Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 31

"HILLARY CLINTON: Who painted it?


--Reported exchange in Mexico in front of La Guadalupana, the archetypal icon of Latin American Catholicism; above images from and from


Obama team drops "war on terror" rhetoric – admin, World News: “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the Obama administration had dropped 'war on terror' from its lexicon, rhetoric former President George W. Bush used to justify many of his actions. … Clinton has said one of her main roles as top U.S. diplomat is to improve the U.S. image abroad, particularly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. She has embarked on aggressive public diplomacy during her visits to Europe, the Middle East and Asia, seeking to reach out to ordinary people."

Free Swat Valley - Douglas J. Feith and Justin Polin, New York Times: "On March 5, in the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, forces believed to be affiliated with the Taliban bombed the shrine of Rahman Baba (born around 1650), the most revered Pashtun poet. … If it had the equipment and personnel for the job, the United States could broadcast radio programs for the Pashtuns commemorating Rahman Baba’s life and poetry, thus helping to revive the collective memory of Sufism and inspiring opposition to the Taliban. Other programs could highlight the cultural and physical devastation wrought by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The United States conducted impressive strategic communications during the cold war. Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and other programs conveyed information and ideas that contributed to the discrediting and ultimate defeat of Soviet communism. Pakistan’s Islamist extremists apparently know the value of strategic communications. They preach and broadcast, understanding that every non-extremist school they close, every artist they force to move, every moderate tribal leader they kill and every Sufi shrine they destroy can increase their powers of intimidation and persuasion.“ Feith Image from

The Education of Doug Feith - Patrick Barry, Democracy Arsenal: "Strategic communications directed at the Muslim World, patterned after Radio Free Europe? Sorry Doug, maybe you should have gotten involved with al-Hurra, the Bush administration's attempt to replicate the success of Cold-War era public diplomacy, but which has been widely regarded as a sham by the Muslim world. There is unquestionably a need for the U.S. to update its public diplomacy infrastructure. But to do it via analogies that show no appreciation for the complexities of the audience we're trying to reach, such as how a conservative, sometimes violent strand of Islam reacts with longstanding political and juridical grievances (see Joshua White discuss the current state of affairs in Swat), is just not the way to go."

Should this station broadcast news, or inadequately researched opinion? - Kim Andrew Elliott Discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: "VOA's Deewa Radio already broadcasts in Pashto to that very part of Pakistan. So apparently the United States does have 'the equipment and personnel for the job.' Deewa's output includes programs about poetry, but, as part of VOA, its mainstay is reliable news and information. If Messrs. Feith and Polin prefer a station that is more partisanly anti-Taliban, such a station may not want to be identified with the United States. (And see previous post about Radio Khyber.) This op-ed could inspire an amendment to some future legislation to create an RFE/RL Pashto service to Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, to do what Deewa is already doing (and, for that matter, what RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan is already doing), resulting in even more duplication in US international broadcasting. As for Alhurra, it's not up there with Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, but it has too many viewers to be dismissed as a 'sham.'"

VOL. V NO. 7, March 13-March 26, 2009 - The Layalina Review on Public Diplomacy and Arab Media

Shhh! Don't talk about "freedom" and "tolerance" in front of Muslims! You might offend them! – GS Don Morris, Doc’s Talk: "Apparently promoting sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide involves tiptoeing around the volatile and easily offended, and ignoring and denying unpleasant truths. Great idea! Why didn't anyone think of it before? '10 terms not to use with Muslims,' by Chris Seiple in the Christian Science Monitor, March 28 [...] 'As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.'”

The Icon and the Battle-Axe - Joseph P. Duggan, American Spectator: “Color photographs and loud captions atop page one of the daily El Universal captured the Mexican public's sense of outraged bewilderment at Mrs. Clinton's visit March 26 to the Basilica of Guadalupe, Catholicism's second most visited shrine after St. Peter's in Rome. The Basilica rector, Monsignor Diego Monroy, stands with Mrs. Clinton and shows her the mestiza Madonna whose story is known to every Catholic schoolchild, an image believed to have been imposed miraculously on an Indian's cloak five centuries ago. HILLARY CLINTON: Who painted it? MONSIGNOR MONROY: God. La Guadalupana is the archetypal icon of Latin American Catholicism. Catholics in the United States as well as in the Latin countries today invoke the Virgin of Guadalupe as the special patron of the pro-life movement. Was Hillary's public diplomacy fiasco a calculated insult addressed to something she regards as a superstition, or simply the unrehearsed utterance of a person so soulless that she cannot fathom believers' sense of mystery?“ Image from

Isolated Overseas: Diplomatic Security Creates Challenges for American Public Diplomacy – Mitchell Polman, Mountain Runner: “Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in February submitted a resolution (S. Res. 49) that calls for a reassessment of safety concerns surrounding American Centers in major foreign cities, and urges the State Department to ‘consider placing United States public diplomacy facilities at locations conducive to maximizing their use.’ … Reinvigorating America's cultural presence overseas is going to require increased funding and a re-thinking of security issues that have plagued America's ability to conduct public diplomacy in recent decades. Senator Lugar seems committed to keeping a spotlight on this issue, and Secretary of State Clinton has made her views fairly clear. But overcoming security concerns requires creativity, flexibility, and new ideas. The fate of Senate Resolution 49 may be an important signal as to whether America is serious about reshaping its public diplomacy strategy.”

US 'committed' to flexible approach to aid programs - Nicholas Kimbrell, Daily Star: “The United States is committed to a flexible and responsive approach to Lebanese and regional aid programs, a senior State Department official said Monday. ‘There are issues, challenges that are too great to be faced by one country all by itself,’ Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Madelyn Spirnak told reporters gathered at the US Embassy in Awkar. Among other responsibilities, Spirnak, who is visiting Beirut for the first time, oversees the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and the Near East Bureau's Press and Public Diplomacy Office.”

NATO invades the web - IrishLibertarian: “My God there is only so much imperialism I can handle. NATO have decided there is not enough of a pro-NATO stance been taken by the media nor our politicians, so they decided to marketing themselves towards a younger audience. So http://www.60yearsnato.info/ has been launched. Jean-Francois Bureau, NATO’s assistant secretary-general for public diplomacy said 'After 60 years, NATO is changing its communication strategy. It is the first time that we run a web-only campaign, with three videos aimed at reaching a wider audience, especially the younger generation.' Now I am not saying NATO are evil, I just do not want to join them.” See also.

And now, to work - Jerusalem Post: “Israel now has a semblance of a 'unity government' and can move forward. Indeed, there are several laudable cabinet appointments. … Yuli Edelstein can contribute as hasbara minister - not by seeking to create an empire, but by working with the premier's new communications director, Ron Dermer, to maximize existing public diplomacy resources while avoiding ruffling bureaucratic feathers.”

One On One: Rehab for an 'all-consuming peace addiction' - Ruthie Blum Leibowitz , Jerusalem Post: "[Question]: But is Israel really at liberty to do what it wants without international approval? [Answer by Daniel Gordis, author of Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End]: I believe we're much more at liberty to do what we want than we allow ourselves to think - though we do need to do a better job of hasbara [public diplomacy], and engage in much more effective efforts to explain our actions to heads of state and communities abroad." Image from

The Changing Climate For Cultural Relations - John Worne, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: “[A]lthough cultural relations has a job to do in the current economic crisis, it also has to equip the next generation of leaders with the internationalism, networks, skills and openness to meet their challenges. The British Council has been equipping future world leaders for 75 years, but the scale of the cultural relations challenge by our 100th year – 2034 – is bigger even than the rising unemployment and extremism of the 1930s when we began.”

Branding Bangladesh - Mamun Rashid, Daily Star: “The brand building initiative has to be a coherent approach driven by various sectors -- the government, political parties, civil society, media, professionals, private sector, cultural world, workers and farmers, urban and rural people, etc. When all of us can share a common identity, we shall be able to establish Bangladesh with a rejuvenated brand that the world will respect. “

Networking dinner for delegates at Friends of Pakistan expert meetingAssociated Press of Pakistan:

“Pakistan’s Ambassador at Large, Javed Malik, would be hosting a Networking Dinner for the International delegates attending the Expert-Level meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). High-ranking officials and experts from all the member-states of the Friends of Pakistan including UK, USA, UAE, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, World Bank, European Union, United Nations, Asian Development Bank and others will take part in the dinner. … Presentations will be made on Security, Development, Institution building, Energy, Public diplomacy and other aspects covering the Friends of Democratic Pakistan initiative.” Image from

Call for Papers - Reframing the Nation: Media Publics and Strategic Narratives – John Postill, Media/Anthropology: "Several English-language transnational television channels recently launched, including Al Jazeera English, Press TV (Iran), CCTV9 (China), France 24, and Russia Today ... pose ... questions about strategic narratives and public diplomacy in the new media ecology. Diasporic groups, increasingly connected via digital media, are being recognised as exploitable for diplomacy purposes. States can mobilize citizens both at home and abroad in diplomatic media initiatives via internet chat rooms and news discussion sites.”


On European trip, rock-star Obama faces skeptical allies: While he is popular, American policies are not. He will be hard-pressed towin concessions on his plans for the economy or Afghanistan - Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor: President Obama and first lady Michelle waved as they departed the White House to attend the G-20 Summit in the UK.

Europe spurns the beloved Obama - Gideon Rachman, Financial Times:

Europeans have long worshipped Barack Obama from afar. Now the beloved one is paying his first visit as US president to the old continent. Yet there is every indication that Europe’s leaders are about to stiff him. Image from

Obama's foreign-policy credo: listen and lead - Editorial Board, Christian Science Monitor: In this century, American presidents will have to listen more than they’re Listen-and-lead comes down to a more multilateral approach on the part of the US. If you ask the Europeans, that's what they want from American leadership. Apparently, so does Obama. It's a convenient convergence. Will it pass the test of this presidency? Of this century?

The Big Embrace: Obama moves to give developing nations—and some developed ones—more influence in global decision-making - Emily Lowe, Slate: Change is brewing abroad, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an overhaul of the U.S. aid program in Afghanistan and President Obama is expected to give major shoutouts to some important developing nations at the G20 summit.

Let’s Not Read the Obama Foreign Policy Tea Leaves Yet - Patricia H. Kushlis, Whirled View

A Rookie President:We can lose some very big games with this rookie - Thomas Sowell, National Review: There is no sign that President Obama has impressed the Russians, the Iranians, or the North Koreans, except by his rookie mistakes -- and that is a dangerous way to impress dangerous people.

G-20, Obama, And His New Brand Foreign Policy - Omid Memarian, Huffington Post:

Obama's package diplomacy, or effectively incorporating regional power as a specific resolution to end current stalemates, seems to be the best way to go. Obama might have to apologize for the damage Washington has made throughout the world and will need to be ready to compromise and show respect to sovereign states. Image from

Obama Administration to Release Bin Laden Associate from Gitmo - Thomas Joscelyn, Weekly Standard: The U.S. Justice Department has decided to release another detainee from Guantanamo, a Yemeni named Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi. It is not entirely clear why Batarfi has been cleared for release.

Iran to the U.S.: Where we go now: Offering a response to President Obama's Persian New Year speech, an Iranian official says the offer to talk is promising but that there are old wounds that must be dealt with - Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Los Angeles Times. Image from

Twelve Steps To Improve Relations with Iran - Robert Naiman, Huffington Post: Among them: Authorize routine contact between U.S. and Iranian diplomats; Establish a US interests section in Tehran; Guarantee multiple entry or expedited re-entry visas for Iranian students and scholars; Abolish U.S. "Democracy Promotion" programs in Iran.

Bibi and Barack Can Unite on Iran: Israel's new government is an 'obstacle' only to unrealistic goals - Yossi Klein Halevi, Wall Street Journal

The Return of Weakness : President Obama means well. Iran doesn't - Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard

Stop Arming Israel - Philip Giraldi, Antiwar.com: “That Obama gave his first interview with a foreign broadcaster to al-Arabiya, a Saudi Arabian-owned satellite service, is significant. It demonstrates that the president truly understands how low the U.S. has fallen in the view of the rest of the world. … It would convince much of the world that change and sanity have finally arrived in Washington if Obama were to look seriously at the issue of U.S. weapons sales to Israel.”

Staying the course: If the U.S. perseveres long enough, we can leave behind an 'Iraq good enough'- Anthony H. Cordesman, Baltimore Sun: There are good reasons to support President Barack Obama and U.S. military commanders in keeping U.S. forces strong enough to help secure Iraq for the coming national election, and phasing down U.S. forces at the rate the president has planned for. There are good reasons to leave a strong residual force in Iraq that can train the Iraqi security forces, and provide assistance in areas such as intelligence and air support as the Iraqi forces take over.

Turkey Awaits Its Hero Obama - Stephen Schlesinger, Huffington Post: Barack Obama is now considered in Turkey to be the virtual president of our planet.

Westernizing Afghanistan - H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe: In a society so steeped in a contrary tradition, is it up to us to tell Afghans what customs they can or can't keep? Is the goal of westernizing Afghanistan sustainable? Is it realistic? Is it worth dying for? As it has always been, the clash between idealism and practicality in American foreign policy never ceases. Image from

Afghanistan: Third Time's The Charm? William Bradley – Huffington Post: America has actually won two wars in Afghanistan in the past quarter-century. But each time, eminently distractable America has taken its eye off the ball, and the victories have proved evanescent.

Yes, We Have No Bananastan - Jeff Huber, Antiwar.com: President Barack Obama’s March 27 announcement of a "new strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan" makes it official. He has no clue what he’s doing.

While Obama Escalates War in Afghanistan, Iraq Could Blow Up in His Face - Jeremy Scahill, Huffington Post: There is great reason to suspect that the timeline for withdrawal -- all troops out by 2011 -- announced in February by the Obama administration will prove to be a fallacy.

Afghanistan: Might As Well Talk Now - Robert Dreyfuss, Nation: Like Iran, which is watching the United States exit Iraq right on schedule, our adversaries in Afghanistan know that we're leaving, too. We might as well make it public, and start talking.

Obama Administration Digs Its Own Grave in Afghanistan: Another Lost War – William S. Lind, CounterPunch

No Place to Hide: The new Obama Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy redefines counter-terrorism--but it doesn't go far enough - Andrew Exum, New Republic: In a counter-insurgency campaign -- especially when waged against an enemy like the Taliban who pursues a strategy of exhaustion -- if you're not winning, you are losing. If momentum has not demonstrably shifted 12 months from now, then, it will be time to question again our position in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Putting a New Coat on a Failed Strategy: Obama's Pakistan Gambit - Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch: "Could it be that the goals Mr. Obama explicitly denied (and I quote)--'We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future.'-- are the true ones? Only then does his escalation of the battle there begin to make sense.

The Budget's Foreign Policy Handcuffs - Stephen Zunes, Huffington Post:

As Americans are losing their jobs due to a lack of public funding, the Democrats' appropriation bill pours billions of dollars into sophisticated weapons for both Israel and neighboring Arab states. Image from

Crossing the border? Take your passport - Thomas Frank, USA TODAY: This summer, Americans will be required for the first time to show a passport or a special ID card to drive home from Canada or Mexico.


A Nation of NarcissistsTruthdig:

Is American exceptionalism just a euphemism for nationalized narcissism? Are narcissists to blame for the cataclysm on Wall Street? Stephen Colbert takes a read on the national zeitgeist and brings in Slate columnist Emily Yoffe to declare that certain public figures might suffer from narcissistic personality disorder.

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