Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9

"The thing that was weird about Damascus is that you could walk the streets and see people drinking coffee and smoking nargiles in the caf├ęs. Bizarre knowing that three kilometers away people were getting shot."

--Amy Tachco, a 36-year-old Foreign Service Officer (FSO), "when she was asked about leaving Syria as the US Embassy was evacuated" (DiploPundit); image from


Blending Governance and Twitter - Chrystia Freeland, New York Times: "[T]he U.S. State Department’s social media team ... [is] led by Alec Ross, who is the senior advisor on innovation for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state. Mr. Ross spearheads the State Department’s enthusiastic social media campaign. As Mr. McFaul [Michael McFaul] the U.S. ambassador to Russia, posted earlier this week, quoting Mrs. Clinton, 'Our ambassadors are blogging and tweeting, and every embassy has a social media presence.' ... Mr. McFaul’s moonlighting role as social media ambassador has particular relevance in Russia, where the government controls much of the traditional media, especially television, and civil society has moved to the Internet in response.

As a result, Mr. McFaul says, social media is more than a tool for communication — it is also a well-positioned window into the national debate. Mr. McFaul’s social media outreach has not protected him from controversy. Indeed, Russian leaders, including President-elect Vladimir V. Putin, have been suspicious from the outset of Mr. McFaul, who is a longtime student and occasional advocate of democratization. ... But his social media presence has given Mr. McFaul the tools to reach beyond a sometimes hostile national media and speak to any Russians who care to listen." Image from

The Empire Fights Back! An Internet Governance Update - Sophia Bekele, "If the United States House of Representatives is now introducing legislation to bar the UN Regulation of the Internet, then it only implies one thing. The Empire is fighting back! It is quite apparent that the U.S. would view UN governance of the Internet as ‘anathema’. The U.S. invented the Internet and its potential as an America public diplomacy tool has grown over the years, to the chagrin of those countries that are clamoring for U.N. oversight of global Internet Governance.

Moreover, the Internet is already viewed as the birthright of every American, and to subject that right to the external oversight of the UN, and the ‘regulatory’ voices of other countries would be deemed unacceptable by the U.S. Congress. The battle lines are already drawn. Irrespective of the geo-political calculations that underpin the intricacies of these global affairs issues, I urge we should remains fully committed to the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance and should continue to rally unconditional support for it." Bekele image from article

US Hails Qatar as Beacon of Western-Arab Relations - "Qatar’s Education City is a prime example of the flourishing partnership and dialogue between the US and the Muslim world, a senior US official has said. Kathleen Stephens, acting under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and former ambassador to South Korea, made the observation. On her first visit of Qatar earlier in the week, she engaged a group of students from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service - Qatar in Education City in a conversation about American public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world. Arab Spring signals positive relations  Stephens commended Qatar’s leadership for the foresight and vision to build the country as a centre of learning and culture in the region and as a leader in promoting interfaith dialogue.

Image from article, with caption: Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani rides a wave of positive relations between the Arab Muslim world and the US

US envoy moves to fast track issuing visas to Nigerians - Victoria Ojeme, "On the fight against corruption in Nigeria, he [The United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terence McCulley] said: 'We have a variety of programmes to build capacity of the EFCC. We saluted the nomination of Chairman Ibrahim Lamorde. For a year and half, we tried to raise nomination because we recognized that the EFCC had not been able to fulfill its mandate. “We have a variety of training programmes in place to build the capacity of EFCC workers. Chairman Lamorde is going to Washington in a week’s time to have similar discussion with law enforcement and other agencies. At every opportunity, we talk about the need to address the problem of corruption. It is a dialogue we carry out at the highest level of this government and we recognize there is a problem. But I think we are deploying resources to assist the government of Nigeria to address this problem and it is part of our public diplomacy message.'” On EFCC, see.

From the Trenches - Janet Steele, “'You are an unofficial representative of the American people.' These were the words of Richard Gong, the head of the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was September 1997, and I had just started what I hoped would be an exciting year as a Fulbrighter. I’d been awarded a position as a Senior Scholar at the University of Indonesia, where I would be teaching in the graduate program of the American Studies department. You could also say that this was the start of my career in public diplomacy. ... My start in public diplomacy may have been somewhat accidental, but I’ve been engaged in it for the past fifteen years. I’ve been a speaker-specialist in

ten countries, and although the topics and challenges have varied from post to post, I’ve never forgotten what Richard said. ... Accidental or not, this is public diplomacy from the trenches, and it’s what I’ll be writing about during my upcoming sabbatical year. As I tell visiting journalist friends who come to the US and meet my classes, they may be the first Indonesian or Malaysian or Bangladeshi whom my American students have ever met. At a time in which 'we are all Khaled Said' or 'we are all Trayvon Martin,' we are all public diplomats as well. Like it or not, in this interconnected world, each one of us is engaged in public diplomacy." Image from article, with caption: guest lectured for graduate political science graduate class at Cairo University.

US Border Patrol Turns to the Air Waves – mattkupfer, mediaviolence2012: Blog for Media and Violence class at Brandeis University: “Our discussion of illegal immigration on Tuesday reminded me of these two articles, one from a Latin American organization and one from the BBC. They describes a 2005 – 2009 (?) campaign by the US Border Patrol to deter would-be illegal immigrants from leaving Mexico by buying airtime and playing anti-immigration ballads on Mexican radio stations.

I swear, I’m not making this up. The songs released by the border patrol emotionally describe the hardships and dangers of the journey to America and promote the idea that choosing to remain in Mexico is a manly act. Though, officially, the border patrol claims the media campaign was a success, most people say any decrease in the number of illegal border crossings had to do with economic issues, not these songs. I, for one, am very skeptical of songs as cautionary tales. Many forms of folk music contain sad songs about lost love or ballads detailing lurid murders and the punishments faced by the killers. I don’t think people actually look to these songs for practical guidance, instead encountering them simply as good stories. Nonetheless, the article presents an interesting example of how the government can use the media to spread propaganda/public diplomacy without you knowing it.” Image from

What’s the Best Way To Foment Unrest in a Foreign Country? A how-to guide for the aspiring fomentor - Brian Palmer, Slate: “When U.S. missiles kill Afghan civilians, or U.S. forces commit an affront to Islam, Iran seeks to broadcast the news among the local population. Agents quickly generate and disseminate pieces of audio and video propaganda decrying the indignity and urging civilians to rise up against American forces. Some of these go beyond mere exhortations to violence. In Iraq, U.S. agents claim to have intercepted Iranian-produced tapes that included directions to Iranian-stocked weapons caches and instructions on how to build explosively formed projectiles capable of penetrating U.S. armored vehicles. The tapes are also said to provide detailed descriptions of routes frequented by U.S. troops. The government in Tehran, for its part, denies meddling in Afghanistan or other countries. And the White House says it makes no effort to foment rebellion in Iran, although the United States does acknowledge broadcasting its own take on world and Iranian news into the country via Voice of America radio and television. The United States also admits to providing financial support to Iranian opposition groups through a government-funded, private corporation called the National Endowment for Democracy. Officially, those grants do not support violent uprisings or even the peaceful overthrow of the Iranian government. ... In the past, the U.S. government has tried to foment rebellions abroad by promising financial or military support, or offering tactical advice to local malcontents. In 1956, an American colonel speaking on Radio Free Europe assured Hungarians that the U.S. military would support a rebellion, and a subsequent program offered tips on anti-tank tactics. The CIA-initiated Radio Swan, which broadcast from an island near Cuba beginning in 1960, mixed anti-Castro speeches, exhortations to defect from the military, and pop music. The station also broadcast coded messages to fighters in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. In 1980, the CIA arranged for a transmitter to broadcast anti-Khomeini messages into Iran." Via

Retired general says North Koreans who receive US food aid should also receive a radio to listen to RFA and VOA - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Ghanaian children well informed about US politics thanks to international radio [including VOA - JB] - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

UK Royal family: a discourse on public diplomacy - bf041, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 2: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University: "The perception that public diplomacy can be a tool for both domestic as well as foreign audience is never more evident than the campaign by the royal family since the death of Princess of Wales. ... The Royals have recognised the benefit of strong public relations (PR) in improving their image. PR has traditionally been used extensively by firms as a strategy in order to recognise brand loyalty, capture new consumers and identify long term profits.

The advantages of getting the message across and capturing the attention of individuals, as a model, have been adopted by nations and heads of states such as the Royal family in recent years. ... A healthy image at home also reflects abroad. The royal family’s enhanced image domestically, has arguably been translated abroad. Notwithstanding Jamaica’s recent announcement to remove the Queen as head of state, 2011/2012 has witnessed a sort of rejuvenated royals. ( The Foreign office will clearly seek to utilize the family in the near future." Image from

The situation on the Korean peninsula Chinese table concerns and anxiety - "Three foreign minister listened to the China, Japan and South Korea cooperation ShenFengJi secretary-general of the secretariat of the report of The Three Kingdoms cooperation good momentum and expressed his satisfaction with the secretariat.

Three party discusses The Three Kingdoms cooperation, to strengthen economic and trade, said the financial, energy conservation and environmental protection, weather, disaster prevention disaster relief, cooperation, concluded the China, Japan and South Korea investment agreement as soon as possible, an early start of the China, Japan and South Korea free trade negotiation, speed up the China, Japan and South Korea circular economy demonstration base construction, actively develop cultural exchanges and public diplomacy." Image from

The Future of Public Diplomacy, a USC conference - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: "The phrase 'public diplomacy' is variously viewed as a concept, a bureaucracy, and/or a practice. The community craves to see the word 'diplomacy' follow the word 'public' and debates when the phrase does and does not appear. Is it something defined by the objective ... ? Is it defined by means, by the actor? Is the term 'public diplomacy' itself problematic and self-limiting, suggesting an adversarial bureaucratic relationship with other agencies, a use of the softest of 'soft power' to 'win hearts' and be 'liked', or activities that 'influence' rather than merely 'inform', or all of the above?"

Two WUSTL Students Named Truman Scholars - Maggie Broderbund, “Two Washington University in St. Louis

students have been selected as 2012 Truman Scholars. Junior Arts and Sciences majors Madeleine Daepp and Ethan Lynch both will receive $30,000 in funding, including $3,000 for their senior year and $27,000 for two or three years of graduate study. ... Lynch plans to earn a master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and eventually work as a diplomat for the United States Foreign Service. Fluent in French as well as Arabic, Lynch hopes to use his language skills and education to serve in the Middle East and North Africa. ‘I’d like to work in the public diplomacy sphere, strengthening and repairing our often-troubled relations with Arabs in the region,’ he said. Kiefer [Joy Z. Kiefer, PhD, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, director of undergraduate research and WUSTL’s Truman scholarship representative] says Lynch is able to command the respect of his peers on campus as well as of faculty and global partners through his mature presence and keen intellect. ‘From the moment I met Ethan, I was struck by his passion and commitment to make a change in the area of public diplomacy,’ Kiefer said. ‘Ethan is a born leader: charismatic and hard-working with strong values and a remarkable ability to coalesce people around a common goal.’” Image from article

Game of Thrones in IR perspective - Paul Rockower, Levantine: “Foreign Affairs has a great piece on Game of Thrones in an IR context.  Luv it. ... I haven't found much of a pd angle for the show.  Definitely little use for soft power, as we got a rebuke to the notion that ‘information is power’ with a reminding dictum from Cersei Lannister in the first episode of the second season that ‘power is power.’  Prof. Pat James at USC teaches a class on IR and Middle Earth; maybe a Game of Thrones class could be in the offing.”


Obama’s lack of passion in supporting freedom - Fred Hiatt, Washington Post: Two decades ago, as the Iron Curtain shredded, the United States led a Western alliance that jumped at the chance to consolidate democracy from Slovakia to Estonia. The chance to nurture democracy in the heart of the Islamic world has not elicited a comparable response. This is consistent with Obama’s record elsewhere.

He remained aloof from the Green Revolution in Iran. In Iraq, he failed to maintain a residual force that might have helped protect the democratic gains of the past decade. He bolstered U.S. forces in Afghanistan but portrayed their mission almost entirely as safeguarding U.S. security, rarely, even secondarily, as helping Afghans live in freedom. His stance also reflects his own brand of idealism, which values international law and alliances more than the promotion of freedom. Image from

America’s new data centre makes UK surveillance plans seem petty - Alice Ross, In the small town of Bluffdale in the Utah desert, the US government is halfway to completing a gargantuan complex designed to store and trawl through billions of phone calls, emails, and other global communications. As the UK government reveals its own plans to carry out mass surveillance, a lengthy piece in May’s Wired reveals the full extent of the US’s ambitions to capture and spy on almost everything that is said online or on the phone. The Utah Data Center is the new hub in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) network of surveillance centres: a sprawling $2bn (£1.25bn) complex that takes the US one step closer to "total information awareness." The centre is so big it’s hard to get your head around the figures quoted in the article. Ten thousand builders are working on it. It will use an estimated $40m of electricity every year, according to one estimate. Much of this will be spent powering four 2,300 sq m halls filled with servers capable of storing a truly enormous amount of data – Wired mentions Pentagon ambitions to store yottabytes of data (septillion bytes of data). The centre will "intercept, decipher, analyse and store vast amounts of the world’s communications from satellites and underground and undersea cables of international, foreign and domestic networks," Wired reporter James Bamford says. Even the most apparently insignificant scraps of data will be captured and stored – in case they later become important: "private emails, mobile phone calls and Google searches, as well as personal data trails – travel itineraries, purchases and other digital 'pocket litter,'"Bamford adds. But the Utah Data Center has another, more secret purpose: cracking cryptoanalysis to allow the US security agencies to read foreign diplomatic and military communications, as well as confidential financial or personal messages, scouring the ‘deep web’ of password-protected and otherwise encrypted information.

U.S. policy on Iraq questioned as influence wanes, Maliki consolidates power - Liz Sly, Washington Post: On the face of it, Iraq’s first springtime since American troops withdrew in December is turning into the most peaceful and promising the country has witnessed in a decade, offering what U.S. and some Iraqi officials say amounts to a vindication of President Obama’s Iraq policy.

A feared collapse of order have not materialized. Although the group al-Qaeda in Iraq has continued to stage headline-grabbing attacks, they are diminishing in frequency and intensity. Oil is being pumped at record levels from the refurbished fields of the south. Iraq’s government has not rushed into the arms of Iran and, instead, has been wooing its Arab neighbors. But the appearance of calm that has endured for four months has come at a price, many Iraqis say, in the form of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s increasingly authoritarian behavior. Maliki, they say, has been moving steadily to consolidate his control over the country’s institutions and security forces with the apparent acquiescence of the Obama administration. Image from article, with caption: Iraq youngsters play soccer in central Baghdad in March.

Status of Afghan women threatens Hillary Clinton's legacy: Thesecretary of State has devoted herself to the issue, but gains made may bereversed as Afghanistan's conservatives become more powerful in the West's wake -  Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times:  In the final months of her tenure as secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton is fighting a long retreat on a cause close to her heart, and to her legacy — the status of Afghan women. Clinton embraced the cause long before the first U.S. troops landed in the country, and as secretary of State she has brought Afghan women worldwide attention, political power and unbending promises of American support. "We will not abandon you," she pledged. But now, with U.S. officials laying plans to remove most troops in two years, the Afghan government and other institutions appear to be adjusting their positions on women's rights to accommodate conservative factions. Restrictions on women have made a comeback.

Lifting sanctions on Burma’s regime would be a mistake - Tom Andrews, Washington Post: The writer, a former U.S. representative from Maine, is president of United to End Genocide.

The Myth of America's Decline: Washington now has added China, India, Brazil and Turkey to its speed-dial, along with Europe and Japan. But it will remain the chairman of a larger board - Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal: The world balance of power is changing. Countries like China, India, Turkey and Brazil are heard from more frequently and on a wider range of subjects. The European Union's most ambitious global project—creating a universal treaty to reduce carbon emissions—has collapsed, and EU expansion has slowed to a crawl as Europe turns inward to deal with its debt crisis. Japan has ceded its place as the largest economy in Asia to China and appears increasingly on the defensive in the region as China's hard and soft power grow. The international chattering class has a label for these changes: American decline.

The dots look so connectable: The financial crisis, say the pundits, comprehensively demonstrated the failure of "Anglo-Saxon" capitalism. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sapped American strength and, allegedly, destroyed America's ability to act in the Middle East. China-style "state capitalism" is all the rage. Throw in the assertive new powers and there you have it—the portrait of America in decline. Actually, what's been happening is just as fateful but much more complex. The United States isn't in decline, but it is in the midst of a major rebalancing. The alliances and coalitions America built in the Cold War no longer suffice for the tasks ahead. As a result, under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, American foreign policy has been moving toward the creation of new, sometimes difficult partnerships as it retools for the tasks ahead. For American foreign policy, the key now is to enter deep strategic conversations with our new partners—without forgetting or neglecting the old. The U.S. needs to build a similar network of relationships and institutional linkages that we built in postwar Europe and Japan and deepened in the trilateral years. Image from article

Foundation Files Reveal Insights on Culture – Sam Roberts, New York Times: A relatively obscure Ford Foundation official named W. McNeil Lowry had the last word in deciding which artists, writers and performers would receive grants from the Ford Foundation, the richest private source of cultural largess at the time. That made him the nation’s unofficial mentor in chief during much of the 1950s and ’60s, a cultural figure of remarkable influence who was virtually unknown to most of the public. This month letters to and from Mr. Lowry as well as thousands of other Ford Foundation records, films, oral histories and unpublished reports were opened to researchers at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., where they will now be housed.

At the Ford Foundation, based in Manhattan, most of the archives had been accessible on only a limited basis and were mostly intended for in-house use. The microfilm, papers and reports could yield a harvest of insights on cultural figures who achieved greatness, and some who have been forgotten, who were struggling financially and were compelled to explain their predicament and their output. Ford’s earliest grants were modest but nonetheless vital to the recipients, and the foundation helped showcase a diverse group of American artists when the United States was vying for cultural supremacy. By 1962 Mr. Lowry expanded its arts programs with $6.1 million in grants to nine nonprofit repertory theaters and later with stipends to writers, filmmakers, art schools, music conservatories and dance organizations. Image from

CNN to Broadcast N Korea Missile Launch - Tom McGregor, The North Korean regime has granted CNN broadcasting rights to air live footage of the launching of a long-range missile. NBC and AP reporters have been invited as well to help with North Korean propaganda efforts.

An Initial Propaganda Offering - Will free speech win out over censorship in China, or is the government about to reassert its control over media and public opinion? - Tom Orlik, Wall Street Journal: The People’s Daily Online Co. Ltd. website is displayed on a computer in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. The initial public offering of People’s Daily Online, the website of the Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper, gives investors an opportunity to take a view. The state-owned news website is selling a minority stake in a Shanghai listing that is planned for mid-April. It is aiming to raise 527 million yuan ($83.5 million) to upgrade its technology and improve its editorial team. The company certainly needs some polishing. The People’s Daily website ranks as the 39th most visited in China, according to Web-information company Alexa.

That is way below the ranking for popular private news portals and, which come in at 4th and 9th place, respectively.The listing, though, comes at a sensitive time for China’s media. Sina’s phenomenally popular micro-blog—the closest thing China has to a forum for democratic debate—had to turn off its comments function from Saturday to Tuesday. That was a punishment for allowing rumors of political instability to spiral out of control after the ousting of top leadership contender Bo Xilai. Sina already has to fork out for a small army of censors to monitor and delete inappropriate content posted by users. Its Nasdaq-listed stock fell almost 10% last week as investors bet that heightened controls will add to the company’s costs. Now investors with access to the Chinese market have the chance to double down. Anyone betting censorship will win out over free speech can buy into the People’s Daily IPO and take a short position on Sina’s stock. Image from article: The People’s Daily Online Co. Ltd. website is displayed on a computer in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012.

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