the Encyclopedia of Britannica ‘as the established method of influencing the decisions and behavior of foreign governments and peoples through dialogue, negotiation, and other measures short of war or violence.’ It is also very much like ice cream because it comes in many different of ‘flavors’ such as public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, medical diplomacy, to name a few.”


Obama the Realist - E.J. Dionne, Truthdig: In electing Barack Obama, the country traded the foreign policy of the second President Bush for the foreign policy of the first President Bush. That is the meaning of Obama’s apparent decision to keep Robert Gates on as secretary of defense and also to select Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

The Obama Administration, Guantánamo, and Restoring America’s Standing - Glenn Greenwald, ACLU Blog/Common Dreams: There are many steps which President Obama will need to take to put the U.S. back on the path of basic liberties and human rights. But closing Guantanamo -- decisively and immediately -- will signal to the world that he is serious about fulfilling the multiple pledges he made to restore America's standing in the world.

Guantanamo Justice: The Bush administration will finally release Salim Ahmed Hamdan. The Uighurs should be next – Editorial, Washington Post

Save the Economy, and the Planet - Editorial, New York Times: The country has elected a president who believes that meeting the challenge of climate change is essential to the health of the planet and to America’s economic future.

This is No SOP. It Is A Vote To End The Occupation of Iraq - Jonathan Steele – Guardian/Common Dreams: Bush and his ideologues wanted to make Iraq a protectorate and stay indefinitely so as to intimidate Iran and Syria. Now they have been forced to give up, and a newly confident Tehran has been helping its neighbouring Shia-led government in Baghdad to show them the door.

Bush’s Follies Will Destroy Obama If He Lets Them - William Pfaff, Truthdig: Obama has to rid himself of George Bush’s folly. He must make Iraq truly independent. If he doesn’t, it could destroy his administration.

More on the Al-Qaeda slur - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: Global reactions to Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri's controversial condemnation of U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama as a "House Slave" (or, alternatively, "House Negro") have begun to pour in -- including via the top jihad web forums used by Al-Qaida to disseminate its propaganda.

Russian Analyst Predicts Decline And Breakup Of USADrudge Report: A leading Russian political analyst, Professor Igor Panarin, has said the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the country is heading for collapse, and will divide into separate parts. He even suggested that "we could claim Alaska -- it was only granted on lease, after all." Panarin, 60, is a professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has authored several books on information warfare.

Russia's interest in South America should alert the U.S.: Moscow is sending Washington a none-too-subtle warning, but the bigger issue is economic – Editorial, Los Angeles Times: If the U.S. snubs its trading partners in Latin America, it would leave a vacuum that countries like Russia and China would be only too happy to fill -- to the detriment of both our economy and national security.

Life After Foggy Bottom - David Ignatius, Washington Post: In a few weeks, Secretary of State Rice will have only herself to please, and that has had a liberating effect. She talks about her past and future as a person with nothing left to prove. She's leaving Washington for real after Inauguration Day and will return to Stanford University.