Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 8

"It's not what you say. It's what they hear."

--Slogan printed on the firm of Frank Luntz, "whose biggest triumph was rechristening the estate tax as the 'death tax'"; image from


America’s ‘engagement’ delusion: Critiquing a public diplomacy consensus - AbstractThe Obama administration has embraced ‘engagement’ as the dominant concept informing US public diplomacy. Despite its emphasis on facilitating dialogue with and among Muslims overseas, this article demonstrates that, in practice, engagement aims to leverage social media and related technologies to persuade skeptical audiences to empathize with American policies. Indeed, its primary means of implementation – participatory interactions with foreign publics – is inherently duplicitous. Through the authors’ description of how engagement is rooted in long-standing public relations and corporate marketing discourses, and in light of the historical and structural foundations

of anti-Americanism, this contemporary public diplomacy strategy is shown to be both contradictory and, ultimately, delusional. As an alternative, the authors argue that an ethical public diplomacy should be pursued, i.e., a public diplomacy that embraces genuine (rather than contrived) dialogue. Although this approach is difficult to achieve (primarily because it implies a direct challenge to entrenched US foreign policy norms), it constitutes a mode of public diplomacy that better reflects the idealized principles of American democracy. ...  International Communication Gazette April 2012 vol. 74 no. 3 203-220 Full Text (PDF)" Via CR on Twitter; image from

State Dept’s New Cartoon Spotlights Iran’s Online Censorship - Domani Spero, DiploPundit: "The State Department recently started promoting its new cartoon called 'Behind the Electronic Curtain' highlighting online censorship in Iran. It promoted the video on Twitter in English, Chinese, Farsi and Arabic with the hashtag #ConnectIran.  It has yet to catch fire. Here is the official blurb: [‘]In his March 20 Nowruz message to the Iranian people, President Obama said ‘the United States will continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world. And we hope that others will join us in advancing a basic freedom for the Iranian people: the freedom to connect with one another, and with their fellow human beings.’ Please watch an animated video highlighting how the Electronic Curtain isolates the Iranian people from the world. [‘] In late 2011, the State Department rolled out its Virtual US Embassy Tehran. It was blocked by Iranian authorities within hours of its launch.  ABC News reported that the English and Farsi versions went live at 6a Eastern time and by 5pm both were blocked inside IranIran will either block this cartoon or will put out its own version. In related news, the State Department Persian spokesperson, Alan Eyre was recently interviewed by a conservative Iranian website, only to have the interview pulled down following official criticism and condemnation. Radio Free Europe quotes Iran Culture Ministry’s statement of April 4 saying that there was no justification for the Alef website to allow what it called a U.S. ‘intelligence officer’ the opportunity to respond to questions from Iranians. These online skirmishes will continue until the warmongers get their way and start yet another war.”

Hypocrisy of Free Speech: Only If We Agree with What They Say - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well:  "A story of our times as tries to pull back the curtain on the hypocrisy of US government statements about web freedom. They were kind enough to quote me: [']The State Department since 2008 has spent $76 million overseas on Internet freedom, giving tools and support to bloggers and journalists and online people around the world, particularly in countries that we have difficulties with,' he said. 'At the same time, the State Department… has found Internet freedom to be inconvenient in the form of WikiLeaks, and has worked just as hard and probably spent even more money trying

to shut down free speech that it opposes, while supporting free speech that it feels furthers America’s own political goals overseas. We call that hypocrisy. ['] While trying to stifle inconvenient leaks at home, the US perceives the Internet and social networking platforms as major tools for spreading democracy, and spends millions of dollars to help people in the Middle East and China get around Internet-blocking firewalls. At the same time, ironically enough, American companies provide BahrainSaudi Arabia and Kuwait with the technology to effectively block websites. 'A lot of the tools of control that are used by the so-called repressive governments are provided by American companies, Peter van Buren explains. The difference is that corporations, for better or worse, talk about profit as their motivation. However, the American government talks about freedom and democracy as its motivation, when in fact in many ways it seems to act in the opposite direction.'  Read the entire piece online, and don’t miss the video of SecState Clinton pounding the pulpit for web freedom, at least if you’re Chinese or Iranian." Image from

Thomas Friedman, all-American pundit - "The following is an excerpt from a review by Central Michigan University professor John Robertson, for War in Context, of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. With the publication of Belen Fernandez’s The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, Verso Press inaugurated a new series, called Counterblasts, with the intention of reviving a tradition of polemic that it traces back to the fiery political pamphleteers of the 17th century. Obviously, then, Ms. Fernandez was not supposed to produce an impartial, dispassionate analysis of the collected works of the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning chief foreign affairs correspondent. Rather, she has come up with something that the American public in general (and students of US foreign affairs and public diplomacy especially) undoubtedly need more: a systematic, detailed take-down of the neo-liberal bias, myopic US-Israeli chauvinism, and general intellectual shallowness that almost scream to be noticed in Friedman’s writing. Yet, lamentably, Friedman has been enshrined as a sort of American 'Everyman’s' go-to guy for understanding what’s happening in the world, what needs fixing, and how 'we' can and should do it."

China's CCTV9 and France Télévisions agree to "fast-track co-productions and acquisitions" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on international Broadcasting

As part of CBC budget cut, Radio Canada International will "move away from shortwave," drop Russian, Portuguese, and "news bulletins" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on international Broadcasting.

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Australia's ABC, expanding to Middle East and Africa, will have to decide between "projecting messages" or reporting the news - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on international Broadcasting

Your Ideas, Your NATO: Increasing transparency 1.3 - Chris McCourt, "Editor’s Note: The following is an extract from a collaborative policy memorandum by Costinel Anuta, Andrew Barr, Stephanie Theresa Baulig, Daryl Morini, and Megan Ann Reiss. In this section of the policy memo the writers call for NATO member-states to increase transparency by communicating clearly and openly both with one another and with the public. It recognizes that failure to do so will adversely affect the peceived legitimacy of the Alliance. ... The full memorandum can be viewed here. If NATO is to remain relevant, it must foster cohesion and unity based on Allies’ commitment to mutual values and interests. The following policy proposals focus on forging this unity by closing the gap between Member states’ perceptions of each other within the Alliance. ... The full memorandum can be viewed here. ... [highlighted in text  - JB] 1.3. Increase NATO’s strategic communication transparency. The following recommendations will improve strategic communication

of national and Alliance interests: - Emphasize during the Chicago Summit and through other diplomatic efforts the security and economic benefits of the Alliance. - Strike the proper balance between values-based and interest-based language in NATO’s public diplomacy pronouncements. -Acknowledge all available data in conveying non-classified information to the public. Assume that the public will know about available negative information and that withholding the information could decrease the legitimacy of the Alliance. [end highlight in textNATO’s core values of liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law already echo with the democratic peoples of NATO. Unity among its peoples can be enhanced and fostered by increasing the emphasis on the communication of the transnational commonality of these values through the Public Diplomacy Division, to engage people on both sides of the Atlantic in fostering and protecting their common values and purpose. These efforts should be measured through polling by assessing whether or not citizens associate NATO with the above-mentioned values. The strategic interests of individual Member states drive NATO. Frank discussions of key interests of each state should be on the list of topics for discussion at diplomatic venues of NATO, especially within the Council and behind closed doors during the summit meetings of NATO heads of state and government. In concurrence with values information, citizens deserve to receive accurate and prompt information from NATO, including on negative issues. Only through transparent dissemination of information will citizens have confidence that NATO is a legitimate organization rooted in democratic values."  Image from

Quote- Unquote - Indonesia Now with Duncan Graham: Interpreting Indonesia with a Western perspective: Improving inter-cultural relationships: “WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? The relationship with Indonesia is one of Australia’s most important

but it is still not on a firm footing. Government-to-government ties have been strengthening but relations are focused around a mostly negative set of security-related issues. Business-to-business links are underdone and mutual public perceptions are poor. Without significant incentives to drive closer ties, one of Australia’s Most important relationships will continue to stagnate. WHAT SHOULD BE DONE? Mutual public distrust and stereotypes are so entrenched that dramatic leadership gestures are needed to produce a step-increase in relations. President Yudhoyono’s forthcoming visit to Australia presents an important opportunity to discuss a new approach. Four options are: seeking a multi-decade vision for the economic relationship that looks beyond, and is much more ambitious than, the proposed FTA; a new Colombo Plan for Indonesia – with both vocational education and university components aimed at educating thousands of Indonesians per annum; forging a more outward-looking cooperation agenda that looks beyond internal threats; and overhauling traditional approaches to public diplomacy. Fergus Hanson: Indonesia and Australia - Time for a Step Change. (Lowy Institute Report, March 2012)” Image from blog


Jazz and the State Department: A Night on the Rhythm Road - Robert Keith Thomas Donahue, DipNote: "Each April, the State Department, in concert with music lovers around the world, celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month. In honor of this uniquely American art form, musicians, museums, schools, embassies, and others in the United States and around the globe host jazz-themed events to highlight jazz's contributions to our country and to the world. ... The Department of State's musical exchanges are a direct continuation of the Artistic Ambassadors programs of the 1950s and 1960s.

Those historic exchanges included Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and other legendary jazz artists, and the tradition will not end with the conclusion of Rhythm Road. The State Department continues to send American musicians overseas on international exchange tours through the American Music Abroad program, administered in partnership withAmerican Voices. For more information on JALC or American Music Abroad, please visit please visit or" Image from entry

External news services reviewed - "A national conference was held in Hanoi on April 3 and 4 to review external news service and the dissemination of information on the country’s seas, islands and border demarcation last year. The conference emphasised the improvement of the external news services in the

politic diplomacy, economic diplomacy and cultural diplomacy and work relating to overseas Vietnamese as well as external relations of the Party, diplomacy of the State and people-to-people diplomacy. Media and press agencies have widely provided news on developments and stance, and settlement of complicated situations in the East Sea by the Party and State, which, the conference said, has helped create confidence and consensus among people from all walks of life." Image from article, with caption: Mr. Dinh The Huynh speaks at the conference.

Indo-Bangla celebrations to mark Tagore's 150th birth anniversary - "As a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore, artists of India and Bangladesh have begun jointly performing various cultural shows, including drama, on the themes penned by the Nobel laureate bard. Bangladesh's Monipuri Theatre group staged Tagore's noted drama 'Debotar Grash' here Friday night. 'A 32-member Bangladesh artists' troupe along with a large number of Indian artists would present various cultural shows in Agartala Sunday,' Tripura government information and cultural department secretary Shantanu Das told reporters here. Tripura chief secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda, who inaugurated the two-day joint cultural show, said: 'Tagore had pooled the people of India and Bangladesh. With this cultural performance, the closeness would be further strengthened. With this cultural diplomacy, the people of the two nations, especially the younger generations, would know each other for the future prosperity of the two countries,' said the Bangladesh government's mission head in Agartala, Obaidur Rahman."

Santorini Biennale of Arts 2012 - Stella Tsolakidou, "Researcher and Professor of Cultural Economics and Cultural Diplomacy Kikos Papadopulos has great pleasure in announcing the inaugural Santorini Biennale of Arts, taking place between July 1 and September 30 2012. The Santorini Biennale of Arts aims to support the exchange of arts and experiences, while pursuing both a regional and

international programme of cultural collaboration. Determined by a fundamental need to cultivate a spirit of research, experimentation and excellence, the Biennale will act as a catalyst for cultural growth. ... The 2012 theme, ‘The Past: Memory and Nostalgia,' will examine intrinsic experiences and social relationships, inspired by how humanity accumulates a catalogue of our personal fabric and how these collected manifestations shape the patterns of our lives." Image from article


U.S. sees gains on Iran intelligence as boost to confidence and access - Joby Warrick and Greg Miller, Washington Post: The expanded intelligence effort has coincided with a covert campaign by the CIA and other agencies to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program and has enabled an escalation in the use of targeted economic sanctions by the United States and its allies to weaken Iran’s resolve.

United States and Afghanistan sign deal on night raids - Sayed Salahuddin, Washington Post: The United States and Afghanistan signed a deal on night military operations on Sunday, resolving a major source of friction between President Hamid Karzai and Washington.

The agreement removes a key obstacle to a long-term strategic partnership between the two countries, including a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014, when all foreign combat troops are set to leave the country. Image from article, with caption: Gen. John Allen, left, and Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak clap after signing an agreement in Kabul.

The Big Bang: Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Kagan on the State of America [review of Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power By Zbigniew Brzezinski and The World America made By Robert Kagan] - Jonathan Freedland, New York Times: Reading the books side by side is to be reminded not only of Carter versus Reagan but also of Kerry versus Bush. And yet the great surprise is how much they agree with each other, especially on what matters.

They both insist that reports of America’s decline are exaggerated. Both note that the United States still accounts for a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product, a proportion that has held steady for more than 40 years. Both note America’s military strength, with a budget greater than that of all its rivals combined. As Brzezinski puts it, on every measure “America is still peerless.” Usefully, Kagan states that much of the current decline talk is based on a “nostalgic fallacy,” imagining a golden past in which America was all but omnipotent. Both men dismiss that other plank of declinist conventional wisdom, the assumption that China’s hot breath is on America’s neck and that it is about to take over. The two authors agree that it’s in every­one’s interest, not just America’s, for the United States to remain dominant. Above all, Brzezinski and Kagan unite in arguing against fatalism. American decline is not preordained, but neither is the status quo. If Americans want to remain on top, they will have to fight for that position, making some painful changes in the process. Image from

America’s Place in the New World - Charles A. Kupchan: The democratic, secular and free-market model that has become synonymous with the era of Western primacy is being challenged by state capitalism in China, Russia and the Persian Gulf sheikdoms. Political Islam is rising in step with democracy across the Middle East. And left-wing populism is taking hold from India to Brazil. Rather than following the West’s path of development and obediently accepting their place in the liberal international order, rising nations are fashioning their own versions of modernity and pushing back against the West’s ideological ambitions. As this century unfolds, sustaining American power will be the easy part. The hard part will be adjusting to the loss of America’s ideological dominance and fashioning consensus and compromise in an increasingly diverse and unwieldy world. Washington has long presumed that the world’s democracies will as a matter of course ally themselves with the United States; common values supposedly mean common interests. But if India and Brazil are any indication, even rising powers that are stable democracies will chart their own courses, expediting the arrival of a world that no longer plays by Western rules. This century will be the first time in history in which multiple versions of order and modernity coexist in an interconnected world; no longer will the West anchor globalization. Multiple power centers, and the competing models they represent, will vie on a more level playing field. Effective global governance will require forging common ground amid an equalizing distribution of power and rising ideological diversity.

The failure of Al-Qaeda propaganda - S Iftikhar Murshed, For several years Al-Qaeda has persevered with a relentless propaganda campaign against Pakistan, but there has been no effort on the part of the government to neutralise this blitzkrieg. Suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, kidnappings and other outrages are justified by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates as jihad. Yet the report of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) does not even acknowledge that the foremost threat that Pakistan faces emanates from terrorism. The inconsistencies in Al-Qaeda statements betray both panic and increasing frustration over its inability to achieve its ambitions in the region. The inescapable conclusion is that it has been considerably weakened because of the success of the military operations and the refusal of the tribal Pakhtuns to do its bidding. What is also needed is a parallel effort to counter the Al-Qaeda propaganda broadside against Pakistan. The government, which has the habit of forming commissions and committees on any and every thing under the sun, should constitute a cell consisting of representatives from the ministries of information and interior to collate Al-Qaeda statements, expose their contradictions, translate these into Urdu and Pashto and disseminate them widely with the help of the print and electronic media.

Book review: ‘Pakistan on the Brink’ by Ahmed Rashid - Bruce Riedel, Washington Post: Pakistan on the Brink depicts a nation with a severe socioeconomic crisis, and with political leadership that has neither the courage nor the will to carry out essential reforms and is building the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal on the globe. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is in a state of virtual meltdown, Rashid rightly contends, with both sides to blame.

The information war over Syria: With international media not allowed into the country, both government and opposition are resorting to propaganda -

Iraqi wartime PSYOPs against Iran - Propaganda and Psychological Operations in the Iraq-imposed war on Iran is the title of a book by Ali Mohammad Naeini published by Revayat-e Fath publication center.

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NKorea's Bethlehem is birthplace of Kim religion - Jean H. Lee, Associated Press, Image from article, with caption:

In this Tuesday, April 3, 2012 photo, deep snow blankets a loud speaker used to broadcast propaganda at Samjiyon Grand Monument area in Samjiyon, North Korea where a large bronze statue of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung stands at the base of Mount Paektu. The story of Mount Paektu is the story of how one man managed to build an entire national culture and history around his own carefully crafted story, deliberately drawing on the methods and symbols of religion.

"Dreaming in French," by Alice Kaplan: A study of three iconic American women -- Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis -- viewed through the window of their time in France - Megan Doll, 'If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast," Hemingway famously wrote. In "Dreaming in French," Alice Kaplan

looks at three iconic American women -- Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis -- and captures not only the time each spent in France but also its reverberations throughout the rest of their lives. The transatlantic transformation is familiar terrain for Kaplan, a Minneapolis native and Duke professor, who wrote about her own relationship with French language and culture in her splendid memoir, "French Lessons." Image from article

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