Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 19-20

"Israel has managed to contribute more to the world, on a per capita basis, than any country in history."

--Felix Frankfurter Professor at Harvard Law School Alan M. Dershowitz; image from


Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban: Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy. “Disconcerting and dangerous,” says Shank - Michael Hastings, BuzzFeed: An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned. The amendment would ‘strike the current ban on domestic dissemination’ of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns. The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State. In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law ‘ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.’ The bill's supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online. Critics of the bill say there are ways to keep America safe without turning the massive information operations apparatus within the federal government against American citizens. ‘Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences,’ says Michael Shank, Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C. ‘That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators – who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer–funded propaganda promulgated by the US government – is disconcerting and dangerous.’ ‘I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing,’ says one source on the Hill, who is disturbed by the law. According to this source, the law would allow ‘U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population.’" Image from article

Critics Fret About Smith-Mundt Modernization Act - Steven R. Corman, "The House of Representatives has been working to amend the laws that govern the dissemination of ' propaganda' materials in the U.S.  What seemed like a good idea to me and others–one long overdue–is being spun by some observers as a dark effort by the DoD and State Department who want authorization to brainwash Americans. Last night Buzzfeed posted an article claiming that the changes were being quietly inserted into a defense authorization bill. However, as Matt Armstrong reported, the changes were also part of a stand-alone bill (H.R. 5736) introduced last week.  ... People in the strategic communication and public diplomacy arena (including me) have agreed for some time that changes to Smith-Mundt are needed. Nobody I know wants changes so they can–MWAHAAHAAHAA!–run propaganda ops on Americans. It’s more of an effort to recognize the reality of the modern situation. ... Maintaining a firewall between foreign and domestic audiences was perhaps more feasible when the Internet hadn’t even been conceived. Today it is impossible. Any communication by the U.S. government or military anywhere can make it back to the United States in a matter of seconds. Changes in law are needed to recognize reality and prevent our strategic communication agencies from spending time/resources trying to stop the inevitable. Not only is this a waste of resources but it inhibits our ability to respond to events in a timely manner when communication plans have to be reviewed by teams of lawyers in an effort to comply with an archaic law (I have been told this is something that happens regularly). Unintentional domestic dissemination is one thing, but what about more intentional efforts critics are claiming this legislation would enable? The language in the House bill seems clear enough that it only applies to 'materials prepared for dissemination abroad' and does not in any way authorize expenditures for targeted influence of domestic audiences."

Congress Wants the Department of Defense to Propagandize Americans - Juan Cole, Informed Comment: Two congressmen are attempting to insert a provision in the National Defense Authorization act that would allow the Department of Defense to subject the US domestic public to propaganda. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State. Nothing speaks more urgently to the creeping fascism of American politics than the assertion by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the

1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, that forbidding DoD and the State Department from subjecting us to government propaganda 'ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.' And mind you, they want to use our own money to wash our brains! ... Doing propaganda abroad has the difficulty that it doesn’t stay abroad. False articles placed in the Arabic press in Iraq were translated into English by wire services, who got stung. Then, another problem is that the Defense Intelligence Agency analysts *also* read the false articles placed in the Arabic press by *another* Pentagon office, which they did not know about. So the analysts were passing up to the White House false information provided by their own colleagues!" Image from

Laos, Secretary Clinton and the Glitter Ball - Diplomatic Mom: My Journey as a FSO, Wife and Mom: This Blog Describes My Journey as a Foreign Service Officer, Wife of Another FS Officer and a Mom to a Boisterous, Loving Little Boy. In August 2010, My Husband Began His Career with the State Department, and I Started Mine In March 2011. We Left for Our First Post in Dhaka, Bangladesh in July 2011. We Will Move Abroad to Work in Different American Embassies Every Two Years. We Are Thrilled with Our New Adventure and Cannot Wait for It To Begin: "I all of a sudden read in the news that my boss, Secretary Clinton, is coming to town. As Elmo would say - Oh boy!! This was my first time experiencing a major Washington visit at an embassy and let me tell you – it was an eye opener on some many different levels! At the State Department, we have funny abbreviations like POTUS (President of the United States), FLOTUS (???) (First Lady), S for Secretary, CODEL for a congressional delegation, and so on. Oh yeah, we have a great sense of humor in DOS! So, S’s visit to Bangladesh was for only 22 hours and she wanted to meet the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the opposition leader, the civil society leaders, the youth and the embassy community. In 22 hours, people - the lady is amazing! Phew! And we had to make it happen with less than a week to prep. You have no idea what this entails until you become part of the circus. First, an advance team comes from Washington – apart from the security detail, the sniffing dogs, a bunch of other guys whose function still remains a mystery to me, there are also several foreign service officers who come in advance and help plan the dance with the embassy. Apart from serving overseas, our career also brings us back to serve in the U.S. There are generally 2 types of jobs – analytical (say, desk officer for a country or some other functional position, like human rights for Africa) and the action – packed '7th' floor job. The 7th floor in the Department of State is where S office and her immediate staff preside. To work there is, to say the least, rather prestigious. Among some of the support roles for the 7th floor are the Operations Center (provides 24 hours communications and crisis management support to all of us) and the so-called 'Line' (S’s travel team, of which the advance team is a part). I have never seen such an efficient, fast and furious machine unfold itself within such a short period of time. Every day we had countdown meetings, where Secretary Clinton’s every step was planned literally in 1-minute increments. Roles were being assigned, more and more people roped in every hour or so and by the end, most warm bodies in the Embassy had some function in the visit, even if they were to supervise luggage or sell candy in the hotel operations room. I got to babysit the local press for some of the meetings. Which was cool because it meant that I will get to see S at least 2 times if not more, while some of the worker bees on the visit never even got to see her. After all was said and done, the Secretary left swiftly and somehow magically all the staff and equipment disappeared within the next 24 hours like they have never even set foot in Dhaka. One day, when I grow up, I want to work 'on the line'! The visit required both me and the Diplomat to work all weekend. One of my meetings was at the American Club, which meant that on a hot Friday afternoon I had to go there, fully clad in a suit while the poolside was filled with happy screaming kids and parents, gleefully jumping in and out of the cool water. Son was at home with his babysitter. All weekend long. I came home at 11 pm that night and had to leave at 6 am the next morning. I didn’t see him most of the weekend, which made me feel incredibly guilty – it is so easy to feel like you are a bad mom. But the truth is, this happens. It happens in almost every job - there are late nights, overnight trips, moments and hours when you just want to be alone and not be engaged 100% with your child. And so it is ok. It happens much less for those working in consular positions, but if you are a public diplomacy, political, econ or even management officer, late nights and weekends are par for the course – whether it is a gallery opening for Cultural Affairs, or a pesky late night cable for Political after a long and possibly fruitless meeting with some governmental official, or preparing for yet another CODEL (congressional delegation) for Management. Being a Foreign Service officer is a fabulous job but it comes with its own baggage. I still want to work on the line. And be a FSO. I LOVE my job! ... DIPLOMATIC MAMA [:] I am a corporate lawyer turned mommy and, at times, stay at home wife.

Until recently, I lived in NYC with the Diplomat and Son (born in September 2008), and we have recently moved to Washington, DC so that my husband can begin his career with the State Department. In March 2011, I will also join the Foreign Service myself and serve along with the Diplomat. I love martinis, single-malt scotch, white Burgundy, high-heeled shoes, little black dresses, exotic travel and the general good life. Being a mommy, while awesome, is tough but I fight the good fight to preserve my 'cool NYer' every day, one martini at a time. Am I a good mom? Abso-freaking-lutely!" Image from

Mrs. Clinton, you have a problem - Peter Van Buren, "The State Department has pressured numerous employees to quit blogging at the risk of their career. When I refused to cave in, they began termination proceedings."

Analog vs. Digital in the Diplomatic World - Matthew Wallin, “The analog vs. digital debate has turned from watches, to cameras, and now to diplomacy. Today I attended an event on Digital Diplomacy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Given my skepticism of many digital diplomacy efforts, I was pleased to come out of the event with impression that there is a general understanding of the limits of digital efforts. It seems that even amongst digital’s proponents, there is an appreciation of the importance of ‘analog,’ old-fashioned diplomacy. ... Ambassador Harold Forsyth, the Peruvian Ambassador to the U.S., highlighted the importance of people to the diplomatic process. He explained that diplomacy of the future will be dependent on the people, stressing the increasingly important role of public diplomacy in state-to-state relations.

Despite the many surnames of diplomacy [whether cultural, e-, sports, or public], they all serve to benefit the greater concept of diplomacy as a whole. ... While I was pleasantly satisfied with the panel’s overall emphasis on the importance of people-to-people diplomacy and traditional forms of diplomatic procedure, one topic that didn’t arise was that of censorship. In countries like Iran and China, the internet is heavily censored, monitored and restricted. The use of online tools to reach the people of these countries is extremely limited, and in some cases, the internet is used by the government to stifle opposition. The State Department made a big deal about the creation of a Virtual Embassy in Tehran, despite the fact that it was almost immediately blocked by the Iranian government. Yes, digital diplomacy is a tool that can and should be used. But the fact is it is just another step in the progression of communication mediums. The telegraph, the television, and now the internet. It can and should be heavily used, but can never suffice for the implementation of good messaging, good listening and good policies. The difference now is that the public uses these tools better than the governments that are so excited about them.” Image from entry

The Ironies of Social Media in Public Diplomacy – R.S. Zaharna, PD News – CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: “On Thursday, May 17, 2012 I attended the discussion on “Digital Diplomacy: A New Era of Advancing Policy” at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and on Twitter at #digidiplomacy. ...  All the panelists repeated the mantra at least once or twice each time they spoke: “social media is a TOOL.” Nevertheless, 

the very first question from the audience was a not so much a question but a statement about the failings of social medial as a substitute for personal contact in diplomacy.  ...  How ironic it would be if social media is promoting anti-social, uncompromising behavior. Having pondered these ironies, I am now the more curious about social media’s evolving role/s in public diplomacy.” Zaharna image from entry

Life in Afghanistan and not just war... Ghazni photo exhibition at the National Press Club - Mahtab Farid. U.S. Public Diplomacy in Afghanistan...: "I guess this picture

can tell the story. After all, there is life in Afghanistan and not just war. Three Afghan photographers told a different story of Afghanistan through images during a Ghazni 2013 photo exhibition at the National Press Club on May 15, 2012. The photographers, Mahdy Mehraeen, Arif Yaghoubi and Ghader Rahimi portrayed the historic province of Ghazni through images as the city prepares to be the center of Islamic Arts and Culture in 2013. Their work depict a vision of life, laughter, social issues, and the progress in Afghanistan. A side that you might not see on the national and international media. This citizen public diplomacy project was supported by the U.S. Department of State public diplomacy office in Kabul and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghazni." Image from article, with caption: Yashar Mehraeen during the Ghazni 2013 exhibition in Kabul. Photo by: Mahdy Mehraeen

Chinese blind dissident Chen Guangcheng secretly listened to Voice of America Mandarin radio while in prison - BBGWatcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch

NATO: Protesters Met with NATO Officials - Dick Johnson, "Andy Thayer, representatives from Iraq Veterans Against War and NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic held a private discussion about their differing beliefs ahead of the NATO Summit, NBC Chicago has learned. 'Our message to Ambassador Grabar was that we are very aware of the immense violence and oppression that the U.S. and the U.S. in its NATO guise does to the world, and no amount of words from her or pronouncements from the summit will obscure that,' Thayer said.

'We view any human rights or peace rhetoric coming out of the summit as being the basest hypocrisy. We will not believe them. Their track record of violence speaks for itself.' Speaking about that meeting on Saturday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had quite a different take. 'These allegations are unjustified and may be based on a lack of knowledge about our organization,' he said. 'I would call NATO the most successful peace movement you have seen. We prevented the cold war from getting hot.'" Thayer image from

Listening Post on China's "Soft Power" - Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: "China's international broadcaster, CCTV International (or CNTV), has been in the spotlight in the West, and especially in the US, for a couple of years now, just like 'Chinese soft power' in general. And, despite all the Chinese efforts, they seem to be having great difficulties in getting to the general American public. The channel is very new, however,launched in the end of 2009, and it still remains to be seen what its impact and/or real popularity can be. The coverage that it gets in other mainstream media - as reflected in this piece by Al Jazeera English - reminds me of the early coverage of Russia Today back in its early days. There is very little commentary on the actual content or structure of the channel's broadcasts - much less its true public diplomacy potential - with the major focus being the domestic political context of the country that is paying for it. Yet, seems like the political and historical context is key, playing a crucial role in providing the much-needed legitimacy and credibility (or lack thereof) to such outlets. Is there any point in international broadcasting, then...?"

In the Fountain; PD poor form - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "I biked my way around and stumble[d] upon a big festival on Pennsylvania Ave for National Asian Heritage Month. I was starving at this point, so I parked my bike and feasted on filipino banana eggrolls, Indian pani poori- little wafer shells filled with potato, sauces and a sweet, vinegary juice, and Malaysian veggie curry puffs. Washed it down with some Thai ice tea. There were also stands of Laos and Korean foods, with barbecuing steaks and chickens that smelled delicious. A little further beyond, there were tents of crafts and demonstrations. There were a few Taiwan tents, with various crafts and things. The Korea tents were quite good. There was Korean gastrodiplomacy on display as a Korean chef gave demonstrations on how to make kimchee. She slathered the red paste on folded layers of cabbage. I was drooling to get a sample. There were also bits of shelled Korean popcorn. Korea was out in full force, and had a nice bit of cultural and culinary diplomacy. However, innocuously sitting on some tables were stickers that said 'I [heart] Dokdo//Dokdo in Korea,' as well as a cute smiley brochures featuring anime-ish characters and cartoony rocks in a pamphlet with cursory info on Dokdo Islands. Minor issue here, the Dokdo Islands

are subject to a major dispute between Korea and Japan. The Liancourt Rocks' ownership remains an issue of dispute between the two countries, and Koreans often get riled up over the issue. Yet I am guessing most people would have no idea about the issue. I found this to be propaganda, and to be totally in poor form. Most people don't know about the issue, so to tastelessly try to highlight Korea's claim in the midst of otherwise innocuous cultural diplomacy is inappropriate." Image from

I-Scream...for Jamaican Gastrodiplomacy - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "There was a great article on Jamaican Ice Cream in WaPo, and it had me both reminiscing about my time on the isle and also thinking about Jamaican gastrodiplomacy. I had some amazing stout ice cream (I-Scream!) and also soursop ice cream when I was there. The unique Jamaican ice cream could be the perfect ending treat for a more pronounced Jamaican culinary diplomacy campaign. Jamaica could use its cuisine to highlight its Caribbean and multi-ethnic flavor. The country's motto is 'Out of Many, One People,' and that is truly reflective in its food. Some good jerk chicken, ackee and salt fish and beef patties would be the hallmarks of a delicious gastrodiplo campaign, and a great way to highlight the unique culture of Jamaica."

Inida woos Africa for a shared future - India has reached out to Africa with an initiative to foster a People-to-People (P2P) understanding with Africa. 'With 70 per cent of the population in Africa and India below the age of 25, promoting engagement between youth in Africa and India is imperative to pave the way for a shared future,' said Navdeep Suri, the Joint Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, India.

The IndiAfrica train will berth in Nigeria on May 24 at the University of Lagos in a day-long session of entrepreneurial seminars and musical show featuring an Indian band, Parikrama. Speaking on the new initiative, Ambassador Pinak Chakravarty, the Special Secretary, Public Diplomacy, Ministry of External Affairs, India, said: 'We are entering a new phase in our ties with Africa. From a shared history of struggle against colonial oppression and economic exploitation to achieve freedom, we are now poised to take a great leap in our developing partnership. This new relationship is based on economic partnership in a globalised, deeply interconnected world.'” Image from article

A common thread in cultural diplomacy - "Diplomacy with our Asian neighbors is very much wanting these days. There is the standoff in Scarborough Shoal between our Navy and Chinese surveillance ships, containers of Philippine bananas and papayas rotting in Chinese piers, the mass cancellation of Chinese tour groups to Boracay and other destinations—all this just when we are touting that it’s more fun in the Philippines. These are just some of the headaches afflicting the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Last week, however, there was a gust of fresh air that came with the state visit of Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Through the efforts of our ambassador to Laos, Honey Isleta, Lao women who came with the visiting party represented their textile industry, as well. The ladies of Habi, the Philippine Textile Council, were on hand to welcome them.

The get-together of these ladies, all concerned with sustaining and improving and developing textile as craft, art and livelihood, was a welcome act of cultural diplomacy. On March this was what the DFA had set out as an additional task for ambassadors and consuls to undertake in their assigned countries. ... The buffet table was marvelous in its simplicity. There was the best fresh ubod lumpia I had ever tasted, with the brown sauce, garlic and toasted sesame seeds (a Lim twist); the cook’s version of paella—sticky rice (complete with tutong) with some chorizo and chicken; and what Laotians love—seafood in baked prawns with garlic slivers and butter topping. If there is anything like culinary diplomacy, this was a fine example." Image from article, with caption: Visiting Lao ladies with Habi Chairman Maribel Ongpin (eighth from left), Ana Labrador (left) and Museum Foundation President Petty Johannot and other Habi members and museum staff pose before the mural History of Philippine Medicine by Botong Francisco, which was originally in the lobby of the Philippine General Hospital

Bangladesh needs a visionary ‘Public Diplomacy’ strategy - antifarid: "My argument is: it is possible for our Foreign Ministry officials to work without any strategic direction (to enhance Bangladesh’s image abroad) as they are doing it for the last 40 years. But in the 21st century, when Bangladesh is talking about a Digital Bangladesh, when so many students from Nepal, Bhutan or the South African countries are coming here for higher studies, when Bangladesh is crying loudly to attract foreign direct investment, when Bangladesh is lobbying for duty-free market access for its ready-made garment (RMG) in the US market, when Bangladesh needs more of

its blue helmets to be stationed in trouble-torn areas of the world, when Bangladesh desperately needs its – what I call them – ‘Bob the Builders’ spread across the globe and work hard to send remittances to name a few, I find it really sad as to why Bangladesh is yet to have a long-term visionary strategy for enhancing country’s image abroad. The visionary strategy and subsequent work plan I am talking about is free from any political bias and face no interference during its implementation no matter whoever represents the government." Image from article, with caption: Bangladesh government has honoured 83 foreigners and foreign organizations recently for their roles in 1971 supporting the independence movement of Bangladesh – a significant step of vibrant public diplomacy. But how far the citizens of the countries of those Award recipients came to know about it?

A movie that tells Israel’s positive story - Alan M. Dershowitz, "I am encouraged by a series of ongoing initiatives that channel ... engaging a whole new side of public diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish State. Among the most significant has been the recent release of a groundbreaking documentary film narrated by Tal Ben-Shahar, an Israeli visionary voted a favorite lecturer at Harvard. The film, Israel Inside, which has been met with critical acclaim since its recent release, successfully shows that the time has come to focus on what is great about Israel, instead of obsessively responding to its detractors."

Majority of Israelis do not believe that two-state paradigm will bring peace - Caroline B. Glick, The Jerusalem Post, posted at: "People ... bemoan Israel’s sorry state in the realm of public diplomacy. They decry Israel’s hasbara efforts as pathetic and failed. But what they fail to acknowledge is that it is the two-state trap that makes the construction and execution of an effective public diplomacy strategy impossible. To maintain faith with this failed policy, Israel’s leaders and representatives are not merely required to ignore the history of the past 90 years of Palestinian rejection and aggression. They are required to ignore current events."

Excuse Me, But Israel Has No Right To Exist - Sharmine Narwani, Middle East atemporal: "[W]hat is truly frightening is the psychological manipulation of the masses into believing that Palestinians are somehow dangerous – 'terrorists' intent on 'driving Jews into the sea.'

As someone who makes a living through words, I find the use of language in creating perceptions to be intriguing. This practice – often termed 'public diplomacy' has become an essential tool in the world of geopolitics." Image from entry

New Journal Articles on Refugee Issues (weekly) - “The potential of return migration as a resource for EU public diplomacy efforts: a case-study of New Zealand return migrants from the EU [:] External construction of the European unity idea is an under-researched topic in EU scholarship. This paper explores the potential of return migration from the EU to third countries to the study and practice of EU public diplomacy and external relations. Attempting to conceptualise the phenomenon of return migration within theories of public diplomacy, this analysis focuses on a case-study of New Zealand (NZ) sojourners from the EU-27 and investigates their awareness and perceptions of the EU, compared with those of the NZ general public’s views of the Union. The results of one case-study are presented – a purposive survey of EU perceptions among a particular focus-group. Ultimately, this research assesses the importance of returnees’ experiences to the effective practice of EU public diplomacy and considers the importance of ‘perceptions’ studies in shaping Europe’s interactions with the world.”

"Global-Local" Cultural Diplomacy and Public Diplomacy - atransnationalvillager: "Robert Albro, a public policy anthropologist at American University, summons powerful evidence from communication theory and cultural and public diplomacy practice to suggest that cultural diplomacy (and therefore public diplomacy, at least as practiced by the U.S. government) is an inherently transnational project ( _detail/cultural_engagement_as_glocal_diplomacy/). What he argues has important implications for 'western' and 'secular' governments confronting the emerging 'Islamist' governments. Thanks to Len Baldyga (, 5/15/12) and his PD list-serve for e-mailing the link to Albro's essay."

Ghosts of ideologies past hover around Abbott’s budget reply - Mark Rolfe, "Dr Mark Rolfe lectures & researches in the areas of Australian politics, propaganda and public diplomacy, rhetoric, political satire, Americanisation, the internet and politics, and prime ministers in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales."


State Department’s new Middle East fund in trouble on Capitol Hill – Josh Rogin, Foreign Affairs: The biggest single new initiative in the State Department's $51.6 billion budget proposal for next year was a Middle East Incentive Fund -- $770 million in mostly new money to help State respond to the Arab Spring by supporting emerging democracies and their civil societies.

But the House of Representatives declined to fund it in their version of the appropriations bill. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Ops didn't give any money to fund the initiative in their fiscal 2013 appropriations mark, released last month. The leaders of that subcommittee claim that State failed to give them enough detail about the program to justify the new outlay of funds. Now, the State Department is depending on its allies in the Senate to save the program when the Senate Appropriations Committee marks up its bill next week. The episode is an example of the disconnect between State and Congress over how to respond to the Arab Spring as well as the difficulty of securing new money for diplomatic initiatives in this tight budget environment.
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Patience in Afghanistan - Editorial, Washington Post: NATO has set its schedule for withdrawal from combat in Afghanistan. It is a risky course, but it is not doomed to fail. Afghan forces are improving. The Taliban remains unpopular, and infighting among its leaders reflects some stress. But if the NATO strategy is to have any chance, the allies cannot further accelerate their departure.

Charting Obama’s Journey to a Shift on Afghanistan - David E. Sanger, New York Times: Mr. Obama concluded in his first year that the Bush-era dream of remaking Afghanistan was a fantasy, and that the far greater threat to the United States was an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan. So he narrowed the goals in Afghanistan, and narrowed them again, until he could make the case that America had achieved limited objectives in a war that was, in any traditional sense, unwinnable.

State Department Won the Vietnam War - Peter Van Buren, If State is still clinging to the bizarre idea that it succeeded in Vietnam, and propagandizing its own employees with the same, what hope is there that they will ever make any progress about the failures visited upon Iraq, and the failures now ongoing in Afghanistan?

Will Iran Take the Next Step? - Carol Giacomo, New York Times: The international community has not had much success trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

For years, it was split on how much pressure to apply, and Tehran deftly exploited that division. Since President Obama took office, the major powers have imposed increasingly strong sanctions aimed at Iran’s banks and oil trade. It is crucial to maintain that cohesion as a second round of negotiations opens this week in Baghdad. Image from

Chinese communist leaders denounce U.S. values but send children to U.S. colleges - Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan, Washington Post - In some ways, the rush to U.S. campuses by the party’s “red nobility” simply reflects China’s national infatuation with American education. China has more students at U.S. colleges than in any other foreign country. They numbered 157,558 in the 2010-11 academic year, according to data compiled by the Institute of International Education — up nearly fourfold in 15 years. But the kin of senior party officials are a special case: They rarely attend state schools but congregate instead at top-tier — and very expensive — private colleges, a stark rejection of the egalitarian ideals that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949.

Drone filmmaker denied visa: A Pakistani student is unable to accept his film festival award because he is denied the right to enter the U.S. - Glenn Greenwald, Salon: Muhammad Danish Qasim is a Pakistani student at Iqra University’s Media Science and is also a filmmaker. This year, Qasim released a short film entitled The Other Side, a 20-minute narrative that “revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of

drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan.”  We can’t have the U.S. public learning about any of that. In April, Qasim was selected as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. Qasim, however, along with his co-producers, were prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept their award and showcase their film because their request for a visa to travel to the U.S. was denied. Image from article, with caption: A still image from Muhammad Danish Qasim's film, "The Other Side."

Propaganda campaign exacerbates tension in Syria - Yekaterina Kudashkina, Voice of Russia: The Syrian opposition's propaganda campaign is exacerbating tension around Syria. Why? Because in the military field the opposition forces have failed to achieve their political goals for militarized political

groups of Syrian opposition which were absolutely clear – to overthrow the current Syrian authority and to establish a new regime corresponding the interests of the Western countries. Image from article

North Korea’s mass spectacles: Hypnosis of propaganda: Survival » Sometimes it is easier to be a robot to stay alive - Tim Sullivan, Associated Press: Pyongyang, North Korea: From across the city, they are summoned to pay reverence. So on a chilly April evening, tens of thousands of people come to honor their new ruler, as towering statues of his father and grandfather are unveiled on a Pyongyang hilltop. The crowds bow before the statues in practiced unison and shake bright, fake flowers in choreographed praise. Some weep with joy to be in the presence of the baby-faced Kim Jong Un, who is now their Illustrious General, their Leader, their Supreme Commander. In many ways, it’s a vision of 1950s small-town America. Most men wear hats and ties, few women show even a hint of cleavage.

There are no teenagers with mysterious piercings, no fights, no obvious drunks. The government, of course, is also deeply feared, with vast interlocking webs of intelligence agencies, informer networks and prison camps. Plenty of North Koreans proclaim their belief out of that fear, according to people who have managed to flee the country. Others pay fealty out of professional ambition. But many people genuinely believe the propaganda; it is so all-encompassing that in many ways it would be hard not to. Image from article, with caption: In an April 15, 2012 photo, North Korean soldiers attend a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Spectacles in North Korea exist at the intersection of dogma, tedium and entertainment.


Poll: U.S. morals poor, getting poorer - Tim Mak, Politico: Twice as many Americans rate the country’s morality as poor rather than excellent or good, and three out of four people say it’s getting worse, according to a new survey Friday. Asked about the state of moral values in the U.S., 43 percent rated it “poor,” 36 percent “only fair,” and 20 percent “excellent/good,” according to Gallup. For three-quarters of Americans, the outlook is bleak: 73 percent said moral values are deteriorating, while 19 percent said they’re getting better. Even on this subject, there was a partisan divide: 82 percent of Republicans said they have a negative view of America’s moral values, versus 72 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats. The Gallup poll was conducted May 3-6, with a sample of 1,024 and a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage point. Via JJ on facebook

The $104 billion question: What does Facebook’s value say about ours? - Charles R. Geisst, Washington Post: More than any IPO in recent memory, Facebook represents the expectations of a new generation, the generation of its 28-year-old founder. Social networking is an American phenomenon, founded on the belief that our individual experiences are worth broadcasting.

The connectedness that Facebook preaches also allows advertisers to connect with hundreds of millions of people in a more targeted way. So personal growth and business opportunity are combined in a uniquely American style. The company, too, reflects an American ideal: that a kid with an idea and the ability to pull it off can one day be worth billions. But not all quintessentially American IPO dreams come true. Image from


Will Smith Slaps Journalist Who Tries To Kiss Him (VIDEO) - Will Smith is in the middle of a press tour for "Men in Black 3" and got more than he bargained for while in Moscow this week. Smith was walking a press line when a reporter stopped him to

give him a hug and attempted to kiss him. "Hey man, what the hell is your problem?" Smith exclaimed, and pushed him away, before slapping the man in the face. "He tried to kiss me on my mouth!" "He's lucky I didn't sucker punch him," Smith added afterward. Image from


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