Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21

"The Americans control what they see."

--One Afghan in Kandahar; image from

"Parents, but especially mothers, are the ultimate propagandists."

--seawolf77, a reader of The Huffington Post


Culture's Purpose and the Work of Cultural Diplomacy:

Hosted by the International Communication Program of American University’s School of International Service, and with the co-sponsorship of the Public Diplomacy Council, this 1-day conference takes place November 5th (12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.) on the AU campus and explores a fundamental question: What is the role of “culture” in the work of cultural diplomacy? Image from announcement


Joe Biden's Fence-Mending Mission: Re-Open the Visa Waiver Program - Helle C. Dale, Jena Baker McNeill, "At a time when Russia is resurgent and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe feel keenly exposed, a closer military relationship with the U.S. is of critical importance for them.

Accordingly, there was a great sense of letdown when President Obama announced that the third site was off, with very little prior warning to the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic. In terms of both policy and U.S. public diplomacy, the whole situation has been very poorly handled by Washington. … Central and Eastern Europe now register the lowest scores among European nations in public opinion polling of attitudes toward the United States. … Vice President Biden should use his time abroad to reaffirm an American commitment to Central and Eastern Europe. And when he returns, he should take a leadership role inside the United States--pushing the Administration and Congress to continue VWP growth and maturation." See also: Poland to Accept U.S. Offer on Shield - Judy Dempsey, New York Times. Image from

Obama’s foreign policy decisions and U.S. mediaOpinia.US: "[R]ecent public diplomacy disasters caused by President Obama’s questionable judgement — where was Judith McHale and the State Department diplomats? — had some unexpected good consequences, as did the winning of the Nobel Peace Prize despite his lack of any concrete foreign policy accomplishments. Some of his recent foreign policy decisions that were particularly ill-advised finally prompted the liberal media in the U.S. to start doing some critical reporting, albeit still far too limited, and may have forced President Obama himself to start questioning his own thinking about the realities of international politics. When the president chose to make his announcement of canceling the Bush Administration missile defense plans in Central Europe on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, both The New York Times and The Washington Post published op-eds criticizing his lack of historical sensitivity in dealing with U.S. allies and his handling of other foreign policy isues. This level of criticism of President Obama has not been seen before in liberal U.S. media."

Bond to Obama: No more delays, no more excuses on Afghanistan - Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star:

"Missouri Sen. Kit Bond had some pointed words today for President Obama when it comes to Afghanistan. … In addition to the devastating long-term impact of delay, the lack of resolve in Washington is a public diplomacy disaster now in Afghanistan. The senator pointed out that while the people of Afghanistan are rightly questioning whether the United States is going to abandon them, the terrorists are emboldened by the hope that they can just wait us out." Image from

'Is Obama Punting on Human Rights?': Roger Pilon, "The promotion of human rights starts at home, with allowing people to plan and live their own lives, not with vast public programs that compel people to live under government planning. And in foreign affairs it requires both private and public diplomacy, quiet and not-so-quiet attention to the conditions that give rise to human rights abuses. That doesn’t mean military intervention to change those conditions. But neither does it mean remaining silent, as the Obama administration too often has." See also.

Web 2.0 Roundup: US Embassy London - Domani Spero, Diplopundit: "This one from the recent OIG report on US Embassy London: 'PAS [Public Affairs Section] is now 'tweeting,' but is not yet utilizing Facebook. A first effort at a Facebook page was taken down while its use and content are being reevaluated.

These new media, especially the social networks, work best when they can be personalized. While ELOs [English Language Officers] might have the right skill set to do so, they have not been keen to take on the additional workload without adjustments to their regular responsibilities. In addition, both the front office and the Department have concerns regarding the control of the message in these new media products. The Department recently issued a telegram raising the complicated issue of using and managing social media for public diplomacy. Balancing the desire to control the message against the speed at which content changes on these networks is difficult. Some proponents of social networking fear that tilting the balance too much in favor of control will render its use too sluggish." Image from

How Helpful Is Cultural Diplomacy? Very Helpful! - Margaret C. Ayers, Huffington Post: "In 2007, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Asia Society and the Center for Dialogues at NYU to help support an Islamic Festival accompanied by an academic conference in New York City in the spring of 2009. … Recognizing the power of art to bridge cultural divides locally and internationally, it was our expectation that the Festival would serve as a significant demonstration of the power of art as a tool of public diplomacy. … Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas exemplifies how cultural exchange can promote dialogue that elevates discussion and understanding of our shared aspirations. By any standard this undertaking has been a magnificent success creating fissures in the hard lines of the landscape between the Muslim World and the West."

US Strategic Avoidance - Julkipli Wadi, Minda News: ‎ "A day or two after the death of two U.S soldiers in Indanan, Sulu, the U.S Embassy’s website in Manila was careful not to reveal the identities of the fallen soldiers by simply saying that 'names are being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.' … Since the launching of public diplomacy in the Muslim world after 9/11, the White House and its tentacles have been vigorous in reaching out to every Muslim community including extending such greetings like Eidu l-fitr. For instance, the statements of U.S President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Muslims in the United States and around the world on the occasion of Eidu l-fitr have long been posted in the said website.

Yet, except for pictures of the Embassy’s development assistance engagement in Mindanao and Sulu, there were no statements issued on the tragic bombing of Muslim devotees by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during the Eidu l-fitr prayer at Kagay, in Indanan, that precipitated the death of two U.S soldiers and subsequently triggered heavy fighting in the province." Image: Malacanang has declared Sept 21, 2009 as a national holiday in observance of Eid’l Fitr (festival of breaking fast) which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Key Figure in AIPAC Spy Scandal Interrupts Sentence to Call for Regime Change in Iran - Joshua Holland, AlterNet: "Larry Franklin -- the former defense official who pled guilty to 3 counts of criminal conspiracy for handing classified documents to Israeli officials and representatives of AIPAC -- arguing for regime change in Iran in the prestigious pages of Foreign Policy magazine. … [Franklin advocates] a bundle of 'public diplomacy' -- because our propaganda efforts in the region have been wildly successful so far. And a US-backed, neocon-approved government in exile -- because that worked so well with Iraq. I guess we can credit him with having the sanity to oppose a military strike.”

Winning the Long War - "Berman's chapter [Ilan Berman, 'Winning the Long War: Retaking the Offensive Against Radical Islam' titled 'Messaging to the (Muslim) Masses'] is a damning, and convincing, indictment of US public diplomacy in the Islamic world.

He argues that, 'Nearly eight years into the fight, America still lacks anything remotely resembling a coherent strategy for competing on the Muslim world's intellectual battlefields. And without one, it has steadily ceded the strategic initiative to its adversaries, who do.' Unlike in the Cold War period, relatively little money is spent on public diplomacy, particularly for Muslim-majority countries—Berman gives figures of $1.15 billion for total public diplomacy spending, and '$154 million... for public outreach toward the Middle East, the principal theater of operations in the struggle against radical Islam.'" Image from

Israeli Designers Dazzleat First LA Fashion Week Appearance - Dikla Kadosh, The Jewish Journal of greater L.A. - "The hot ticket in town last week was the local debut of Israel’s burgeoning fashion industry at Downtown L.A. Fashion Week. … Shahar Azani, who serves as [Israel’s] consul for media, culture and public diplomacy, said the LA consulate has long wanted to organize an Israeli fashion show."

The Report - Ari Bussel, Doc’s Talk: "On Tuesday, October 20, 2009, a Ministerial Committee on National Security convened for the first time in Israel to discuss the implications of the Goldstone Report recently adopted by the UN Human Rights Council. …

A minority sounded the alarm, claiming that Israel is failing in its public diplomacy efforts. Those who thought differently then and still believe Israel should not and cannot be held responsible should take a few steps aside and spend a few minutes reading the Goldstone Report. Dismissing it as well will not work this time around, the next stumbling block is a few feet ahead." Goldstone image from

China at the Frankfurt Book Fair: public diplomacy with a plot twist - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy

Seoul Yet to Become Global City - Na Jeong-ju, Korea Times: "Despite a series of ambitious projects, Seoul has a long way to go before it has a high profile internationally, according to a British expert on brand Management.

'Seoul should have a clear, visionary and long-term strategy to become an attractive global city,'' Simon Anholt told The Korea Times. … As a member of the UK Foreign Office's Public Diplomacy Board, Anholt has advised the governments of some 30 countries." Image from

Kyrgyz University administrators visit Great Oaks - Times of Central Asia (subscription only; entry from Google): "The broad public diplomacy goals of Community Connections are to advance democratic and free-market principles and to promote mutual understanding."

Armenia: Yerevan Counts On Bank To Strengthen Ties With Diaspora - Haroutiun Khachatrian, EurasiaNet: "President Sargyan’s administration is striving to strengthen the government’s relationship with diaspora communities by expanding the Ministry of the Diaspora in Yerevan.

Although the government’s overall state budget is set to shrink by roughly 10 percent in 2010 -- due to the negative impact of the global economic crisis -- the Ministry of the Diaspora is expected to see its allocation more than double to $630,000. The 100-employee-strong ministry, set up in October 2008, focuses on public diplomacy with Armenia’s diaspora." Sargyan image from

Democracy in Action-Crisis in Iran - Sayeh Hassan, Shiro_Khorshid: "Get tips on harnessing the power of the grassroots from Noam Katz, Minister Public Diplomacy, Embassy of Israel, Washington, D.C."

Blog XXX: The History Ph.D. as a Foregin Service Officer - Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, In The Service Of Clio:

Historian Aaron P. Forsberg: "When registering for the Foreign Service exam you must specify what "career track" you prefer (political, economic, public diplomacy, management or consular), but you will not always serve in that career track." Clio image from


The Afghanistan problem: The huge cultural misunderstandings between Western forces and the Afghan people make it unlikely any counterinsurgency mission in the countryside will succeed - Gilles Dorronsoro, The cultural misunderstandings between the Pashtuns and Western forces provide fodder for the Taliban. Its members have capitalized on Afghans' natural distrust of outsiders to propagate conspiracy theories, including the claim that the Americans are helping the Taliban to give themselves an excuse to stay in the country and exploit its natural resources.Even the U.S. attempts at soft power are largely failing.

Same old mistakes in new Afghan war: Soviet military archives show latest international intervention in Afghanistan has learnt nothing from the war two decades ago - Peter Beaumont, Guardian:

Just as US and Nato forces would struggle after the new Taliban insurgency to prevent fighters returning to areas already cleared, the Russians suffered a similar problem while officers complained about the quality of their Afghan army comrades. Soviet officials complain of not being able to win on the battlefield decisively and of losing the "propaganda war". Recently US envoy Richard Holbrooke and McChrystal have talked of the need "to wrest the information initiative from the Taliban and other groups." Image from

Mr. Karzai Relents – Editorial, New York Times: We have watched as American officials debate military strategy for Afghanistan. They need to devote at least as much attention to coming up with an effective political strategy. The lesson of the stolen election is clear: Nothing in Afghanistan can be taken for granted. (Like many, we wonder what happened to Mr. Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who established a bureaucratic fiefdom at the State Department but has been neither seen nor heard from during this critical period.) For a Serbian’s view of Holbrooke, see. See also John Brown, "Richard Holbrooke: Able and Insufferable," Huffington Post.

Afpak Progress: Our allies move, even as Obama wavers – Review & Outlook, Wall Street Journal: The predictions of doom in Afghanistan and Pakistan are as misplaced there as they were in Iraq, as events in the last week show. Afghanistan yesterday demonstrated political maturity by moving to resolve a dispute over a fraudulent election. On Sunday, Pakistan's military launched an offensive against the Islamist sanctuary in the mountainous tribal region of South Waziristan

Evening the Score in Afghanistan: Revenge is a just motive for finishing a war they started - Thane Rosenbaum, Wall Street Journal: There are actually two ground zeros: one in lower Manhattan, and the other symbolically located in Afghanistan, where the demonic aspirations of al Qaeda were bred and where bin Laden may still be. Whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan or some other dark and murderous corner of the world, America simply cannot abandon the obligation of evening this score. Justice demands no less.

Taliban Build Multi-Million Dollar Insurgent Operation, Complicating U.S. Efforts Official assessments, analysts' estimates and published reports show that the Taliban are generating up to a half billion dollars or more in annual revenue. They paint a picture of a complex organization that operates not just like a business, but also by turns a political campaign and Mafia-like thugocracy - The Taliban do have a system for incentive pay, as the soldiers get bonuses -- double or triple pay -- for planting improvised explosive devices. Malou Innocent, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said a "great deal" of money also goes toward propaganda in the form of videos and Web sites.

Taliban’s War on Pakistan: Lessons to Learn, Options to Pursue - Walid Phares, Family Security Matters:

The Obama Administration must help Zardari’s government discretely and at the demand of the latter. U.S. and Pakistani leaders should coordinate efforts without exposing this cooperation to jihadist propaganda. Image from

Taliban Creates Its Own YouTube Channel - Glynnis MacNicol, Mediaite

Striking Taliban's Center of Gravity - Muhammad Bilal Iftikhar Khan, Ground Report: Information / Propaganda field: Pakistan can only win this war by winning hearts and minds of Public. This is a war in which victory is only possible when whole nation stands by the government.

Number of Iraq attacks drops 85% - Jim Michaels, USA TODAY: The number of attacks in Iraq has dropped 85% over the past two years, the top U.S. commander testified Wednesday before a Congressional panel. Gen. Ray Odierno said security has continued to improve in the three months since American forces withdrew from cities as part of a agreement to remove all American forces by the end of 2011.

Mullah's stealth war - James Zumwalt, Washington Times: Iran has been described as an octopus with tentacles reaching out to different parts of the world, inflicting acts of violence. But the international community's reluctance to retaliate against Iran only emboldens the octopus to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

The clock is ticking: The White House and Congress can still do right by the Uighurs – Editorial, Washington Post: The Bush administration determined -- in some cases as long as six years ago -- that the Uighurs were not America's enemies; a federal judge ordered all of them released last October. But some remain in captivity. Congress, with breathtaking cowardice and hypocrisy, has blocked any of these 17 detainees from being freed into the United States.

Obama's Sudan policy: 'incentives and pressure' The U.S. is seeking to engage Khartoum in efforts to bring peace to Darfur and deny terrorists a haven – Editorial, President Obama's Sudan strategy, announced this week, is consistent with his approach to foreign policy elsewhere: Engage, don't isolate. Hold out carrots, but hang on to the sticks. And, quite often, seek the middle ground.

Foreign Exchange - Indonesia vs. Malaysia: a cultural war: The neighboring nations are engaged in a tense struggle for superiority, and the rift is widening: It's cultural, it's political and, recently, it's gotten personal - John M. Glionna, A fresh skirmish of the culture wars breaks out now and then when Indonesians claim Malaysians have yet again plagiarized their indigenous art and music.

Image (from article): Uni Histayanti, the owner of the Sampan Bujuna Sentra Dance Theater in Jakarta, Indonesia, renders music from a set of bamboo chimes. Indonesians are up in arms by what they perceive as an attempt by neighboring Malaysia to steal their cultural heritage. One nationalist youth group has even began collecting signatures on the Internet for volunteers willing to go to war with Malaysia.


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