Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 28-29

"If you want to irritate a professor of philosophy, you should corner one at at a party and confront him or her with the momentous question of the very meaning of life."

--Professor Crispin Sartwell, The Times Literary Supplement (May 23, 2014), p. 28; image from


President Obama at West Point - Donald M. Bishop, Public Diplomacy Council: "The President’s foreign policy speech at West Point described a world full of challenges. He affirmed that they require American leadership, and he provided his vision for how America – 'the one indispensable nation' -- should address them. ... The President affirmed the importance of long term work to support democracy, transition to market and enterprise economies, end corruption, cope with famines, and respect human rights. It’s America’s diplomats and development specialists that do this.

He spoke of the need to explain our policies, face propaganda and international suspicion, and 'shape world opinion.' Exchanges were praised. This is the work of the State Department’s Public Diplomacy." Uncaptioned image from entry. See also Nick Cull, "Engagement is the New Public Diplomacy or the Adventures of a Euphemism of a Euphemism," CPD Blog (June 5, 2009) John Brown, "Smart Power In, Public Diplomacy Out?" Notes and Essays (March 2, 2009).

Obama Draws a Roadmap for Foreign Engagement - Tara Sonenshine, "Five and a half years into his presidency, Barack Obama has just given international engagement advocates their best case yet for global action by pushing back on the notion of America in retreat from the world. Most importantly, the president steered a path that is interventionist without solely relying on the use of force or American boots on the ground—countering critics who say the country is disengaged or that the United States can’t afford to get involved overseas. ... The speech comes on the heels of Obama’s Memorial Day announcement that the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will come down to 9,800 with an end to the combat mission at the end 2015 and all troops removed by 2017. Critics on the left will say the plan is too troop-dependent; critics on the right will say is not a large enough residual military presence. ... The West Point speech is unlikely to fit neatly on a bumper sticker like 'containment' or 'American exceptionalism,' but it offers lodestars at a difficult time in the foreign policy galaxy. Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs."

Next Level Day 4: Just a little demo... - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "The State Dept should consider sending a DanceMotionUSA team to Patna...."

Uncaptioned image from entry

Coffee talk: Filmmaker Kiera Lewis’s documentary explores traditions, attitudes, and the different worldviews of U.S. and Arabic cultures - Wendy M. Levy, The Commons: "Kiera Lewis’s upcoming documentary 'Dates For Coffee,' the viewer is reminded things are not always as they seem. Seemingly innocuous cultural differences can lead to dangerous misunderstandings. The title alone has disparate meanings, depending on one’s background. For many Americans, 'dates for coffee' often means planned, informal social engagements occurring outside of the home, to perform work or share information. The activity conforms with the American story of hard work, success, and individualism. In the Arab world, 'dates for coffee' does not mean 'going on a date.' Rather, hosts serve dates — the fruit — with coffee

as part of the Arabic cultural traditions of supporting family cohesion and offering hospitality during daily visits from guests. The common element in both is in storytelling: narrative, sayings and folklore, traditions, opinions, and tales passed from person to person or group to group. By making this film, Lewis aims to bridge the gap between these two worlds, often seemingly at odds. ... Lewis anticipates beginning post-production in July and plans to enter 'Dates For Coffee' into the film festival circuit, where audiences at universities and colleges around the world will see it. She also hopes to create what she calls 'an opportunity for dialogue' with the United States Department of State Office of Public Diplomacy and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 'The underlying mission of ‘Dates For Coffee’ is to show how an understanding of the master narratives and folklore of other societies is effectively a tool for peacebuilding,' Lewis says." Image from

First-ever exhibition of contemporary Emirati art held in the United States - "Meridian International Centre and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have launched Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates, a groundbreaking cultural diplomacy programme that brings Emirati artwork and artists to the United States. The exhibition tells the story of the UAE’s rich history, culture and rapid development through the works of 25 notable Emirati artists. Past Forward represents the first major touring exhibition of Emirati art in the world. Over 50 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artwork comprise the exhibition, which will be on public display in Washington, DC till July 13. The exhibition will then go on a national tour through 2015, and will include stops in Texas, California and Washington. In addition to being on public display while touring the US, Emirati artists whose works are featured in Past Forward will conduct educational outreach lectures, and workshops. The exhibition was formally opened at the White-Meyer House at Meridian International Centre during a gala reception that was attended by senior US government officials, members of the diplomatic community, business leaders and other friends of Meridian and the UAE."

Pope ends Mideast trip, says Abbas, Peres have ‘courage to move forward’ - "Pope Francis on Monday said Israeli President Shimon Peres
and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had 'courage' after the two

accepted his invitation to come to the Vatican to pray with him. Abbas and Peres 'have the courage to move forward', Francis said on his return flight from a three-day trip to the Middle East in which he made a plea for peace in the region. Francis said his invitation was not a gesture of public diplomacy and had only a spiritual sense. 'The meeting in the Vatican is to pray together, it’s not a mediation,' the Argentine pope said. 'It is a prayer without discussions,' he added." Image from

Exclusive: 23,554 People the World Over Sign the Jerusalem Covenant - Raphael Poch, "On Sunday, May 25th, during a rather busy visit by Pope Francis to Jerusalem, a group of Jews and Christians from around the world gathered together to honor the city of Jerusalem and express their unending connection with the holy city.

In culmination of the tireless effort by the Israel organization, thousands of signatures were gathered in support of Jerusalem in a document called 'The Jerusalem Covenant. ... Faith-based public diplomacy NGO Israel founder and director Rabbi Tuly Weisz presented MK Rabbi Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), himself a stalwart in Israel’s advocacy fight, with 23,554 signatures on the Jerusalem Covenant. The signators come from all over the world, hailing from Zimbabwe to Australia." Image from entry, with caption: MK Dov Lipman being presented with the Jerusalem Covenant by Rabbi Tuly Weisz from Israel

The IDF Is Among the Greatest Armies in the World. But Can It Fight Facebook? A social media mutiny is sweeping Israeli soldiers, leaving their commanders clueless - Liel Leibovitz, “'The military and government officials haven’t realized what the people, and especially the younger generation, have already figured out—control over information, and particularly its distribution, is no longer in the hands of the authorities,' said Danny Seaman, the former director of the Government Press Office and a retired senior hasbara official.

This, he added, will have implications that go well beyond the army itself: 'The people now have the means to influence and determine the flow of information. We are in the midst of this revolution and an evolution where the presentation of the country’s image is on the hands of the public. A few years from now no one will understand how public diplomacy was ever run by the government.' For now, the question remains how the IDF plans to react once the next social media crisis breaks out. Sources knowledgeable about the matter, speaking on background, admitted that there is currently no comprehensive plan being considered to regulate any upcoming outpouring of unauthorized opinions, images, etc. It is funny to imagine that, in the end, the Israeli army’s most formidable challengers may turn out to be not Hamas or Iran but Twitter and Facebook." Uncaptioned image from entry

Reclaiming human rights for the right - "Many Israelis complain that human rights advocacy has become synonymous with criticising their country. Yoaz Hendel decided to take action. Just over a year ago, he set up Blue and White Human Rights, a group that is galvanising the Israeli right for human rights causes. ... Hendel said that human rights have become a stick with which people beat Israel. 'Israel had become the biggest human rights ‘tourism’ site – you can find 20 groups every week here criticising Israeli policy and claiming that Israel is evil. These groups don’t go, of course, to Saudi Arabia or Lebanon, but rather here. These people are not meeting any officials or public diplomacy organisations – all the information they have is [from] human rights organisations.' Hendel was determined to get the Israeli right-wing involved in human rights work – and not only for the sake of public relations. To Hendel, just as some on the left have erred by using human rights language to harangue Israel, some on the right have erred by becoming dismissive of human rights, and neglecting the human rights emphasis which he claims is integral to Zionism." Uncaptioned image from entry

Ottawa art exhibit slammed for glorifying terror - Sheri Shefa, Canadian Jewish News: "Canada’s Israeli embassy and Ottawa’s Jewish Federation say that an art exhibit on display at Ottawa City Hall’s Karsh-Masson Art Gallery glorifies Palestinian terrorism and have urged the city to review its policy on how exhibits are approved. The exhibit, Invisible by Palestinian-born, Toronto-based artist

Rehab Nazzal, includes photographs of some of the most notorious Palestinian terrorists, including Abu Iyad, who was responsible for the 1972 Munich Games massacre, and Khalid Nazzal, the artist’s brother-in-law, who was the mastermind behind the Ma’alot school massacre that killed 22 children and three adults 40 years ago. Eitan Weiss, spokesperson and head of public diplomacy for the Israeli Embassy in Canada, said the embassy was moved to contact Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson when it learned that the city was 'endorsing it, and not only that, but paying for it. They are funding a lot of this with taxpayers’ money.' ... In an email statement to The CJN, deputy city manager Steve Kanellakos explained that the exhibit is in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that it won’t be taken down prematurely. All exhibits at the gallery are selected by an independent jury and the themes of each exhibit do not represent the views of the City of Ottawa, he said. 'To exhibit a work of art is not to endorse the work or the vision, ideas, and opinions of the artist. It is to uphold the right of all to experience diverse visions and views.'” Image from, with caption: Palestinian artist Rehab Nazzal. Usually, the Foreign Ministry tries to combat attempts to boycott Israeli artists abroad.

International exhibition censored by Turkish Embassy in Madrid - Pelin Başaran and Banu Karaca, "Last year, the exhibition Here Together Now was held at Matadero Madrid, Spain. Curated by Manuela Villa, it was realised with the support of the Turkish Embassy in Madrid, Turkish Airlines and ARCOmadrid. But in the exhibition booklet, the explanatory notes to artist İz Öztat’s work 'A Selection from the Utopie Folder (Zişan, 1917-1919)' was censored upon the request of the Turkish Embassy in Madrid, and the expressions 'Armenian genocide' and the date '1915' were taken out.

The case shows how the Turkish state delimits artistic expression in the projects it supports, and how it silences the institutions it cooperates with. ... This is not the first case of the Turkish state censoring an arts event it sponsors abroad. ... The administrative channel for the state’s support to events outside of Turkey is the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Promotion Fund Committee, established under law 3230 (10 June, 1985) with the aim of supporting activities that 'promote Turkey’s history, language, culture and arts, touristic values and natural riches'. ... The objective of the fund is 'to provide financial support to agencies set up to promote various aspects of Turkey domestically and overseas, to disseminate Turkish cultural heritage, to influence the international public opinion in the direction of our national interests, to support efforts of public diplomacy, and to render the state archive service more effective'." Image from entry

Spain's relations with Africa - Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Daily Sun: "The positive evolution of many countries in Africa is leading, gradually but resolutely, to a new stage of relations in which the par­ticipation of private companies, trade and investment are forming the bedrock on which the expecta­tions of the continent are based, on which to consolidate its stability, growth and development. Spain well understands the magnitude of the challenge, and for this reason, we are ready to act, viewing Africa as a strategic part­ner on equal terms, who will help us identify problems and provide solutions. ... Well aware of the importance of accompanying the processes of democratic governance, in 2012 we initiated the Masar programme in

North Africa, and we will soon launch the APIA programme to promote inclusive policies in sub-Saharan Africa. We have instru­ments of public diplomacy, such as Casa Africa, Casa Arabe and Casa Mediterraneano, to deepen mutual understanding. Our ties and Commitment to the continent will be strengthened as the soci­ety of our country comes to have a greater knowledge and under­standing of Africa. ... Garcia-Margallo is the Span­ish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation."  Image from

Not Simply a Festival: Looking Beyond India by the Nile - Navdeep Suri, Abu Mathen George, For a few years now, Spring in the Arab world comes with a number of political connotations that have now become part of standard vocabulary. In Egypt, amidst constant political change, we thought of infusing a dose of Indian culture into this Spring – a festival of arts and music that would arrive seasonally from the East.

The idea was conceived in 2013, and the first edition of the festival turned out to be resounding success, ... In 2014, the India by the Nile festival was even bigger, with more than 13 different events spread across three different governorates. ... From a public diplomacy platform, the responses to the festival were overwhelming." Uncaptioned image from entry

Indonesia Looks to an ‘Asian Century’ With China - Vita A.D. Busyra, "The Indonesian-Chinese Friendship Association, or PPIT, has officially inaugurated its new 2014-2016 board of supervisors, trustees and advisory council, as it seeks to continue improving the bilateral relations between the two countries in the social, economic and cultural sectors. ... Esti Andayani, the [Indonesian] Foreign Ministry’s director general for information and public diplomacy, pledged support for the PPIT’s programs. 'We’ve entered what we call the ‘Asian Century,’ in which all countries in Asia, including Indonesia and China, play a pivotal role at the regional and global levels,' Esti said.

'And with both countries’ sharing the same vision and perception on, for example, climate change, food security, energy and global financial institution reformation, we’ve come to agree to increase cooperation and coordination, while upholding the commitment to peace, stability and prosperity for the region and on the international stage.'” Image from entry, with caption: Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, second from right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping — accompanied by their wives — shake hands during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in this file photo taken on Oct. 2, 2013.

Jeju forum to discuss ‘New Asia’ - "A three-day international forum on regional and global issues including security, culture and regional development will begin on Jejudo Island on Wednesday, organizers said. Under the theme 'Designing New Asia,' the ninth Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity is expected to bring together some 3,700 experts, government officials and politicians from more than 55 countries for in-depth discussions on the issues. ... Jointly hosted by Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, the International Peace Foundation, the East Asia Foundation and the JoongAng Ilbo, the annual forum consists of some 60 sessions on an array of issues including the future role of women, regional security cooperation, education, the environment and public diplomacy."

When China Was Cool: Mao’s Little Red Book - Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: “The Cultural Revolution with its hordes of Red Guards waving their copies of Selected Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung was a disaster for China but paradoxically it represents something of a high point for China’s cultural influence in the world.

There’s a fascinating new collection of essays that explores the global impact of Mao’s Little Red Book, edited by Alexander C. Cook of University of California, Berkeley it covers the origins, diffusion and global reception. Some of the chapters focus specifically on the book others look more broadly at Maoism.” Image from

Is the army fighting Boko Haram or traitors within? - Levi Obijior, "Many people have asked the question: Why is it difficult for the Nigerian Army to overwhelm Boko Haram insurgents and restore peace to the North? The answer to this question is not as simple as many people might think. There are many interests involved. First, the world has changed in various ways. Globalisation and, in particular, transformations in technology have made it easy for people to observe and follow what is happening in other parts of the world. Technology has also brought modern warfare to our living rooms. The same technology that brought the Olympic Games and the World Cup soccer to our lounge rooms have also made it possible for us to watch wars live on our television screens. Technology has reduced distances and the world to a small theatre of conflict. When soldiers exchange gunfire in the battlefield, we sit and watch the action live, as if it is a documentary. Technology has reduced distances and the world to a small theatre of conflict. When soldiers exchange gunfire in the battlefield, we sit and watch the action live, as if it is a documentary. As Philip Seib, professor of journalism, public diplomacy and international relations at the University of Southern California in the United States said, one of the reasons the broadcast media and websites engage in live reporting of news (including international and domestic conflicts) is because the technologies that make live reporting possible are 'available, less expensive and easier to operate'."

The Global Five: Key Corporate Diplomacy Trends for 2014/2015 - Cari E. Guittard, "We need an

army of corporate diplomats, from multiple sectors, engaged in strategiccorporate diplomacy efforts to shore up America’s soft power reserves." Image from

20 Question Time... Global Greek Style: Conversation with Dena Kouremetis - Writer, Columnist and Very Proud Mum! - "Dena Kouremetis [:] Global Greek writer and Forbes Columnist who took a break from her writing to hold this conversation with us... ... [Q:] You’re one of our several million Global Greeks who are Greece’s Ambassadors in the World.

Public Diplomacy at its best! Have you done something to help Greece today? [A:] I wish I were a 'mover and shaker' but alas – I am only a writer. I often write about Greece and the experiences I have had as 'one of the tribe'… but I suppose my biggest claim to fame is having produced a non-college-educated (by choice) daughter who emulates the ideals of the hard-working immigrant who sees no limits to what he or she can do in life." Kouremetis image from entry

Remarks at IWP Commencement 2014 - John Lenczowski, John "As most of you know, IWP [Institute of World Politics] has a four part mission: ... [including:] to develop leaders who have skill in the use of the various arts of statecraft – the instruments of national power. These are the means of handling the challenges which this dangerous world sends our way.

They include military power, intelligence, counterintelligence, diplomacy, public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, information policy, political action, and economic statecraft." Image from, with caption: The Institute of World Politics

Day the second in Budapest... - Global Business and Media:  A Georgia State University program in Istanbul, Turkey and Budapest, Hungary:

"Meeting with Ferenc Kummin (left), State Secretary for External Communication. Sort of like their head of public diplomacy. Gabor Kaleta (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is in the middle, Paige is on the right."

Harvard Project Names Three Honoring Nations Leaders - "Sharing outstanding programs in tribal self-governance and helping to expand the capacities of Tribal leaders through learning from each others’ successes is the mission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development’s Honoring Nations program. Recently the Honoring Nations program announced the selection of three Nation-building leaders for its 2014 Honoring Nations Leadership Program ... [among them:] Amber Annis, Cheyenne River Sioux, PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Minnesota [whose] ... her research interests include American Indian education and history in the 20th century and American Indian cultural and public diplomacy during the Cold War era."

Make the World Your Home - "One of the most trusted leaders in intercultural exchange is Youth For Understanding (YFU), whose mission is to advance intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families and communities. With a long-term objective to engage young people in personal development opportunities that will increase their leadership ability and improve international understanding and public diplomacy, YFU along with local volunteer host families have been making these opportunities a reality since 1951."

So You Want to Be a Foreign Service Officer - "When one comes into the Foreign Service, a person selects a career track.

My track is public diplomacy. My first assignment happened to be a public affairs assignment, but very often people serve in positions outside of their chosen career track. I’m currently in Banjul, where we have a small embassy. As such, I wear a number of hats, even in any given day. Not only am I the Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, but I’m also the backup Political and Economic Affairs Officer and Consular Officer – having spent weeks or months at a time fulfilling these responsibilities." Image: blog heading

Karachi: In Anticipation of The Unexpected - Andrew, Global Business Leadership: "When going to Karachi, the unexpected can be awesome. I sat next to a group of Karachi’ites who were traveling home. As soon as we’d boarded the plane, one of them asked me for a pen as we filled out immigration forms. His compatriot meanwhile busied himself with opening a large bottle of rum. Pakistan is functionally a dry country. This was their last sure chance for a drop of the true before arrival. As the flight proceeded they badgered the flight attendant for multiple individual-sized bottles of wine. When I asked for a second glass of wine myself they had to go the galley for more. As I waited, one of the Pakistanis shoved a glass into my hand. 'Red wine!' he proclaimed.

It was public diplomacy at its finest as raised our glasses over the lights of Tehran. This anticipation of the uncertain penetrates into everyday aspects of life." Image from

Southeast Asia's Regression From Democracy and Its Implications: A CFR Working Paper - Joshua Kurlantzick, "Joshua Kurlantzick is senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). ... Previously, he was a fellow at the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy.

New Additions to the TriSight Leadership - VP of External Relations: Justine Saquilayan ... She currently holds the position of PR Specialist within USC’s renowned Center on Public Diplomacy."

Former U.S. Ambassador Joins CDC Foundation Board of Directors - "Betty King has been elected to the board of directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation. King is the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva from 2010 to 2013. In the public sector, King has served ... on the advisory board of the Annenberg School of Public Diplomacy."


President Obama Misses a Chance on Foreign Affairs - Editorial, New York Times: President Obama and his aides heralded his commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday as a big moment, when he would lay out his foreign policy vision for the remainder of his term and refute his critics. The address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left.

He provided little new insight into how he plans to lead in the next two years, and many still doubt that he fully appreciates the leverage the United States has even in a changing world. Falling back on hackneyed phrases like America is the “indispensable nation” told us little. Mr. Obama’s talk of the need for more transparency about drone strikes and intelligence gathering, including abusive surveillance practices, was ludicrous. Mr. Obama’s comments on China and Russia barely touched on how he plans to manage two major countries that have turned increasingly aggressive. Pledging anew to close the jail at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which Congress has blocked, was, at this point, little more than a reassuring gesture. This was far from Mr. Obama’s big moment. Image from

Tying America’s hands: Obama’s foreign policy is at odds with history [subscription] - Editorial, Washington Post: Quotations from editorial at, with this one cited: "President Obama has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries. That conclusion can be heard not just from Republican hawks but also from senior officials from Singapore to France and, more quietly, from some leading congressional Democrats. As he has so often in his political career, Mr. Obama has elected to respond to the critical consensus not by adjusting policy but rather by delivering a big speech."

Obama just accidentally explained why his foreign policy hasn’t worked - Elliott Abrams, Washington Post: At bottom, the speech was a labored defense of a foreign policy that has come under attack from left and right recently for being weak. Mr. Obama’s response was to say that the refusals

to lead here or act there are all in the plan, and the refusals are called “multilateralism,” and anyway the alternative is constant invasions and wars and Iraqs and Afghanistans. Image from entry, with caption: Sea of confusion: West Point underclassmen give the president a hearing.

Obama at West Point: The President skipped a few world events in his big foreign policy speech - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: The speech President Obama delivered Wednesday at West Point was intended to be a robust defense of his foreign policy, about which even our liberal friends are starting to entertain doubts. But as we listened to the President chart his course between the false-choice alternatives of "American isolationism" and "invading every country that harbors terrorist networks," we got to thinking of everything that wasn't in his speech. No mention of the Reset, of the Pivot or "rebalance" to Asia, of Mr. Obama's Red Line in Syria against the use of chemical weapons, of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, of Mr. Obama's effort to seek "a world without nuclear weapons," as he said in Prague in 2009, or of his arms-control treaty with Russia.

Obama defends troubled foreign policy at West Point commencement: Takes on critics who see diminished U.S. clout - Dave Boyer and Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times: Some critics and analysts say the president lacks a guiding doctrine on foreign policy, leaving the rest of the world guessing about U.S. interests and when they might count on American action. Mr. Obama did say the U.S. will offer more assistance to rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad, chided Russia for meddling in Ukraine’s affairs and promised to battle terrorists in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere.

He also defended his decision, announced Tuesday, to leave a residual force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2015, at which point all U.S. forces will exit. More broadly, critics say the president is too wedded to his “enlightened” foreign policy, taking a cautious, more academic approach to world affairs rather than acting forcefully and decisively. “This was a highly defensive speech, one that will do little to allay growing concern, both at home and abroad, that American leadership is in decline on the world stage,” said Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation. “President Obama failed to outline a coherent strategy for meeting the biggest foreign policy challenges of the day, from mounting Russian aggression in Eastern Europe to the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. The speech was short on policy but big on platitudes and self-congratulatory statements.”  Image from

Obama's foreign policy speech: 5 takeaways - Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico: Without much in terms of specifics for people to latch onto, the speech barely registered in the wider public consciousness. But here are POLITICO’s main takeaways: 1. Obama’s no-doctrine doctrine. Looking for a clear, concise Obama doctrine? Keep looking. America should care about international opinion, but never ask permission for protecting its interests. 2. America, not in decline. 3. War in the 21st century is against terrorist splinter groups. 4. More unspecified help for Syria 5. Climate change as national security threat.

Obama receives standing ovation from less than 25% of West Point cadets - Douglas Ernst, Washington Times: President Obama was welcomed by the Black Knight of the Hudson for his speech at West Point on Wednesday, but less than 25 percent of the cadets gave him a standing ovation upon his introduction, the Daily Mail reported.

During his speech, which the Wall Street Journal called “consistent with that of every post-Cold War administration,” the president also took a swipe at critics, saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” Image from entry, with caption: West Point cadets listen to President Obama speak May 28, 2014.

Obama signals foreign policy shift but insists: 'America must always lead' • President promises less armed conflict and more diplomacy • Tells cadets: 'We have been through a long season of war' - Dan Roberts, The Guardian: America should provide global leadership with less recourse to military might in future, Barack Obama announced on Wednesday, proposing a new foreign policy doctrine focused on soft power diplomacy and launching financial grants to fight terrorism through international partnerships instead. In a graduation speech to cadets at the US military academy in West Point, New York, the president sought to carve a middle way between the relentless US interventionism of recent decades and a growing isolationist tendency that some fear will leave the world less stable and without a dominant superpower. The much-anticipated foreign policy address came after Obama presented a delayed timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan but amid growing criticism from Republicans of foreign policy “weakness” after setbacks in Syria and Ukraine.

Obama Lays Siege to His Critics: At West Point, President Obama defends a foreign policy vision based on more than U.S. military might - Fred Kaplan, Slate: Obama’s point was not (contrary to some commentators’ claims) to draw a “middle-of-the-road” line between isolationism and unilateralism. That’s a line so broad almost anyone could walk it. The president’s main point was to emphasize that not every problem has a military solution; that the proper measure of strength and leadership is not merely the eagerness to deploy military power; that, in fact, America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures “without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”

He drew one other distinction. On the one hand, there are “core interests”—direct threats to America and its allies—that we would absolutely defend with military force, “unilaterally if necessary.” On the other hand, there are crises that may “stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction” but don’t threaten our core interests. In those cases, “the threshold for military action must be higher”; and if force is used, “we should not go it alone,” for the practical reason that “collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes.” Image from entry, with caption: President Obama arrives at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, to deliver the commencement address to the 2014 graduating class on May 28, 2014. Via MP on Facebook

Obama just announced the most anti-war foreign policy doctrine in decades - Max Fisher, Vox: President Obama made a commencement speech at West Point on Wednesday that the White House had aggressively billed as a grand articulation of Obama's foreign policy vision. This was not the first time he had attempted to lay out a foreign policy doctrine, and few expected much more than the usual vague policy mish-mash — when it's year six of your presidency and you still need to explain your doctrine, it's not a great sign that you really have one.

So it was a legitimate surprise when Obama articulated a unified, tightly focused vision of America's role in the world. And while it's not a vision that will thrill many foreign policy hands, including perhaps some of those in his administration, it is the clearest Obama foreign policy doctrine he's made in years: no war, no militarism, no adventurism. Image from entry

Obama Outlines a Doctrine Where Restraint Makes us Stronger [subscription] - E. J. Dionne, Washington Post

Did Obama Make His Case? - Room for Debate, New York Times: In his address to graduating West Point cadets on Wednesday, President Obama laid out his administration’s foreign policy goals. His speech was directed at his critics who have suggested “that America is in decline” and “has seen its global leadership slip away.” Did it work? Ali Wyne: one need not accept the presumption of American exceptionalism to appreciate the risks that relative U.S. decline poses to peace and prosperity: No other country or coalition possesses comparable capacity and willingness to anchor the global economy, safeguard the maritime commons and prevent flashpoints in Eurasia from expanding into regional or even continental conflagrations. While the United States would ideally be able to get its economic house in order before turning to the task of building a more inclusive, responsive international system, it does not have the luxury of pursuing those tasks sequentially. The good news is that developments in recent years may allow it to undertake them in parallel. Kori Schake: President Obama’s speech was a litany of grandiose claims unenforced by policy: a paean to the Law of the Sea Convention, of which he has put no effort into ratification; a restatement of the need to close Guantanamo; “new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence”; a “willingness to act on behalf of human dignity.” Don't expect to see important trade deals, crowning achievements of "smart power,” concluded in Obama's presidency.

Long goodbye in Afghanistan - Editorial, Los Angeles Times: As Obama acknowledged, the original justification for sending U.S. forces to Afghanistan was to end its use as a staging ground for attacks on Americans by Al Qaeda, not to engage in nation-building. But having overthrown the Taliban, the U.S. and its allies rightly saw it as their responsibility to try to undo the effects of that fanatical regime's misrule.

The residual force Obama announced Tuesday could play an important role in consolidating the progress already achieved — by training Afghan forces and engaging in limited counter-terrorism operations. Top image from; below image from

Myanmar’s Appalling Apartheid - Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: Welcome to Myanmar, where tremendous democratic progress is being swamped by crimes against humanity toward the Rohingya, a much-resented Muslim minority in this Buddhist country. President Obama, who visited Myanmar and is much admired here, should flatly declare that what is happening here is unconscionable. Obama has lately noted that his foreign policy options are limited, and that military interventions often backfire. True enough, but in Myanmar he has political capital that he has not fully used.

Jonah Goldberg: Putin's well-worn fascist lies - Vladimir Putin, with the aid of his vast propaganda machinery, has convinced many Russians the interim government in Ukraine is expressly Nazi and fascist. And while there were some neo-Nazi goons among the protesters who brought down the corrupt government of Victor Yanukovich, and there are definitely ultra-nationalists among the coalition resisting Moscow, it’s simply a transparent lie that the current government is fascist. That hasn’t stopped some left-wing writers and crackpots in the West from buying the Russian claim that the United States is in cahoots with a “fascist junta” in Ukraine. Russia’s propaganda campaign hinges on more than the use and

abuse of the “f-word.” It’s been lying about all manner of things, manipulating events on the ground and doctoring images on the airwaves. Image from

Ukraine Election Results Discredit Kremlin Propaganda - David Adesnik, There was no democratic uprising in Kiev. There was an illegal coup d’etat, led by a motley crew of fascists, ultra-nationalists and anti-Semites. Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president, was certainly no saint, but he was the winner of a free and fair election in 2010. Those who toppled Yanukovych had only the support of the mob that gathered in the Maidan. These are the basic tropes of the propaganda broadcast relentlessly by Kremlin-controlled media for the past three months. Western media have generally proved resistant to such nonsense, but various policy experts and commentators have given such propaganda far more credit than they should. The bottom line is that the only threat to the liberty of Russian-speaking Ukrainians comes from Moscow, not Kiev. The population of Donetsk and Luhansk was deprived of the right to choose their own government — not by Kiev, but by Putin’s thugs.

Propaganda: the U.S. ‘News’ Media Coverage of Ukraine’s Civil War - Eric Zuesse, The New York Review of Books is a leading intellectual publication in the United States, and it (like all of the major U.S. “news” media) has “reported” on the Ukrainian civil war

as having been incited by Russia’s Vladimir Putin — a simple-minded explanation, which also happens to be deeply false. Image from entry

Britain's 1940s propaganda films made available online - BBC: They helped shape the way Britain was viewed by other countries for decades, and now the last in a series of more than 100 short films will be seen online for the first time. The British Film Council shot the promotional videos in the 1930s and 40s, painting a picture of a tea-loving industrial nation populated with country pubs. Director of film at the British Council, Briony Hanson, speaks about their lasting appeal.


Ex-NFL linemen discover that weighing 300 pounds or more is no asset in life after football - Kent Babb, Washington Post: Three weeks ago, when 256 players entered the league via the NFL draft, 57 were listed at weights of at least 300 pounds.

The NFL is bigger than ever, and about a dozen years ago offensive lineman Aaron Gibson became the league’s first 400-pound player. “Once you’re done, you’re done,” said Antone Davis, a former NFL offensive lineman who grew to nearly 450 pounds after he retired. “You’re out, and you’re on your own.” Image from


Zooey Deschanel speaks with vocal fry in a 2011 interview. Top image from; below image from


Image from SD on Facebook, with comment (in Russian; loose translation): "The beginning of the tourist season in Crimea?"