Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30

"Propaganda leaflets kill Afghan girl: A box of information leaflets dropped by an RAF transport aircraft over Helmand province killed a young Afghan girl after it landed on top of her."

--Headline in; image from Propaganda Leaflets from the Second World War


USIA: Gone but not Forgotten – Nicholas Cull, Layalina Productions: "Ten years on from the demolition of USIA we need to do more than commemorate or mourn. The think-tanks have reported.

The authors have published and the analysts have spoken. Now is the time to act to rebuild America's capacity in the field of public diplomacy so that the future of America's foreign policy will be more closely attuned to the currents of international opinion than its past. There is a world to gain. There is a world to lose." On USIA, see. Image: 21st Century United States U.S. Information Agency (USIA) Archive, USIA 1953-1999 Commemoration, Clinton Administration Foreign Policy, Terrorism Policy, ... Albright, Hillary Rodham Clinton (CD-ROM) (CD-ROM)by U.S. Government (Author)

Fall of the Wall: 20 Years Later - Helle Dale, Heritage Foundation: "The value of providing information to parts of the world where censorship was the rule was ... clear to both Democratic and Republican administrations. John F. Kennedy was keenly aware of its importance and made Edward R. Murrow director of USIA, giving him direct access to the Oval Office and a seat at the National Security Council. However, it was Ronald Reagan, who had the clearest vision of the potential of public diplomacy as an instrument of national power, combining a clear ideological, anti-communist vision and talents as a 'great communicator.' Reagan brought a new infusion of resources and intiative to the ideological struggle with the Soviets, revitalizing the USIA, and providing it with a new clear mandate and strategy."

The Place of Exchange in Public Diplomacy – Melany, Exchange This! Thoughts From a J-1 Visa Sponsor, Global Current: "Exchange holds an important place in our hearts, and we are very excited to see it take a central role in U.S. public diplomacy.

As a J-1 sponsor we have been able to witness the tremendous impact of J-1 exchange programs on the lives of thousands of people and we are confident that these programs will not dissappoint as a tool to promote international understanding and cooperation. … Global Current is proud to be a part of the movement to promote exchange and we encourage all J-1 participants and host companies to recognize their integral role in making exchange programs happen and how these exchange programs fit into a larger effort to facilitate international understanding and cooperation." Image from article

26 Foiled Terror Plots Show Success of Information Sharing - Jena Baker McNeill, WebMemo #2634, Heritage Foundation: "President Barack Obama pledged that his Administration would continue to increase U.S. capacity and international partnerships to track down, capture, and kill terrorists around the world. Congress and the Obama Administration can work together to fulfill this promise by [inter alia]: … Expanding the VWP [Visa Waiver Program]. VWP allows pre-approved travelers from member countries to visit the U.S. for 90 days without a visa. Since the program underwent extensive security upgrades in 2007, it has become a valuable security device and a useful tool for public diplomacy and economic expansion. By continuing to add VWP countries, the U.S. can develop even more valuable information-sharing frameworks with countries around the globe."

Muscatatuck Urban Training Center: Indiana Guard helps prepare federal employees bound for Afghanistan - Nicole Gaudiano, "As the role of civilians becomes more important in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is stepping up the frequency of a training course at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center that lets federal employees work alongside service members before they go overseas.

'If it works in the military, it should work on the civilian side, too,' said Sen. Ted Kaufman , D-Del., who spoke with more than 30 trainees during a 'town hall' meeting Monday. … This week's trainees will leave for Afghanistan on Saturday. President Barack Obama announced in March that an increased civilian presence would be part of the comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan. The idea is to use agriculture specialists, teachers and lawyers to help promote a more effective Afghan government . … Kaufman said more time, money and effort need to be put into public diplomacy." Image from

Interview with Radio Martí "probable reason" for Cuban blogger's arrest (updated) - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

Kosovo, South Ossetia, and the Rhetoric of Self-Determination - Chris Borgen, "I am especially interested in how Russia, in particular, has used the language of international law as a tool of public diplomacy in an attempt to spin the perceptions or 'control the narratives' related to both Kosovo and South Ossetia."

Bertha's Bolsheviks - Matthew Vadum, Spectator: "The despot [Chavez] sends the equivalent of millions of dollars to the U.S. every year as part of his public diplomacy campaign aimed at getting the American public to warm up to his government.

Venezuelan oil flows to Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit headed by former Rep. Joe Kennedy II (D-Mass.) that gives some of the home heating oil away and sells some at a discount to poor people." Chavez image from

Senior Vice President for Middle East Operations and Development Zawya: "Khalid Latif has been named Senior Vice President, Middle East Operations and New Business Development, of J/Brice Design International, Inc. … Latif brings tremendous intellectual depth to the post. His scholarly work includes a wealth of research and position papers such as, Enhancing US-Saudi Relations, Public Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia: Suggestions for New Strategies, US-Saudi Relations: Rebuilding the Strategic Consensus and Investor Perceptions and Establishment of Image-Building Objectives."

My contributions to Communication Scholarship: The journey of a journalist (Part 8) - Shelton A. Gunaratne, Sri Lankan Guardian: "I consider the following publications to be the best of my modest scholarly contributions to communication studies through 2000: …

'Public diplomacy, global communication, and world order: An analysis based on theory of living systems' (2005). Current Sociology, 53 (5), 749-772." Image from

Choosing an Embassy/Consulate for the Summer internship - Ren's Micro Diplomacy: "Last night, I started the application for the DoS summer internship. If I wanted to be in DC, the decision would be easy, but choosing an overseas embassy has me at a standstill. Do I choose the location I’ve always dreamed of…or the place that most fits my skills…or a country that probably won’t be in high demand? It’s too bad there isn’t more information available online that describes the type of public diplomacy projects each embassy and consulate are undertaking. I’d like to be able to see which PD offices are the busiest and make my decion accordingly. Any suggestions?"

Second Posting Assignment – “Say Everything” - Jenalysis, Jen's Analysis: "Before beginning my Masters studies I worked for a foreign Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the Public Affairs Department.

It was my role to engage and teach the public about the policies of the goverment through all sorts of medium including lectures and newsletters. During my time at the Embassy my department experimented with using Social Media for our public diplomacy efforts." Image (not related to article) from


Success Against al-Qaeda Cited: Infiltration of Network Is a Factor as Administration Debates Afghanistan Policy - Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, Washington Post: Those within the administration who have suggested limiting large-scale U.S. ground combat in Afghanistan, including Vice President Biden, have pointed to an improved counterterrorism effort as evidence that Obama's principal objective -- destroying al-Qaeda -- can be achieved without an expanded troop presence.

Decision Time for Obama - Michael Gerson, Washington Post: If General McChrystal is to be believed, America is not merely failing to win in Afghanistan; it is losing.

It may require a jolt of resources to revive the patient and convince a skeptical American public that progress is possible. An incremental approach may simply bring defeat more slowly. Image from

Obama's war-plan do-over - Monica Crowley, Washington Times: The Afghanistan war, like the Iraq war, cannot be done on the cheap. In order to press an effective counterterrorism strategy, the military needs its requested resources, a clear, definable mission and a united front of unwavering support from the commander in chief and his administration. Below image from

Advice From NATO: The alliance's chief doesn't believe in an Afghan 'exit strategy' – Editorial, Washington Post: If Mr. Obama decides to abandon or scale back the fight against the Taliban, not only U.S. and Afghan interests will be affected; the Atlantic alliance will suffer its own strategic setback.

Forget the Nukes: The Most Fruitful Target Is Iran's Weakening Regime - Robert Kagan, Washington Post: Sanctions will not persuade the present Iranian government to give up its nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad and Khamenei see the nuclear program and their own survival as intimately linked. But the right kinds of sanctions could help the Iranian opposition topple these still-vulnerable rulers.

A Human Rights Lever for Iran - Andrew Albertson and Ali G. Scotten, Washington Post: Washington has been unable to force concessions from the Iranian regime on its own. By broadening our support for the aspirations of ordinary Iranians, the Obama administration can continue to tilt the balance of power in its favor. Below image from

Obama's Iran talks will fail - Editorial, Washington Times: When the G5+1 talks fail to change Tehran's mind about pursuing nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama will have to choose between allowing Iran to gain nuclear weapons or rethinking his aversion to the use of American force. If long-term U.S. interests matter, that's not a hard choice.

Talking With Myanmar – Editorial, New York Times: Change is unlikely to come quickly to Myanmar. But President Obama is right to try to nudge the process forward with limited engagement.

Twilight of Pax Americana: Since the end of WWII, the world has depended on the United States for stability. But with American military and economic dominance waning, capitalism and global security are threatened - Christopher Layne and Benjamin Schwarz - The coming era of de-globalization will be defined by rising nationalism and mercantilism, geopolitical instability and great power competition.

In other words, having enjoyed a long holiday from history under the Pax Americana, international politics will be headed back to the future. Image from

Israel's propagandists shoot themselves in the foot as they shoot off their mouths - Greg Felton, Media monitors Network

Courtesy JM

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 29

"It's not appropriate for me, as American ambassador, to say the people I work for didn't do something appropriately. And I'm not going to say that. What happened happened."

--Outgoing Bush-appointed U.S. ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe, a former mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, regarding Washington's decision -- announced on September 17, the date when the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939 -- to back out of the missile shield agreement forged by the Bush administration -- and opposed by Russia -- which has evoked memories among Poles of Cold War helplessness, of being brushed aside as casualties of great power politics. Image from


US Embassy Warsaw sees insensitive timing of Obama’s - Ted [Lipien], Blogger News Network: "Displaying unprecedented boldness for a US diplomatic mission, the US Embassy in Warsaw conceded on its official public website that Poles believe that the 'insensitive timing' — as the Embassy put it — of the Obama administration announcement on canceling the US missile shield system in Central Europe 'shows that Obama does not understand Poland.' In what may be a deliberate US public diplomacy effort to repair the public relations damage in Poland, a news item on the embassy website, posted in both English and Polish, acknowledged that 'the timing of Obama’s announcement upset Poland and Polish Americans because it came on Sept. 17, the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II.' …

The fear in Poland that history may repeat itself may explain, according to a former US official, the unprecedented frankness of the news item placed by American diplomats in Warsaw on the US Embassy website. Another explanation may be the absence of a US ambassador in Poland, the lack of usual bureaucratic supervision and the desire of the embassy staff to redeem themselves after failing to get the attention of the Obama White House that making the missile announcement on September 17 would be seen as a major offense in Poland. ... It is not clear whether the news on the US embassy website is a purely local initiative of American diplomats in Warsaw or represents a major effort approved in Washington to repair the public relations damage from President Obama’s decision. A former employee of the now defunct US Information Agency, which was once responsible for conducting public diplomacy, said that in any case it was a commendable display of diplomatic frankness and courage." See also Megan K. Stack, “Poles indignant that U.S. altered missile-shield plans,” Los Angeles Times. Image from

The Bear Still Has Teeth - Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic: "[T]he the Obama Administration’s decision, earlier this month, to scrap America’s Poland-and Czech Republic -based missile defense plans in favor of a sea-based approach makes eminent sense.

The new system will better protect America’s allies against Iranian missiles. Moreover, we need Russia’s cooperation on matters of geopolitical importance right now, and can’t afford to antagonize the country with new military bases in the midst of its perceived sphere of influence. But announcing our decision on the 70th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland was a strategic communications failure—suggesting to Eastern Europe that it is once again being deserted by its allies and left to the mercies of the Russian bear." Image: Black bear teeth

The September 17 missile announcement: A speculation regarding this public-diplomacy disaster - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "The Russians knew full well the announcement would be a PD disaster for the U.S. in Poland."

Persistent 'Foreign Language Gap' Compromises Diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, GAO Report Says - Karen Schuberg, "State Department press officer Fred Lash told that finding language-proficient employees 'has probably been a problem for years' because many of the positions are in spots that 'are difficult to fill--they’re hazardous and they’re at hardship posts, things like that.' …

When asked about potential difficulties in conducting diplomatic negotiations given the dearth of language-proficient [diplomatic] personnel, Lash said the State Department has been training some military personnel in language and cultural sensitivity. 'We have a military unit somewhere (that)has been undergoing cultural and language training but there’s just not as much of it. There needs to be more of that, too,' Lash said. 'Along the public diplomacy line we’re kind of far behind largely because of staffing and budget, but I think there are people that are working on bringing us up to par,' Lash said. Image from

Waiting for 'smart power' – Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: "The Obama administration came in with a unique promise to transform America's public diplomacy and global engagement. Obama himself captivated international attention and created a fresh start to reconfigure American relationships. His conception of a global engagement rooted in 'mutual interest and mutual respect' beautifully captured this potential. The people around Obama really seemed to understand the appropriate role of public diplomacy and strategic communications -- from Hillary Clinton's 'smart power'

and Robert Gates's call to build State Department capacity to key actors at the NSC. Obama's personal interventions have been fantastic -- the interviews, the speeches, the key symbolic gestures (such as promising to end torture and close Gitmo). But this makes it all the more baffling that the government as a whole has so often failed to capitalize on the openings these moves have created. … I don't know why it has proven so difficult for the U.S. government to mount public diplomacy and strategic communications campaigns in support of key administration policy goals. Is it something about the organization of the government, leadership, or the allocation of the resources? Is it that deeds have not kept up with words, harming the credibility of such communications campaigns? Is it the cultural clash between traditional public diplomacy and the demands of goal-oriented strategic communications? Is it that the State Department hasn't stepped up as the Pentagon's strategic communications operations have been scaled back? Is it a backlash against the over-selling of stratetic communications in recent years? Or is it something else?" See also. Image from

Strategic Communications: The Debate continues – John Brown, Huffington Post: “[T]he ‘Commander's Initial Assessment’ of the situation in Afghanistan, signed by General Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander - Afghanistan/International Security Assistance Force, is now available to the public. …

While in no way does this document make a convincing case that the war in Afghanistan can be 'won' by more 'sensitive' and 'sensible' strategic communications or public diplomacy, it at least reflects an admission of the tremendous difficulties the U.S. faces in reaching and earning the trust of the Afghan population." For the Assessment, see. McChrystal image from

Politics, Terrorism, and the Sunni Divide - Samuel Helfont, FPRI: "By viewing the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism as two separate movements, U.S. policymakers can address each group separately, forming distinct policies for each. Wahhabism presents a unique challenge for U.S. policymakers in that Wahhabists consider any epistemology not rooted entirely in traditional Islamic sources to be invalid. Therefore, it would be very difficult for the United States to engage Wahhabists in direct public diplomacy or a battle of ideas. After all, they do not accept the modern secular premises—whether liberal, realists, Marxist, etc. — that Western arguments rest upon. However, the United States does have a direct interest in limiting the influence of the more violent Wahhabists, and in empowering the most non-political scholars."

U.S. International Broadcasting: Too Bizarre To Be Explained By Political Science - Kim Andrew Elliott, Newswire – CPD Blog & Blogroll, USC Center on Public Diplomacy:

"In the Arab nations, as in much of the rest of the world, audiences for broadcast news have migrated from radio to television. Alhurra provides newscasts for elites and others interested in the news. Many who still listen to radio do so to hear music. [USG-funded] Radio Sawa was designed to follow that audience. Small elite audiences have their uses, but large audiences consisting of people from all strata are even more desirable. In the Jordan survey mentioned above ['In Jordan, Alhurra has a past-week audience of 23%. This is far lower than Al Jazeera’s 92% and Al Arabiya’s 78%. But 23% is a large audience for international broadcasting. Furthermore, Alhurra is (for now) ahead of the new BBC Arabic TV (at 12%) and well ahead of the other Arabic television services from non-Arab nations'], Radio Sawa has a past-week audience of 21%, well ahead of BBC Arabic radio and French-owned Radio Monte Carlo-Middle East, with 9% each.* The Radio Sawa newscasts and features, multiplied by all the people who listen to them, multiplied again by all the times they are heard over the years, result in the neutralization of a great deal of misinformation and disinformation from less salubrious sources. Bizarre? Well, yes, in the sense that U.S. international broadcasting now has double-digit audiences in, of all places, the Arab world, and larger than, of all stations, BBC World Service." Image from

Am I the only one who has an issue with this? - Leah Farrall, Australia, All Things Counter Terrorism: "A blog focussing on all things counter terrorism with an occasional foray into the world of insurgency This is a screen capture of this blog at the NYT…

I note the title 'At War' Then 'From the Arab Press' Then this: A look at discussions inside the Arab world, as played out on the front page of a major Arabic newspaper. Way to help public diplomacy efforts guys. I think I might actually be almost speechless." Image from article

Nigeria, US forms Partnership Drive - Senator Iroegbu, This Day: "Inline with the vision of the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), and Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation; Nigeria and United States of America (USA) have commenced efforts aimed at promoting sports tourism in the country. Both countries are going to share knowledge and jointly build a mutually beneficial relationship that would see more American tourists coming to Nigeria to watch and participate in traditional and contemporary sports and other related tourism activities in Nigeria. At a recent meeting with the members of the joint action committee of the National Sports Tourism Fiesta, Public Diplomacy Officer at the US Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Flynn described the idea of sports tourism as an innovative one that deserves all the support it could get."

GNP lawmaker named KOICA honorary envoyThe Korea Herald: "Rep. Hong Jung-wook of the ruling Grand National Party was appointed as an honorary public diplomacy envoy for the Korea International Cooperation Agency yesterday.

Hong, 39, a first-term Harvard-educated legislator, will take part in stressing the necessity and importance of grant-type aid projects with the state-run agency that aims to enhance global ties." Hong Jung-wook image from


The Neocons Make a Comeback - Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal: The neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away. A star may have shone in the east the day Barack Obama became president. But these three kings, at least, have yet to proffer the usual gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.

A conflict of deception - Cal Thomas, Washington Times: Memo to Mr. Obama: Radical, fundamentalist Muslims believe they have a religious duty to lie and deceive "infidels."

Time to Act Like a President - Richard Cohen, Washington Post: At last week's Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh the candidate-in-full commandeered the television networks and the leaders of Britain and France to give the Iranians a dramatic warning.

Yet another of their secret nuclear facilities had been revealed and Obama, as anyone could see, was determined to do something about it -- just don't ask what. The supposedly secret installation had been known to Western intelligence agencies -- Britain, France, the United States and undoubtedly Israel -- for several years. Image from

A Big Card To Play in Iran - Anne Applebaum, Washington Post: What do Iran's rulers truly fear? A sustained and well-funded human rights campaign must be a terrifying prospect.

U.S. Envoy's Outreach to Sudan Is Criticized as Naive - Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post: Top administration officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss a major review of the United States' Sudan policy. But even as that document is being finalized, U.S. diplomacy has remained mostly in the hands of Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, who is pushing toward normalized relations with the only country in the world led by a president indicted on war-crimes charges. Although Gration describes the approach as pragmatic and driven by a sense of urgency, his critics here and in the United States say it is dangerously, perhaps willfully, naïve.

Art of Persuasion exhibit in AOK library presents historically pertinent posters from then and now - Samantha Medema, Retriever: The Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery recently unveiled its newest exhibit, entitled "The Art of Persuasion: Poster Design From 1896 through 2008." The exhibit showcases popular and historical posters and silkscreen prints from around the world, and is largely composed of "selections [that] were drawn from UMBC's Special Collections as well as public and private collections," according to the library's website.

The posters in this exhibit are arranged to follow three themes, "Pleasure & Leisure, Politics & Propaganda, and Commercial Advertising." Some of the most familiar works of art are found within the "Politics & Propaganda" section, which includes pieces like the Uncle Sam "want[s] YOU for U.S. Army" poster, as well as a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama, with the words "Yes We Did" written in a banner across the top of the image. This group also includes several WWI and II posters, ranging from images promoting the Red Cross to a particularly shocking image of an arm clad in a Nazi uniform holding a knife through a Bible, entitled "This Is The Enemy." Foreign propaganda posters and images from the Vietnam War era are also housed within this group.

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28

"In many ways, human beings behave like flocks of birds or schools of fish."

--Nicholas Christakis, a physician and Harvard University sociologist who is co-author of a new book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives; image from


Has the US turned its back on democracy? - Stephen McInerney, The Daily Star, Lebanon: "Overall, the Obama administration has made some strong first steps toward renewing US relations with the Middle East, but its approach to supporting Arab reform is as of yet less clear.

On the one hand, the administration could be following a careful, thoughtful approach in which support for democratic reformers will follow progress on public diplomacy and other diplomatic priorities. Here, restored relationships with Arab governments will pave the way for cooperation on reform. On the other hand, we could instead be witnessing a longer-term downgrading of support for democracy, which would have dire consequences for citizens of Arab states. While the administration’s public rhetoric and its annual budget each offer some potential signs of support for Arab democracy, fears that the United States has abandoned the cause of Arab reformers will persist until US engagement spurs its autocratic allies to undertake visible, substantive steps toward reform." Image from

Let’s Get Real - Art Woodrow, Blogger News Network: "After World War II, the United States became the world policeman and benefactor. These roles have become counterproductive. Let’s get real; it’s time for other nations to take their proportionate share of these responsibilities. … $395 million Influence Foreign Opinion through Public Diplomacy $522 million Engage and Educate through Exchange Programs. … In spite of these huge expenditures, the United States is unloved."

American willingness to engage - The Slovak Spectator:

"The Slovak Spectator spoke to the Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Bratislava [Keith Eddins] not only about press freedom but also about the recently announced change in the US missile defence plans, foreign aid and its outcomes, visa-free travel, and the widely discussed fee for US-bound travellers that the US is considering. [Eddins:] [N]o public anywhere in the world has sufficient understanding of foreign aid. The American public is notorious in having an impression that we spend 25 or even 30 percent of our government budget on foreign aid, when we spend a fraction of that. Governments need to explain through public diplomacy that foreign aid is an important tool to support stability in regions in need." Engagement ring image from

New report recommends improved ties with Cuba - Tracey Eaton, Along the Malecón: "The author of the CSIS report is Peter DeShazo, former director of the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs."

Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations [Review of Daryl Copeland, Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009] - Peter R. Beckman, American Diplomacy: "As for GD or guerrilla diplomacy--that turns out to be PD [public diplomacy] kicked up a notch, a 'sharper, faster, lighter' version of PD. … [W]hat Copeland’s analysis

really needs is a presentation of PD and GD at work, with extensive case studies--or if those are too sensitive (or unavailable), then with extensive fictional illustrations of what PD and GD might look like on the ground and how the results might feed into policy formulation and implementation, or into building a persuasive brand." Copeland image from

MDC-T trying to re-write history - Nyasha Marunda, The Zimbabwe Guardian: "The art of public diplomacy goes back a long way, as the old expression 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' shows us. Disguise something bad or give it a cuddly name and by the time people find out it has fangs, it may be too late."


Borat vs. Murat - Mitchell Polman, Mediaite: "It’s time for those who care about America, especially those who produce documentaries, to turn their talents to making it possible for private sector initiatives to educate and inform overseas audiences about who we really are as a people.

We speak a great deal in this country about the need for people to not always rely on our government. We should not be relying on the American government to do the job of telling our country’s story." Image from

Rank appeasement? 'Diplomatic engagement' is the tack - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times: Poland and the Czech Republic, some pundits say, feel abandoned by the United States as a result of Mr. Obama's decision. Wrong. Both Prague and Warsaw had been expecting Mr. Obama's decision since he won the presidency. Mr. Obama has opted for diplomatic engagement, so-called smart power, or a blend of soft and hard power. But the ranks of his detractors grow daily.

Obama the Gambler: Betting That Machismo Is Not Foreign Policy - Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post:

Obama's outreach to the world is an experiment, and not merely to see if the world will respond. He wants to demonstrate at home that engagement does not make America weak. Image from

Obama can't downsize to success in Afghanistan: The president appears to be dragging his feet on more troops for the struggle, but that's what an effective counterinsurgency strategy requires - Max Boot, We do not have to create 'Jeffersonian democracy' in Afghanistan. But we do have to keep it from becoming a terrorist haven. The only way to achieve that minimal objective is with a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy.

How to win: Classic counterinsurgency - Oliver North, Washington Times: Here's the bottom line, based on months in the field with U.S. and NATO troops and Afghanistan's fledgling security forces: This is a fight we can - and must - win. It is a classical counterinsurgency campaign - not rocket science.

Testing Afghanistan Assumptions: The lesson of Vietnam is don't commit troops without a clear strategy - John Kerry, Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Obama promises not to send more troops to Afghanistan until he has absolute clarity on what the strategy will be. He is right to take the time he needs to define the mission. We should all follow his lead and debate all of the options. Image from

A War President? - Ross Douthat, New York Times: If Obama takes us deeper into a conflict for which he doesn’t really have the stomach, then the outcome will almost certainly be tragic — for him, for us, and for Afghanistan.

Keeping Iran honest: Iran's secret nuclear plant will spark a new round of IAEA inspections and lead to a period of even greater transparency - Scott Ritter, When Obama announced that 'Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow', he is technically and legally wrong.

There Are Only Two Choices Left on Iran: An Israeli or U.S. military strike now, or a nuclear Tehran soon - Eliot A. Cohen, Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. government has hoped for a middle course of sanctions, negotiations and bargaining that would remove the problem without the ugly consequences. This is self-delusion. It is in the American interest to break with past policy and actively seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Not by invasion, which this administration would not contemplate and could not execute, but through every instrument of U.S. power, soft more than hard. Image from

The U.S.-Iranian Triangle - Roger Cohen, New York Times: Isolated, nuclear negotiations will fail. Integrated, they may not. Iran’s sense of humiliation is rooted in its America complex; its nuclear program is above all about the restoration of pride. Settle the complex to contain the program. Triangulate. Think broad. Think E.U., not Versailles.

Propaganda campaign meant to marginalize Iran ahead of nuclear talk - Tehran Times: TEHRAN -- Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani says that the new propaganda campaign about Iran’s nuclear activities was launched by the West to help them impose their will on the Islamic Republic during the upcoming talks between Iran and the 5+1 group.

Burma Review: A new Obama administration policy is promising but incomplete – Editorial, Washington Post

What We Can't Conquer, We Buy - Siv O'Neall, OpEdNews: The policies of the United States from the very beginning of the colonial days down through the centuries of heedless murder and takeover of lands belonging to foreign countries and to native Americans have always been greedy, callous and self-righteous.

The people in power decide that their country has to go to war for conquest and increased power, wars to dominate, to oppress, to minimize people who are different from us. And the ‘enemy', the people who are sacrificed on the altar of greed, are always depicted as inferior, as barely human. The propaganda machine gets turned on and the ‘Gooks', the ‘terrorists' or whatever name they may have been labeled with, are now seen as not really worth humane treatment. The death of a ‘Gook' or the suffering of a ‘terrorist' is of no importance. The term ‘collateral damage' for the deaths of civilians in the enemy country is a clear sign that those uncivilized people are of no importance. Image from

The El Paso Museum of Art announces Recycle/Reuse: WWII Propaganda Prints - Newspaper Tree: Recycle / Reuse: WWII Propaganda Prints examines the vintage concept of recycling as depicted in World War II posters. This exhibition is open to the public September 27, 2009 through March 2, 2010 in the Gateway Gallery at the El Paso Museum of Art. This exhibition is free to the public. Related merchandise is available for purchase in the Museum Store.


“Per person, the world's leading potato eaters are in Belarus.”

-- Associated Press, “International Research Team Cracks Potato Genome,” New York Times; image from

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 27

“Question: Why do WASPs not engage in more orgies? Answer: Too many thank-you notes to write.”

--Francine Du Plessix Gray, in her review of Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor by Tad Friend; image from article


Perhaps a record for the amount of misinformation packed into two sentences - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: "'The State Department has been reluctant to push for more funding for democracy promotion in Iran. Nor have the organs of U.S. public diplomacy, such as the Voice of America, made a concerted effort to encourage democratic change.'" Lawrence J. Haas, The North Star National, 25 September 2009. [Comment by Elliott:] The Voice of America and other elements are not 'organs of U.S. public diplomacy.'

And, as news organizations, they do not 'encourage democratic ch[a]nge.' Instead, they overcome the misinformation and disinformation from Iranian official domestic media, providing Iranians the information they need to form their own opinions about current events. This is an essential building block in the development of democracy. As for 'concerted effort,' VOA's Persian News Network has, with
the addition of a two-hour breakfast show, increased to seven hours per day of original television content, repeated over 24 hours. VOA PNN radio is five hours per day (5 1/2 according to this schedule). RFE/RL's Radio Farda is 24 hours a day. Also, the official US public-diplomacy product is available at Can't get much more 'concerted' than that." Image from

Foreign languages more foreign to US students - Associated Press, Canton Repository: "American companies lose an estimated $2 billion each year because of employees’ inadequate language skills and poor cultural competence, according to the Committee for Economic Development in Washington, D.C. 'It’s always been a good thing to know more about the world and to speak another language, but now it’s become an issue of our economic security, our national security and our public diplomacy,' says committee President Charles Kolb. 'Speaking a second language gives our young people an edge in terms of the competition we’re facing around the globe. Believe me, you win kudos if you’re negotiating in another country and you’re fluent in that language.'”

The Return of Victor Ashe - Roane County Democratic Party: "Victor Ashe, who served 16 years as mayor of Knoxville, ended a stint of more than five years as ambassador to Poland on Friday and is returning to his home town. …

[Ashe:] My time as Mayor gave me a good foundation and framework to understand the politics, public diplomacy, personal relationships, public relations and the need to reach out to all segments of the Polish society I encountered while Ambassador." Ashe image from

Play Fair - James Hayes-Bohanan, Environmental Geography: "Coffee is not the only industry that treats its producers unfairly. Dean Cycon is supporting fair trade in manufacturing -- something that the world could use much more of. By supporting a fair-trade factory in Pakistan, Dean is also doing a critical bit of public diplomacy. The more good will that is spread in this critical part of the world, the better."

What a long, strange week it's been

– Paul Rockower, Levantine: Numerous references to Rockower's public-diplomacy related academic pursuits. Image from

The British press' Obama complex - Kenneth P. Vogel, NBC Miami: "Stories about the special [U.S./UK] relationship … have been a staple of British media since the Cold War and have shaped the way Brits see the world, said Nicholas Cull, a U.K. native who directs the masters program in public diplomacy at the University of Southern California. 'British people come here and they’re surprised that America has special relationships with a lot of countries,' he said. 'It’s rather like finding out that you’re father is a bigamist. I found it to be a very strange experience to find that the story that I’d heard growing up wasn’t necessarily so.'”

China according to The Global Times - Madhurjya Kotoky, The Public Diplomacy Blog: "I read the Global Times fairly regularly. I find it an interesting public diplomacy initiative of the Chinese. The Global Times,

the Chinese say, is an attempt to promote an 'accurate' image of China abroad since international reporting, especially the Western media, on China is often flawed, lacking in understanding of China and the Chinese culture. Almost Al-Jazeera like, its an attempt to get a share of voice in a world dominated by Western media conglomerates and present the Chinese viewpoint on important developments. Intended for an international audience/readership, the Global Times also tries to allay fears of a resurgent China threatening to disturb the present international order." Image from

Public diplomacy and social media – the dissertation - abeccacaddy, little online pick 'n' mix: "Basically my dissertation aimed to analyse Israeli use of social media after Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli military operation at the end of 2008. I began by looking at a broad spectrum, but narrowed the research down to the efforts of the Israel Consulate in New York – who generated a lot of on and offline buzz by holding a ‘citizen’s press conference’ on Twitter. I focused on the @IsraelConsulate Twitter account, blog and Israel Politik blog. I found that the Israel Consulate’s use of social media was a bold, brave step in the right direction, utilising some vital conventions and paving the way for public diplomacy in this relatively new space. However, some of the blogs simply acted as news feeds, pulling in biased information from different sources with little consideration of feedback and engagement. The ‘citizen’s press conference’ seemed impressive, with a lot of direct engagement between the consulate and Twitter users across the globe. However, elements of the event showed how inadequate Twitter can be to communicate in this manner with sensitive and often confusing information."


Cuba's Mega–Rock Concert: A Win-Win for Juanes - Tim Padgett, Time: "President Obama has pledged to thaw U.S.-Cuba affairs as a way to promote democracy on the island. Though he favors keeping intact the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, he eliminated restrictions on travel to Cuba for Cuban-American families, and his Administration is now in talks with Havana about improving immigration and postal service between the two countries. Erikson says the concert by Juanes, who lives in Miami,

was a reminder of the 'soft power tool kit' the U.S. should wield more often. 'Obama needs to bring more of that kind of cultural diplomacy back into the arena,' he says, 'but so far it's taking a backseat.' Obama, however, seems less than impressed with such arguments. Sunday morning, in an interview with the Spanish-language television network Univisión, he said that while he didn't think events like the Juanes concert hurt U.S.-Cuba relations, 'I wouldn't overstate the degree that it helps.' If that indifference seems to contradict the spirit of U.S.-Cuba engagement that Obama expressed in his presidential campaign and at the Summit of the Americas earlier this year, it may be because he's found that conservatives can still give him headaches over Cuba and the Latin-American left." See also. Image (from article) Singer Juanes of Colombia performs during the concert for Peace Without Borders, featuring some 15 Latin-American, Spanish and Cuban performers, at the Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, on Sept. 20, 2009

How Helpful Is Cultural Diplomacy? – Michael Kaiser, Huffington Post: "[W]hile some American embassies abroad have been active in bringing American artists and arts groups to 'their' countries in recent years, this is still a very minor activity of the Department of State. But does traditional cultural diplomacy work? Do we need state-supported tours by American performing arts groups when without federal funding so many of our performers and performing arts groups are appearing all over the world [?] … My response, not popular with my peers running arts organizations across the United States, is no. …

But that does not mean that cultural diplomacy should be discarded. … Given our reliance on private funding, Americans have a great deal to teach abroad. We can teach how we build sponsorship by corporations and especially individuals. We can teach how we use marketing to expand the reach of our arts organizations. We can teach the importance of long-term program planning for building new sources of support. I have been pursuing this form of cultural diplomacy for six years, and have now taught arts managers in 60 countries. … While the Kennedy Center's international work is privately funded, maybe the State Department could support a program that allows other American arts organizations to teach abroad. (The money saved could be given to arts organizations to invest in programming, marketing and touring.)" Image from

David Pogue on Twitter as a tool of cultural diplomacy - Gina Chen, Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard: "Can Twitter be a tool of cultural diplomacy? That was the heady topic David Pogue, New York Times technology columnist and CBS News tech correspondent, addressed Monday during a symposium at Syracuse University. He was part of a panel trying to figure out how to transcend conflict through culture.

Now, the way I understood it, cultural diplomacy is just a million-dollar term for a rather simple concept: Sharing culture through the arts, music, etc., as a means to help all of us who live on this earth get along. Pogue explained that Twitter could be part of this because it has the potential to cut out the traditional separations between groups of people. … Panelist Marjane Satrapi, author and illustrator of the Persepolis graphic novels, urged that Twitter is 'too fast and furious' to do the slow work of cultural diplomacy. But I agree with what Pogue was saying." Pogue image from article.

Women's rights prove to be progressive everywhere - Krystie Yandoli, The Daily Orange: "[Marjane] Satrapi is the author of the famous, autobiographical graphic novel series, 'Persepolis.' It is the story of a young female growing up in Iran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution and Iran-Iraq war. The main character, Marji, takes us through her daily life with illustrations that are often more powerful than the actual words on the page. Satrapi came and spoke as part of a panel at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in as a part of The Cultural Diplomacy Symposium, specifically on the United Nations' International Day of Peace yesterday."

MetroStar Systems Announces the X-Life Games "Who Am I?" Poetry ContestNews Blaze: "MetroStar Systems, a leader in full-service IT solutions and Social Media strategies, has announced a Poetry Contest dubbed, 'Who Am I?' in support of their already popular and renowned X-Life Games project. The contest, which started September 14 and ends October 20, will be orchestrated through the existing X-Life Games Facebook Fan Page. The concept of cultural diplomacy is a key initiative of the X-Life Games mission.

The contest encourages participants to be creative and express themselves by composing and submitting a poem that describes 'who they are' while sharing ideas of tolerance and respect for other cultures, societies, and environments around the world." Image from

The Embassy: A Multi-Disciplinary Group Show will be Held during Frieze Art Fair - "LONDON.- The Embassy is a multi-disciplinary group show being held during Frieze Art Fair. A parody of outmoded cultural diplomacy, The Embassy is that of an anonymous country, a dystopia whose tyrannical government has tested the patience of its people and brought them to tipping point. Less than 100 metres from Regents Park, the BBC headquarters and opposite the Chinese Embassy, The Embassy will take place at the former residence of the Sierra Leonean ambassador to Britain, 33 Portland Place. As the Internet allows the art, culture and news reportage of countries to become ever more accessible to each other, what were once bastions of this exchange – the embassies of countries wishing to create a dialogue with their host nation – now retreat behind metres of concrete, becoming fortresses of espionage. Globalisation has rendered the sometime patronising kind of cultural exchange once conducted by embassies dated. Yet, occupying a privileged position apart from their host nation – indeed, retaining their sovereignty in a foreign land – these buildings and their interiors provide a revealing glimpse of how a country chooses to represent itself abroad. The Embassy tells the story of a deposed diplomat representing a government that has just been overthrown at home. A pastiche of the manner in which embassies promote their country’s culture abroad and set across the two floors of 33 Portland Place, works from over 15 artists will speak of themes relevant to the mismanagement of a country – greed, egotism, repression, theocracy, malnutrition, gluttony, tyranny, currency, geography and sex – because the dictator always gets the best lines. … A mixture of painting, sculpture and installation, works featured in The Embassy include a national anthem by the pianist Rosie Chan, a presidential palace built from mud by Alastair Mackie,

an emblem by Tom Gallant and straitjackets made from reconfigured military uniforms by Michael Lisle-Taylor. Image (from article): Alastair, Mackie Mud-hut."

Let's Beat the Extremists Like We Beat the Soviets - Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Post: "During the Cold War, containment did not preclude engagement, and it shouldn't today. To the extent that the United States can encourage liberalizing tendencies in the Islamic world, it should do so -- albeit with modest expectations. Sending jazz musicians deep into the Eastern Bloc in the old days was commendable, but Louis Armstrong's trumpet didn't topple the Soviet empire."


Brand Ghana CEO to speak at Branding Africa Masterclass - - Mathias Akotia, announced as the CEO of the newly formed Brand Ghana office, will provide the opening keynote presentation at the Nation Branding Africa Masterclass event in Ghana next week.

The Brand Ghana office was launched on 16 September 2009 by the President of Ghana, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, to build a “compelling image for Ghana”. Akotia has stressed that, whilst appointed by the Government, his vision is to evolve Brand Ghana as a non-partisan, non-political entity owned by Ghanaians. The Nation Branding Africa Masterclass will be led by Simon Anholt, a leading expert on managing and measuring national identity and reputation. Via. Image from

McChrystal Says Insurgents Are Winning Communications Battle - Walter Pincus, Washington Post: The United States and its allies in Afghanistan must "wrest the information initiative" from the Taliban and other insurgent groups that have undermined the credibility of the Kabul government and its international backers, according to the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country. "The information domain is a battlespace," Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wrote in an assessment made public on Monday, adding that the allies need to "take aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception." As an initial step, McChrystal wants to change the goal of public relations efforts in Afghanistan from a "struggle for the 'hearts and minds' of the Afghan population to one of giving them 'trust and confidence' " in themselves and their government. At the same time, he said, more effort should be made to "discredit and diminish insurgents and their extremist allies' capability to influence attitudes and behavior in Afghanistan." Below image from

Go All-In, Or Fold: In Afghanistan, Splitting the Difference May Be Obama's Most Dangerous Choice - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post: All the options Obama faces in Afghanistan are unpalatable. The idea of sending thousands more troops will be a tough sell to Congress. Pulling back to a far more narrow mission could open Obama to charges of flip-flopping -- he told veterans as recently as last month that the conflict in Afghanistan is a "war of necessity" that is fundamental to American security.

Obama's choice in Afghanistan: With support for the war slipping, the president must decide whether a counterinsurgency strategy involving more troops is the way to win - Doyle McManus, Obama may well give the generals the 12 to 18 months they've asked for to give counterinsurgency a try. That's probably the right answer, but he should do so only if Afghanistan has a working government first.

Obama at the Precipice - Frank Rich, New York Times: How can American forces protect the population, let alone help build a functioning nation, in a tribal narco-state consisting of some 40,000 mostly rural villages over an area larger than California and New York combined? Even if we routed the Taliban in another decade or two, after countless casualties and billions of dollars, how would that stop Al Qaeda from coalescing in Somalia or some other criminal host state?

Obama's A-Team:

Remarkable Cohesion on National Security
- David S. Broder, Washington Post: Official Washington is starting to realize that in addition to his personal skills, Obama has assembled a highly professional and effective national security team that serves him and the nation very well. … What got me thinking about the skill with which this team has functioned was the Sept. 17 announcement that the United States was abandoning its plans for anti-missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and, instead of targeting long-range Iranian missiles, would use seaborne weapons to combat Iran's short-range missiles. A-Team image by djhomicide from

Beware of Iranians Bearing Talks - Ray Takeyh, Washington Post: Ahmadinejad should not be afforded the luxury of international forums and dialogue with the great powers without being held accountable for his country's flawed electoral processes and its entanglements in terrorism, as well as its nuclear violations.

Nuclear Pushback - Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: The Obama White House has made the president's personal popularity and the need to change America's image the driving forces of its foreign policy. It needs to show some substantive results for that effort. Otherwise more Americans will join foreign analysts in asking the question that politicians and PR practitioners most fear: "Where's the beef?"

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Obama's nuclear-free fantasy: Mr. Obama Punts . . .. . . And the left cheers as the president embraces what it once decried as a lawless detention scheme – Editorial, Washington Post: The Obama administration announced last week that it did not need and would not seek new legislation to govern indefinite detention of some terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In so doing, the administration has chosen the politically expedient and intellectually dishonest route.

Strategic realities trump feel-good slogans – Editorial, Washington Times: If nuclear arms are outlawed, only outlaws will have nuclear arms.

Combative cartoons: Samples from the forthcoming book "Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War" - Andre Schiffrin, Los Angeles Times: The forthcoming "Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War" offers the work of many others who became famous in the New Yorker magazine and elsewhere.

Along with columnists such as I.F. Stone and Max Lerner, they pointedly showed the concerns of the American left before and during the war. The biggest surprise in the new compilation is the nearly 50 cartoons by artist Saul Steinberg -- he of the famous cover for the New Yorker showing the rest of the United States seen from Manhattan. Steinberg had been drafted into the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor. His talents were soon recognized, and he was asked to draw cartoons for the newspaper that the OSS sent into Germany. Making fun of Hitler was unthinkable and highly dangerous in Nazi Germany. Steinberg's cartoons, published in the new book -- amazingly for the first time in the United States -- show his brilliant satire and political insights.