Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February 24

“Exaggeration I could deal with. Falsification I couldn’t.”

-- Whirled View editor and diplomat Patricia Lee Sharpe, reminiscing about her days as a young advertising copywriter; image from


Thinking Alike on Avatar - John Brown, Notes & Essays


KieranTimberlake chosen to build 'modern, open' U.S. Embassy in London - Philip Kennicott, Washington Post: "The State Department has announced that a Philadelphia-based architecture firm has won the closely watched competition to design the new U.S. Embassy in London. KieranTimberlake, which also designed an innovative and environmentally sustainable structure for Washington's Sidwell Friends School, beat out three other major architectural firms. The design calls for a secure and environmentally efficient glass cube set atop a colonnade in a landscape with a pond and pathways open to the public. Speaking from London, architect James Timberlake called it 'an urban building in an urban park.' ... Design drawings show a cube that shimmers and dissolves in muted rhythms both vertically and horizontally. The spiraling landscape continues as a motif inside the building, culminating in the 'ever more focused, secure and enclosed center atop the structure.' Jane Loeffler, author of 'The Architecture of Diplomacy,' a history of U.S. embassy facilities, praised the selection." Below image: The American Embassy in London: The winning design by KieranTimberlake is a glass cube in a parklike defensive fortification.

A New Fort, er, Embassy, for London - Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times: "The State Department’s announcement on Tuesday that it had selected a design by the Philadelphia firm KieranTimberlake for its new embassy in London was not exactly uplifting news. The proposed building — a bland glass cube clad in an overly elaborate, quiltlike scrim — is not inelegant by the standards of other recent American Embassies, but it has all the glamour of a corporate office block. It makes you wonder if the architects had somehow mistaken the critic Reyner Banham’s famous dismissal of the embassy’s 1960 predecessor on Grosvenor Square — 'monumental in bulk, frilly in detail' — as something to strive for. The project as a whole, however, is a fascinating study in how architecture can be used as a form of camouflage. The building is set in a spiraling pattern of two small meadows and a pond that have as much to do with defensive fortification as with pastoral serenity: an eye-opening expression of the irresolvable tensions involved in trying to design an emblem of American values when you know it may become the next terrorist target."

US diplomats add a moat to their expenses at $1bn London embassy – Catherine Philp, The Times (London): "The United States has unveiled plans for its new $1 billion high-security embassy in London — the most expensive it has ever built. The proposals were met with relief from both the present embassy’s Mayfair neighbours and the residents and developers of the Battersea wasteland where the vast crystalline cube, surrounded by a moat, will be built. ...

The new embassy, on a former industrial site behind Battersea power station known for its gay clubs, will be designed by Kieran Timberlake, the Philadelphia architect. A moat 30 metres (100ft) wide and rolling parkland will separate the building from the main road, protecting it from would-be bombers and removing the need for the blast barriers that so dismayed the people of Mayfair. Via LB. Image from article: A model of the US Embassy in Battersea, complete with moat 30m wide and rolling parkland

Public Diplomacy Indeed - Saideman's Semi-Spew: "I have recently been following the tweets of Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. It turns out he has a blog as well. ... I really like the Gates/Mullen team. What can I say? I am a sucker for pragmatism by the folks who are responsible for the military."

Class comment and question - Bridget Schultz, Newhouse Social Media: "The discussion re: public diplomacy and social media is absolutely amazing. To think that two hundred years ago, our method of communication with other countries took days, if not weeks to complete. ... think social media is a small, but important step to foreign policy.

If we can communicate with people living under hostile regimes, we can help spread democratic ideas. Whether or not individuals accept the notion of a democracy isn't the point. Rather, it is the fact that people have the option to learn more about other governmental ideas and opportunities through social media. It isn't propaganda--it is two-way communication. Of course, this approach assumes that people have access to social media." Image from

This Brand Was Made for You and Me - Laura McGinnis, manIC: "Today's topic is ripped straight from the discussion board of my Public Diplomacy class . ... Our focus today is nation-branding, which, for the purposes of this blog post, refers to strategic efforts to define a country's image for foreign audiences. Please note that the objectives of nation-branding are not necessarily related to achieving foreign policy objectives, and are frequently related to attracting tourists or foreign developers."

Advertising’s War on Terrorism: The Story of the U.S. State Department’s Shared Values Initiative - Doubleday Large Print Book:

"Did the Bush Administration Err In Shutting Down 'Brand America' Ad Campaign? The Bush Administration missed an opportunity to improve America’s image in the Arab and Muslim world when it shut down the controversial 2002 “Brand America” public diplomacy television advertising campaign, according to a new book written by two U.S. advertising professors." Image from article

Rick and Karen Santorum to Receive Franciscan University's Highest Honor - Catholic Online: "Franciscan University of Steubenville will bestow the 2010 Poverello Medal on former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen, for their outstanding pro-life and pro-family witness as Catholics in public life. ... Knowing the power of public diplomacy, he led the fight to rid Africa of the scourge of AIDS and to provide religious liberty and equal rights to women in totalitarian regimes."

We Can Change the World - Naomi Leight, Public diplomacy Corps: "So I'm reading for my class with Manuel Castells on Globalization Theory and we're reading a chapter from from Jeff Juris' Networking Futures.

He wrote the following: 'Activists are thus not only responding to growing poverty, inequality, and environmental devastation; they are also generating social laboratoriesfor the production of alternative democratic values, discourses, andpractices'. I seriously think public diplomats and PD Corps are doing the same for diplomacy, at least that's the hope and dream. Leight image from article

Interesting people, great ideas... – Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos:

"Had an eventful day yesterday: gatecrashed a class at Georgetown (was very warmly received, nevertheless), met an inspiring young PD enthusiast and global practitioner, got a special crash course on the history of American diplomacy, and gained multiple insights into the challenges of spokesmanship. All in one day. Love D.C.!" Osipova image from article

War of Words: Israel attacks Palestinian rhetoric - Erika Solomon, Douglas Hamilton, Washington Post: "Concerned that its image abroad is suffering, Israel is going on the offensive to show that Palestinians, not Israelis, are responsible for perpetuating the region's cycle of violence.

With the peace process at a standstill since its war in Gaza a year ago, Israel is trying to paint the Palestinian Authority as the source of incitement to violence -- a violation of Palestinian obligations under peace agreements. ... Israel's Ministry for Public Diplomacy is also inviting ordinary citizens to get involved, with a program to teach volunteers how to present a positive image of Israel abroad. Palestinian incitement is included as a talking point. Palestinian officials insist their speeches do not incite violence. Their political rhetoric, however, pays homage to a past of violent resistance to Israeli occupation." Image from

For Israel, every traveller is an ambassador - Globe and Mail: ‎"Israel has come under harsh criticism for waging a one-sided war against Hamas in Gaza, for possible involvement in assassinations and for belligerent comments by its foreign minister towards some of its neighbours – and the government has decided to fight back. It is enlisting the help of citizen-diplomats to take the battle to foreign destinations. But instead of tackling its human-rights or international-relations image, the Israeli government wants the world to know Israelis don't ride camels or eat only kebabs, if a just-unveiled series of TV spots is an indicator."

Recruiting Yossi to explain Israel - David, Israelity:

"Talk about putting your best foot forward. Yuli Edelstein, the Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, has decided that Israel’s greatest asset in stating her case on the world’s stage is the average Israeli citizen. His ministry has launched Masberim Israeli (roughly translated as ‘Explaining Israel’), a citizens’ campaign aimed at equipping the average Yossi with the information needed to present a positive, modern version of Israel to visitors and when they travel abroad. ... I think that if the only result of the program is to get some Israelis to stop being loud and arrogant, then it will be worth every shekel being spent on it. But somehow, I don’t see Moshe, my corner grocer, or Shimon, my car mechanic, suddenly evolving into public diplomats for Israel. Not when they’re so busy grilling kebab and tuning up their camels…" Image from

Behind Brand Israel: Israel's recent propaganda efforts - Electronic Intifada: "'The Delegitimization Challenge' report from the influential Israeli think tank the Reut Institute has put the spotlight on efforts by Israel and the Zionist lobby to counter the growing movement for justice in Palestine, and specifically, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. The work done by Reut has rightly attracted attention, but it is only one (particularly prominent) example of a wider trend, as the Israeli government and global Zionist groups mobilize to fight the threat to the apartheid system. ... The Israeli government and its allies in lobby groups are not short of powerful contacts and money, and there is now a concerted effort to think 'strategically.' However, for all the research, conferences and working papers, there is a comical ignorance shaping these responses. A great example of this is can be found in the Global Forum's BDS paper, which includes the idea to 'circulate information on Muslims acting contrary to Islam.' This is on the basis that 'if the people of countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia knew their 'pious' leaders were really alcoholics, gamblers and perverts, they might hasten regime change.' As if the people in the Middle East are not fully aware of the corruption of their autocrats and dictators -- many of whom, of course, enjoy US and Israeli support for their antidemocratic 'moderation.' Moreover, all of this strategizing and energy is needed in order to avoid the manifestly unimaginable truth -- that Israel is increasingly unable to maintain a regime of ethno-religious exclusion, apartheid separation and colonial violence without paying a price."

Gabriel Williams, Others Commissioned - The Inquirer: "Mr. Gabriel Williams will serve as Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Liberian Embassy in Washington D C . ...

Mr. Gabriel Williams said considering the role of public diplomacy in positively projecting the nation's image to the outside world, [he] pledged to do [his] best to ensure that the government is adequately represented.” Image from


Conquest and Censorship – Orwell’s dreams: In a dirty war like the one in Afghanistan, killing High-Value Targets almost always involves killing them while they are home or traveling with their families; otherwise they are underground and inaccessible. Because this psychological warfare tactic of killing important enemy leaders along with their entire families is policy (albeit secret policy), it is called “black propaganda.” It is psychological warfare because it has a sobering effect on low-level Taliban who wish to rise in the ranks. It is propaganda because every Afghan citizen is aware of this policy. And it is black because Americans can’t believe it is true.

A Karzai Lament - Review & Outlook, Wall Street Journal (subscription): One would think Afghan President Hamid Karzai would applaud the sacrifice being made by his foreign allies as they seek to put cities like Marjah under his government's control.

Instead he has chosen to play the scold. Image from

Iraq’s Known Unknowns, Still Unknown – Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: Why should we care when we’re leaving? Quite simply, so much of the turmoil in the region was stoked over the years by Saddam’s Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, both financed by billions in oil revenues. If, over time, a decent democratizing regime could emerge in Iraq and a similar one in Iran — so that oil wealth was funding reasonably decent regimes rather than retrograde ones — the whole Middle East would be different.

Extending Our Stay in Iraq - Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times: Iraq’s March 7 national election, and the formation of a new government that will follow, carry huge implications for both Iraqis and American policy.

It appears now that the results are unlikely to resolve key political struggles that could return the country to sectarianism and violence. If so, President Obama may find himself later this year considering whether once again to break his campaign promises about ending the war, and to offer to keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for several more years. Surprisingly, that probably is the best course for him, and for Iraqi leaders, to pursue. Image from

Better here than there: Liberals often point overseas for examples of how America could improve. That's foolish - Jonah Goldberg, Foreign governments and their experts have control over citizens and economics -- sometimes through democratic consent, sometimes not -- that the state doesn't have in America. Thus proving American backwardness. But the track record of such control, over the long haul, is abysmal, particularly in comparison to America's more unplanned approach (indeed, the world's planned economies often feed off American innovation to survive). The Soviets are in the dustbin of history; Japan Inc. is in its second "lost decade"; Europe is in an economic crisis; China's problems are hard to see because Beijing likes it that way. We have our own problems, but history shows the solution to them is not to be found in more centralized planning.

Socialist Realism Art in China -

The poster below showed the parade at the Tiananmen Square. Peace in Beijing on the occasion of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Mao Zedong, 6th from the left, with members of his first government.


“[T]he central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

--The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan