Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22

President-Elect Barack Obama's Favorite Pizza Comes to D.C. - Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers


Bush Gets Bad Rap In CNN's Supposed G-20 Handshake Incident, BagnewsNotes


There will be no postings of the "Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review" November 23-25


From Heritage to Azeroth - Joshua Fouts, DIP's Dispatches from the Imagination Age: “The Heritage Foundation's Helle Dale and Tony Blankley released a new report today, 'Reforming US Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century,' which almost feels like a companion report to Kristin Lord's Brookings Institution report similarly titled "Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century." The Heritage report, which was teased in a Washington Times editorial by Dale this week, rehashes a lot of important but previously mentioned points for the incoming Obama Administration to consider. And it focuses on public diplomacy's role in countering extremism. As with most of these reports, they touch on the importance of technology, but mostly focus on the systemic bureaucratic problems at hand rather than offering substantive suggestions. … The challenges facing government seem so daunting organizationally and administratively that reports over the past weeks (and years, even!) like the above-mentioned Heritage Foundation report seem focused on the fundamentals rather than some of the more critical details, namely that the culture and way that the world is communicating has changed and changed radically. The policy recommendations that we are preparing for the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project, which will be released in coming weeks, will address a number of these specific issues.”

America's Image in the Age of ObamaRadio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin and Brookings Institution scholar Kenneth Pollack today assessed the impact of Barack Obama's election as President of the United States on America's image abroad as well as the challenges his administration will likely face as it confronts the 21st Century's 'War of Ideas.' ’In public diplomacy, the messenger matters,’ Gedmin said to a packed house at the DC-based Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC). ‘President-elect Obama's global appeal marks a real opportunity for the U.S. to improve its image overseas. But the message matters, too – his administration needs to craft sound policies that advance our interests and values.’ Pollack agreed that the Obama administration represents a chance to improve America's image, but warned that ‘popularity cannot be a substitute for good policy.’

Revitalising America's image: A revival in America's reputation ultimately rests not on diplomacy but substantive policy change - Amr Abdel-Atti, Al-Ahram: “If anyone stands a chance of improving the US's image in the Arab world, Obama does, especially when compared to his pre-4 November rival, Republican candidate John McCain. … However, it still remains the case that if Obama is to improve the US's image in the Arab world he has to change those policies and attitudes that were directly responsible for sewing anti-US hatred … After all, it is impossible to separate national policy from public diplomacy.”

Closed-Minded on the Border - Edward Alden, Washington Post: “Openness to immigrants and to foreign students, entrepreneurs and visitors has long been this country's secret weapon. The world's best and brightest come to the United States in large numbers to study or work temporarily, and many end up staying. Early in the campaign, Obama lamented the post-9/11 decline in visas for foreign students, which he said ‘used to be one of the single best public-diplomacy tools in our possession.’"

State Dept and Pentagon officials At Odds over Gitmo Detainee Policy - Daphne Eviatar, Washington Independent: “Contacted in response to my story yesterday about the debate over national security courts, I spoke today to the former Chief Counsel at the state department focused on detainee issues, who revealed an apparent schism between the State Dept on the one hand, and the Pentagon and executive on the other, when it comes to what to do with the Guantanamo detainees against whom they don’t have any solid evidence. … Although the state department is supposed to have some say on these issues, in particular regarding how ongoing litigation affects US public diplomacy, voices like this former senior state department lawyer’s have obviously been drowned out by DOD, and ultimately by the national security council and the president.”

A Bit Of Theory (Or, Actually Useful Stuff Learned In Grad School) - David Shorr, Democracy Arsenal: “I've been working with Vikram Singh and Derek Chollet of Center for a New American Security on a project that looked for ways to convert all this concern about the problem into meaningful action. Recently we drew up a memo proposing that President-elect Obama tell his national security team to collaborate on a joint FY 2010 budget for defense, diplomacy, and development. … The essence of the proposal from our own project is for the Defense and State Departments and USAID to reach their budget numbers by common agreement -- with DoS and USAID receiving significant increases in funding, as well as, this is important, personnel. … Here are the premises of the argument [among them that: ] … This is not a limited set of discrete problems -- public diplomacy, post-conflict reconstruction, privatization of aid programs -- it is all one big problem of foreign policy effectiveness and atrophied agencies that are not strong enough to pursue America's aims in an increasingly complex world. At just the moment when our relations with the world are at historic lows, we find ourselves with shortfall in our capacity to rebuild those relations.”

Public Diplomacy 2.0 - Upcoming New America Events, New America Foundation: “How the State Department, with partners like YouTube, Google and Facebook, is taking advantage of social networking technology to tell America's story and to encourage young people with political grievances to find outlets for their protests other than violent extremism. Start: 12/01/2008 - 10:00amEnd: 12/01/2008 - 11:30am New America Foundation 1630 Connecticut Ave, NW 7th FloorWashington, DC, 20009 … Featured Speaker The Hon. James K. Glassman Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.”

US Public Diplomacy Council publishes proposals for reforming international broadcasting - Medianetwork

Kim's comments about the Public Diplomacy Council's "Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting for a New Era"- Kim Andrew Elliott Discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: “The PDC document contains contradictions that suggest that it was written by a committee. The ‘broad consensus’ was indeed broad. Nevertheless, the PDC has developed thoughtful proposals for U.S. international broadcasting. They should be read, discussed, and debated.” SEE BELOW, bottom of page: "Letter to the Public Diplomacy Council from the Broadcasting Board of Governors' Spokesperson"

Visa Waiver Program Expansion Will Stimulate U.S. Economic Growth - Roger Dow, The Hill Blog: “The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) expansion will strengthen U.S. security, boost America’s vital public diplomacy efforts and stimulate U.S. economic growth.”

U.S. diplomat speaks to students about job opportunities - Kelly McGill, Pioneer Online, OK: “Rick Roberts, a U.S. Department diplomat assigned to the University of Oklahoma, spoke Nov. 18 on ‘Foreign Service and International Education.’ … Roberts said he joined the Foreign Service in 1984 as a Public Diplomacy officer with the U.S. Information Agency. He now speaks to college students to help recruit talent for the State Department.”

Friday, Dipo Domys Executive Didae: “Outlook for public service academy brightens (11/21/08) -- Public Diplomacy. Obama is now talking. The changes at the Air Force were just announced and now Obama wants free school for federal employees. The public Service Academy will give free education to anyone who goes to work for the federal government under the dems like Obama and his executive agencies. The university will hire dems to staff the school and it is the jobs for the staff that will create the academy.”

Senate delegation visits NATO headquartersAssociated Press of Pakistan: “Islamabad: … A six member delegation of the Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production of the Senate led by Senator Nisar A. Memon visited NATO Headquarters and SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) on the invitation of Public Diplomacy Division of NATO.”

Media Matters: Journalism's bang-up job - Ruthie Blum Leibowitz, Jerusalem Post: “Arab perpetrators and their apologists are not only happy to print and broadcast the most gruesome details of their own maimed victims - as well as fabricate and photoshop them at will - but do so purposely, as part of their strategy in the war against Israel. What this means is that the exercise of restraint, based on considerations of sensitivity, makes the PR playing field even less level than it already is. But are the media in a free society supposed to serve as a public-diplomacy vehicle for the state? The answer should be a firm ‘no.’ But what the answer actually is lies somewhere between ‘maybe’ and ‘that depends on who's in power.’"


The Shout Heard Round the World: Obama as Global Leader - Derek Shearer, Huffington Post: Obama is the American President after all -- but he is, in many respects, also the world's President. What he does will matter to young and old across the globe. The world, like America, is waiting for him to lead.

20 Reasons to Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials - Andy Worthington, Future of Freedom Foundation

Playing Al Qaeda's game – Editorial, Boston Globe: Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda's chief strategist, Ayman al-Zawahiri, want to draw the US into counter-insurgency campaigns in as many Muslim lands as possible. Unlike most Islamist groups that are fixated on overthrowing local regimes, they argue that such near enemies in Egypt, Algeria, and elsewhere have survived only because they are backed by the far enemy in Washington. And so they declared war on America. But this is not America's war; it is a war within Islamic lands between reactionary Islamists and the disparate regimes in those places.

That Iranian "Bomb"? Relax - Robert Dreyfuss, Nation: Once in office, Obama needs to send an envoy to Jerusalem with a simple message for the Israelis: when it comes to Iran, sit down and shut up.

Clinton, Obama and Israel: It's time for the U.S. to reengage in the Mideast peace process - Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times: The flexibility to achieve moral progress through change is one of the characteristics of liberal democracies like the United States and Israel. The common values of liberal democracy are the real basis for the special relationship between our two nations, and nothing would affirm or honor them more than constructive American engagement in a renewed Middle East peace process.

Arabs Should Act Now -- Not Wait for Obama - James Zogby, Huffington Post: On more than one occasion, Barack Obama has stated that he would make Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority, and that he would take a different course than that of his predecessor. But, if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that when Obama takes the oath of office on January 20th, he is likely to find a rather unappetizing situation laid out before him in the Middle East.

Clinton Is Said to Accept Offer of Secretary of State Position – Peter Baker And Helene Cooper, New York Times: Mr. Obama wants to announce the members of his national security team at once. Advisers said he was weighing whether to make retired Gen. James L. Jones, a former Marine commandant and NATO supreme commander, his national security adviser, installing a formidable counterweight to Mrs. Clinton. The president-elect was still trying to decide whether to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on an interim basis or install another choice to run the Pentagon right away.

Obama's valedictocracy - David Brooks, International Herald Tribune: Hillary Clinton at State is problematic, mostly because nobody has a role for her husband. But, as she demonstrated in the Senate, her foreign policy views are hardheaded and pragmatic.

The Cabinet So Far: Encouraging signs, with education reform still in the balance – Editorial, Washington Post: President-elect Barack Obama's picks thus far are experienced, capable, smart and pragmatic. Those adjectives apply to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (State Department).

Hoping Hillary Says Yes - Alec Baldwin, Huffington Post: “Now the notion of Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State looms over her every utterance and move and I pray that this becomes a reality.”

Prude Descending a Staircase - Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog I keep track of Condoleezza's hairdo so you don't have to: PHOTO: U.S. President George W. Bush is welcomed by officials as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice walks down the stairs at the airport in Lima November 21, 2008. Bush is in Peru to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado (PERU). COMMENT: “Nothing much to say here. This photo shows, though, what a pain in the ass it must be when Condi visits. Look at all those people! Also, the horrible quality of the photo suggests that it was taken from, like, Argentina with a telephoto lens. Tsk!”


Letter to the Public Diplomacy Council from the Broadcasting Board of Governors' Spokesperson

Courtesy Len Baldyga
November 20, 2008

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) takes sharp exception to many points in “Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting for a New Era,” a statement issued by the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) on November 17.

It is false to claim that the BBG has acted in any way that contravenes Congress. The BBG received Congressional approval for all program changes that have been made, including language service reductions. The PDC should correct its error.

The success or failure of the BBG should be judged on its broadcasting impact.

The post-9/11 public diplomacy charge was clear: to focus on Muslim audiences as an antidote to poisonous propaganda from Al Qaeda and other extremists. The challenge is how best to do that in specific countries, each with unique political factors, diverse media environments, and populations largely hostile to America.

The BBG has met this challenge by shaping broadcasts to fit the exigencies of each target audience. Since 2001, with support from the Administration and Congress, the BBG has launched six major communication channels – including 24/7 Dari and Pashto in Afghanistan, Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV for the Middle East, Radio Farda and the Persian News Network for Iran, and Radio Aap ki Dunyaa for Pakistan -- and ramped up daily broadcasting to Indonesia, Somalia, and other countries. These new initiatives have grown the BBG’s global weekly audience from 100 to over 175 million people. Broken out by country, this number includes: 27 million in Indonesia, 14 million in Iran, 13 million in Afghanistan, 12 million in Pakistan, 11.5 million in Iraq, 7 million in Egypt, 6 million in Syria, and 5 million in Morocco. Over 30 BBG language services now reach in excess of one million people weekly.

The PDC statement misrepresents the BBG’s work in other respects:

• PDC notes that VOA is chartered by statute to present international and U.S. news that is accurate, objective, and comprehensive; to represent America in all its diversity; and to present U.S. policies. But it fails to note that the statute governing broadcasting provides a similar mandate to all BBG broadcast entities. Each of the BBG’s broadcast entities maintains flexibility to tailor content to its audiences.

• Since FY 2000, VOA’s budget has increased over 47 percent, from $127 to $190 million in FY 2008. VOA has added television broadcasts to Afghanistan and Pakistan and increased programs in Persian, Urdu, Dari, Pashto, Korean, Somali, and several other languages.

• The BBG has sought efficiencies throughout the organization in order to concentrate resources on language broadcasts. Since FY 2003, 78 percent of BBG budgetary reductions were to administrative, engineering, and support costs. It would not be possible to reinstate particular language broadcasts without additional cost.

• VOA audiences in Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia continue to be served by high-quality VOA television and Internet programming, and by radio broadcasts from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. VOA television and Internet broadcasts in Hindi also continue.

• To assert that the BBG needs “real strategy and analysis” ignores the BBG’s comprehensive strategic plan, available at, which details specific actions to yield measurable outcomes. BBG spending on global audience research has increased from less than $3 million in FY 2001 to $9.1 million in FY 2008.

What matters to the BBG is reaching as many people as possible with accurate, balanced news and information that gains their trust and makes a difference in their lives. The focus of discussion needs to be on how U.S. international broadcasters are going to better serve more people with quality journalism to advance U.S. strategic interests in difficult-to-reach countries were democracy and freedom of speech are in short supply.

We share the commitment of the Public Diplomacy Council to excellence in our international broadcasting efforts and value forward-looking discussion of how to maximize our effectiveness.


Letitia M. King
Acting Director Office of Public Affairs


Anonymous said...

An advisory committee to USAID just released a report yesterday reviewing the agency's strengths and weaknesses in public affairs and public diplomacy.

A government agency rarely issues such a frank and honest report of its weaknesses, strengths and opportunities.

A must read for anybody interested is the arena. Available here:

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