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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

Civilian Response Corps: Smart Power in Action

imageThe Civilian Response Corps has a website: http://www.civilianresponsecorps.gov/. From the about page:

The Civilian Response Corps is a group of civilian federal employees who are specially trained and equipped to deploy rapidly to provide reconstruction and stabilization assistance to countries in crisis or emerging from conflict. The Corps leverages the diverse talents, expertise, and technical skills of members from nine federal departments and agencies for conflict prevention and stabilization.

We are diplomats, development specialists, public health officials, law enforcement and corrections officers, engineers, economists, lawyers and others who help fragile states restore stability and rule of law and achieve economic recovery as quickly as possible.

Visit the site and check it out. See the below links for previous discussions on CRC and the State Department Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS):

U.S. “Hedge Fund” Diplomacy in Egypt

By Michael Clauser

Like many Americans, I am conflicted about recent events in Egypt and even more so about what the U.S. government should do.

On one hand, the United States has an immediate interest in the stability of Egypt and its government–and not just to keep the peace in the Middle East or secure the two million barrels of oil that pass through the Suez Canal every day.  But also because ditching a longtime U.S. ally like Hosni Mubarak at his moment of need does not send a reassuring message to other embattled pro-American leaders in unstable countries.  Especially when you consider what type of leader may be waiting in the wings in Egypt or elsewhere in the world.

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Revisiting the Civilian Response Corps

The Small Wars Journal recently published a paper from Mike Clauser, a friend who was until recently on the staff of Rep. Mac Thornberry, Republican from Texas (no, his departure was unrelated to the paper). The paper, entitled “Not Just a Job, an Adventure: Drafting the U.S. Civil Service for Counterinsurgencies,” is an interesting recommendation to fill the empty billets of the Civilian Response Corps.

In 2007 and 2008, I wrote several posts on the Reserve Corps concept and on the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), including one for Small Wars Journal entitled “In-sourcing Stabilization and Reconstruction” (and posted on MountainRunner here). I also met with now-retired Amb. John Herbst, who headed S/CRS, several times to discuss S/CRS, the Reserve Corps ideas and other topics. So this is an issue I’ve delved into, at least at the conceptual level.

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Counterinsurgency Today: A Review of Eric T. Olson’s “Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot”

By Efe Sevin

The long-lasting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to increased inquiry into the concepts and practices of counterinsurgency (COIN). Eric T. Olson, in his work, focuses on the importance of reconstruction attempts in COIN operations and discusses the role of military. The author served in the U.S. Army for over three decades and retired as a Major General. Currently, Mr. Olson is an independent defense contractor and works with Army brigades and provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) who are preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. As the title suggests, his monograph considers such reconstruction attempts to have uttermost importance in successful military operations.

Continue reading “Counterinsurgency Today: A Review of Eric T. Olson’s “Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot”” »

Communicating Their Own Story: Progress in the Afghan National Security Force

NTM-A

By Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV

“The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander.” – T.E. Lawrence

Lawrence’s words continue to ring true. In conflicts from the First World War to Korea; from Vietnam to the Gulf War, the nation that wins the information battle tends to win the larger war. Today, America and her partners are engaged in a fight that is every bit as important as its earlier wars: ensuring that Afghanistan is secure, independent, and free of the forces that launched attacks on the people of the world on September 11, 2001. It is a contest that requires painful sacrifices of blood and treasure but one that, if the lessons of history hold, can only be won on the information battlefield.

NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) and its partners have been charged with assisting the Afghan government in building the capabilities and capacities necessary for the Afghan National Security Force to defend their homeland. While many of NTM-A’s efforts focus on enabling the Afghans to pursue the physical battle – improving skill with weapons, providing leadership and tactics training, and constructing logistics and intelligence systems – the organization has invested significant resources into assisting the Afghans in carrying the information fight to the Taliban and the nation’s other enemies.

Continue reading “Communicating Their Own Story: Progress in the Afghan National Security Force” »

The Men with Large Necks and Democracy

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Every Armenian, I’m told, knows about the unidentified individuals whose job is to scare away election observers and monitors during elections in Armenia. Referred to as the “men with large necks,” these individuals generally work as bodyguards for the local oligarchs or businessmen. After the January 10, 2010, parliamentary elections during which a well known opposition candidate was defeated by an unknown pro-government candidate, the US embassy in Yerevan had this say about the “men with large necks”:

Embassy observers found numerous irregularities, including intimidation of voters, verbal and physical threats directed at journalists and observers, and in some cases the presence of uncredentialed, non-voting individuals sympathetic to the National Unity Party candidate, who appeared to be managing the electoral process in lieu of the authorized members of the local electoral commissions,” the embassy spokesman, Thomas Mittnacht, said in response to a question from RFE/RL.

US International Broadcasting as an Untapped Resource

Recommended: US International Broadcasting: an untapped resource for ethnic and domestic news organization (PDF, 139kb) by Shawn Powers.

The American approach to public service broadcasting, which is severely underfunded when compared to the rest of the world, is also legally separated from U.S. international broadcasting, a firewall that inhibits effective collaboration between either. Indeed, the problem is worse, as U.S.-funded international broadcasting is prohibited from disseminating its journalistic features within the U.S., a ban that prevents effective use of its significant journalistic resources by both public and private news networks in the United States. including a large sector of ethnic media that could surely benefit from the 60 languages that American international broadcasting reports in. For comparison, the BBC, the world’s most respected news institution, houses all of its international and domestic news services in the same newsroom, therefore maximizing the benefits of a diverse and large staff while limiting costly redundancies. This paper argues for further collaboration between government funded international broadcasting and its domestic counterparts — both public and private — and thus for policies that match the reality of today’s information ecology.

Shawn’s paper is a welcome contribution to the need to break down the firewall of the revised Smith-Mundt Act. The original purpose of the institutionalization of US international broadcasting in 1945 (the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was first introduced in October 1945) was to fill a gap in reaching non-US audiences that US media could not. Testifying before a House Appropriations Committee in 1946, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs stated the purpose of US government broadcasting:

Our number one policy is to encourage private agencies to do the job. We propose only to fill in the gaps where, and when private agencies cannot do the job.

Today, in a twist on the question about a tree in the forest, if America’s media does not cover an event, does it really happen? The retreat of US domestic media from overseas is troublesome for America’s global affairs. America’s media focus on speed over accuracy and a short-attention span prevents not only informing the American public, but of legislators, policy makers, and even the media itself. 

Shawn’s paper should be required reading by Congress and the State Department.

One minor comment on the paper: Shawn implies the language “for examination only” in Section 501 of the Act / Section 1461 of US Code was in the original legislation. It was, in fact, inserted by Senator Fulbright. 

See also:

The Soft Power Solution in Iran

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, The Soft Power Solution in Iran, former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy Mike Doran promotes the active use of public diplomacy for the purpose public diplomacy was intended. Beginning with this unattributed quote from presidential candidate Eisenhower (likely inserted by Mike, who’s working on a book on the period), they wrote,

Everything that we do, everything that we say–and everything that we don’t do and don’t say–should be coordinated to meet this goal. Such a policy would have four separate tasks:

Provide moral and educational support for the Green Revolution. …

Tighten sanctions on the Iranian economy and publicize the connection between regime belligerence and economic malaise. …

Do all we can to increase communications within Iran, as well as between Iran and the outside world. …

Finally, we should refute, in campaign style, the four key propositions of Iranian propaganda. …

A serious strategic communications program for Iran could have dozens, even hundreds, of programs like these. It should extend across government agencies with clear leadership and include private-sector participation.

Too often in foreign policy our interests demand that we compromise our core values. With Iran, however, we have been blessed with remarkable luck: Our strategic and moral imperatives stand in perfect alignment. And Iranians like Americans.

The Iranian challenge appears more amenable than any other serious national threat to a soft-power solution. Let’s get going.

Indeed. We know Congress is eager for action – for example the $55 million authorized, but not appropriated, by the Armed Services Committees under the VOICE Act. This does include $30 million for BBG, but Increasing resources at VOA – along with increasingly creative access for Iranians within Iran – is not enough.

(Iran’s PressTV cites a New Yorks Times article about Senators asking State to spend $45 million that was “earmarked” for countering Iranian censorship, but I have not confirmed whether this is the same VOICE authorization or an earlier authorization or appropriation.)

Recalling history: information warfare

In 1947, Congress was debating both the legislation and funding for the State Department’s information activities. In May 1947, the House Appropriations Committee took up the issue of the State Department 1948 appropriation, during which Congressman Karl Mundt (R-SD), a former school teacher, made the following argument on the need to engage in the realm of information.

Karl Earl Mundt The forces of aggression are moving rapidly and we must step up our action and increase our efforts in the field of information abroad if we are to prevent the eventuality of confronting a world which has been either coerced or corrupted against us

Congressman Everett Dirksen (R-IL) also argued for the need to fund America’s response to the threat of Russia’s efforts to destroy the “integrity” and the “greatness of the American system.” Representative Harold Cooley (D-NC) said the Communists wanted to vilify America through defaming out “institutions in the eyes of the peoples of the world.”

Source: Parry-Giles, S. J. (2002). The rhetorical presidency, propaganda, and the Cold War, 1945-1955. Westport, Conn., Praeger.