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.

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